You’ve probably heard about the massive controversy regarding a proposed piece of Associated Students legislation. A nine-hour Mexican standoff between proponents and opponents was so well-attended that the meeting was forced to relocate to Corwin Pavilion. Adjournment was achieved, mercifully, when the resolution was tabled for another time.
I’m not going to discuss my opinion on the substance of the issue. There are many shouting voices out there better prepared and more invested than mine.
I want, instead, to talk about a name.
When introducing legislation, it is the license of the sponsor to bestow a title to his proposal. This is a terrible shame because no party is more of a partisan than a sponsor, and abuse runs rampant on our campus and in our national government. For those who don’t know, the name of this controversial legislation is “A Resolution to Divest From Companies that Profit From Apartheid.”
Apartheid being, of course, a term derived from Afrikaans and applied to a legal system in South Africa that was operational between 1948 and 1994. Apartheid has become, over the years, a symbol of utter institutional evil and why not? A harsh, Germanic word like that sounds a lot more sinister than Jim Crow.
But in practice, apartheid was not very different from Jim Crow. Its laws were established by a government for its residents to create a system of racial hierarchy. Blacks were not allowed the same education, access to public facilities or right to vote.
But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the same as apartheid, and I don’t think anyone, on any side of the issue, is shortsighted enough to think so. Apartheid was about a government denying a racial group within its country access to basic rights of citizenship, but Arab Palestinians exercise, for the most part, the same rights as many Israeli citizens. Furthermore, Palestinians have their own government led by political parties like Hamas and Fatah that are completely unassociated with Israel. I’m not going to declare this an international dispute, but I will say that it is much closer to that than apartheid was.
Which brings me to the main point of this article: Why use the term apartheid in the name of a bill? It seems like an ugly gesture to me because it makes no acknowledgment that others see the world in a way the author does not. There is no recognition of the issue’s complexity, of the many interests and many perspectives involved. It is only an eager jab at a political establishment the sponsor loathes and a group of supporters the sponsor has demonized.
Unfortunately, this is a problem in state and national governments as well. California infuriated me by passing a law with perhaps the most ridiculously partisan name of all time. Forget the particulars of the “Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful Education Act” (or, the F.A.I.R. Education Act) — a law compelling producers of the state’s textbooks to emphasize the contributions of homosexuals. Just recognize the sliminess of giving the law a name that no normal person would want to oppose. Put aside the silliness of making the name an acronym (I’m convinced that simply calling it the Fair Education Act would have done just as well), and just remember that we’re discussing a law with pros and cons that need to be weighed. The democratic process is not about good guys and bad guys; it’s not a college rivalry.
I’m done with the whole damn system. Why not just use arbitrary names like the “Pancake Jamboree Act” or the “Defense of Wax Figurines Act”? The name of a bill is substantively irrelevant but should not be a tool for advocacy.
This recent controversy proves that our school is a part of the democratic process and therefore suffers the same conceits as the macrocosm.
Ben Moss can be found outside of I.V. Market collecting signatures for his proposed act to end biased act names entitled “The Act about Acts.”
Well put – I agree… finally an opinion article I agree with – other than the “right said” column.
How ironic that a writer who claims to be against name calling and false comparisons begins his essay with a racist comparison of his own, calling the divestment debate a “Mexican standoff.”
the real problem is how so many pro-palestinian activists are willing to co-opt and trivialize the tragedies suffered by other people.
it merely proves just how debased and detached from reality many on the far-left are when it comes to middle east politics. israel’s relationship with the palestinians has nothing to do with race or ethnicity. in fact other than jordan, israe is the most tolerant when it comes to dealing with palestinians. virtually every jew-free arab state have laws that prohibit palestinians from settling in their countries.
• Since the Palestinians were never Israeli citizens, and never wanted to be Israeli citizens, there’s really no question of Apartheid here. The Palestinians’ disenfranchisement comes out of their own rejection of UNGAR 181, which advocated the establishment of one Jewish state (Israel) and one Arab state (Palestine, or whatever they might have wanted to call it) on the land of the Palestine Mandate. Had they accepted the resolution and established their own state on the land allocated by the UN, there would be no Palestinian refugees today. No country in the world can be forced to accept a belligerent… Read more »
• 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… Read more »
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,… Read more »
“But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the same as apartheid, and I don’t think anyone, on any side of the issue, is shortsighted enough to think so.” Well that’s interesting because South Africans on both sides of the Apartheid struggle seemed to think that it is a fair analogy… “I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait… Read more »
Desmond Tutu is an endorser of the Free Gaza Movement. The Free Gaza Movement has been called out for anti-Semitism by none other than Ali Abunimah, as well as other Palestinian solidarity activists. Tutu was asked to remove his endorsement in an open letter addressed to him but he still has not done so. So stop using an endorser of anti-Semitism as if he’s supposed to be a reliable source about Israel. It’s offensive, both intellectually and morally. All the respect in the world for what Tutu did to end apartheid. None at all for how he’s exploiting Israel to… Read more »
no doubt there are many south africans who fought the apartheid that draw analogies between their struggle and the arab’s war against israel.
but this is a complete fallacy.
ironically modern south africa remains more of an apartheid state than israel ever has. even if we count the palestinians who arent citizens of israel and are ruled by the pa the inequalities between whites and blacks in south africa is beyond disproportionate.
israel’s relationship with the palestinians and muslim countries in general has jack squat to do with race or ethnicity.
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… Read more »