Learning from Apartheid

In a column published in The Tech last Friday, Rachel Bandler suggests that calls for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) of Israel are tantamount to a Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses in 1933. I respond by drawing on my personal history as a child of two white South Africans, a graduate of an American Jewish Day School, and as a Master’s in City Planning student here at MIT.

As a South African, I was raised to learn of the history of Apartheid. The premise of this method of state organization was simple, yet effective. A minority white government forcibly dispossessed majority black populations of land, and put them in small, underdeveloped homeland states or “bantustans.” These homelands retained a nominal level of independence, but, in reality, were dependent on the white-ruled South African state for basic administrative competencies, such as tax collection. Similarly, the land controlled by the State of Israel includes a majority population of Palestinians who are forced to live in nominal territorial “administrations” ruled by Fatah and Hamas. Who decides to segregate public transport and basic services, collects taxes, and retains military control? Israel.

There were many aspects of struggle against the unjust system of Apartheid, both within South Africa and around the world. By explicit association, the current BDS movement concerning Israel is inspired by the BDS movement against South Africa. When people around the world saw the violence and racism that underpinned this system of minority-ruled “separate development,” they recognized the moral imperative to advocate for a boycott of all South African economic and cultural institutions, which upheld the administration of Apartheid. There are many states around the world that commit heinous crimes. A BDS campaign against Israel, of course, does not exempt these other countries. But it does recognize the distinct nature of minority-rule ethno-nationalism that characterizes the Apartheid state of Israel.

As a graduate of a Jewish day school in the United States, I am familiar with the knee-jerk accusations of anti-semitism and total disregard for the existence of a non-Jewish majority population in the territory under Israeli administration, which pervades many American Jewish institutions. Bandler conflates an anti-Israel position with anti-Semitism. Her invocation of the Holocaust seems pitched primarily at silencing dissent. This is particularly chilling given that many Holocaust survivors and their descendants have actually denounced association with Israel for precisely the reasons that I enumerate here.

During my education in Jewish institutions, I have studied the Bible, Talmud, and other texts of Jewish law and philosophy for many years. Self-evidently, the modern state of Israel, which does not even provide the electoral franchise irrespective of race, ethnicity, religion or gender, to all who live within its administrative boundaries, violates the fundamental Jewish ethics of social justice and tikkun olam (repairing the world). On this point, I am unequivocal. This undemocratic state does not represent me as a Jew. I join with many other Jews around the world who have chosen to say to those who would conflate the state of Israel and Judaism, “not in our name.”

As a Master’s in City Planning student in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies & Planning, I have learned of the ways in which spatial distribution of land, shelter, and public services is a basic means of wielding power. The persistence of the state of Israel in consolidating its occupation of the West Bank through construction of new settlements underlines the extent to which Israel is a perpetrator of a planning-related injustice. Any planner who has a basic understanding of the history of the profession appreciates that Israel is an example of the worst excesses of planning. Similarly, any planner with a basic understanding of the ethical imperatives of the profession would only involve themselves in such a state in order to end the administration of Apartheid in Israel and work towards emancipation of the Palestinian people.

There are many organizations that have a long history of working to end Israeli Apartheid and advance the cause of Palestinian emancipation. I do not aim to speak for them, though my sympathies and solidarity are with them. Count mine amongst the Jewish voices, the South African voices, and the planning voices, that say to tribalists like Bandler that they stand firmly on the wrong side of history.

Benjamin H. Bradlow

Arafat almost 5 years ago

Wrong side of history?


Apartheid "apart" "hood". This is, and has been the Arabs' policy; a Jew-free land. This is also why they ethnically cleansed Judea, Samaria, and Gaza of ALL Jews in 1948. It hasn't been, nor is it, the Jewish policy, and over a million Arab citizens of Israel (and growing) are proof.

Yes children: Jews did live in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza- ALWAYS.

Well, obviously Jews lived here during Biblical times. We all know that.

If you look at the documents from the Cairo Geniza, dating back to the 9th century, you'll find that there were Jews in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.

If you look at travelers' accounts from the Early Middle Ages, such as Nahmanides, Benjamin of Tudela, and a host of others, you'll find that there were Jews in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.

Rabbi Jechiel Ashkenazi, who was actually Sepharadi, purchased the Karite synagogue of Hebron in 1540 on behalf of the Sepharadi congregants.

If you read about Shabtai Tzvi, the false messiah of the 16th century, you'll find that his "prophet" was Nathan of Gaza, where the center of his movement was located for a period.

