DSC02451

South African apartheid ended, Zionist apartheid continues

God is not a real estate agent” and “I remember a time when Nelson Mandela was called a terrorist” says a South African who has been living in Toronto since 2000.

Olive oil

Michael tasting olive oil at the Canaan Cooperative in Palestine

Michael Pott has been supporting efforts to expose human right violations in the Holy Land since participating in a Sabeel witness tour in October 2012.

This is his story:

South African apartheid ended, Zionist apartheid continues

As a student in South Africa during the 1970s, I was part of the movement committed to ending apartheid and Zionism.  While I am proud that Whites no longer oppress Blacks, I am sad that Jews still treat Palestinians as second rate citizens. A November 2012 Sabeel tour reminded me that Zionism has slipped on the world issues agenda. I hope that this brief article will help re-energize the people who fought to end apartheid to take up the Palestinian cause and help end Zionism.

 Many prominent South Africans, respected researchers and artists have said that the current conditions of the Palestinians are worse than those experienced by Blacks in South Africa under apartheid. I agree and hope you will get a chance to hear the speeches, read the research papers, and watch the movies on this subject.

 I find it difficult to understand the theologies of apartheid and Zionism. I could not accept that God instructed Whites to deliver Black people from their primitive conditions.  I also find it hard to believe that God is a real estate agent who gave the Jews the sole right to live in Israel. No matter how hard it is for me to understand a theology that promotes discrimination, I must remember that people who believe these theologies are made in the image of God and I must love them and promote nonviolent resistance.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 Under apartheid a Black person was denied the same rights as a White citizen of South Africa. Today a Jew anywhere in the world is entitled to full citizenship of Israel while the same rights are denied a Palestinian who has lived in Israel for generations. To justify this oppression, politicians in South Africa and Israel  created phony/dual political structures. In both countries, leaders who did not support the status quo were silenced. Not too long ago when Palestinians elected politicians that Israel did not agree with, the elected leaders were arrested as terrorists and the Gaza strip was blocked. I remember a time when Nelson Mandela was called a terrorist!

nelson-mandela-46664

 To achieve ethnically cleansed states in Israel and South Africa, the indigenous population had to be removed and evidence of their history and culture destroyed. In South Africa, Blacks were forcibly removed from their homes to create white-only areas. To create the Jewish state, Palestinian villages, homes and land were confiscated. Settler communities continue to seize Palestinian land. Other than standing in front of a bulldozer and losing your life, how can Palestinian land be protected and their rights restored?

151111 Al Qasab Jericho House demolitions photo by Eduardo Minossi, EA

 Most people who have seen the wall the Israelis are erecting acknowledge that it is to secure access to natural resources and strategic land rather than for security. During our tour we witnessed countless examples of how the wall separates people from their land, how check points are used to demonstrate Israeli domination, how families and neighbourhoods are destroyed. While not belittling the conditions under apartheid, the wall creates conditions more brutal than in South Africa. Despite the tremendous human suffering, Israel and South Africa disregarded international law, United Nations resolutions and the local courts to maintain apartheid.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 During our tour we traveled along well maintained roads that serve Israeli settler communities in the Occupied Territories. We also traveled on neglected roads the Palestinians use.  While using these roads I remembered the differences I observed in the quality of infrastructure in South Africa upon entering a black area.  These differences serve to frustrate people, build resentment and fuel the liberation struggle.

 I remember when anyone who challenged the supremacy of the apartheid government was either banned or labeled a traitor, a communist or an agitator. Non-violent resistance to White oppression was brutally crushed. Many people have forgotten how the Sharpeville massacre resulted in the armed struggle being added to the means of achieving the liberation of South Africa.  Because of the very different levels of military power in both South Africa and Israel, the oppressed people who no longer supported nonviolence resorted to unconventional warfare (aka terrorism). During the liberation struggle in South Africa no one expected a military victory. I did not meet anyone in the Occupied Territories who thought the Israeli military would be defeated. At the same time only the naive believe that the struggle for human rights can be suppressed by firepower.

Israeli Troops Continue To Gather On Border As UN Call For Truce

 I remember the bias in my apartheid education that promoted White nationalism and demonized Blacks. Jewish children are taught to believe negative stereotypes of Palestinians (Arabs). Based on a brief visit with a Jewish family in Tel Aviv, Zionism is firmly believed and the stereotypes of Palestinians are upheld. During discussions with Palestinian groups on our tour we were told that there are currently very few programs that encourage dialogue among Jews, Christians and Muslims. This is unfortunate as I remember how important multiracial group discussions were about a just and peaceful South Africa. The KAIROS document for South Africa facilitated some of these discussions. I hope that the Palestinian KAIROS document will be as helpful.

 The systematic denial of people’s basic human rights did not work in South Africa, and it will not work in Israel. Nonviolent resistance, international sanctions, dialogue among South Africans and the armed struggle helped end apartheid. I look forward to the day all people in Israel/Palestine will enjoy the same basic rights in a secular country. Archbishop Tutu saw the end of apartheid in his lifetime. How long will it take to end Zionism?

