VIDEO: Who has the moral authority to define apartheid?


Noticeably absent from most coverage of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s use of the term “apartheid” are the voices most qualified to make the comparison with Israel. The Daily Beast article that broke the story helpfully quotes the 1998 Rome Statute, the definition of apartheid under international law: “inhumane acts… committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

However, this and other reports rely exclusively on white Western politicians and pundits to discuss whether the term apartheid applies to Israel. In his message to Bethlehem Bible College’s Christ at the Checkpoint conference, Moss Ntlha, General Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa asks (and answers) the key question: “Who do you think has more credibility in deciding whether or not whether this is apartheid?”

Rev. Ntlha isn’t alone in his perspective; anti-apartheid stalwart Rev. Allan Boesak has made similar comments. In an  interview about a forthcoming book co-authored with his daughter Reverend Mpho Tutu, HuffPostLive asked Archbishop Desmond Tutu to comment on the Kerry controversy, with this response: “I visit the Holy Land and I see things that are a mirror image of the sort of things I experienced under the apartheid.” Why are these voices of such moral authority missing from more mainstream coverage?

I have to add, Lisa Goldman just posted more kick-ass analysis on this issue on +972, deconstructing a New York Times op-ed by South African Jewish journalist Hirsch Goodman (a man who might benefit from meeting Rev. Ntlha):

For Goodman, the problem is not the human rights abuses committed by Israel, but rather that anti-occupation activists, “some of whom have graduated from the best universities in the world,” are waging a campaign to “delegitimize” Israel by using the “buzzword” of apartheid. This is a false label, he asserts, which is sticking because Israel’s enemies are good at propag anda. Then, in a remarkable feat of unawareness, he goes on to make the case that Israel does preside over an apartheid-like system.

In apartheid South Africa, people disappeared in the night without the protection of any legal process and were never heard from again. There was no freedom of speech or expression and more “judicial” hangings were reportedly carried out there than in any other place on earth. There was no free press and, until January 1976, no public television. Masses of black people were forcibly moved from tribal lands to arid Bantustans in the middle of nowhere. A “pass system” stipulated where blacks could live and work, splitting families and breaking down social structures, to provide cheap labor for the mines and white-owned businesses, and a plentiful pool of domestic servants for the white minority. Those found in violation were arrested, usually lashed, and sentenced to stints of hard labor for a few shillings per prisoner per day, payable to the prison service.

None of this even remotely exists in Israel or the occupied territories.

In fact, almost all of this exists in the territories controlled by Israel. Tweak this paragraph a bit, and you have a pretty accurate description of the system over which Israel has presided for 47 years—five years longer than apartheid existed. Here’s the Israel-Palestine version:

Masses of Palestinians were forcibly moved from their ancestral lands to arid Bantustans in the middle of nowhere. An opaque permit system stipulates where Palestinians can live and work, splitting families and breaking down social structures, to provide cheap labor for the settlements and Jewish-owned businesses, and a plentiful pool of manual labor for the Jewish minority. Those judged to be in violation, even children as young as 8, are arrested by soldiers, usually beaten, tried in a military court that has a conviction rate of 99 percent and sentenced to stints of jail time for a few shekels per prisoner per day, payable to the prison service.”