In 1845, Dr. Ernst-Gustav Schultz, the Prussian Consul in Jerusalem, discussed the Jews living in Shechem (Nablus) and Hebron in his book, "Jerusalem, Eine Vorlesung".

In fact, except for the periods of 1929-1931 and 1936-1968, there has been a significant Jewish presence in Hebron SINCE BIBLICAL TIMES.

The ONLY period of time where there were no Jews in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza was between 1948-1967, when the Arabs ethnically-cleansed ALL Jews from here.

And insisting that Judea be Jew-free again IS apartheid.

Arafat almost 5 years ago

I feel sorry for you when I read your so

called moderation. With due respect, you have the typical historical Jewish

minority, "PLEASE LIKE ME" complex and it is so pitiful to read.

Throughout Jewish History especially in Nazi Germany there were those Jews who begged to be accepted and liked by the host country's people. "Like me and I will eat ham for you on Yom Kippur. Like

me and I will put up a Christmas tree and call it a Hanukah Bush, like me and I

will only pray one day a week, Sunday if you wish (the early German Reformed

Jews), etc." The first Jews to be gassed by Hitler were those Reformers

("please like me...") who were viewed as a major threat by Hitler and

his Jew hating Nazis.

Fast forward to today: Here you are

apologizing for Israel who is expected to live a double standard. Never mind

the rockets and atrocities implemented by the Palestine people. If you read

your history parts of Jordan are supposed to include part of Palestine--the world has convenient amnesia with this one. In the meantime here you are with your "please like me" attitude and no matter what you do they are NOT

going to like you. You can stand on your head, eat ham and cheese sandwiches and

they are still going to hate you because you are a Jew, period!

Look in the mirror and accept that you are a Jew. Say it to yourself over and over and perhaps YOU can accept YOURSELF.

Remember, if Israel disappears (the Jewish Host country) there IS NO place for American Jews or the World Jewish community to go in the event of another

pogrom, anti-Semitic uprising or Holocaust. If there is another anti-Semitic uprising you are a Jew to these people no matter how much you apologize or try to appease them.

Arafat almost 5 years ago

Tutu has a right to his opinions; he doesn't have the right to his own facts. Anyone who studied apartheid in South Africa should easily see that Israel bears no resemblance to South Africa. Israeli citizens vote, hold any public office (an Arab even sits on the Supreme Court), enter any profession, use the same facilities and hospitals. The Israeli Constitution guarantees everyone the same rights. South Africa's laws specifically denied equal rights to Blacks. Perhaps Tutu should visit Israel. For all we know, his knowledge of Israel is based on the propaganda he reads on his computer.

If you want to act against anti-Palestinian apartheid in the Middle East, start with the fact that every Arab country except Jordan denies Palestinians citizenship. They cannot enter certain professions. Their land ownership is widely restricted. They cannot hold public office, even if they have lived in those Arab countries for generations. Palestinians may not complain so much publicly about this, because it is not politically or financially expedient for them to do so. But they will privately admit that they hate how they are treated by their brother Arabs.

Anonymous almost 5 years ago

Great letter -- this is precisely what I was thinking when reading the article. I would caution Bandler against appropriating Holocaust metaphors to this situation.

Anonymous almost 5 years ago

Arafat. Why are you consistently the most ignorant and blatantly racist individual on the Tech's comment boards? Have you ever even visited the Occupied Palestinian Territories? You have NO idea what you are saying. Israel is a fake country. In 1948, there was no such thing as Israel. It was plucked out of the brain of some mad man who invented the evil that is Zionism and wrote a book about some pretend land that all Jews should live in. The land of Israel that was stolen from the Palestinians was created on demolished villages. People were literally bulldozed, massacres took place, and then covered up with dirt and new grass. Every thing in Israel is artificial: homes, schools, a government, and even culture. When architects arrived in the 1950s and 60s to plan the new state, they literally had to create the feeling of "home" because new Jewish immigrants felt like aliens in the strange land. They should have never come, and now their existence just results in the everyday suffering of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. If you think life for Palestinians is so great with its evil Israeli neighbor, why don't you go live there yourself.

Chris almost 5 years ago

Right on Benjamin!! Great response

Arafant is blatantly racist all the time, and he is always the number one commenter on articles that have to do with Palestine or 'Israel' . I have a feeling Arafat is Rachel herself (or one of her friends)

Arafat almost 5 years ago

Anonymous tells us "Israel is a fake country."

