Sunday, August 7, 2011

"You Don't Know What Apartheid Is"

Sometimes, in the course of politics, we lose site of the real people who have suffered, whose lives have been irrevocably affected by violence.  Whether it is South Africans, Israelis or Palestinians, their experiences should never be exaggerated, exploited nor trivialized.  It is this type of dehumanization that stands in the way of creating the contacts between people that can bring about true peace.

At the New York Observer article  about the BDS initiative at the Park Slope Food Coop, the first comment is from one of the pro-BDS organizers at the Coop.  He uses the word "apartheid" four times in his response.  This prompted a reply from a Black South African, identifying himself as Baruti, "you don't know what Apartheid is."  I have written previously about the fallacy of the apartheid analogy, here, here and here.  But everything I have written pales compared to Baruti's words.

I am ashamed to admit at first I took delight in Baruti's strong rebuke.  I realized I was being insensitive to his suffering.  It is precisely these testimonies that give us perspective.

Mr. Baruti, I wish for you joy and success that will outweigh your tribulations one thousand fold, that you should go from strength to strength.  Thank you for speaking out.

With deep respect for Baruti, and to honor the memory of his fallen friends, I reprint his response in its entirety.
I'm from South Africa.  An African South African, not a colonialist.  (Americans just call me black.)  I experienced Apartheid.  Separateness.  It was ugly.  Many of my friends died.

I've been to Israel.  The West Bank.  Gaza.  Inside of Israel.  Lived there for a year touring for a book I want to write.

Mr. Mazza, you don't know what Apartheid is.  For all of Israel's faults, you dishonor yourself and my fallen mates by using the word.  The UN does not use the phrase "Israeli Apartheid" and you repeating it over and over again does not give it authority.  There is really no comparison between Israel and South Africa.    We appreciate your help over there in the US for "saving" us back in the eighties, but we here in S.A. did the dirty work.  We suffered.  We went to jail.  We died.  You stayed safe, signed a few pieces of paper, spoke at a meeting or two maybe.  You follow the same route for your work on human rights in the Middle East.

Tutu is beloved here, but he is not our polestar.  He is as political as anyone and we all know it.  SA is still quite corrupt and dangerous and he is beholden to make statements reflecting those interests.  Sadly,
because atrocities were committed by both sides in our war for freedom, corruption and crime are what we have reaped, and freedom is still very hard to find today in SA.   You are, I'm sorry to say, very uninformed about what causes you take up.

Show him some love and click the "like" button on his comment.

1 comment:

  1. Judge Goldstone its attempting to do t'shuvah:


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