“A” is for Apartheid or Annapolis

In the 80s, we gave up 78% of our homeland to try to pick up the pieces of our lives on the remaining 22% of Palestine. This was, and remains, the only true (brave or otherwise) concession ever made in the so-called ‘Middle East Conflict.” Next came Camp David, then Madrid, then Oslo, then another Camp David, Taba, Wye, (deep breath) Sharm el Sheikh, the Disengagement, the Road Map. Through it all, Israel continued to divide, carve out, confiscate and settle that 22%. They scattered us into a diaspora, shut down our schools, bombed damn near every inch of the West Bank and Gaza, herded us into ghettos, set up checkpoints all around us and employed every tool of imperialism, times ten, to get rid of or subjugate us as a cheap labor force.

Now we arrive at yet another surreal meeting in the clouds: Annapolis. Everyone is invited except the PLO — the sole and only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people — and the democratically elected members of the Palestinian Authority (that would be Hamas). At this meeting, Israel will throw us a few bones, like releasing some prisoners (who will most likely get rounded up again when the hype dies down) while it is intentionally starving 1.4 million human beings in Gaza, cutting off fuel, electricity and clean drinking water. Annapolis will serve only to move Israel a little closer to stamping out the “refugee problem,” those Palestinians and their descendants whose homes, farms, property and history Israel stole.

Palestinians are the natives of the land that was called Palestine for the last several thousand years until 1948 when Jewish foreigners changed its name to Israel. We are the natives in every sense of that word: historically, legally, culturally, ethnically, and even genetically! True there were Jewish tribes in that land some 3,000 years ago. There were also Canaanites, Babylonians, Sumarians, Philistines, Assyrians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, and Brits. Palestinians are the natural descendants of all of these peoples who passed through that land, intermarried and converted between religions. When you understand this, it becomes clear why Palestine has always been a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious society. In other words, the idea of “tolerance” and co-existence that the West fought to attain and claims to cherish and hold dear, was already a reality in Palestine. Israel has taken that ideal, turned it on its head, and beat it to a pulp so every Jew in the world can have a place where he or she can go and see none but fellow Jews. Remarkably, the world sees nothing wrong or out of the ordinary with this and would like us to simply live with it, negotiate with a juggernaut military power that has made no secret of its desire and intent to take all of Palestine and get rid of as many of us Gentiles as it possibly can.

Never in history has the world so cruelly called on an oppressed, robbed, and battered native people to sit down with their oppressors to “negotiate” for their freedom. Even worse, what we are expected to negotiate away are our basic human rights, in order to have a few checkpoints removed so we can call those ghettos — surrounded by a 20 foot concrete wall with guard towers — a “state.”

We are being asked to give up our natural right to return to the homes from which we were forcibly removed because, and only because, we are not Jewish. We are asked, as native Muslims and Christians, to give up our natural right to live and thrive in Jerusalem as we have for all of time. We are told that we should not expect to have the right to control our own water, economy, airspace, or borders. Why? Why should we accept such an inferior status and inferior fate? We are not children of a lesser god that we should be expected to relinquish God-given, self-evident rights accorded and upheld for the rest of humanity. We are not animals to be disposed of so that Jewish individuals around the globe can have dual citizenship, a sort of summer country in the Hamptons.

Would anyone have thought to support the desire of White South Africans to live as separate and superior humans and expect Black South Africans to “negotiate” with the Apartheid government for their basic human rights? Of course not! Anyone with a mind and conscience took for granted that Blacks have equal rights as Whites. That is self-evident and non-negotiable. So is our right as non-Jews in Palestine to be accorded the same rights and privileges as Jews in our ancestral homeland. Human dignity and equality simply should not be topics of negotiation in the 21st century.

Even more vulgar is Israel’s insistence that we recognize its right to be a state of the Jewish people. This country that stole everything from us – our homes, our holy places, our trees and farms, our institutions, our history and heritage, the cemeteries where our grandparents and forefathers are buried – because we are not the right kind of human in their eyes. They want us not only to attest that such an affront to humanity is legitimate and appropriate, but that it is somehow a right!

