It is ‘superficial and ignorant’ to call Israel an apartheid state

November 24, 2016 22:54

In recent discussions with people here and in the UK about the upcoming Israeli Apartheid Week, I have consistently made one suggestion: get Benjamin Pogrund to speak.

Pogrund is a former South African anti-apartheid activist and journalist. He was deputy editor of the Rand Daily Mail and during the struggle against apartheid he suffered government prosecution and imprisonment. Although very critical of current Israeli policy towards the Palestinians and Israeli Arab citizens, he has argued consistently and powerfully from deep personal experience of both South Africa and Israel that it is disingenuous to equate the two.

I was pleased when I heard that in fact he is currently touring British universities ahead of the apartheid event.

In an interview in this weekend’s Haaretz, Pogrund explains:

"Living in South Africa under apartheid, in moral terms, was easy: It was good versus evil. Those who backed apartheid mainly knew that what they were doing was wrong. Israel is much more complex. You have two groups of people who have history, religion, culture, longing on their side.

"We don't do enough but there is a basic acceptance that there is a minority group and they're discriminated against. That's not apartheid. Arabs can vote - that in itself is fundamental [in proving] that it's a different society than South Africa. That comparison is just ridiculous."

Regarding the West Bank, he says: “ It's an occupation. We shouldn't be there. Occupation is wrong in every sense, legally and morally. [But] that's not apartheid, that's oppression."

Pogrund opposes the security fence, yet he points out: “In South Africa, there were no drive-by killings on the road. There were no suicide bombers, not one. It's a totally different situation."
Israeli intellectuals who call their country an apartheid state are, he says, "unthinking, superficial and ignorant.”

Pogrund does not hesitate to criticise Israel when he feels it appropriate. But at the same time he is steadfast in refuting criticism that is not warranted.

Intellectually honest people who accuse Israel of apartheid should take careful note of the words of someone who really does know what he is talking about.

November 24, 2016 22:54

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