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Dare To Be Different: The Story Of Uri Davis

By Tendai Makaripe

To some, he is a mindless traitor, a “mentally unstable scum” who has betrayed his roots.

The Israeli blogosphere has unleashed a flurry of vitriol on the first person of Jewish origin to be elected to the Revolutionary Council of the Palestinian Fatah movement, Dr Uri Davis.

Israeli hatred for Davis emanated from his decision to support the Palestinian community in their quest for full independence and sovereignty against apartheid Israel yet he has Jewish roots having been born in Jerusalem in 1943 to a British Jewish Father and a Czechoslovak Jewish mother.

Davis has been at the forefront of the defence of human rights in Israel, notably Palestinian rights, since 1965 and has pioneered critical research on Zionism and the State of Israel since the mid-1970s.

Davis’ close family members had mixed feelings about his decision.

His late mother, fearing the difficulties he would encounter pursuing the journey of a dissident human rights defender could only support him half-heartedly, his late elder sister was utterly hostile while his younger sister is ambivalent.

His support for Palestinians as a young man in apartheid Israel, as a PhD student in the United States of America; as a university lecturer and researcher in the United Kingdom led to his 1984 invitation to the Palestine National Council by revered Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and to the Fatah movement by assassinated Arafat’s deputy, Fatah leader Khalil al-Wazir.

Davis told 263Chat that the desire to see a society based on constitutional guarantees of equality of rights was influenced by his quintessentially humanitarian background.

His late father keenly followed the principle of non-violent resistance as taught by Indian national liberation leader Mahatma Gandhi and civil rights movement leader Martin Luther King.

His mother, whose sister’s family was transported by the Nazi German occupation of Czechoslovakia and killed in the death camp of Awschwitz, educated her children to never generalise.

She engraved upon their character that her sister Lidia and her family were not assassinated by “the Germans” but by Nazis; not by all Nazis but by a specific group of Nazis meaning that there are good Germans and bad Germans, good Jews and bad Jews, good Arabs and bad Arabs.

He was taught to distinguish between the (noble) quest for justice versus the (degrading) pursuit of vengeance.

“It is the education at home that has kept the flame of my conscience alive. When I meet injustice I do not turn my back,” Davis said in a wide ranging interview with this publication.

“As a young man I stood at the forefront of human rights dissent in apartheid Israel, raised my hand up as high as I could and shouted at the top of my voice: “Not in my name!” that is: The war-crimes and crimes-against-humanity perpetrated against the Palestinian people are not being perpetrated in my name,” said Davis.

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Davis was the first academic and human rights defender to introduce the term “apartheid Israel” into Western academic and Palestine solidarity in the English speaking world and beyond with the publication of his book Israel: An Apartheid State.

To him, the Palestinian struggle for national liberation] is not against individuals but a racist system – a regime that is the complete opposite of what Davis stands for.

An investigation by Amnesty International shows that Israel imposes a system of oppression and domination against Palestinians across all areas under its control: in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs), and against Palestinian refugees, in order to benefit Jewish Israelis.

 This is apartheid as prohibited in international law.

“Laws, policies and practices which are intended to maintain a cruel system of control over Palestinians, have left them fragmented geographically and politically, frequently impoverished, and in a constant state of fear and insecurity,” read a recent Amnesty International report titled Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians, a look into decades of oppression and domination.

Israel has enacted discriminatory laws and policies that disrupt family life for Palestinians.

Since 2002, Israel has adopted a policy of prohibiting Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza from gaining residential status in Israel or East Jerusalem through marriage, thus disrupting family unification.

“Israel has long used discriminatory laws and policies to separate Palestinians from their families. For example, Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza cannot gain legal status in Israel or occupied East Jerusalem through marriage, denying their rights to family unification. This policy has forced thousands of Palestinians to live apart from their loved ones; others are forced to go abroad, or live in constant fear of being arrested, expelled or deported,” read the report in part.

“The government is controlling every detail of our lives, they are in our bedroom, in our homes. One of the most extreme cases was when they arrested my husband in 2004 while I was giving birth to one of my daughters…while I was in the delivery room they arrested him,” Sumaia, a Palestinian told Amnesty International.

Amnesty International’s deputy regional director of the Middle East and north Africa region and head of Amnesty International’s Jerusalem office Saleh Hijazi told 263Chat that Israeli’s policy of apartheid treats Palestinians as an inferior racial group and there are more than 56 laws in Israel that discriminate directly against Palestinians.

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“Israel heavily controls the movement of Palestinians with the OPT and areas which Palestinians live. There is a military blockage on the Gaza strip since 2007 which is deemed illegal as collective punishment under international law,” Hijazi said.

“This blockade does not allow people from Gaza to go in and out of their territory which jeopardises family ties. Additionally, forced displacements which happen through systematic home evictions and demolitions of Palestinian property also affects the latter.”

According to the latest United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report, during the first semester of 2022 388 Palestinian-owned structures have been demolished or seized, including 47 EU-funded assets worth over EUR 145 000 (US$143 652), and 491 people have been displaced.

Such injustices have pushed Davis to speak out.

Inspired by former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat who he described as “a leader of moral and political genius comparable to the stature of the late Egyptian President Jamal Abd al-Nasir”, Davis believes in the realisation of full Palestinian independence and sovereignty.

“On the one hand, I am much encouraged by the precedent of the collapse of the apartheid regime in South Africa and Africa as a whole and on the other hand, by the cumulative successes of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

BDS in respect of Palestine is the equivalent of the global anti-Apartheid movement in respect of Africa at the time.

As FATEH International Relations Commission (FIRC) deputy commissioner-general for political affairs and member of FATEH Revolutionary Council (FRC), Davis together with FRC colleague Kifah Harb were delegated by Palestine National Council (PNC) to deliver at the recent ZANU-PF inaugural national conference of the war veterans league the message of PLO and FATEH solidarity anchored in decades of a common struggle against the injustice of Western imperialism and the crime-against-humanity of settler-colonialism. He urged Zimbabwe and the African continent to apply their weight in the United Nations (UN) to advance the passage of a UN general assembly resolution classifying Israel as “a rogue apartheid state and to apply the 1973 Covenant on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid on the said rogue State.”

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