Apartheid and Ethnic Cleansing as Diversion


Although apartheid must be opposed by social justice activists, does the focus on apartheid serve the exigencies of social justice?

First, it must be stated that, given its obviousness, a discussion of whether apartheid is practiced by Israel is nugatory. Still, why the focus on Israel as an apartheid state? Others target Israel for its ethnic cleansing. Others declare that Israel is guilty of genocide, usually prefixed withe words “slow motion.”

Apartheid depicts racism against a people, while genocide denotes murder of a people. There is a whopping difference in between being denounced as a racist and a genocidaire. Gary Zatzman analyzed this in his article “The Notion of the ‘Jewish State’ as an ‘Apartheid Regime’ is a Liberal-Zionist One”:

However, whereas the solution in South Africa always turned upon finding some new form of state in which majority rule would prevail and white-racist privilege be finally extirpated, the cause of Palestine entails eliminating the Zionist junta’s so-called “Jewish state” of European-American colonialist privilege and restoring to the Palestinians what the Zionists stole. How does disabling the racist provisions of the laws and regulations of the State of Israel, and reforming the “Jewish-only” element to become fully inclusive of the entire population, bring the Palestinians any closer to restoring what the Zionists stole? …

For all its serious and undoubted evils and the numerous crimes against humanity committed in its name, including physical slaughters, South African white-racist apartheid was not premised on committing genocide. Zionism, on the other hand, has been committed to dissolving the social, cultural, political and economic integrity of the Palestinian people, i.e., genocide, from the outset, at least as early as Theodor Herzl’s injunction in his diaries that the “transfer” of the Palestinian “penniless population” elsewhere be conducted “discreetly and circumspectly.”1

Ethnic Cleansing

A team of public health researchers, Rony Blum, Shira Sagi, and Elihu D. Richter in Jerusalem and Gregory H. Stanton in Fredericksburg, VA, called for expunging the term “ethnic cleansing” from official use. They stated that it “bleaches the atrocities of genocide and its continuing use undermines the prevention of genocide.” The researchers see avoidance of the term “genocide” as a pretext for inaction.2

A former history professor in Israel, Ilan Pappe, focused on the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that became the basis for the establishment of a Jewish state.3

Zatzman and I took aim at Pappe’s fudging on the question of genocide:

Pappe writes, “Massacres accompany the operations [of ethnic cleansing], but where they occur they are not part of a genocidal plan: they are a key tactic to accelerate the flight of the population earmarked for expulsion. (p. 2) [italics added]

Ethnic cleansing is not genocide, but it does carry with it atrocious acts of mass killing and butchery.” (p. 197) [emphasis added] Pappe is generous with the definition of “ethnic cleansing” (e.g., “part of the essence of ethnic cleansing is the eradication, by all means available, of a region’s history”) but parsimonious with the definition of “genocide.”

Pappe considers 1948 is a “clear cut case, according to informed and scholarly definitions, of ethnic cleansing.”4

Pappe continued to refrained from recognizing genocide committed by Israeli Jews. In an interview with Alan Hart on Press TV, Pappe defined the completion of the “Zionist Project” as “…seeing the final map of the state of Israel with a clear ethnic — ahh, ahh — reality in it.”

When Hart asked about the possibility of a Zionist Holocaust, Pappe answered that the state of Israel does not need it.5

Ilan Pappe has since reversed himself. Alan Hart quotes Pappe: “What we are witnessing is, in his words, ‘genocide in slow motion.’”6

Canada and Apartheid

The legislators in the province of Ontario have collectively denounced Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW). There is objection to the name.