Michael Pott graduated from Stellenbosch University in 1981.  He worked for much of his career for the Development Bank of Southern Africa: “Human rights and democracy are values I have always supported. For many years my partner and I worked to establish the democratic South Africa. When the democratically elected government chose to abandon the Reconstruction and Development Program, we decided we did not agree with the new strategy and immigrated to Canada.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Joligheid: Oktober olyfoes

Oktobermaand is olyfoestyd vir Palestyne – tradisioneel ‘n vrolike kulturele, sosiale en ekonomiese bedrywigheid.  Almal werk saam en hou tydens middagete heerlik piekniek in die koelte van die bome.

In Yanoun het ek iets hiervan beleef, maar dinge was nie algeheel idillies en sorgvry nie.  Maar tog, as almal saam werk, vuil word, sing, en eet, vergeet ‘n mens amper van die besetting.

Boere mag dikwels nie by hul boorde kom om te oes nie, en indien wel, moet hulle beskerm word.  Beskermingsbegeleiding is een van die sleuteltake van ekumeniese werkers in die WRK se EAPPI-program. (Terloops, Linda wat links sit, en Ueli wat nie op die foto is nie, het beide tydens die oes van die wankelrige houtlere afgeval – Ueli met taamlik rampspoedige gevolge vir sy rug, en albei met ‘n groot geterg van die res van ons.)

Die inwoners van ons dorp (en elders) het weke in spanning gewag om te hoor of hulle permitte sou kry om by hul (eie) boorde uit te kom – en uiteindelik mag hulle nie by al hul (weer eens eie, wettige) boorde gekom het nie.  Tydens die oes was daar weermagvoertuie wat op en af gejaag het en ons was heeltyd op die uitkyk vir setlaars wat wou amok maak.

Oktober 2011:

Ons begin soggens net na sonop.  My hande is gaar en elke stukkie van myself en my klere is stofbedek, maar dis vreeslik lekker.

 Middagete is vars taboonbrood met olyfolie, za’tar, gebakte eiervrug en soetrissies, volryp tamaties, uie, skaap- en bokmelkkaas en piekels, en dan tee met salie – absoluut heerlik!

Middagkoffie

Ek wens ek het ook handskoene hier (te ver van die winkels)

Foto deur Jan Egil Berg, Ekumeniese Begeleier, Noorweë.

Hoewel dit goed gaan in Yanoun (buiten vir die drie groepe onwettige, gewapende Israeliese setlaars wat  deur die dorp en die landerye gestap het), gaan dit moeiliker in die ander dorpe waar ons werk.

Dit neem jare voordat ‘n olyfboom begin vrugte dra.  In die eerste jaar het so ‘n boom daaglikse aandag nodig en later weekliks of maandeliks.  Teen die tyd dat die bome groot is, word hulle amper soos “kinders” beskou.  Dis hartverskeurend om dan te sien hoe die bome doelbewus beskadig en vernietig word deur setlaars.

Die olyfolie-industrie beslaan 14% van Palestyne se landbou-inkomste en verskaf inkomste aan sowat 80 000 gesinne.

Ongeveer die helfte van die besette Palestynse gebied (48%) is beplant met olyfbome waarvan die meeste in die Wesoewer–  omtrent orals waar ‘n mens kyk.

Elke stukkie word gebruik – selfs die afvalmateriaal wat oorbly nadat die olywe gepers is.  Hierdie korrelrige afvalmateriaal word weer huis toe geneem en daar gedroog vir  gebruik in die winter om vuur mee te maak (die olierigheid laat ‘n klein vuurtjie sommer goed ontvlam):

Die ontwrigting van die olyf-industrie raak die hart van die Palestyne.  Juis daarom word dit gereeld geteister deur Israeli setlaars.  Organisasies soos Rabbis for Human Rights (www.rhr.org.il) en Joint Advocacy Initiative (www.jai-pal.org) doen geweldig baie deur vrywilligers te reël wat in die oestyd saampluk met die mans, vrouens en kinders en ‘n teenwoordigheid handhaaf.

Maar deur die loop van die jaar moet die bome versorg word.  Dit moet gesnoei en die grond moet omgeploeg en bemes word sodat die winterreën kan indring.  As dit nie gebeur nie, is die oes klein en swak – soos ek laas jaar in Yanoun beleef het.

