December 18, 2013
Watch “Israel Apartheid”: Why word choice matters
With the American Studies Association's boycott of Israel as part of the BDS movement (boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel), the debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has reignited discussions on campus colleges and beyond. It's also reignited a flame war about what words to use to describe the situation.
Before I move on, I'd like to point out that President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has officially said that the world should not boycott Israel as whole, but rather the settlements.
That is an exceptionally powerful statement coming from the head of the PA. And it's one of very few international voices (and one that should be listened to) that has tried to make it clear that there is a difference between Israel and the settlements.
Once again, if the president of the West Bank says this, his is a voice that should have some merit in this discussion.
However, let's get back to the verbiage being used to describe Israel. The current word du jour is, "apartheid."
As much as my politics don't always align with Israel's policies, Israel, as a state, is not an apartheid state.
Definitions are really important when using words that bring to mind such a horrific level of brutal violence and oppression.
Israel, the state, does not resemble Apartheid South Africa. Anyone who says so is sorely in need of a history lesson.
The settlements are a problematic obstacle to peace in their current state. There are examples of terrible things happening in the settlements and surrounding cities in the West Bank. But once again, even Abbas recognizes these as a separate problem (and entity) than Israel.
Recently, Orit Arfa, one of our bloggers, hit the mediasphere with a parody of Miley Cyrus's video "We Can't Stop"--execept Arfa's is called "Jews Can't Stop."
It is an anthem of the immature, "This is miiiiiiine, not youurrrrs," tantrum of many of the settlers. It does not futher their cause, but rather deligitimizes any inkling of truth about their situation. It makes settlers, and therefore, Israelis, and by extension, Jews, look really, really bad.
But there is another video making the rounds that puts together a more cogent argument for the state of Israel and things like the border fence on the West Bank.
Ari Lesser, an American musician, managed to squeeze a huge amount of history into a six minute rap called, "Israel Apartheid."
In it, Lesser makes it clear that Israel and Apartheid are not the same thing.
Unfortunately, he doesn't address the issue of the settlements in this video, but perhaps there just wasn't enough time to make that argument in this particular song.
What Lesser successfully does is make a mature, well-researched, well thought-out argument as to why the current framework for discussion is skewed. And unlike Arfa's words of incitement, Lessers words are food for thought.