Annexation, Apartheid, and Me – The Atlantic

Posted By on July 5, 2020

Yair Lapid: Israels choice, between shame and pride

Israel today feels like a pressure cooker with no release valve on top. There are so many points of tension: the secular and the religious; Israelis and Palestinians; settlers and those who oppose the occupation; Sephardic Jews from the Arab world and Ashkenazi Jews from Europe; and Israeli Arabs and Zioniststhe list is endless.

Yet in over 50 years of mayhem I have never seriously questioned my decision to live here. Israel gave me an identity I did not have growing up as a Jew in apartheid South Africa. There I was tolerated because I was white and hated because Afrikaners were taught in Sunday school to believe that the Jews killed Christ. Nevertheless, it was apartheid, not anti-Semitism, that drove me to leave South Africa as soon as I could. I could not abide living in a country with endemic discrimination against a large majority of the population based on race.

I hated the darkness, censorship, fear, tyranny, and brutality, and the unbelievable cruelty that came with it. The forced movement of millions of people from their lush and mineral-rich tribal lands to arid Bantustans, where social and family structures collapsed as men left to work the mines and mothers abandoned children to become domestic servants, was diabolic in concept and implementation.

As much as I hated apartheid, fighting it was not my cause. For me, South Africa was an accident of birth, not my country. From an early age I saw Israel as my home, the light at the end of the tunnel. It promised identity, freedom of speech, international acceptabilitynot a pariah state, but a thriving democracyand the challenge of building a new society with healthy values: a light unto the nations.

That light will be dimmed for me if the annexation goes through, and I find myself back in a country that practices discrimination and inequality as policy.

I have no citizenship other than Israeli.

I burned my South African passport on the campus of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1966 after listening to Arthur Goldreich speak at an open-air rally in support of equality for Israeli Arabs.

Shadi Hamid: The Israeli-Palestinian dispute is only partly about land

He was one of 13 people arrested with Nelson Mandelaseven of them Jewishby the South African security forces in 1963, and he was subsequently convicted of sabotage and sentenced to life. With the burning of my passport, I thought I had left apartheid behind.

I have long argued that Israel, despite the occupation, which has now lasted more than 50 years, was not an apartheid state.

If annexation goes ahead, with Israeli sovereignty and law extended only to the Israeli residents of the areas involved, but not to the Palestinians, I am not sure I will be able to make that case in the future. It may not be apartheid, which was a seminal and unique event. But it would be separation under one sovereignty by ethnicityand that is a red line I cannot cross.

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Annexation, Apartheid, and Me - The Atlantic

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