Let me, as one dispossessed and disinherited Palestinian, say with all the force of my love and anguish for my country, my family, and my countrymen, that I do NOT recognize such right. A right is something inherently and unquestionably just. Jewish exclusivity and entitlement at the expense of non-Jews is not a right, for God’s sake, it is racism!

susan abulhawa is a writer and activist. Her most recent novel is Against the Loveless World. Read other articles by Susan.

14 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. heike said on November 28th, 2007 at 11:27am #

    This whole piece is emotional and irresponsible. Palestinians claim 7 million refugees. If they all want to come back to present-day Israel, it’s like 300 milion more people flooding into the U.S. Have you ever seen an exodus of those proportions in human history? What do you expect the Jews in Israel to do –to accept being djimmis of Muslim rulers? Where do you expect them to go so that you can realize your “right of return”?

    And why should Palestinians have the monopoly on the right of return? If you advocate that right as a principle, you have to advocate it for anyone who has been forcibly removed from their homes. Let’s start with the U.S. Many people on this board write about the genocide of Native Americans and their forceable removal from their homelands. Maybe some of them once lived in Pennsylvania on land you now occupy. If they come and tell you that they want their land back, what would you say in reply? What would you tell to the hundreds of thousands of Karelians who were forced from their homes which were occupied by Russian settlers? Or to the Estonians who lost their homes and were deported to Siberia, only to find that hundreds of thousands of Russian colonists had been imported in their place? Or to the millions of Germans who were victims of ethnic cleansing from East Prussia in 1944-45 and who don’t benefit from UNGA resolutions demanding their right of return? Or to the Indians and Pakistanis who were forceably removed from each others’ territories in 1947-48? Or to the Greek Cypriots, who call themselves “Mediterranean Palestinians,” who were expelled from their homelands in 1974 by the Muslim Turkish Army and not allowed to reclaim their homes?

    If you demand that right for yourself but not for others, you are a hypocrite, plain and simple.

    So, you don’t recognize that the Jews have a right to be in Israel. What do you propose instead?

    p.s. the first thing you learn when studying political science is that politics is “the art of the possible.”

  2. mitchell said on November 28th, 2007 at 11:40am #

    Interesting that you state that your holy places were stolen by the Israeli’s. Which holy places, exactly, are you talking about? Please remember that from 1948 to 1967 when the Kingdom of Jordon occupied the West Bank, no Jews were allowed to pray at their holy places, e.g., the Kotel. Further, throughout history, the Muslum Wakif has been trying to erase all evidence of a Jewish presence on the Temple Mount and to deny and desecrate that evidence as well. Not to mention how well Jews, Christians, Buddahists, Hindus and other faiths are so well respected and honored throughout the Muslum world.

    Are you saying that in 1967 when Israel took control of the West Bank they prohibited the Palestinian Arabs the right to pray at their holy places. This is a very empty argument devoid of all fact. I believe firmly in a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and the establishment of a Palestinian state but this must be done by 2 parties who look at each other with respect, not contempt, and do not attempt to change recorded history for political and emotional benefit.

    By the way, should not the 800,000 Jewish refugees from Arab and North African countries be returned their land and property after they were expelled from their homes in 1948?

  3. corylus said on November 28th, 2007 at 11:41am #

    Neal, as represented by your brazenly cowardly ad hominen attack and unsupported diatribe, you are the one who should be ashamed. Virtually every other article I’ve read on dozens of websites and in written prose support the validity of Abulhawa’s observations and experience. Why do pro-Israeli types like you attack the persons who make the arguments against Israeli oppression instead of looking at the well sustantiated facts? Abulhawa is far from the first or only believer that Israel practices violence, oppression, and apartheid. As for Palestine being a land of demographic dynamics over the centuries, the author makes this abundantly clear, and you’ve done nothing to refute the legitimate Palestinians’ claim to their rights to a home there. The fact that the Ottoman Empire “shifted populations” (sounds like a case of forced relocation, hardly a meritorious point in your invalid argument) only bolsters Abulhawa’s central point that the Israeli occupation of Palestine is the continuation of Western oppression of an indigenous homeland. On top of your misinformed rant, you should be especially proud to crow so loudly for the two greatest forces of imperialism and oppression, human rights violations, and war crimes in the Middle East — Israel and the United States. Now that takes balls!

