Letter to the Editor


Dear Editor:

In last week’s Record, Joel Pollak’s article included many inaccuracies and claims that I hope to correct and comment upon. First, he asserts that Israel is a country in which “Arabs and Jews enjoy equal rights.” This claim, unfortunately, is incorrect. Unlike this country, where equal protection is a constitutionally-protected right, Israel does not have a similar equality-based protection recognized in its Basic Laws. In fact, the situation of the non-Jewish minority in Israel is separate and unequal. The second-class status for the Arab minority is reflected not only in many laws, but also in the grossly unequal public resource allocation for basic social services, like education, where Arab schools receive half the funds per capita compared to Jewish schools.(1) Additionally, the strong prevalence of Jewish-only institutions (like the Jewish National Fund) and the perpetual state of emergency also serve to maintain this unequal status.

Second, it is true that international condemnation of the Apartheid regime was important in forcing it to dismantle. Similarly, the abuses of Israel’s occupation have motivated most of the world to pressure Israel to stop such actions and policies. Hopefully, U.S. policy will fall in line with the rest of the world in this regard, as unconditional U.S. support for Israel is a major road block to achieving a lasting peace in Palestine. Targeting civilians with terrorist attacks is deplorable and reprehensible – but the acts of a small number of extremists is not a justification for the collective punishment of all Palestinians, especially where such punishment results in grave human rights violations and empowers the extremists in the process.

Third, Pollak’s quotation attributed to Gqiba is false and misleading. The alleged quotation is NOT in fact a direct quotation (Gqiba is, on the other hand, directly quoted in the Sowetan article regarding the two-state solution). In denying the “accusations,” Gqiba is responding to the claim that South Africans coined the term “Apartheid Wall” for Israel’s separation wall. The rest of the statement is not directly attributed to Gqiba in the article, contrary to the manner in which it was used by Pollak. In fact, Gqiba has been quoted on the issue of Apartheid and Palestine. In an interview with Haaretz, Gqiba said, “I would only like to comment on that when I’ve thoroughly studied the situation. I only know Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.” Still, Gqiba actually used the term “Apartheid Wall” to refer to Israel’s separation wall: “We are talking here about cousins. I don’t know why the cousins should be out to destroy each other. In South Africa the struggle was clear – against the white racist enemy. I’ve been here three weeks and up to this point I can’t distinguish between a Jew and an Arab. They’re cousins. Why should the cousins have an apartheid wall. It’s like the Berlin Wall. It separates families. But let’s say it’s temporary, then why doesn’t Israel build it on its own land. The bottom line is that we cannot accept it.” It seems Professor Esack’s challenge still stands.

Furthermore, Gqiba reminded his interviewer of Israel’s relationship with Apartheid South Africa. Peter Hirschberg, the author of the Haaretz interview, writes: “He has been dispatched by his president to build a new relationship with Israel, but the government of Israel, he emphasizes, should not ‘question our relationship with the Palestinians’ and must remember that Israel was once ‘part and parcel of the old regime [in South Africa]. They supported them until the last. So they cannot overnight expect us to be kissing their cheeks.'”(2)

Fourth, Pollak criticizes a reference to Ronnie Kasrils. Though I am unfamiliar with Kasrils’ actions as South Africa’s intelligence minister, those allegations have nothing to do with the stand he took against Apartheid. Gqiba also cited Kasrils approvingly in his interview, and the reference to him in the Record two issues ago was to The Kasrils and Ozinsky Declaration of Conscience on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by South Africans of Jewish Descent. Pollak’s insinuations should not detract from this important statement by many South African Jews, in which they quoted a report of a visiting delegation of South African parliamentarians that made the analogy of the Occupation to Apartheid.

Fifth, Pollak selectively quotes John Dugard and accuses him of ignoring human rights abuses by Palestinians. The truth is to the contrary. In fact, Dugard made the following qualification in his report: “[I]t is outside my mandate to report on violations of the human rights of Israelis by Palestinians, on the violation of human rights by the Palestinian Authority, or on human rights violations in the OPT not caused by Israel. This does not mean that I am unconcerned about such human rights violations. …Such matters are of deep concern to me but my mandate precludes me from examining them.”(3) Human rights scholars and activists like Dugard, Tutu, and Carter make the analogy because the facts warrant such a comparison, in addition to the fact that they want to see international intervention to stop the Occupation (in the same way that international intervention helped bring Apartheid to an end).

The comparison of Israel’s occupation to Apartheid has been used with increased frequency – Robert Novak referenced the comparison after a recent trip to Jerusalem in an op-ed in the Washington Post this Monday entitled “Worse Than Apartheid?”(4) The analogy is worthy of principled, academic debate. Such debate cannot occur when sources are improperly quoted. It is impossible to discuss the analogy without asking the critical questions related to the Occupation and the Israel-Palestine conflict – this is why people like Professor Steiner engage in these debates. Students at HLS are lucky – next Fall Professor Duncan Kennedy will be teaching a seminar entitled “Israel/Palestine Legal Issues.” Hopefully, those students interested in a truly intellectual analysis and legal treatment of this issue will enroll. My best wishes to Professor Kennedy!

1 See http://www.adalah.org/eng/backgroundlegalsystem.php and http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/israel2/.2 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=458888&contrassID=1&subCon-trassID=1&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y.3 http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/4session/A.HRC.4.17.pdf.4 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/08/AR2007040800924.html.

Arsalan Suleman is a 3L from New Orleans, LA.