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‘Use term Apartheid in every discussion’

8 January 2008 – As a strategy to change the perception of what is going on in the Middle East, ‘we must use the term Apartheid in every discussion’, argued a member of the audience at a debate on Gaza in Felix Meritis tonight. The debate was organised by development organisation Cordaid.

Despite the explosive nature of the subject matter, there were no heated debates, for the room was filled with like-minded people. The only incident consisted in the American-Israeli Professor Jeff Halper (to the left on the photo) somewhat theatrically leaving the stage at the end of the meeting, because he felt he was not given enough time to make his point.

Earlier, Halper had indicated that he agreed with the suggestion to use the term ‘Apartheid’ to describe Israel’s policies. “It’s a controversial term, but also a precise term”, he said, arguing that Apartheid implies separation and domination, both present in Israel’s policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians.

More in general, he had argued that it is important to reframe the debate. Israel presents itself as a victim that is defending itself. However, it is a powerful nation (‘ten times as strong in military terms as the Netherlands’) and it is involved in an occupation that serves no security purposes, but is about controlling land, he argued.

In order to make the occupation more concrete and easier to grasp, the organisation he leads focusses on the thousands of Palestinian houses being demolished by the Israeli army. According to Halper, this is an essential element of the occupation: “Israeli tanks are always followed by a bulldozer. The corps of engineers is right up there with the tanks, they complement each other”.

The suggestion to reframe the debate resonated with other speakers. MP Mariko Peters (GroenLinks), who was busy preparing a parliamentary debate on Gaza tomorrow, said she would try to reframe the debate in terms of human rights.


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