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Israel-Palestine: It’s a myth that there are two equal sides in this conflict

Ten Palestinians were killed in the occupied West Bank by the Israeli Defence Forces on Friday as they protested against their dispossession. The death toll rises hourly in Gaza. At the time of writing, more than 200 had been killed — 15 from one family — as Israel tried to bomb Palestinians into submission.

In Israel, mobs of settlers, with the approval and protection of Israeli police, conduct pogroms against Palestinian citizens of Israel. From Gaza to Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem to the West Bank and Lod near Tel Aviv, Israel is escalating its terror campaigns against all Palestinians.

 It is able to do this because the world has been largely silent about Israeli crimes for more than seven decades. Israeli safety and security has come at the expense of Palestinian safety, rights and dignity. The right to self-defence, it seems, does not work both ways.

 As we witness the dispossession of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, and the bombing of Gaza, remember that less than a month ago, Human Rights Watch released a report entitled A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Apartheid and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution. The report “demonstrates that Israel is carrying out apartheid” against the Palestinian people. At the time, there was almost no reaction from the world’s power-brokers.

In 2009, the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa warned that Israel is practicing both colonialism and apartheid. That report, too, was greeted with silence.

United Nations special rapporteurs, international legal experts and Israeli human rights organisations have all warned of Israel’s apartheid regime. Yet the world has chosen not to act.

Governments are still using rhetoric and applying policies that shield Israel from accountability. Repeated calls for “de-escalation” reinforce the myth that there are two equal sides in this conflict. The conflation of oppressor and oppressed and the complicit cover-up of apartheid and settler-colonialism is what empowers Israel to escalate its violence against Palestinians. This is why Israel is able to evict Palestinians from homes that they have lived in for decades, storm holy sites and bomb schools and media houses with impunity.

What Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not predict was the way in which the forced displacement of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and other areas of Jerusalem and his sacrilegious assault on the Al- Aqsa Mosque, would unite Palestinians across citizenship, borders, checkpoints and a blockade.

Now is an opportune time for us to intensify the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. 

The South African government has been vocal in its condemnation of Israel’s current campaigns against the Palestinians — including calls for the International Criminal Court’s intervention. But Palestinians need more than words.

 It is heartening that the cabinet has signed off on our accession to the UN Apartheid Convention and it will soon be adopted in parliament. But those international legal tools must be used to call out Israeli apartheid and play a decisive role in the UN to isolate that country.

People around the world are seeing through Israel’s propaganda of self-defence. Images of Israel’s brutal bombings in Gaza, the chaos at al-Aqsa Mosque, looting mobs and police brutality speak clearly and loudly.

The world needs to listen to what Israel’s actions are saying and apply full sanctions against the apartheid state. Israel must pay for its crimes — above all by sanctions. African countries must reject Israel’s sugar-coated bribes aimed at ensnaring them into supporting a colonial settler regime.

This is much more than ending the current bombing of Gaza or keeping Sheikh Jarrah residents in their homes. This is about ending the occupation, lifting the siege of Gaza, dismantling the illegal settlements, removing the apartheid wall and separation barriers, ensuring the right of return of all refugees, ensuring freedom of access to East Jerusalem and the rights of Palestinians residing there, and equal rights for Palestinians in Israel.

The international community cannot remain indifferent any longer. There is far too much Palestinian blood on our hands. Now is our chance to end this system.

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Roshan Dadoo
Roshan Dadoo is the convenor of the South African BDS Coalition - the umbrella body for Palestinian solidarity groups in South Africa

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