“Let us work together to replace despair with HOPE, fear with human SECURITY and humiliation with DIGNITY”

Taking responsibility for the past and future

As I travel through the United States with my Palestinian partners I find myself frequently asked a particular question: Is the Israeli occupation the same as South African apartheid?

As I travel through the United States with my Palestinian partners I find myself frequently asked a particular question: Is the Israeli occupation the same as South African apartheid?

I would like to rephrase this question. The conditions of one occupying system are never the same as another. Every narrative, whether Israeli, Palestinian or South African, has its own "uniqueness."

In my opinion, the question to ask is, why is it so hard to compare the Israeli occupation with South African apartheid? The question is, why are we not allowed to challenge the Israeli occupation, to ask questions and to criticize Israeli policy?

When I was in high school in Israel we had to write a paper for history class about our personal narratives. I decided to interview my grandfather.

My grandfather fought to establish the state of Israel in 1948. He came as a volunteer from South Africa and joined the Zionist forces which conquered the land in order to create "a home for the Jews."

I remember interviewing him in the kitchen, where he insisted on speaking in Hebrew. It was the first and maybe the last time we spoke in Hebrew, just the two of us. We always speak English at home, keeping a very strong South African tradition, maybe trying to keep both worlds in reach.

Ten years later, I was going through my grandfather’s things and I found an old map of Palestine. The map showed all the Palestinian villages that I was told as a young girl did not exist. My grandfather never spoke about the people living there, he never told me about the families and villagers and I did not ask. So the land was not vacant after all?

I soon joined a group of friends who were going to the same place my grandfather once told me about, Latrun, outside Jerusalem. However, this time I carried a sign stating the real names of the three Palestinian villages that were destroyed and turned into an Israeli national park.

The Arabic word "Nakba" means catastrophe. In the Israeli-Palestinian context, the "Nakba" refers to the destruction of more than 500 Palestinian villages and cities and the expulsion of over 750,000 of their residents in 1948. On the 9th of April we commemorated the 59th anniversary of the massacre in the village of Deir Yassin. Today, a Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem is built on the land of that village. More than 200 people were killed there. Israel continues to deny this truth.

The commemoration was organized through a partnership of Palestinians from Deir Yassin and the Israeli group I work with, Zochrot. The name means "Remembering" in Hebrew. Zochrot works to raise awareness of the Nakba within the Israeli discourse.

It still baffles me how until age 23, I didn’t even know how to reach, or whether it was even possible to go to, the occupied territories. Only through meeting Palestinians did I comprehend the tangibility and closeness of our worlds.

I see today how it is possible to live as a Jewish Israeli without ‘seeing’ the occupation, without ‘seeing’ the Palestinians. My grandfather lived most of his life choosing not to see. I believe we need to choose a different path and open our eyes.

Just like white South Africans had to take responsibility for their history and the apartheid system, so do Israelis. They have to take responsibility for their actions in 1948. We must not only take responsibility in remembering the past and acknowledging it, but take responsibility to change the present and the future.

2016-10-24T07:28:58+00:00 April 19th, 2007|Categories: News|