  4. Shadia Justice said on November 28th, 2007 at 11:52am #

    “A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel; for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the Lord their God.” Jeremiah 2:21

    The instruments of expulsion were many, psychological, economic, and military. The Huns had swords, horses and bad temperaments. The Zionists had cold, heartless intelligence and a trained and superior military force that could surround a town on three sides, drive the inhabitants out the fourth, kill any who resisted, rape women, pillage houses, dynamite homes while the residents were inside, unable to get out, their home becoming both their tomb and their headstone, and force those who fled to walk long miles to another Arab area or another country to become refugees for the next 60 years while Israel brazenly goes to the international courts to get redress for Jews expelled from Arab countries years ago, indifferent to the anguish they inflicted on the impoverished natives of the land they stole. All of this forced on those true Jews who did not accept the nationalist tenets of the Zionists or the methods they employed to carry out their designs.

    But the American press carried none of this. Americans still believe that the Jews were attacked and defended themselves against the bloodthirsty Arabs, Arabs that had been defeated by the Brits in the 1936 uprising, leaving that people leaderless and without a viable military to defend themselves. But these facts are not given to the American people nor to our Congress that caters totally to the ruthless regimes that have plundered the people of Palestine.

    How ironic, no, how unjust the hypocrisy that grows with arrogance. How ironic that “Right of return” as a principle of human rights to protect those forced from their homes and land, a guarantee that they can have redress and return, becomes twisted in the Israeli, Zionist state to protect those who had never been to the land of Palestine because they belong to a religion while preventing the return of those expelled from their homes and livelihoods. How ironic to proclaim that a state created on the assumption that only those of a particular religion can be members of the citizenry is a democracy and repeat it over and over so those who do not know the truth accept it as true. How ironic to cry to the world that Jews are victims of terrorists, heartless terrorists who blow themselves up killing in the process innocent people while they are the children of such slaughter, as the blowing up of the King David Hotel attests and as the Hagana admit they executed, only they had the means to blow up the innocent without killing themselves, and for that one becomes a terrorist and the other a defender of his country. How ironic that Israel goes before the UN to decry Iran’s proclamation by its President that “Israel will be wiped off the map,” when that translation is not correct but serves their purpose, calling on the UN to condemn Iran for intended genocide while they have been in the slow, agonizing process of ethnically cleansing the people of Palestine for 60 years. How ironic that our American main stream press touts the new peace initiative as one proffered by Israel attempting to provide yet once more peace in Palestine when Olmert’s government can remain in place only if he denies the very premise of peace, the just return of Palestinian land to its owners and full recognition of a contiguous Palestinian state capable of managing its own affairs independent of Israel, something comparable to the Saudi Prince’s plan, rejected out of hand by Sharon in 2002.

    Indeed a voice was heard in the high places, a voice decrying the hypocrisy of our government and that of Israel for putting forth yet one more time a faux peace plan that will do nothing but provide the Israeli dominated think tanks with fodder to show how ungrateful the Palestinians are for not accepting the remnants of the land left to them as Israel locks them into Bantustans where millions have to survive on pittance, dependent on the world for basic necessities since Israel has stolen their water, their crops, their access to waterways on the east and west, and requires that they recognize the legitimacy of the state that devastated their culture while that state has yet to recognize the right of Palestine to exist; and worse, that they stop their legitimate defense of their occupied country in full compliance with international law while Israel cries wolf becoming in their turn the Mandate government they, as terrorists, fought against, asking the world body to condemn the just and protect the criminal; and, finally, as a feeling world reacts with weeping and supplications to the international community that justice might at last come to the Palestinians, we hear the Zionist’s cry heralded from the temple mount by Menachem Begin “a Jew will not bow to anybody except God,” a God whose will is determined by Zionists and Zionists alone, and is that not the greatest deception of all, that God speaks through the mouths of those who slaughter God’s creatures. Thus are we among the perverted and have forgotten the Lord our God.

