Der Besuch des amerikanischen Ex-Präsidenten Jimmy Carter hat in der israelischen Tageszeitung Ha‘aretz eine Debatte über den Apartheids-Vergleich ausgelöst. Carter verwendete diesen historisch schwer belasteten Begriff im Titel seines letzten Buchs (Palestine: Peace not Apartheid), um auf die Unrechtssituation der Palästinenser in den besetzten Gebieten aufmerksam zu machen. Schon am 15. 4. 2008 stellten sich die Herausgeber der Ha‘aretz in ihrem Editorial, wenn auch mit vorsichtigen Worten, hinter diesen Vergleich:
Israel is not ready for such comparisons, even though the situation begs it. It is doubtful whether it is possible to complain when an outside observer, especially a former U.S. president who is well versed in international affairs, sees in the system of separate roads for Jews and Arabs, the lack of freedom of movement, Israel’s control over Palestinian lands and their confiscation, and especially the continued settlement activity, which contravenes all promises Israel made and signed, a matter that cannot be accepted. The interim political situation in the territories has crystallized into a kind of apartheid that has been ongoing for 40 years.
Zehn Tage später legte dann Yossi Sarid, Ex-Vorsitzender der linksliberalen Meretz-Partei, in seiner Kolumne noch einmal kräftig nach:
what acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck — it is apartheid.
Nun hat der in Südafrika geborene und seit 1997 in Israel lebende Journalist Benjamin Pogrund, der ein viertel Jahrhundert lang für eine progressive englischsprachige Anti-Apartheids-Zeitung in Johannesburg schrieb, diesen Vergleich etwas gründlicher unter die Lupe genommen und am 4. Mai 2008 als historisch ebenso falsch wie politisch gedankenlos zurückgewiesen:
Roadblocks, licenses and permits for every little matter, arbitrary seizure of land, privileges concerning water use, cheap labor — these and much else are the stock in trade of suppression.
But to apply the apartheid label is wrong, both with regard to the territories (to which Haaretz and Sarid refer), or to Israel within the Green Line (where Arabs suffer discrimination, but to say it’s apartheid would be laughable). Why do I say this with such certainty? Because I was a journalist with the Rand Daily Mail newspaper in Johannesburg for 26 years, and my special function was to report and comment on apartheid’s evils. And for more than 10 years I have lived in Israel, and have been engaged in dialogue work.
The labeling is wrong because the situations are entirely different. Apartheid in South Africa, from 1948 until 1994, was a unique system of racial separation and discrimination, institutionalized by law and custom in every aspect of everyday life, imposed by the white minority and based on a belief in white racial superiority. Skin color decreed inferior status from birth until death for blacks, Asians and „mixed-race“ coloreds. In contrast, West Bank oppression is not based on a predetermined racist ideology. It stems rather from historical factors such as Jordan’s attack during the 1967 war and the resulting Israeli conquest of the West Bank. From that, the settlement movement has developed because of a mixture of religious messianism, economic greed and security claims.
Some compare Israel’s attempts to carve up the West Bank with South Africa’s tribal mini-states, the Bantustans. This is wildly inappropriate. The Bantustans were devised to deny blacks South African citizenship, while continuing to exploit their labor. Blacks were penned in rural „reserves,“ and were allowed into white South Africa only when needed for specified jobs in factories, offices and homes and on farms. Israel’s purpose on the West Bank is the opposite: to keep Palestinians there and to allow only an absolute minimum of them into Israel — and even them, reluctantly. Instead, the country’s labor needs are met by importing large numbers of foreign workers.
I am among the majority of Israelis who believe that the occupation and the settlements are catastrophic for both Israelis and Palestinians. I want two states, side by side in peace: That’s an agreed-upon separation, not apartheid. I share the dismay and shame of many Israelis about the morass into which the occupation has dragged us — the mutual killings, the infliction of suffering, and the brutalization of both Israelis and Palestinians as perpetrators and victims. I am desperately worried about our betrayal of our moral values and of the lessons of our own persecution down the centuries.
Calling it apartheid, however, is not only wrong but thoughtless — because it ignores what is happening in the world, and especially the imminence of the Durban Review Conference, due to be held next year. That meeting is to be the follow-up to the United Nations anti-racism conference in Durban, South Africa, in August-September 2001. The first part was an international conference of NGOs that went berserk in condemning Israel as „the new apartheid.“ The aim was simple: If Israel was branded like this, it would be as illegitimate as apartheid South Africa had been, and hence subject to the same severe international sanctions. Moreover, whereas the intention with apartheid South Africa was to force a change in regime, it is obvious that critics of Israel include those who seek the destruction of the state itself.
Seine prägnante Schlussfolgerung:
Apartheid deserves its unique place in human memory. Just as not every tragedy is a holocaust, so not every form of separation or oppressive rule is apartheid.