December 12, 2006

"Good Fences Make Good Neighbors"

This article by Michael Kinsley in Guardian on why Israeli policies in occupied Palestine territories do not amount to "apartheid" is one of the most ludicrous and illogical you will ever read.

Whether Israel is practicing apartheid is a serious issue and it has to be studied in depth before any conclusion is reached. But this guy just confuses everything and makes silly arguments.

He says, "[i]n the six decades since the founding of Israel, there have been about one and a half new ideas for solving the most intractable problem on the map of the world." According to him one of these ideas is the brilliant plan of Ariel Sharon (who he admits "supervised the Sabra and Shatila massacres of Palestinians back in 1982...") to build a wall separating Israel and Palestine. Apparently animated by the words of Robert Frost: "Good fences make good neighbors."

Now this is one of the most appalling arguments I ever came across. When you build a fence between you and your neighbor, you either build it on the accepted border between your homes, or a little inside your own area. You don't build a fence well into your neighbor's area and expect that it will make for good neighbors. Any sane person can see that Israel is doing exactly that. The Wall being built by Israel is well into Palestine region as defined by the whole world.

Then he goes on to do a ridiculously literal comparison between South Africa and Israel and concludes that later is no apartheid. He points out that the whites in South Africa forced black people to a far-off place to create a purely white country. He says that this is not happening in occupied territories. Of course not. There are many different modalities. What happened in SA is a version of apartheid. To argue that apartheid is only that which strictly adheres to the SA model is silly.

There may be many valid arguments to prove that there is no apartheid in occupied territories (I have not come across any). But Kinsley offers none. His idea was to criticize Carter's new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. But he completely disregards the various totally important points raised by Carter, like the degrading treatment of Palestinians through the system of roadblocks, different roads, different licence plates etc. Here is an article by Carter defending his book. Instead of addressing these legitimate questions Kinsley only comes up with meaningless abstractions.


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