Monday, August 08, 2011

A black African reminds us what "apartheid" means

The New York Observer has a generic article about the BDS movement trying to bully a Brooklyn food co-op to boycott Israeli products.  Somewhat more interesting are the first two letters published about it.

The first one is from a BDS supporter, Bill Mazza:
Frankly, I find much of what passes for "debate" on this issue unproductive as the opposition relies on fear-mongering and labeling (as with blanket charges of 'anti-Semite') designed to immobilize the opposition. Fox News would be proud.

Why do we "single out Israel"? We don't. Many of us work on my issues of social justice both within US borders and without. But US tax dollars have helped fund the recent increase in both pro-apartheid legislation of the Israeli government--such as the recently-passed gag ruling against even talking in favor of a boycott in Israel--and violence. This is not an issue any of us engaged with lightly.

I do know this. Today most of the voices who, for decades, spoke in support of South African apartheid policies are silenced by their shame. I'm hopeful the same will be true of contemporary supporters of Israeli apartheid.

The Park Slope Food Coop actually formed with a boycott of South African goods in place, a decade before the struggle reached popular support in the 80s. We're simply asking that the Coop membership get on the right side of the moral and historical struggle against apartheid again.
For someone who is against "labeling" he seems to be fond of using the word "apartheid" a lot.

The response letter by Baruti is therefore worth reading:
Mr. Mazza,

I'm from South Africa. An African South African, not a colonialist. (Americans just call me black.)

I experienced Apartheid. Separateness. It was ugly. Many of my friends died.

I've been to Israel. The West Bank. Gaza. Inside of Israel. Lived there for a year touring for a book I want to write.

Mr. Mazza, you don't know what Apartheid is. For all of Israel's faults, you dishonor yourself and my fallen mates by using the word.

The UN does not use the phrase "Israeli Apartheid" and you repeating it overand over again does not give it authority. There is really no comparison between Israel and South Africa. We appreciate your help over there in the US for "saving" us back in the eighties, but we here
in S.A. did the dirty work. We suffered. We went to jail. We died. You stayed safe, signed a few pieces of paper, spoke at a meeting or two maybe. You follow the same route for your work on human rights in the Middle East.

Tutu is beloved here, but he is not our polestar. He is as political as anyone and we all know it. SA is still quite corrupt and dangerous and he is beholden to make statements reflecting those interests. Sadly, because atrocities were committed by both sides in our war for freedom,
corruption and crime are what we have reaped, and freedom is still very hard to find today in SA. You are, I'm sorry to say, very uninformed about what causes you take up.
It's nice to have someone who knows what "apartheid" means slap a poseur upside the head.

(You might want to click on that letter and "like" it.)

(h/t B)