The biblical story of the tower of Babel wrent people into linguistic and cultural tribes, the kind of social and cultural rupture comparable to the eruption of a Vesuvius with its lava ash and fire.
It seems that humans cling to a perceived and "enriching" linguistic, cultural, religious and geographic tribe, each of which takes specific steps to exclude those who do not "fit". Ethnic homogeneity (not purity) for there has been so many massive shifts in where people chose to live, given changed in the political climate, the need for improved opportunity, the pursuit of higher education, the need to escape persecution and the availability of legitimate and illegitimate agents of transport and transfer, continues to occupy a relatively high position on the various totem poles of cultural and political and even religious values that identify a people, or a region.
In Quebec, the current election is being fought on the Parti Quebecois' singular ambition to break away from Canada and form a separate country, thereby enabling the new government, in its perception, to protect the French language and the cultural heritage that accompanies that preservation.
Canada, in creating what we know as "reservations" for First Nations peoples of many tribes, has its own kind of apartheid, in segregating the predominantly white population from the "different" indigenous peoples. There was even a substantial campaign to "convert" these people to a kind of Christianity that robbed them of their authentic native spirituality, given the "Christian" perception that native spirituality was heathen, and either agnostic or atheistic.
In South Africa, apartheid, practiced by white Afrikans against the predominantly black population, was only partially eroded, at least on the legal and electoral surface, following the release of Nelson Mandela from prison after twenty seven years, as the icon of protest and rebellion against that system. Today, both sides claim him as their hero, given the significance of his platinum character and life before, during and following his release from prison. His recent funeral, watched and "attended" by millions around the world, testifies to his preferred "forgiveness and reconciliation" approach to his white captors and imprisoners.
When we look at the list of "conflict" around the globe, the common theme that connects each of them is that one group is engaged militarily, or quasi-militarily, or in terror campaigns against another group that is not "them". In the United States, the legacy of this theme continues in and through their casual reference to all people not born in the United States as "aliens". Having working in that country for a few years, that was one of the most offensive "official" terms used against my person, especially since it was the adopted official designation, for legal purposes of my status.
Rural communities, it seems in many if not all countries, are extremely sensitive to 'newcomers' who do not fit or belong to the established community: they do not know the people, the traditions, the local humour, the local names for specific geographic landmarks, and they bring "new ideas" and perceptions and values and even changes to the existing status quo. They are generally considered "dangerous" even if they do not commit acts that would warrant such attitudes.
It is an inconvenient truth, for all of us, that we are tilted in this direction of separating ourselves from those we consider "different" or incompatible with our perceptions of how things ought to be. Even the kind of worship segregates people, as the history of Northern Ireland demonstrates. Roman Catholics and Protestants have for centuries fought over their perceptions of the way to worship God, including their deep separation on the role and value of the Papacy and the Vatican. Purgatory, Transubstantiation, Papal Infallibility, Immaculate Conception, saints...these are just some of the words used to describe differences.
And in Israel, this global inconvenient truth about human struggle with those who are different, and who have shown actions and attitudes that continue to warrant their exclusion, is rearing its head, only now it is not coming from the Palestinians themselves who have been the normal protesters of their treatment by Israel. This time the charge of Ethnic Cleansing is coming from the United Nations official observer on human rights in the Middle East. A legal scholar and professor emeritus from Princeton has publicly declared this assessment in his recent, and last report prior to his retirement. Perhaps one could conclude that his retirement made it more feasible for him to say these things, given the storm of protest that he knew it would ignite.
GENEVA: A UN rights expert who probes Israel's conduct towards Palestinians on Friday accused the Jewish state of a campaign of ethnic cleansing and apartheid policies.
"The realities on the ground are worsening from the point of view of both international law and from the point of view of the Palestinian people," Richard Falk, an 82-year-old American who is an emeritus law professor at Princeton University, told reporters.
Falk is due to step down this month as the UN Human Rights Council's monitor for the Palestinian territories taken over by Israel in 1967 -- the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
Since he was appointed in 2008, he said, Israel has built more settlements in Palestinian territories, imposed "collective punishment" on Gaza, demolished homes and repeatedly deployed "excessive force".
He also accused Israel of a "systematic and continued effort to change the ethnic composition of East Jerusalem" by voiding Palestinians' residence permits, confiscating property and allowing unlawful Israeli settlements there.
"This is systematic discrimination on the basis of ethnic identity, with the objective of creating a different demographic in Jerusalem," he said, calling it a form of "ethnic cleansing".
"All of these features that are objectionable from the point of view of international law have continued and intensified during my six years," he said.
"What is called occupation is now more widely understood to be a form of annexation, the embodiment of apartheid in the sense that there's a discriminatory dual system of law, giving legal protection to the Israeli settlers and subjecting the Palestinian population under occupation to a continuing existence without rights," he added.
Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2014/Mar-21/250955-un-monitor-accuses-israel-of-ethnic-cleansing-apartheid.ashx#ixzz2wgLRZSJQ
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)
Our question is, "What will the Israeli government do to counter these conclusions and to amend public perceptions and attitudes as it goes forward in negotiations towards a peace settlement for which the world has been waiting for decades?