South Africa’s Passover lesson for Israel

Peter Beinart is a nice man with a problem: like many who suffered a traumatic experience in his youth, Beinart’s South African experience has scarred his eyes and his brain. Growing up with the legacy of apartheid has created a box in which Beinart lives and from which he cannot escape. He is like the carpenter who thinks every problem is a nail and the solution to that problem is a hammer.

What nation in history has ever granted the right to vote to residents of captured territory? Doesn’t Beinart see that granting the right to vote to Palestinians on the West Bank is a step toward annexation which would make the creation of an independent Palestinian state even more remote that it is today?

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In the apartheid state of Beinart’s youth, white South Africans feared violence from black South Africans, but there was little credible threat of street violence and no credible threat of national destruction. In Israel both threats are not only credible but are actively pursued daily by neighbors such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and, yes, Palestinians (through Hamas, the Martyr’s Brigade of Fatah, Al Quaida, et al).

In South Africa the bantustans were artificial government creations meant to restrict access to white South Africa by black South Africans. The Palestinians continue to live in their ancestral homes, by and large. Movement is restricted by checkpoint in order for the most Palestinians to continue to work in Israel while reducing the threat that terrorists will gain access to the Israeli population. In the areas where the security fence has been completed, Israeli deaths due to terrorist attack have declined substantially.

Beinart says that apartheid is simply wrong and Israel is not an apartheid state. Of course, he’s right about both. But when he fails to distinguish significant elements of Israel’s rule of the West Bank from superficially similar elements of apartheid, the rest of us may be excused if we fall prey to Beinart’s befuddlement.—Rabbi Kerry Baker

Spending the holiday in the former Apartheid state was a…


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