Progressive Conservative member of the provincial parliament Peter Shurman said, “I want to be clear about what it is I’m trying to do. I want the name changed. It’s that simple. It’s just wrong.”7

Shurman draws a parallel whereby criticism of Israeli apartheid as close to hate speech: “Israeli Apartheid Week is not dialogue, it’s a monologue. The name is hateful, it is odious and that’s not how things should be in my Ontario. It’s a term that frankly I’m sick of hearing. Get rid of this word apartheid.”7

Shurman’s colleague to his left, New Democratic MPP Cheri DiNovo concurred calling “apartheid” “inflammatory.”8

Shurman is also paraphrased as saying that the use of the term “apartheid” “is also offensive to the millions of black South Africans oppressed by a racist white regime until the early 1990s.”8 Apparently Shurman claims greater insight into apartheid than South African archbishop Desmond Tutu who was clear that apartheid is was what he observed in Israel.9

But to use the word “apartheid” in the case of Canada’s treatment of Original peoples was not objectionable or hateful for Shurman.7

Shurman’s prejudice demands probing. Why is it that using the term “apartheid” against Israeli Jews is “hateful” and “odious” but it is not “hateful” and “odious” when used against Canadians? Shurman only states the two are incomparable. In another context, a powerful lobby would have him branded a self-hater.

Why do the protestations of Shurman carry any weight? Nowhere is he quoted as denying or refuting that apartheid is occurring in historical Palestine. The corporate media provides no evidence, yet it treats Shurman’s merit-less assertion and contradiction as if they had merit. No IAW volunteers are quoted.

Many have criticized the chill imposed on freedom of speech by the parliamentarians. Gary Zatzman saw it as something more sinister:

What [Canadians] don’t have enshrined as a privilege in the Charter [of Rights], and what cannot be taken away by anyone else, is freedom of conscience. The intimidation unleashed by the Canadian parliamentary coalition against anyone disagreeing with the policies and public activities of the State of Israel aims at forcing Canadians to change or suppress their conscience. That concentration on attacking freedom of conscience accounts for why the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition itself has been and remains especially deaf to appeals about distinguishing between Jewish religion and acts against it [= antisemitism] on the one hand, and anti-Zionist or other anti-U.S./anti-Israel political stands and positions on the other.10

IAW was begun in Toronto in 2005, and has made made an impact around the world since then. One wonders why there isn’t a Canadian Apartheid Week. A spokesperson from IAW replied in an email: “Part of the week is based on building solidarity with first nations communities in canada and recognising canada’s nature as a settler colonialist state.”11

IAW is scheduled from 4-11 March this year in over 40 cities around the world.

Economic Apartheid

Being banned from swimming on a beach, sitting on a bus, driving on a road, or buying land because of one’s race is wrong, but such rights pale in comparison to the right to gainful employment.

Many Canadians take pride at Canada being top ranked on the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI): ten times since the HDI began in 1980. From the years 1992-2000, Canada held on to first place in the rankings. In 2009, first place belonged to Norway, and Canada holds down fourth place. However, there are obviously two communities in Canada when one considers HDI.

When Original Peoples are measured using the same criteria, they usually are 60-70 or so ranks below the rest of Canada.12

In December 1997, South African president Nelson Mandela spoke of the need to deracialize the economy and address economic apartheid.13

Some would deny that economic apartheid exists in Canada. Former prime minister Brian Mulroney dismissed Peguis chief Louis Stevenson’s linkage between Indian Affiars in Canada and apartheid in South Africa. As a challenge Stevenson invited South African ambassador to Canada Glenn Babb to witness the poverty and internal control on his reserve. The visit was a black eye to Mulroney’s supposed anti-apartheid stance.14

In 1990, anti-apartheid activist Desmond Tutu visited Mishkeegogamang First Nation (Osnaburgh) and observed “many of the pathologies of poverty and unemployment.”15

Poverty afflicts huge swaths of humanity. Titus Alexander discussed a raceless “global apartheid” wrought by international financial institutions that exacerbate the destituteness of the poor and further enrich the wealthy.16

Genocide in Canada

Professor David Stannard calls the holocaust wreaked in the western hemisphere the worst act of genocide in history.17 Specific to Canada was the extinction of the Beothuk of Newfoundland.18

In The Genocide Machine in Canada, authors Robert Davis and Mark Zannis identified the intent behind genocide:

Historically, genocide served colonizing powers. It permitted the accumulation of wealth necessary for industrial development from the labour of subject peoples. It rendered powerless a large number of enemies and minorities, which the people of the colonized powers felt superior to.19

Davis and Zanis described “the ultimate expression of genocide” as rendering people completely expendable.20 Gaining control of the land and its wealth drives making people expendable.