  5. Neal said on November 28th, 2007 at 12:01pm #


    Your first argument justifies Abulhawa’s argument on the ground that other people make the same argument. That, of course, is not an argument. It is an observation. I assert that all those who make the argument are making an argument that misstates what apartheid is.

    Your second argument relates to population. It does not address my point. My point is that the body of people who identify themselves now as Palestinian Arabs cannot trace their connection to the land back for thousands of years – which is what Ms. Abulhawa asserts. I also assert – and you evidently did not see the subtle problem with her position – that those who call themselves Palestinian Arabs are a group of different people so that it is meaningless even to talk about a consistent group of people with ties to a land over the course of millennia.

    Now, I also note that, in fact, something needs to be done to resolve the dispute between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs. What Ms. Abulhawa would do is, evidently, flood Israel with 7 million people – or about 9 1/3 times the number of people who, by Palestinian Arab assertions, were displaced when Israel came into being. I can only say that such is not a way to settle the dispute. It is a way to create a civil war since neither side seems to want to be ruled by the other side and since neither side is willing to compromise on that fundamental issue.

    Now, Ms. Abulhawa also talks about Jewish exclusivity. She seems to forget that Israel has a rather large non-Jewish population of non-Jewish citizens. That sorts of blows a big hole in her theory, which amounts to propaganda.

    Now, so far as I know, Israel could not be called imperial. Even if the country wanted to be imperial, it lacks the infrastructure. Its population is far, far too small. That may explain why its sole interest – if the country still has that interest (which is doubtful) – in additional land is the land along the Jordan River that was captured in 1967. That is not the stuff of imperialism.

    Now, were Ms. Abulhawa to address how the parties might live next to each other – since each side clearly does not want to be ruled by the other -, that would be a reasonable topic about which to write.

  6. heike said on November 28th, 2007 at 2:24pm #

    re ad hominem attacks:

    definition from Wikopedia:

    An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin: “argument to the man”, “argument against the man”) consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim. The process of proving or disproving the claims is thereby subverted, and the argumentum ad hominem works to change the subject.

    It is most commonly used to refer specifically to the ad hominem abusive, or argumentum ad personam, which consists of criticizing or personally attacking an argument’s proponent in an attempt to discredit that argument.


    “Phyllis Chesler made her reputation by writing this book “Women and Madness,” and judging by this current book, you see she does have expertise in her original field. So, you know, the book is completely looney. It’s nutty. …she’s a complete embarrassment. She’s an idiot. She’s an imbecile ” (Norman Finkelstein, Vancouver 2005)

    Were you not an imbecile but a rational human being you’d understand what my point was: The only rational basis for a petition against a death threat is a petition for a death threat. But alas you can’t understand this because in your demented universe Manji is an “Islamic feminist author,” “free-thinking Islamist” and on and on. (Norman Finkelstein)

    “pro-Israeli hacks like you”

  7. Hatuxka said on November 28th, 2007 at 4:28pm #

    No matter what form corylus’s response to Neal took, the point is well made. No attempt by the pro-Israel respondents, like Neal here, is made (except for some sprinklings of substance here and there) to address the substance of what is said by the author Abulhawa.

    Phyllis Chesler IS an idiot and a right wing ideologue nutjob. heikes quote here is unsourced but this actual quote here sums up why he was driven to say what he said:
    “If you open up, like, Phyllis Chesler’s book, The New Anti-Semitism, she says Jewish feminists are anti-Semites, NPR is anti-Semitic, BBC is anti-Semitic, Los Angeles Times is anti-Semitic, New York Times is anti-Semitic, Washington Post is anti-Semitic. Everybody is anti-Semitic. The term is devoid of any content. Anyone who ever criticizes Israel is anti-Semitic…. The people who write this stuff — you know, you just quoted Mr. Weiner that Mr. Abbas is not a member of the PLO. If you read these people — Phyllis Chesler, her book The New Anti-Semitism had lots of praise by serious intellectuals like Paul Berman. She keeps saying in the book that India is an Arab country, and she’s very emphatic about this, that India is an Arab country. That’s the level of intellectual, you know, debate and discussion in this country when it comes to the Arab world.” -NF on “Democracy Now!”

