Friday, March 05, 2021

Barghouthi: "Ghettostans"

By Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi - December 09, 2019
Section: [Main News] [Opinion]
Tags: [Apartheid]

During the 1930s, when the white minority ruled South Africa, the government at the time established a structure of racial segregation, termed Apartheid, by which black South Africans were forced to live in separate isolated communities and blocked-off areas. The purpose of institutionalising racial discrimination was to dissociate the black population from major cities, preclude them from political life, prevent them from owning lands and deprive them of economic opportunities.  

That government deliberately distanced black Africans from the ruling white minority and turned them into slaves serving the whites while denying them human rights and protection.   

At the same time, the Apartheid rulers established insignificant local governments that managed the affairs of black areas, called Bantustans, but they had no authority or jurisdiction almost over anything other than regulating and oppressing their subjects.  

Black Africans had no right for citizenship except in their designated Bantustans. At some point, the Apartheid rulers attempted and succeeded for a while to completely separate the Bantustans from South Africa proper to solve the demographic dilemma and to isolate the black population in economically devastated useless regions.

Whites owned 83 per cent of South African land, leaving black Africans without any agricultural or industrial sources of sustenance within or outside their own Bantustans. Because of their abject poverty, millions were forced to travel daily for work in white-owned factories, mines and farms, but only with passes issued by the government, and return to their primitive isolations at the end of the workday. Thus, Bantustans became warehouses for human cheap labour forces and a place of unemployment, poverty and enslavement. 

This review of the appalling history of the defunct South African Apartheid system is to demonstrate the similarities with what the Israeli rulers are doing in Palestine, and perhaps bring to the reader’s mind the glaring parallels with the isolated Gaza strip, the partitioned West Bank and the exploited Palestinian labourers. 

Successive Israeli governments have chopped up the West Bank into 224 isolated islets separating one from the other by checkpoints, the Apartheid wall and colonial settlements. They also divided it into delineated areas named A, B, and C, and gave the Palestinians a rather inadequate self-governance in Area A only, which the Israeli occupation forces can and do invade however and whenever they want.  

These Palestinian islets have become storehouses for cheap exploited labour that serves the Israeli economy. Palestinian labourers cannot cross into Israeli-defined areas without special permits, exactly like the passes South African Apartheid governments issued to black labourers. And now, obtaining those permits comes with a rather immoral innovation, namely the bribes poor labourers have to pay to their Israeli exploiters as well as Palestinian brokers and agents, amounting to no less than 2,500 Israeli Shekels per month.

As for the Gaza Strip with its 2 million Palestinians, it is not only isolated, but its economy has been completely destroyed and, to this day, remains besieged and blockaded by the Israeli army. The Strip has become a repository of unemployment and abject poverty; a place beleaguered with a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented proportions.

Israel seeks to annex most of the West Bank lands with brutal force and execution of arbitrary tyrannical laws. It persists with its underhanded attempts to intensify the separation between regions, encouraging the division among tribal areas and in the northern, central and southern Bantustans of the West Bank. Israel is doing all this in order to achieve its goal of depriving the Palestinians of their independence and freedom and the absolute right for a national identity in their own state. 

Since the difference between South African Bantustans and those in Palestine is only in that ours are smaller in size, but with an even more hideous Israeli administration, I would like to suggest assigning a name better suited for the size of ours, one that correlates to the history of the architects of the new apartheid, that is “Gettostans”.  

The South African apartheid system failed and collapsed because people struggled and fought against it, and it will also crumple and fall in Palestine with our own struggle and the solidarity of our international supporters.  

With that, some questions come to mind for those who have lately been circulating odd ad-hoc opinions about holding elections in the West Bank without the Gaza Strip, that is, without the participation of the people of Gaza.  

Do those who are tossing around this proposal realise that doing what they suggest means sanctifying the “Gettostan” system in the West Bank, leading to the complete isolation and separation of one governorate from the other? That it will only serve those who call for terminating the idea of an independent Palestinian state and the right of Palestinians for an equitable national identity? That it will no doubt completely cement the separation of Gaza from the rest of Palestine? 

We have much to learn from the South African experience, and much we need to do to annihilate the “Ghettostan” system in our own land.


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