Prof Haidar Eid challenges Nobel Laureate Racist
- Prof Haidar Eid challenges Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer
Professor Haidar Eid's challenge to Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer
may point to a particular psychological hangup that seems fairly
frequent among otherwise liberal, progressive Jews. Nadine Gordimer
is a white South African Jew, a deservedly famous author. She was
one of the few in that ethnic group who staunchly opposed that
apartheid regime. In contrast, the large majority of white South
African Jews were apparently quite accepting of their privileges as
Whites and of the simultaneous oppression of Blacks. This division
among South African Jews is similar to that of Israeli Jews. My
guess is that the key to the `particular psychological hangup' so
common among liberal, progressive Jews is to be found in Joel
Kovel's excellent book, Ovecoming Zionism: Creating a Single
Democratic State in Israel/Palestine, cited in note  of my
essay "Murdering children is unforgivable". If it's of interest to
you why someone like Gordimer is in that psychological trap, I
recommend Kovel's exploration.
Following professor Eid's letter is an interview he gave to
Anna Weekes, a South African activist, the month before he wrote
Gordimer, by which time conditions in Gaza were even more horrendous.
Nadine Gordimer on her decision to participate in
"Israel at 60 Celebrations"
April 24, 2008 By Dr. Haidar Eid
Dear Ms. Gordimer,
I am a Palestinian lecturer in Cultural Studies living in Gaza. I
happen to also have South African citizenship as a result of my
marriage to a citizen of that beloved country. I spent more than
five years in Johannesburg, the city in which I earned my Ph.D and
lectured at both traditionally black and white universities. At
Vista in Soweto, I taught your anti-apartheid novels My Son's Story,
July's People and The Late Bourgeois World. I have been teaching the
same novels, in addition to The Pick Up and Selected Stories, to my
Palestinian students in Gaza at Al-Aqsa University. This course is
called "Resistance, Anti-Racism and Xenophobia". I deliberately
chose to teach your novels because, as an anti-apartheid writer, you
defied racial stereotypes by calling for resistance against all
forms of oppression, be they racial or religious. Your support of
sanctions against apartheid South Africa has, to say the least,
impressed my Gazan students.
The news of your conscious decision to take part in the "Israel at
60" celebrations has reached us, students and citizens of Gaza, as
both a painful surprise, and a glaring example of a hypocritical
intellectual double standard. My students, psychologically and
emotionally traumatized and already showing early signs of
malnutrition as a result of the genocidal policy of the country
whose birth you intend celebrating, demand an explanation.
They wonder in amazement that you might have missed Archbishop
Tutu's contention that conditions in Israeli-occupied Palestine are
worse than those under apartheid? They ask how you can ignore John
Dugard's dispassionate and insightful report on the dismal state
of Human Rights in the Occupied Territories? Surely, you have not
been unaware of Ronnie Kasrils' writings following his latest visit
to Gaza and the West Bank? Like you, these three men, all South
Africans, were also active in the fight against racism and
apartheid. Dugard's words on Palestine are very significant: "I
certainly have a sense of déjà vu... The sad thing is that Israel is
unwilling to learn from the South African precedent." In an article
titled, "Israelis adopt what South Africa dropped," Dugard observed
that the human rights situation in the occupied territories
continues to deteriorate and called the conditions "intolerable,
appalling, and tragic for ordinary Palestinians." Significantly,
Dugard made shocking parallels between the situation in the
Palestine and your country South Africa under apartheid: "Many
aspects of Israel's occupation surpass those of the apartheid
regime. Israel's large-scale destruction of Palestinian homes,
leveling of agricultural lands, military incursions and targeted
assassinations of Palestinians far exceed any similar practices in
apartheid South Africa." Moreover, in its final declaration, the
World Conference against Racism (WCAR) NGO forum, held in Durban in
2001, stated that: "We declare Israel as a racist, apartheid state
in which Israel's brand of apartheid as a crime against humanity has
been characterized by separation and segregation, dispossession,
restricted land access, denationalization, `bantustanization' and
You are no doubt aware of Israel's deep ties with apartheid South
Africa, during which Israel, breaking the international embargo,
supplied South Africa with hundreds of millions of dollars of
weapons. Apartheid South Africa relied on apartheid Israel to
persuade Western governments to lift the embargo. How did you relate
to Israel during that period and what was your position regarding
countries and individuals that did not support the policy of
isolating apartheid South Africa? You were surely critical of the
infamous policy of 'constructive engagement' led by Thatcher and
Reagan at the height of the struggle in the 80s? And today,
inexplicably, you have joined the ranks of sanctions busters.