    Also, Finkelsteins anger comes not unprovoked and was contained at the substantial end of an e-mail exchange with someone named Grant Crowell who is a right wing provocateur (like you heike) plus you left out this part of the second passage about this Manji person:

    “Did you happen to read the Times op-ed by this moral paragon titled “How I learned to love the wall”? Oh, such courage – braving those alleged death threats as she sings the praises of Israel’s little ghetto. I didn’t know that “left-leaning libertarians” favored caging in human beings. Live and learn, I suppose.”

    So Finkelsteins opinions are well considered. You or Neal shouldn’t be taken seriously. You nibble at the edges of real discourse, distort and divert but accomplish nothing.

  8. SamZ said on November 28th, 2007 at 7:16pm #

    It interesting that while the AIPAC bots on this board, and elsewhere, made good on PR that Arabs *want* to eliminate Israel, “Peaceful” Israel *actually* did just that (wipe out) to the Palestinians, by denying their existence, never mind their homeland or other historical and cultural rights or concerns.

    It is to be noted that these Zion lies (about Palestinian people) further the hatred toward Jews, Not the kind of reaction you would solicit from someone you want to make peace with. Instead these lies are aimed at the American people to continue in a downward spiral of injustice and violence. Me Think Israelniacs want just that.

  9. Eileen Fleming said on November 28th, 2007 at 7:17pm #

    Having been to Israel Palestine five times since 2005; introduced to the ‘Holy’ Land-

    which is in pieces; bantustans-

    By a 1948 refugee from the upper Galilee, who made his way to the USA and into a lucrative career in the Defense Industry with top Secret clearance during the Cold War.

    After THAT DAY we call 9/11 he brought together Jews, Christians and Muslims to do more than pray for peace-he established Olive Trees Foundation for Peace, a non-profit that raises awareness and funds to purchase fruit bearing trees to replace the over 1 million The Wall has destroyed.

    Beginning Nov. 29 is the beginning of a year long commemoration of Al Nabka/The Disaster, when over 750,000 Palestinians became refugees after they fled from their homes for the news of Zionist terrorism spread like wild fire.

    For the first ten months, the N. Y. Times had reporters following the action, but in the tenth month, all reporters were called home.

    And thus began, the history of USA MSM: MIA.

    to literally extend the olive branch-attached to a 3 yr. old sapling

  10. Eileen Fleming said on November 28th, 2007 at 7:24pm #

    Pardon my errors above-i hit Submit before re-reading:

    Here is correction:

    I appreciate this article, not because I am Palestinian.

    But I am an American Irish dissident who has been to Israel Palestine five times since 2005.

    I was introduced to the ‘Holy’ Land-which is in pieces; bantustans-

    By a 1948 refugee from the upper Galilee, who made his way to the USA and into a lucrative career in the Defense Industry with top Secret clearance during the Cold War.

    After THAT DAY we call 9/11 he brought together Jews, Christians and Muslims to do more than pray for peace-he established Olive Trees Foundation for Peace, a non-profit that raises awareness and funds to purchase fruit bearing trees to replace the over 1 million The Wall has destroyed.

    Beginning Nov. 29 is the beginning of a year long commemoration of Al Nabka/The Disaster, when over 750,000 Palestinians became refugees after they fled from their homes for the news of Zionist terrorism spread like wild fire.

    For the first ten months, the N. Y. Times had reporters following the action, but in the tenth month, all reporters were called home.

    And thus began, the history of USA MSM: MIA.

    My first book [i am writing my 3rd now] is based on the memoirs of the 1948 refugee from the Galilee and 100% of all royalties go directly to the non-profit to purchase fruit bearing trees for both sides of The Wall and planting season has begun and continues to early spring.

    Eileen Fleming, Reporter and Editor
    Author “Keep Hope Alive” and “Memoirs of a Nice Irish American ‘Girl’s’ Life in Occupied Territory”
    Producer “30 Minutes With Vanunu.”