Well ain't that something! I guess this statement tells us more about Anonymous than it does about reality.

Anonymous, do you always make things up if the facts disagree with your prejudices?

Arafat almost 5 years ago

That Israel is still the subject of hatred is deeply disturbing and one of the forces that drives my support for the Jewish State.

In choosing not to stand idly by as the age-old hatred of the Jewish people has been transferred to the collective Jew, I have been speaking up against the new anti-Semitism that is so pervasive today.

It targets the Jewish people by targeting the Jewish homeland, as the source of injustice and conflict in the world.

It is perversely couched in the language of human rights.

Just as conventional anti-Semitism denied Jews the right to live as equal members of humanity, the new anti-Semitism denies the State of Israel the right to live as an equal member of the international community.

Arafat almost 5 years ago

Anonymous -

Given that you support the Palestinians who openly advocate Jewish genocide (see their duly elected leaders clear-cut party covenants), you correspondingly do as well. It's hard to believe in this day and age that anyone would openly advocate the liquidation of Jews, but you clearly do and it doesn't seem to bother you a whit.

Moreover, it would be hard to believe that anyone would support second class status for women, the honor murder of teenage girls, the brutalization of gays and the suppression of dissenters. But you, as supporters of the Palestinians who regularly practice all of the above, are therefore complicit in these sexist, racist and fascist beliefs as well.

Why are you so bigoted, misogynist, anti-gay and such hater of Jews? Please tell us pray tell.

And if to be opposed to such garbage practiced by so many Muslims world-wide makes one an Islamophobe, count me and all who believe in freedom and hate sexism and bigotry vs Jews as a proud Islamophobe.

supporter of facts almost 5 years ago

Arafat, you are great! I truly love reading your comments in support of the Jewish State, and encourage you to keep commenting on the Tech's articles. It is a pleasure to read comments based in facts and truth rather than hatred. The comments section of the Tech really shows me the deep hatred towards Israel bubbling underneath what is a superficially cordial, politically correct MIT environment

Arafat almost 5 years ago

Sof - Thank you so much. It's nice to hear positive feedback instead of the usual attempts at character assassination from the likes of Anonymous and his ilk.

supporter of facts almost 5 years ago


Yes, I think the reason you get much more negative feedback than positive is because those overflowing with hatred are the ones inspired to write nasty comments, as opposed to those who agree with your well founded sentiments who read your comments, nod in agreement, and feel thankful that someone is spending their valuable time defending the Jewish homeland but dont necessarily comment

Iyah almost 5 years ago

Arafat is a regular troll on The Daily Cal's (UC Berkeley's student newspaper) as well. Seems to be making the rounds.

And does anyone else think that 'sof' is just Arafat's sock puppet? Pathetic.

Arafat almost 5 years ago


Thanks for contributing to the discussion. Oops, I meant to the character assassination. Very big of you.

MIT \'11 almost 5 years ago

Apples cannot be compared to oranges, and this article does not provide sufficient evidence to allow for the comparison of Apartheid in South Africa to the current relationship between Israel and Palestine. For example, the author applies the word "segregation" to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict without evaluating the definition of the word and the parameters surrounding the situation which the author seeks to describe. In South Africa, black-skinned individuals did not ask to be separated from whites, and that is a component of the atrocity of the Apartheid regime. However, Palestinians have requested, if not demanded, separation from the Jewish Israelis. Furthermore, the author uses several charged political terms, including "segregation," without paying respect to its proper definition. Separation is only part of the concept of political "segregation". Just because two things are separated does not mean that they are politically segregated.

Another theme to this debate is the sense of entitlement that pervades Palestine. While there are likely many Palestinians who would be happy for peace, their leaders represent themselves as radicals who feel that Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth. Per the rhetoric of these radical leaders, they feel they are entitled to a land free of Jews. There are many Arab nations, but only one Jewish nation. The inequality is clear. Why can there not be a Jewish nation? Furthermore, Israel has made it very clear that it is happy to allow Arabs to live within its borders; it simply does not want its own people to be pushed away. Therefore, this is not a matter of Israeli Jews separating themselves from the Palestinians: the Palestinians refuse to intermingle and live at peace with the Israeli Jews.

Why cannot the Palestinians allow for the Jews to live with them? Why are the Palestinians greater than Jewish Israelis?

Israel has compromised enough. It is time for the Palestinians to compromise.