The eminent Palestinian, Edward Said, who gave you his friendship,
would have been dismayed by your decision. He named you as a model
for what he called, "oppositional intellectuals." It was his strong
belief that, with regard to Israel, "[i]t only takes a few bold
spirits to speak out and start challenging a status quo that gets
worse and more dissembling each day." Little did he know that you
would fail the oppressed in Palestine.
My cold and hungry students have divided themselves into two groups,
with one group adamant that you, like many of your courageous
characters, will reconsider your participation in an Israeli
Festival that aims to celebrate the annihilation of Palestine and
Palestinians. The other group believes that you have already crossed
over to the side of the oppressor, negating every word you have ever
written. We all wait for your next action.
Dr. Haidar Eid
Dr. Haidar Eid is an Associate Professor in the Department of
English Literature, Al-Aqsa University, Gaza Strip, Palestine.
Palestine: Interview with single-state activist Dr. Haidar Eid
Report by Anna Weekes
The Electronic Intifada
12 March 2008
The following is an interview by Anna Weekes with Dr. Haidar Eid,
Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature, Al-Aqsa
University, Gaza Strip, Palestine:
Anna Weekes: What is the current situation in the Gaza Strip?
Haidar Eid: One cannot talk about the situation in the Gaza ghetto
without feeling disillusioned. What is happening here is a slow
genocide taking place before the eyes of a very indifferent world.
The siege of Gaza and the continued illegal collective punishment of
its residents by Israel has resulted in soaring food prices. Many
foodstuffs, medicines and other goods, such as building material are
no longer available. There are zero stocks available for 91 drugs.
Hospitals are reporting zero stock availability of pediatric drugs,
antibiotics, as chronic disease drugs, cancer treatment drugs, a
range of kidney dialysis drugs and IV glucose solution. In addition,
there are also shortages of kidney dialysis machine equipment. There
is an increase in diarrhea amongst children and the possibility of
outbreaks of typhoid and hepatitis if the blockade is not lifted.
And the closure of the border crossing has resulted in [the dealths
of] dozens of Palestinians in urgent need of medical treatment,
including some terminally ill cancer patients [who] were refused
entry to Israel or Egypt by the Shin Bet [Israel's intelligence
agency]. Dozens of other sick patients have also been denied access
to hospitals in Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the West Bank. Thirty-
eight of them, including children, have died over the last two
weeks. One thousand of these patients are on death row!
Fuel is increasingly scarce and expensive. The closure of factories
has resulted in more than 80, 000 workers losing their jobs.
Needless to say that in the meantime, the Israeli Occupation Forces
continue to bomb and attack Gaza, killing Palestinians, mainly
children and civilians, indiscriminately.
AW: Is a two-state solution still possible?
HE: No. Let me remind you of the resolution adopted by the World
Conference Against Racism (WCAR) NGO Forum, held in Durban, South
Africa, in September 2001. It states clearly that "Israel [is] a
racist, apartheid state in which Israel's brand of apartheid as a
crime against humanity has been characterized by separation and
segregation, dispossession, restricted land access,
denationalization, `bantustanization' and inhumane acts."
The establishment of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state on
the 1967 borders is unfeasible. A Bantustan-based system does not
guarantee a comprehensive peace. It never did in Apartheid South
Africa. Ironically, therefore, what the Oslo Accords, signed in 1993
between Israel and the PLO, have led to is a situation that was not
envisaged by its signatories, that is the impossibility of
establishing a sovereign independent Palestinian state on 22 percent
of historic Palestine. Israel has already created a new reality on
the ground by annexing Jerusalem and declaring it as the eternal
capital of the Jewish state. So it will not be the capital city of a
future Palestinian state. The number of Jewish settlers in the West
Bank has risen to more than half a million. And the Apartheid Wall,
constructed by Israel in the West Bank, has stolen between 20 to 30
percent of the West Bank, leading to an increase in the number of
roads in the West Bank which are set aside for Jews only.
