By Iqbal Jassat
Since our (Media Review Network) advocacy for Palestinian rights became manifest via media and political campaigns, more than two decades ago and long before the advent of social media, a recurring set of questions kept cropping up.
One of them was: why are you guys focused on Palestine only and not other worthy causes?
These were not only posed by concerned people, genuinely seeking clarity. They were also raised in quite hostile ways by local pro-Israel lobbyists, whose desire was to tarnish us as “antisemites”, by reinforcing the myth that we hate Jews and thus find Palestine an expedient cause.
While it is not entirely true that we have a straitjacket approach to Palestine at the exclusion of other “hot potatoes”, we certainly and unapologetically, do exhaust enormous efforts to ensure that Israeli crimes are not papered over.
The reason is simple: the plight of Palestine and failure to come to terms with its legitimate demands, impacts severely on the region as a whole, and of course the world at large.
This sentiment is fortunately being embraced by a crop of Western leaders albeit reluctantly. Indeed, inside and outside Israel, a growing number of Jewish people are courageously affirming this truth.
Whether its historians like Ilan Pappe; authors like Max Blumenthal; journalists like Gideon Levy; academics like Uri Davis or international legal experts like Richard Falk; the message is clear: unless Palestinian rights are restored unequivocally, the entire region will go up in smoke!
That we are sitting on a powder keg is not an exaggeration. Look at Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and Egypt to comprehend the gravity of the situation resulting from colonialism, illegal wars, grab of oil reserves and the dispossession of Palestine.
Sixty six years ago Palestine was wiped off the face of the earth. In came Israel from nowhere to entrench itself as a Jewish colony.
It stole land and keeps stealing more. It dispossessed the indigenous Arab inhabitants and keeps doing so. It occupied Arab territories and maintains its occupation.
And as for the loss of Islam’s historic sacred site, Masjid al Aqsa, which too is occupied since 1967 and remains the target of Israel for demolishing and replacing it with a Jewish temple, Muslims of the world remain highly agitated.
South African Muslims are no exception to this. Masjid al Aqsa thus injects a religious dimension to the conflict, making it impossible for any Muslim in any part of the world to remain immune and untouched.
In addition to Israel being accused of gross violations of human rights stemming from policies which favor Jews over non-Jews, it also stands accused of Islamophobia and belligerent anti-Muslim bigotry.
Whether its the discredited “War on Terror” or the instability in the region resulting from deplorable actions in its pursuit, Israeli aligned neocons and powerful Likudniks have been fingered as the architects.
Palestine is a casualty of Western atonement for the horror inflicted upon Jews by Europe. Unfortunately this injustice has had far reaching consequences.
Atonement for the Holocaust extended beyond the dispossession and ethnic cleansing of Palestine. It resulted in what American leaders regularly proclaim: Israel’s security will never be sacrificed.
Palestine is thus victim of a range of measures initiated by Israel and its lobby operations, over and above the daily physical oppression. One such unfair and arbitrary form of punishment is the labeling of legitimate resistance as “terrorism”, making it a criminal offense in the US and most parts of Europe to have ties or links with Hamas.
One can list many such irrational and self-defeating policies which single out Palestine, rendering it a perpetual victim of what Barney Pityana refers to as a “rogue” regime.
Its not too difficult to understand then why advocacy groups such as ours find Palestine to be unique in terms of the power imbalance Israel enjoys in addition to having America’s “back”, no matter what type of atrocities are being committed.
We are pleased therefore that more and more South Africans including major formations ranging from human rights NGOs to churches and labor movements have adopted Palestine and are actively engaged via various campaigns to promote its just cause.
It is not by accident that South Africa during apartheid enjoyed intimate trade and military ties with Israel. Both were viewed as pariah states during the freedom struggle against Nationalist rule. And as history correctly records, Palestinian freedom fighters were in the same trenches alongside ANC and PAC comrades.
The question we usually throw back is why hasn’t Palestinian demands for freedom, equality and dignity been met yet?
- Iqbal Jassat is an Executive at the Media Review Network, Johannesburg, South Africa. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.