Friday, July 29, 2011


Dear Friends,

PIAG's Dispatch for August is devoted to a message that was
meticulously stenciled in large letters on three kilometers of the
"separation wall" between Israel and the West Bank. The "open
letter," written and read aloud on YouTube by South African
theologian Farid Esack, is a beautiful statement of solidarity
between South Africans who lived through apartheid and the
Palestinian people today.

Esack speaks of the similarities between Palestinians and black South Africans during the South African struggle for independence, but points out that the oppression of Palestinians is worse:

White South Africa did of course seek to control Blacks. However it never tried to deny Black people their very existences or to wish them away completely as we see here. We have not experienced military occupation without any rights for the occupied. We were spared the barbaric and diverse forms of collective punishment in the forms of house demolitions, the destruction of orchards belonging to relatives of suspected freedom fighters, or the physical transfer of these relatives themselves. South Africa's apartheid courts never legitimized torture. White South Africans were never given a carte blanche to humiliate Black South Africans as the Settlers here seem to have. The craziest Apartheid zealots would never have dreamt of something as macabre as this Wall. The Apartheid police never used kids as shields in any of their operations. Nor did the apartheid army ever use gunships and bombs against largely civilian targets. In South Africa the Whites were a stable community and after centuries simply had to come to terms with Black people. (Even if it were only because of their economic dependence on Black people.) The Zionist idea of Israel as the place for the ingathering for all the Jews – old and new, converts, reverts and reborn is a deeply problematic one. In such a case there is no sense of compulsion to reach out to your neighbour. The idea seems to be to get rid of the old neighbours – ethnic cleansing - and to bring in new ones all the time.

Esack's letter also touches on profound general questions such as
the nature of morality, the limits to objectivity in situations of
oppression, the irony of resisting evil when it is considered
unfashionable, and why Palestinian liberation represents the
"unfinished business" of South Africa's struggle for a moral society.

If you would like to read or keep the text, it can be found here, on
the site of Jewish Peace News:

Speak out,
Helen Fox
Convener, Palestine Israel Action Group (PIAG)
Ann Arbor Friends Meeting
Ann Arbor, Michigan

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