While most Canadians would scoff that a genocide was or is being committed in their country, authorities are convinced. On 19 June 1996, the Law Society of Upper Canada v. Bruce Clark found:

Mr. Clark’s argument is anything but frivolous. It is the product of intensive study … It would be difficult to disagree with Mr. Clark’s assertion that the issue that his argument raises is “constitutionally critical.” … The “genocide” of which Mr. Clark speaks is real, and has very nearly succeeded in destroying the Native Canadian community that flourished here when European settlers arrived. No one who has seen many of our First Nation communities can remain untouched by this reality.21

Despite this, Clark was disbarred in 1999 for being “ungovernable.” So the lawyer who gave up a very comfortable lifestyle and possessions — business, plane, three cars, large house, a 40.5-hectare (100-acre) farm with panoramic lake view — to fight a genocide acknowledged by the law society was deprived of his career for fighting too uncontrollably against the genocide.

Enabling Genocide: Language as Diversion

Squabbling over terms used to describe the dispossession and slow-motion genocide of a people serve as diversion from acts that should evoke revulsion in the consciences of all people. Apartheid is morally anathema, as so is forced expulsion; but these can be undone. However, there is no undoing genocide. Lives snuffed out cannot be brought back.

  1. Gary Zatzman, “The Notion of the ‘Jewish State’ as an ‘Apartheid Regime’ is a Liberal-Zionist One,” Dissident Voice, 21 November 2005. []
  2. Rony Blum, Gregory H. Stanton, Shira Sagi and Elihu D. Richter, “‘Ethnic cleansing’ bleaches the atrocities of genocide,” The European Journal of Public Health Advance Access, 18 May 2007. Blum et al.’s paper appears to have a untoward agenda. See Kim Petersen, “Bleaching the Atrocities of Genocide: Linguistic Honesty is Better with a Clear Conscience,” Dissident Voice, 7 June 2007. []
  3. See Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oneworld Publications, 2006). []
  4. Kim Petersen, “Nakba: The Israeli Holocaust Denial,” Dissident Voice, 18 March 2007. []
  5. Hart of the Matter – Ilan Pappe II,” Press TV. []
  6. In Alan Hart, “A Monster Beyond Control?Dissident Voice, 28 December 2009. []
  7. See Jonathan Jenkins, “Bad word banned,” Toronto Sun, 25 February 2010. [] [] []
  8. See Robert Benzie, “MPPs decry linking Israel to ‘apartheid’,” thestar.com, 26 February 2010. [] []
  9. Desmond Tutu, “How can the victims of oppression oppress another people?,” Church Times, 26 April 2002. “Tutu condemns Israeli ‘apartheid’,” BBC News, 29 April 2002. []
  10. Gary Zatzman, “Criminalizing freedom of conscience, as distinct from ‘freedom of speech’,” email to Independent Jewish Voices (Canada), 25 February 2010. []
  11. Personal communication with ilaria, 27 February 2010. []
  12. Kevin Lee, “Measuring Poverty among Canada’s Aboriginal People,” Insight 23 (2), 1999: 2; John Sutton Lutz, Makúk: A New History of Aboriginal-White Relations (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2008): 293. Found on-reserve Indigenous peoples ranked 65th on the HDI. []
  13. Anthony J. Hall, The American Empire and the Fourth World: The Bowl with One Spoon: Volume One (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004): 521. []
  14. Ibid., 514. []
  15. Ibid., 515. []
  16. Titus Alexander, Unravelling Global Apartheid in Hall, 515. []
  17. See David E. Stannard, American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World (London: Oxford University Press, 1992). []
  18. See Barbara Whitby, The Last of the Beothuk: A Canadian Tragedy (Altitude Publishing, 2005) and Ingeborg Marshall, A History and Ethnography of the Beothuk (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1996). []
  19. Robert Davis and Mark Zannis, The Genocide Machine in Canada: The Pacification of the North (Black Rose, 1973): 30. []
  20. Ibid, 38. []
  21. Bruce Clark, Justice in Paradise (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999): 238. []
Kim Petersen is an independent writer. He can be emailed at: kimohp at gmail.com. Read other articles by Kim.

