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Life Under Apartheid


The latest war between Israel and Palestine has come to its usual conclusion. But before it fades into the oblivion of our memory like most of the small wars over the past decades, let’s remember that Israel has become an apartheid state and that life under apartheid is horrible, at least if you are the oppressed group. Luckily, I guess, the recent move to the far right by both American and Israeli conservative/fascists has led to a lot of questioning about the U.S. relationship with Israel on the left, cleaving off groups that previously supported Israel but are pretty disgusted by Trumpism and Netanyahuism, including many Jewish Americans. The Times had a good piece on what life is like in the apartheid townships (if I may stretch the South Africa comparisons a bit far) of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

At 19, he married and moved into an old addition onto his father’s house, then began expanding it. New stone walls tripled the floor area. He laid tile, hung drywall and furnished a cozy kitchen. He spent around $150,000.

Children came, six in all. Ramadan brought picnickers to the green valley. The kids played host, delivering cold water or hot soup. His wife prepared feasts of maqluba (chicken and rice) and mansaf (lamb in yogurt sauce). He walked with his sons up to Al Aqsa, one of Islam’s holiest sites.

In 2016, city workers posted an address marker over Mr. Sandouka’s gate. It felt like legitimation.

But Israel was drifting steadily rightward. The state parks authority fell under the influence of settlers, who seek to expand Jewish control over the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Citing an old plan for a park encircling the Old City, the authority set about clearing one unpermitted house after another.

Now it was Mr. Sandouka’s turn.

Plans showed a corner of the house encroaching on a future tour-bus parking lot.

Zeev Hacohen, an authority official, said erasing Mr. Sandouka’s neighborhood was necessary to restore views of the Old City “as they were in the days of the Bible.”

“The personal stories are always painful,” he allowed. But the Palestinian neighborhood, he said, “looks like the Third World.”

Mr. Sandouka hired a lawyer and prayed. But he was at work a few months ago when someone knocked on his door again. This time, his wife told him, crying, it was a police officer.

How does anyone defend these horrors?

I’ve stated this many times, but the only way to be OK with how Israel treats the Palestinians is to be OK with treating Jews that way in Germany or the United States or anywhere else. I am of course not OK with either. And I see it impossible to be part of any legitimate liberal or leftist project while being OK with either anti-Semitism or Islamophobia, whether in the U.S., Europe, or the apartheid state of Israel.

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