Thursday, January 26, 2006

Israel vs. South Africa...

...or Mobius & DovBear vs. John DeGioia, Georgetown University President.

(Hat tip: E-mailer who wishes to remain anonymous)

From time to time, I find something that sounds like it could have come out of my own head. Here, for example, is Mobius of JewSchool:
...i want to make a point that the reason i draw comparisons between israeli policies and south african policies under the apartheid regime; and the reason i allege that israel's acts of collective punishment constitute war crimes is not because i seek to empower or embolden israel's "enemies" and detractors, but rather because as a jewish person living in israel, i am insensed and outraged by israel's actions in the occupied territories and wish to see an end to the occupation. i do not believe that israel is inherently bad, nor that the israeli leadership is motivated by racism, ethnic supremacism, or messianic delusions. rather i think they are motivated by nationalistic goals that are an outgrowth of 2,000 years of persecution. it is entirely understandable, but the lengths to which they go to secure an ethnic majority are unacceptable. i raise the issue not to call for israel's destruction, but rather to foster internal dialogue within the jewish community and within the israeli community. to do so, one must counteract pro-israel propaganda which dismisses allegations of apartheid and war crimes as unfounded. once we can see what is going on and be honest and upfront about it, we can work to address it and change it.
Amen brother. I sign on to this statement 100 + ten percent.
"Some people have asked me if Georgetown will consider the [Palestine Solidarity Movement's] call for divestment from Israel. The answer to that question is no. I do not support divestment from Israel.

It is clear there are a wide range of opinions on the conflict in the Middle East and that the appropriate way for Georgetown University to address the situation is through dialogue, research, and intellectual discovery. Some people have asserted that this situation is analogous to South Africa, where many universities, including Georgetown, did disinvest in the 1980's. I was deeply involved in these issues at the time. Speaking personally, I do not feel that the practice of apartheid is comparable to the complex set of issues involving many parties in the Middle East."
-- Excerpted from address given by Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia at the University's faculty town hall meeting, January 20, 2006.

Source: Office of Communications (January 20, 2006)

Now, let me be very clear: I think Mobius' point was actually quite noble, and his intentions pure. He and DovBear are absolutely attempting to ensure that Israel in no way carries out practices that are similar to those that existed in South Africa, even if their intentions are of the highest degree.

Where I split from this is the manner in which this is done. I don't think comparisons to South Africa, when unfounded, do anything but project the image that Israel is in fact an apartheid state that commits war crimes. I disagree with Mobius and DovBear that what happens in Israel stinks of apartheid or is in any way comparable to war crimes, and feel that such assertions do not, as they feel, serve Israel's interests - rather, they hurt Israel from an international perspective and from within. They cause doubt where there should not be any: Yes, we must ensure that Israel never crosses that "line"; however, constantly claiming that it has or is about to when that is not the case merely creates problems where none existed.

I liked Gioia's quote because it was short and to the point: The issues that exist in Israel are far too complex to equate them in any way to what happened in South Africa. To pretend otherwise is simply foolish. There is so much history that exists regarding Israel and its Arab neighbors - to simply write off what goes on there as racist without taking that history into consideration is like looking at a room through a keyhole: You can see a little bit of what's happening, but you can't come close to seeing the whole story.

Open the door, take a good look.

Technorati tags: , , , , .