Image from Olympiarafahmural
“Israel is a small piece of land. We are not even 1 percent of the Arab space, you know. We don’t have water. We don’t have oil. Our greatness, if one may say greatness, stems from the fact we had nothing to start with. So we turned to human talent because there weren’t natural resources. The Arabs can do it too.” – Shimon Peres, Foreign Policy (March/April 2012 issue)
If by “human talent” the Israeli President meant illegally and unfairly managing water access for Israelis and Palestinians, then I might be inclined to agree. Now, the above quote was by no means the only condescending and misleading one to be found in the interview, but given the recent report released by the French parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee asserting Israel’s “apartheid” water management policies, it stood out as particularly cringe-worthy. (Note: a partial English translation of the report can be found here, and the original report, in French, can be downloaded here in PDF format.)
Earlier this month, Occupy AIPAC convened as the national AIPAC conference took place in Washington, D.C. With the drum beats heralding war with Iran growing louder, what seemed lost in both the AIPAC conference and the Occupy AIPAC conference was Palestine. With the Israeli government and supporters of Israel distracting the discourse away from Israeli settlement building, unlawful imprisonment of Palestinians, and the continued occupation of Palestinian land, the national AIPAC conference operated under the premise that Israel is a legitimate state actor with legitimate grievances to Iran’s governance over its nuclear energy program. Occupy AIPAC mimicked this distracting discourse in order to counter hollow arguments, from the Israeli government and its supporters, on Iran’s role as a “rational” or “irrational” actor and the role of the Arab revolutions in destabilizing Israel’s political and discursive power within the region. Thus, this action was a semi-unconscious performative result of the compelling Israeli/U.S. discourse, and Occupy AIPAC attempted to subsume itself within this discourse as a means to combat it.
Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is upon us again, and while Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (C-SJP) sets up on College Walk, pro-Israeli organizations ranging from Hillel to LionPAC, and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs are launching their responses to begin damage control.
IAW’s detractors are quick to argue that using the term “apartheid” in the context of Israeli occupation diminishes the suffering of South African victims of the Apartheid regime and exaggerates the current situation in Israel and Palestine. Time and again, pro-Palestinian groups, like C-SJP, are told that equating Israeli occupation with apartheid is a sensationalist, divisive tactic that, as Columbia Hillel’s Ariel Brinkman posits, represents a “perverse paradigm of prejudice against the Jewish state.”