Thursday, February 15, 2007

Apartheid - a semantic corrective

Generally, as soon as someone uses the word 'fascist' about a political opponent, I turn off. It has no attributive value any more. It was abused in the 30s by the Communists and its fellow travellers, and has been ever since. It current value, almost its meaning now, is to signal the speaker as another political hysteric.

Other words are going the same way. For example, apartheid. The most popular abuse of this term is in relation to Israel. Irshad Manji asks a series of rhetorical questions in a (probably vain) attempt to allow the word to maintain some real meaning.

In a state practising apartheid, would Arab Muslim legislators wield veto power over anything?
At only 20per cent of the population, would Arabs even be eligible for election if they squirmed under the thumb of apartheid?
Would an apartheid state extend voting rights to women and the poor in local elections, which Israel did for the first time in the history of Palestinian Arabs?
Would the vast majority of Arab Israeli citizens turn out to vote in national elections, as they've usually done?
Would an apartheid state have several Arab political parties, as Israel does?
Would an apartheid state award its top literary prize to an Arab?
Would an apartheid state encourage Hebrew-speaking schoolchildren to learn Arabic? Would road signs throughout the land appear in both languages?
Would an apartheid state be home to universities where Arabs and Jews mingle at will, or apartment blocks where they live side by side?
Would an apartheid state bestow benefits and legal protections on Palestinians who live outside of Israel but work inside its borders? Would human rights organisations operate openly in an apartheid state?
Above all, would media debate the most basic building blocks of the nation? Would a Hebrew newspaper in an apartheid state run an article by an Arab Israeli about why the Zionist adventure has been a total failure? Would it run that article on Israel's independence day?
Would an apartheid state ensure conditions for the freest Arabic press in the Middle East, a press so free that it can demonstrably abuse its liberties and keep on rolling?
Finally, a statement
[Israel is] the only country in the Middle East to which Arab Christians are voluntarily migrating. And they are also thriving there, notching much higher university attendance rates than the Arab Muslim citizens of Israel, and enjoying better overall health than Jews.

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