5 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Ismail Zayid said on March 1st, 2010 at 2:08pm #

    The facts on the ground are clear and beyond question. Israel has been practicing, against the Palestinian people, acts of apartheid, ethnic cleansing, slow genocide, amongst a whole series of war crimes, in blatant violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

    What Kim Petersen and Gary Zatsman say is perfectly accurate, and there is no reason why one cannot analyse and dissect the variety of crimes that a state or a person is committing. It would take volumes to dissect Israeli long-planned and effected crimes in the land of historic Palestine.

  2. Gary Zatzman said on March 1st, 2010 at 3:30pm #

    Kim Petersen has done the necessary digging to expose how and why the distinction between apartheid and genocide is being grasped more and more widely regarding the Palestinians’ condition at the hands of the State of Israel. I was also interested to read that Ilan Pappe has at last acknowledged “genocide in slow motion” being committed against the Palestinians. Maybe he’ll eventually get around to removing that terrible bargain he proposed at page 7 of “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”: that the Palestinians should be granted their Right of Return on condition and in exchange for agreeing not to hold any war crimes trials of Israeli occupation officials. Apart from the fact that the Right of Return itself is an unconditional right under international humanitarian law, it is the genocide — whether in slow motion or faster — that constitutes a “grave breach” of the Fourth Geneva Conventions of 1949, i.e., a WAR CRIME. So: if Pappe now acknowledges that “genocide”, i.e., a war crime, has been and is being committed by the State of Israel in its treatment of Palestinians, when will he dispense with the conditional offer regarding the Palestinians’ unconditional individual and collective Right of Return? It would assist the cause of progressive humanity if he went this one further step and resolved once and for all to help the required but long overdue application of international law to take its course. Tzipi Livni and the rest of that gang need to cool their heels in some well-secured cells at The Hague.

    I have to add, before I conclude: I never thought in my wildest dreams that I’d be agreeing with Regressive Conservative Peter Shurman, but yes, we can and should eventually replace that phrase Israel Apartheid Week… to ISRAEL GENOCIDE WEEK!

  3. Angie Tibbs said on March 1st, 2010 at 7:20pm #

    Well written, and, as usual, excellent research, Mr. Petersen.

    And I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Zatzman. Israel Genocide Week is exactly what it should be called. I hope organizers in Ontario will take note — and the rest of Canada likewise. We’ll then wait and see how long before some pathetic politician will whine about the word ‘genocide’. How did the current crop of Canadian politicians ever get elected? Oooh, excuse me. Silly question.

    Meanwhile, why am I not shocked that Pappe would suggest a right of return in lieu of Palestinians bringing war crimes against the Israeli terrorists (in government and in the military) for the death and destruction they have brought to bear on the Palestinians and the theft of their homeland? What an idiotic statement for a presumably learned individual to make.

    I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for him to change his mind on that point — although miracles do happen, I’m told..

    And those war criminals not only need to “cool their heels in some well-secured cells at the Hague”. They need to cool their heels in some well-secured, very SMALL cells at the Hague. BUT, one wonders, are there enough cells to hold them all?

  4. mary said on March 2nd, 2010 at 4:28am #

    I agree Angie.

    This is enough to make you weep (salty) tears.


    It was a slow genocide but it is gathering speed.

  5. kalidas said on March 3rd, 2010 at 8:35am #

    The cells at the Hague are, it seems, reserved for Serbs who are the criminels du jour. Throw in the occasional Croat or Muslim and there you have it.
    In fact, at this very moment I believe it’s Radovan Karadzic’s turn at being interviewed for a position.
    Mladic will be next.
    This will be enough grist for the grisly mill for at least for the near future.

    Bush, Cheney, Blair, Bibi, etc.
    No way.