Matt McCarten: Palestinians' fight is a struggle against 'apartheid'

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A general election is under way in Israel for the Knesset, the legislative branch of government. The mainstream political parties are competing to be seen as tough on security. To enhance its staunchness credentials, the "centre-left" Government last week ordered in war jets to slaughter and mutilate hundreds of citizens trapped on the Gaza Strip. I presume there's a cynical awareness that carrying out this atrocity while there's a political vacuum between presidents in the United States gives it a better chance of getting away with it.

The pretext for this butchery is that some Gazans are firing home-made missiles into Israeli towns. As a result, the Israeli politicians insist the entire population of Gaza is to be punished. The Nazis used a similar policy during World War II in their occupied territories. The Israelis are getting the same results the Nazis got - their victims increase their hatred and determination to seek revenge.

There is something increasingly sick about the Israeli body politic. It's getting harder for it to argue its latest tactics are remotely acceptable. The glibness of the Israeli Government spokesmen when claiming that the hundreds of dead innocents are "unfortunate" is beyond pathetic.

Their prattling about the need to kill and maim thousands of citizens in their campaign for democracy and peace against barbarism would be comical, if it wasn't so outrageous.

Of course, Israel would have us believe that somehow all this mayhem is entirely the fault of the Hamas Government. Naturally, it takes two to tangle. But Israel itself has been the main creator of the situation it finds itself in and insists on throwing petrol on the fire.

Even the most ardent supporters of Israel must be finding it harder to defend its treatment of Palestinians.

More people around the world are coming to see the Israeli state as an apartheid state. Unfortunately, Israelis' fear and guilt about the way they have treated the Palestinians over the years hasn't made them reach out and try to make amends. Rather, they have gone in the other direction, treating the Palestinians in the same way blacks were in South Africa.

Nelson Mandela first made the connection between the two struggles when, in 1997 in Pretoria, he said: "We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians."

The apartheid-like oppression in Israel has become a lot worse since. Even former US President Jimmy Carter said last year: "[Israeli policy] ... perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa".

And before I get attacked by the pro-Zionist networks as being unfair and anti-Semite, let me explain further.

The Palestinian people are segregated into defined areas divided by Israeli-only settlements, highways, military checkpoints and now the infamous wall. Four years ago the International Court of Justice ruled that this wall was illegal.

The Israeli Government ignored it, as it does with any similar international rulings it doesn't like. It seems the Western powers only have the energy to get whipped up over the righteousness of international laws and morality in certain circumstances.
Even in the allocated Palestinian areas, Israel controls all trade, electricity, water, telephones and the internet. Travel between the areas is limited and must be approved by the military. Palestinians are not allowed to use the highways in the West Bank and must carry an Israeli identity card.

As for as any Palestinian being able to travel between Gaza and the West Bank, forget it. Even the few Palestinians who are Israeli citizens and marry a fellow Palestinian from Gaza or the West Bank are not allowed to have their spouses living with them in Israel. Sound familiar?

The Western media gets excited when an Israeli is captured. Yet few will be aware that Israel has kidnapped more than 1000 Palestinians who are held without trial or charge. That's on the top of 11,000 official political prisoners. Even 400 children are deemed political prisoners - apparently for throwing stones at armed soldiers.

The 1973 International Convention on Apartheid defined apartheid as racial segregation and discrimination of a targeted group.

Specifically, it included collective punishments; the denying of life and liberty, nationality, political and economic participation, freedom of speech and freedom of movement. Are there any of the above descriptions that aren't applied to the Palestinians by their Israeli rulers? None I can see.

Barack Obama made an honest observation during the US Democratic primaries about people being alienated and powerless. He was lambasted for saying they retreat to their guns and religion and support extremist views. Obama is right. When he's President, I hope he reflects on that when dealing with the Palestine quagmire.

The fight for justice for the Palestinian people is the same as it was for black South Africans in their struggle a generation ago. The response from our own politicians over this outrage is the same now as it was then - silence.

While our politicians are on their summer holidays, I hope they spare a thought for the Gazans who won't know if they or their families will make it through January alive.

- Herald on Sunday

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