The first vice-president of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) received first-class Israeli treatment as he attempted to fly from South Africa to Israel-Palestine. Mr. Xolile Nxu went through a process all too familiar to many Palestinians. He was “detained, interrogated and strip searched by Israeli security” in the South African airport he was flying out of.
The purpose of Mr. Nxu’s trip was to attend the Second Annual Conference on Popular Non-Violent Resistance held in the West Bank village of Bil’in. According to a press statement by SAMWU, the conference attracted 400 people from across the world. Mr Nxu addressed South African resistance to apartheid, and what Palestinians can learn.
His lessons are especially timely as American, Israeli and Palestinian officials are leaving some with the impression that a breakthrough to a peace settlement may be near. It is clear that power brokers aim to resume the same peace efforts that failed in the past on the same two-state formula.
Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert began issuing statements that appear to be warming the public up for possible re-deployments from “many areas” in the Occupied West Bank.
Despite the warm words, politically, a solution seems as farfetched as ever. They are trying to sell the biggest weakness of peace talks now as the reason for the possibility of progress: the division among Palestinian leadership.
Olmert and others are now willing to discuss a settlement with the Western-backed Palestinian head Mahmoud Abbas because he removed Hamas from the cabinet last month. According to Olmert, Abbas’ new cabinet is “a representative government with which we can negotiate.”
The problem is that Abbas’ government is not actually representative. It does not include the winning party of the last elections, Hamas. Even former Secretary of State Colin Powell recognized the failure of such an approach. He said, “I don’t think you can just cast them into outer darkness and try to find a solution to the problems of the region without taking to account the standing that Hamas has in the Palestinian community.”
The American strategy is to work on the West Bank first, effectively dividing and secluding Gaza. This is a continuation of the Israeli strategy to divide Palestine into South African-style bantustans, which are disconnected patches of territory the natives will be allowed nominal rule over.
The bantustanization of the West Bank accelerated during the Oslo peace process. Military checkpoints, roadblocks, Israeli-only bypass roads, closed military zones, and settlements turned the West Bank into a series of disconnected clusters of Palestinian towns and villages.
In his travels to the West Bank, Nxu concluded that “Israeli apartheid is worse than South African apartheid.” The South African union leader pointed to the Apartheid Wall running through Palestinian towns, the “forced removals of Palestinians from Jerusalem, the imprisonment of children, the humiliation of Palestinians at checkpoints, the theft of their land and house demolitions.” Also, the level of violence Israel exacts on the Palestinians far exceeds anything the South African government did.
As with the fight against apartheid in South Africa, the role of the United States is a destructive one. “America,” according to Mr. Nxu, “is supporting the consolidation of Israeli apartheid.”
By supporting talks between Israel and an unrepresentative government, it is clear the United States is pushing a bantustan policy. This guarantees the Palestinians will be too weak to resist Israeli designs, leaving any Palestinian state dysfunctional and subject to continued external Israeli rule. Sadly, the corrupt leaders of the Palestinian Authority are along for the ride.
Mr. Nxu’s return flight was also degrading. He was detained for eight hours, interrogated again, and threatened physically as he was questioned about the names of the Palestinian conference organizers. Still, he talked about returning. “I want to return to a one state democratic Palestine and not a bantustan homeland, next time I go back. Any two state solution will simply be a bantustan solution.”