Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Annapolis Meeting: The Institutionalization of Racism
Article I of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states clearly that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It does not, however, say “with the exception of Palestinians.” But we, 11 million Palestinians, know very well that we are the exception to that rule. Whether we are “Israeli Arabs,” “Arabs of the occupied territories”, or Diasporic Arabs, we cannot have the same rights as those of “all human beings.” Others have the right to life, work, security, health, movement, democracy, education, electricity, water, medicine, food, love, marriage…etc. We don’t.
Any attempt to understand the rationale behind what is essentially a case of blatant violation of fundamental human rights, what Jimmy Carter, Desmund Tutu, John Dugard and many others call apartheid, is faced with accusations of anti-Semitism, a weapon used to silence voices calling for justice in the Middle East. The possibility of having peace with justice is far from realization what with the hermetic medieval siege imposed on 1.3 million already impoverished population of Gaza, and the slicing of the already sliced West Bank. The impossibility of the realization of the national dream of one third of the Palestinian People has brought forward the embarrassing question of the rights of the remaining two thirds, namely the dispossessed refuges living in miserable camps in other countries, some of which treat them like animals, and the third-class citizens of Israel.
What is the Palestinian cause if not the right of return of the refugees, those inside and outside Palestine? Is there a slight possibility of having ‘peace’ in the Middle East without resolving this question? If, as the Geneva Initiative signatories claim, there is a way of finding a ‘just solution’ that does not include their return, does that guarantee a just comprehensive peace? Is that not a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? But ideology has its own way, especially when it is powerful, one that represents the interests of racial supremacists. The Whites of apartheid South Africa defined the institutions of the country as democratic—albeit white democracy, i.e. by and for whites only. Native Africans never recognized the ‘white nature’ of that country. The idea of defining the country as exclusively white and democratic at the same time was never accepted by the international community. It was considered blatant racism. Unlike Palestinians, Black Africans are considered human beings, and therefore, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies to them.
That is precisely what the call for the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state means. Forget about 5 million refugees scattered all over the world as a result of the process of ethnic cleansing that accompanied the establishment of Israel; and don’t even mention the cultural and national rights of 1.3 million Palestinian “citizens” of Israel itself. According to this formulation, the Palestinians are only those who live in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The Middle East conflict, in case you don’t know, will be resolved if the latter are given a flag and 3 to 4 truncated Bantustans, with a chief that we can call a president. The Annapolis meeting is NOT going to deal with the refugees’ issue, NOR will it call for an end to blatant racism exercised against “Israeli Arabs;” NOR will it call for the eradication of the apartheid wall being constructed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. So why is the Annapolis meeting being held? In order to practically change the meaning of Article I of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by making the victim her/himself accept the status of lesser than an animal. That is the ultimate goal that Vervoordt and Bhota, and other architects of Apartheid, failed to do in 42 years. Are Bush, Olmert and Blair going to succeed?
* Associate Professor in English Literature, Al-Aqsa University, Gaza.