This past Tuesday, Students for a Free Palestine hosted journalist and author Ali Abunimah as part of Israeli Apartheid Week. Communities and college campuses worldwide are currently participating in this annual week-long series of events intended to educate the public about Israel as an apartheid system and to discuss ways in which contentions can be resolved between Palestinians and Israelis.
Abuminah on Apartheid
Journalist and author Ali Abuminah spoke Tuesday as part of Israeli Apartheid Week. The week and its title have provoked debate and discussion this week on campuses worldwide about Israel as an apartheid system and ways in which contentions can be resolved.
“We’re here to listen to all viewpoints,” Abunimah said. “Feel free to disagree with me.”
This was the first IAW held at Oberlin, and it focused on informing the Oberlin community and student body about the schism that exists between Israelis and Palestinians. Organizers set up informational tables around campus where students could ask members of SFP questions about the Israeli apartheid, and films and documentaries discussing Israeli and Palestinian issues were also shown throughout the week.
“Apartheid” is a factious word for many people when equated with Israel. “For some people, putting Israel and apartheid together is very provocative,” Abunimah said. “They object to it viscerally because they disagree with the way it labels the situation.”
In his lecture, Abunimah traced the emergence of the term apartheid. He said it originated with the system of racial segregation existing in South Africa between members of the white and black communities until 1994.
“It was a democracy for white people,” said Abunimah. “The white minority possessed more privileges than the indigenous black majority in South Africa.”
Privileges included the right to vote, access to employment, benefits and better pay, and access to more land. Large strips of major cities were occupied by white South Africans.
Abunimah argued that today’s Israel is no different as there are “two separate divisions of law according to your religious ethnicity.”
The Palestinian state is composed of two sections: the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In the West Bank, the area of land surrounding the upper western portion of Israel, Palestinians are arrested without charge. In the Gaza Strip, on the eastern border of Israel facing the Mediterranean Sea, Palestinians reside in densely populated areas and live on an “economic precipice,” according to Abunimah.
“The Israeli government has never explained why chocolate, cinnamon, soda, potato chips and building supplies are a threat to security,” Abunimah said. For eight to 10 hours a day, electricity is also cut off in Gaza.
While placing importance on the similarity of these events to the South African Apartheid, Abunimah aims to bring hope to a contentious situation. He said that through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, peace could become a reality in Israel. It would require the world, as it did with South Africa, to boycott Israel. Embargoes would be set, musicians would avoid touring the country, and Israel’s athletic teams would not be accepted in other countries until its government accepts the State of Palestine as a cohesive and equal other.
“Aside from all the noise and name-calling,” said Abunimah, “we should be hopeful.”