The Israeli narrative of moral high ground is like an old flag coming apart in a strong wind. Among many, many assaults on Israel’s hegemonic control of media, diplomacy and force in the context of the conflict, last week’s “flytilla” incident has given hundreds from the Palestinian diaspora, and their families, the opportunity to discuss their experiences at Israeli borders as they try to reconnect with family, loved ones or their homeland [including me]. In my own experience, I’ve rarely publicly shared my experience of being denied entry into Israel. As a politically minded person, it’s been a symbol of my own failure to be a part of the change I wanted to see in Palestine–not only a change in the relationship of Israel and Palestine, but a change in the so-called government[s] of Palestine. And in a culture that values out-smarting Goliath, a bit of a low point. I often ask myself what I did wrong; did I use the wrong cover story? Should I have been more relaxed? Did I give myself away during the interrogation because I wasn’t brave or strong enough?
As in any political movement, everyone involved has a personal story to share, and those stories give great insight into the quotidian bigotry that animates every level of Israeli interactions with people subject to the state’s authority. As in South Africa, where the intricate, arbitrary and bizarre coloring system that the government used to dole out political privileges revealed the naked idiocy of racism, so too in Israel does the state’s stupid and reactionary system of defining “security threats” reveal the folly of its human classification system. Anyone who doubts that there is something so like apartheid in Israel, and the territories it controls, that it can be called nothing else, need only listen to this story. And then they can explain how a country can welcome one set of North Americans with song, smiles, and even money and services, while brutally and mockingly denying entry to another, for no other reason than their name and heritage. [h/t Monadel]