The establishment of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state is
not mentioned in any of the clauses of the Oslo agreement. This
matter was left to be determined by the balance of power in the
region. This balance is in favor of Israel.
In any case, the establishment of a Palestinian state would not
resolve the Palestinian question. It would not deal with the six
million refugees scattered all over the world; nor would it tackle
the issue of racism exercised by Israel against 1. 3 million
Palestinians living in Israel and treated as third-class citizens.
AW: What moves are Palestinians making towards campaigning for one
HE: A diverse group of Palestinian activists, from various
backgrounds have come together to further peace with justice in the
Middle East through setting up the One Democratic State Group. We
believe that the one-state solution is the only viable option that
guarantees comprehensive peace in the Middle East. We strongly
believe that the establishment of a secular, democratic state on
historic Palestine for all of its citizens regardless of religion,
race, or sex after the return of Palestinian refugees is the
solution to the Middle East conflict. That is exactly what happened
in South Africa and Ireland. No exclusivity based on ethno-religious
background. Establishing nation-states based on ethnicity, race, or
religion is anachronistic.
We are also active in the Palestine-initiated campaign of boycott,
divestment and sanctions against Israel. These measures, similar to
those applied to South Africa during the apartheid era, are
necessary to bring an end to Israel's genocidal policies towards
Palestinians. We believe that these nonviolent measures should be
maintained until Apartheid Israel recognizes the Palestinian
people's inalienable right to self-determination and the
establishment of a democratic state for all citizens.
AW: Please give us your perspective on the meeting in Annapolis, US,
aimed at ending the Israeli-Palestinian "conflict."
HE: The Annapolis meeting was a fanfare with which the disgraced
American president hopes to end his term as a "man of peace!" Like
with Camp David, the fault is found with the Palestinians for the
failure of this meeting. This meeting did not discuss the major
issues that characterize the Palestinian question; namely, the
withdrawal of Israeli forces to the 1967 borders, the right of
return and Jerusalem. The US has always shown a pro-Israel policy
vis-a-vis the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.
The most dangerous point was in Bush's opening speech in which he
emphasized the "Jewish character" of the state of Israel. Now that
is racism, as you know very well in South Africa. It asks us, and
the international community, to forget about six million refugees
scattered all over the world as a result of the establishment of
Israel; and not even mention the cultural and national rights of the
1. 3 million Palestinian "citizens" of Israel itself. According to
this formulation, the Palestinians are only those who live in the
Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Now, that is not the Palestinian
cause; the cause is the right of return of the refugees, those
inside and outside Palestine. There isn't a slight possibility of
having peace in the Middle East without resolving this question.
AW: What does your organization expect from the South African
HE: Well, we expect the post-apartheid South African government to
show a better understanding of our struggle since we have a lot in
common. South Africa should sever its diplomatic ties with Apartheid
Israel, exactly in the same manner as you demanded that the world
boycott the racist governments of the Apartheid era. South African
liberation figures, such as Desmond Tutu, Roni Kasrils and John
Dugard, and even the [former] American President Jimmy Carter have
called Israel an Apartheid state. How was Apartheid brought down?
Not by having embassies in Pretoria, not by having economic deals,
or any form of normalization.
AW: What can ordinary South African people do to support the
HE: Since UN, EU, the US and the international community have failed
the Palestinian people, we bank on ordinary people to take whatever
step, however small, to show their support for Palestine and
rejection of Israeli genocidal war crimes. They can do that by
putting pressure on their governments to force Israel to conduct
itself within the parameters of the international law. But we expect
more from ordinary South Africans since we have a lot in common.
Treat Israelis the way you wanted us to treat racist South Africans.
Anna Weekes is a South African trade unionist and an activist with
the Anti-War Coalition campaigning for the South African government
to place sanctions on Israel.
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