Israel maak dit so moeilik as moontlik vir boere:

  • Daar is 73 Israeli “hekke” waarvan die meeste (52) heeljaar gesluit is sodat boere nie by hul boorde kan kom nie buiten tydens oestyd vir ‘n beperkte aantal ure wat meestal te min is om alles te oes.
  • In 2011 is 42% van aansoeke om permitte vir toegang tot die boorde tydens die oestyd verwerp (39% in 2010).
  • Tussen Januarie en middel Oktober 2012, het Israeli setlaars in die Wesoewer sowat 7 500 bome van Palestyne beskadig of vernietig (uitgetrek, verbrand, vergif, afgekap) (dis ongeveer 2000 minder as in dien ooreenstemmende periode in 2011).
  • Volgens Yesh Din, ‘n Israeli vredesorganisasie wat Palestyne help, het net een van die 162 klagtes teen setlaaraanvalle op Palestynse bome gelei tot die aankla van ‘n beskuldigde.
  • In Gaza is 7 300 dunums boorde al langs die grens met Israel platgevee deur Israeli militêre operasies.

Foto’s Oktober 2012: Olyfoes in Hebron: vrywilligers gearresteer deur die IDF

Ek hoop om binnekort my eie twee olyfbome te plant 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Gallery

It is possible, we CAN live together

The ever increasing number of illegal Israeli settlements and their outposts may ultimately stretch like tentacles around all the West Bank villages to isolate them from one another.

The purple fields on the United Nations map above show some of the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Palestine.  Note, for example, how the village of Yanoun in the north is totally surrounded by outposts of the Itamar settlement. 

Before 2011, Qusra was not in the news.  But since the beginning of that year armed Israelis from the illegal settlement Shilo and its outposts Eli and Eish Qadeesh have started to enter the Palestinian village to harass the townsfolk and damage their property.

My encounter with Qusra started in September 2011. During the course of this month alone, Israeli settlers:   

  • Desecrated Qusra’s new mosque with fire and terrible graffiti (I do not want to post my photos),
  • Burnt, cut and uprooted hundreds of olive trees (usually on Fridays when most of the villagers are at the mosque for prayers),
  • Injured five men and killed another (the Israeli army equipped these illegal Israeli settlers with live ammunition and teargas.)

I went to the funeral of the young man who was killed, not knowing what to expect as this was only the second day after my team and I started our service term in this area.  This is what I found… men praying over and over again in an open field next to the olive groves:

A boy watched intently as men pray at the funeral of a villager killed by the IDF on 23 September 2011 after settlers invaded Qusra and damaged the olive groves.  Unarmed villagers, with the broken branches of their trees in their hands, tried to chase the settlers away. But they were shot at and five more had to be hospitalised.  No Israelis suffered injuries.



During the funeral the settlers invaded olive groves on another side of the town and damaged 500 more olive trees.

In yet another incident, approximately 200 olive trees were broken or uprooted by settlers on the night of 06.10. 2011. The Israel Defense Force (IDF) were present. They stopped the unarmed Palestininians from entering their fields to safeguard their property and the soldiers did nothing to stop the settlers. In fact, they used flares/ light bombs to light up the area making it easier for settlers to find their way over the rocky terrain. Olives and olive oil are the main of source of income to most Palestinian farmers.

We sat in the shop of Mohammad A.A. Hassan after settlers uprooted and damaged more of the village’s olive trees on 06.11.2011. He rubbed his tired eyes:

Look at this young man who studies at university. We want him to find a job and have a family like everyone else in the rest of the world. We want a normal life, not more, but also not less than others. But now we are sad and angry.  The army uses live bullets, rubber bullets and teargas and we throw stones.  But this can’t liberate our land. We need the help of the world.  We are waiting for this.

I turned to the young man he pointed to, an IT specialist, who started to talk:

I have many internet friends all over the world who have very nice lives. I don’t want that, I just want a simple life here.  I have in my heart that Palestine will one day be free. I am optimistic. I don’t want to kill settlers.

Some of my friends are settlers because they used to come into the town to buy things before the new outpost was there. I asked one of them if he can smell this soil, as for me, it is like heroine, I breathe it in. He started to cry. He said they were promised a good life in this land, but he cannot smell this soil and he doesn’t know the names of the plants. He told me that I am a good man.  He is from California and he thinks his life here is bullshit, but his parents came here to have a good life. He wants to return to California.  I told him that if he wants to stay, he should stay.  We are all human and we can all live here.  Just don’t burn our olive trees, I asked.

On another day a soldier at a checkpoint called me a terrorist. I said I wanted to ask him just one question and then he may shoot me if he thinks it is necessary.  I asked him where was his father born.  At first he got angry and called five more armed soldiers. But I just looked at him and asked him the same thing again.  Then he saw me as a human being. He sat down for a long, long time and said nothing.  Then he looked at me and said he knows I am not a terrorist.  I felt that this soldier has a heart and a mind.

I trust my friends who are Israelis.  They all say to me that this is my land.

We need to talk to one another without religion. We need to talk as human beings. We can live in peace with all religions.

Do you know how we greet one another in the street?  We say assalamu “alaykum which means peace on you.  We say this every time, even if we bump into the same person after five minutes. By doing this, we actually say let there be peace for all everywhere.

The younger Mohammed telling his story to Eduardo, my fellow EA.

See more.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA