Forward Thinking

If It Quacks Like Apartheid

By Maysoon Zayid

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Palestinian protesters near Israel’s separation wall in 2013 / Getty Images

After getting verbally pistol-whipped for merely suggesting that Israel was sliding head first down the slippery slope to apartheid, Secretary of State John Kerry quickly realized that Israel can’t handle the truth. He backpedaled so fast, he broke Lance Armstrong’s record.

While Kerry took back his insinuation that Israel could end up on the dark side known as apartheid, others in the know would argue it is already there. Major players who lived through apartheid say that today’s Israel is a mirror image of South Africa back in the day. It’s not just the late Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu who have used the analogy, but also white South African politicians who served during that time. When both the oppressed and oppressors can agree, and Jimmy Carter bears witness, it is hard to deny that it is apartheid.

I myself prefer to compare the situation in Israel and Palestine to segregation in the United States. I was born and raised in America, and we are ethnocentric, so I prefer analogies that are closer to home. At the height of Jim Crow, black entertainers could sing in white-only clubs but were forced to enter through the back door. They were separate and unequal. Today, Palestinian laborers’ back door is through the giant wall meant to keep them separated from Israelis.

Daily, thousands of Palestinians without permits permeate the concrete barrier. They are safe enough to work for Israelis, but not safe enough to be treated as equals. Palestinians build settlements they are not allowed to live in, just as African Americans in the segregated South sang in clubs in which they couldn’t dance.

Their state of apartheid isn’t the only thing Israelis are in denial about. There are Israelis who will swear there never was a place called Palestine and that Palestinians don’t exist. I guess that makes me a ghostwriter.

Israel also insists that the settlements, the embodiment of segregation today, are totally legal even though the entire rest of the world loudly disagrees. It’s time for Israel and its friends to accept the fact that if it walks like apartheid and quacks like apartheid, then it is apartheid.

Maysoon Zayid is a comedian, writer and disability advocate.


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