  11. Neal said on November 29th, 2007 at 7:22am #

    Eileen and others,

    Note: the allegations in the article are simply untrue. Israel is not an apartheid state. Nothing you have posted changes that. And, in fact, what is posted is ideological claptrap.

  12. heike said on November 29th, 2007 at 10:12am #

    Hatuxa: everything you write is dead wrong.Finkelstein simply lied about what Chesler wrote and I thoroughly analyzed what she wrote and what he said she wrote on another contribution in DV. He must have read that analysis because on October 12, when he appeared at a UC gathering on “free speech,” while he still felt the compulsion to publicly call her insane, (I don’t know what that outburst had to do with a colloquium on free speech) he found some convoluted language in her book to prove his point instead of the lies you quoted above.


    He also lied about what she wrote in the NY Times. Calling someone a nut job is another ad hominem attack — you’re really the pot calling the kettle black! You can find the Vancouver speech on youtube. I simply transcribed it. Chesler is a well known professor and psychiatrist with dozens of books and articles to her name. Just because you disagree with her politics doesn’t make her a “nut job.” (your comrades have also called her a “CIA agent”, which says something about the level of political discourse in the U.S.)

    Your problem is your ideological affinity to F. and you simply can’t accept the fact that he blatantly lies and slanders his opponents. The best you can offer is that people whose views you disagree with are “right wing” ideologues. I can assure you I am very far from that, but your Weltanschauung doesn’t allow for people who don’t fall into your stereotypes. You’ll have to try harder than that!

    P.S. The Manji article was given its title by the editors of the NY Times, and her publicist stated clearly that it belies the points made in it. Her position is much more nuanced than you or F. give her credit for, but it’s easier to throw epithets at people than to deal with nuances.

    viz: The writer of the profile misrepresents Irshad’s views on the Israeli wall. Irshad NEVER says that she “loves” the wall. She states the opposite; that she looks forward to the day when the wall will no longer be in the West Bank. She also challenges her fellow Muslims to stop the culture of suicide bombing that led to the wall in the first place.
    It is the editors of the New York Times who gave her article the unfortunate and misleading title of “How I Learned to Love The Wall.” She had no control over the title given. She is responsible for the content of the article, and in it she makes perfectly clear that she is at best ambivalent about the wall.
    Please bring this to Mr. McIntyre’s attention. He may still disagree with her ambivalence or her analysis. Fair enough; but to assert that she loves the wall is patently untrue and only mimics the sloppiness of the NY Times editors. – Adriana Salvia • 20 March 2006

    Another view on the right of return. Have you said anything on behalf of the Greek Cypriots or the Bosnian Muslims lately?


  13. Natalie said on November 29th, 2007 at 1:35pm #

    People like Desmond Tutu and Beyten Breytenbach are people who know a lot about Apartheid. The lived it, they fought against it, and they beat it. And these people, who visited Palestine and Israel, have said unequivocally, that Israel’s Apartheid is far worse than what South Africans had to deal with. Who exactly is Neal to claim to know more than these men about Apartheid?

  14. Neal said on November 29th, 2007 at 3:27pm #


    Well, Tutu is actually pro-Israel. He merely opposes Israel’s continued control of the captured territories. See e.g. http://www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20020715&s=tutu

    He draws analogies to apartheid, as you can see from the article, without calling Israel an apartheid state. Why? Because that would be intellectually dishonest. And, he sees Israel as having unique strengths, something he would not say if your characterization were accurate. Here are his words:

    To criticize the occupation is not to overlook Israel’s unique strengths, just as protesting the Vietnam War did not imply ignoring the distinct freedoms and humanitarian accomplishments of the United States.

    And, he makes a clear distinction in the second to last sentence in his article, as follows:

    If apartheid ended, so can the occupation, but the moral force and international pressure will have to be just as determined.

    I do not know much about Breyten Breytenbach other than in the very first matter I found on googling his name, he employed a traditional Antisemitic motif. That leads me not to take him as a serious person.