The closest Associate Director of the African-American Resource Center Brother Rabb Carter has ever been to Palestine was a few years ago when two Israeli soldiers came to Penn to talk about their traumatic memories from the frontline.
“They expressed some concerns but the main concern was the human horror of war,” he said.
Last night, Penn for Palestine, a student organization that raises awareness about Palestinian issues, screened the award-winning documentary, “Roadmap to Apartheid,” as part of the University’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Symposium on Social Change and was jointly hosted by the Center for Africana Studies.
The documentary provides a detailed look into the apartheid analogy commonly used to describe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Narrated by Alice Walker, author of “The Color Purple,” “Roadmap to Apartheid” aims to educate people on the complexity of the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and makes the comparison to apartheid.
Apartheid is a system of racial segregation between the majority black inhabitants and the minority white supremacy in South Africa. It was enforced from 1948 to 1994, eventually crumbling under internal resistance and international sanctions.
The documentary highlights the dilapidated plights of Palestinians living in Israel. In her voiceover, Walker narrated that the Palestinians are required to carry IDs and present them at the over 600 checkpoints that control movement of the Palestinians, drawing similarities to the infamous Pass System, one of the most detested symbols of apartheid in South Africa.
“Abuse and beatings are common occurrences at these check points,” a Palestinian said in the documentary. “Women give birth at these check points because guards won’t let them through.”
In Shuta, a town in Israel where the Israeli settler population is about 300 and the Palestinian population is over 2,000, Palestinians are restricted from traveling on most roads, some having to take a 30 kilometer detour, according to the film. Consequently, a quarter of the families have moved.
“Likewise,” Walker continued in her voice-over, the white Afrikaners of South Africa believed they had a God-given right to a land that they considered mostly uninhabited, pushing into lands that many Africans considered theirs.
Other comparisons between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and apartheid include the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, and the terms ‘Present Absentee’ and ‘Foreign Natives’ used to describe the Palestinians present inside Israel and the Blacks given permission to live in White areas respectively.
The brutalities towards the Palestinians comprised a large portion of the film. “I still remember the sound of [the Israeli soldiers] breaking my friend’s arm,” a Palestinian witness said. “That sound, I’ll never forget that.”
The documentary mentioned that all of the two-state solutions proposed are extremely vague and that the only thing more difficult than living together is trying to force separation.
Despite the bleakness of the its tone and the bloodshed shown throughout, “Roadmap to Apartheid” ended on an uplifting note, optimistically proposing for a one-state solution. “Europe and the West started listening [about the unfair treatment towards the Blacks] in the 70s and 80s,” a journalist said. “It took them 25 years and we’re doing so much better.”
College junior Zack Tabor, came to the screening because the subject of the documentary seemed interesting and he knew little about the subject. “It’s pretty controversial to parallel Palestine to apartheid,” he said. “But just because it’s controversial doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. A lot of social changes in the past have been controversial.”
After the film, Tabor said, “It’s the first time I ever heard a compelling argument of a one-state solution. It’s an idealistic goal and a great goal.”
“The beauty of the garden is in its difference,” Carter said. “The United States and this university support diversity. It is important to have opinions otherwise it would be robotic and boring if everyone has the same opinions.”
“It’s important to have this discussion,” College junior Omar Al-Kalouti, a Palestinian-American, said. “One of the key aspect is on human rights. It’s a legitimate discussion to have whether you agree or not. At this stage, speaking up is a start.”
Despite this, several members of the audience declined to comment or preferred to remain anonymous as they were afraid of the ramifications of their opinions. “I intend to pursue politics in the near future,” one reasoned.
When asked if the documentary spurred him to perform any follow-up actions, Tabor admitted that it’s tough. “Like the documentary mentioned, this is a situation that requires grassroots actions,” he said. “I’m in college and have other life goals. It will be hard to drop everything.”
However, Tabor promised to contribute in his own way, by not supporting Israeli corporations that further aggravate the conflict and raise awareness through word-of-mouth. “It helps and now I can respond to any queries with a more informed answer,” he said.