Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Comparing Israel and South Africa and its limits

Last night I accompanied a friend to watch ‘Roadmap to Apartheid’, a documentary which draws together the experience of apartheid in South Africa with the discrimination and oppression visited by Israel on the Palestinians.  The analogies were well done, with footage from South Africa before 1994 set alongside with that from Israel and the occupied territories.  Images of checkpoints, soldiers checking permits, beating up and shooting protestors were all used to reinforce the idea that Israel is busy introducing an effective apartheid state.

Anyone working in academia will be familiar with the charge.  To this are increasing numbers of solidarity activists and supporters and sympathisers of the Palestinian cause who are making the link.  Perhaps the most visible expression of this analogy is that of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement that has grown up in recent years – and Israeli reaction and paranoia that they may one day be labelled a pariah state in the same way that South Africa was (hence the draconian legislation relating to the BDS which exists within Israel today).

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Corniche, Beirut
Lebanon, then and now

Beirut has changed substantially when compared to my last trip there.  That’s to be expected, given that I first visited the city 15 years ago.  And while I knew that it had changed, it wasn’t until I got there that I realised how much.  It was brought home to be from the first day I was there, as I walked from my accommodation on Rue Gemmayze to the American University of Beirut (AUB).  Back in 1997 I recall seeing the bombed out Holiday Inn standing amid a pile of rubble where a whole neighbourhood once stood.  On Monday I recognised the same building, presumably standing as a memorial to the civil war.  But I didn’t recognise anything else around it.  It was hemmed in by all sorts of new buildings, of different shapes and colours, although many of them harking back self-consciously to the past.
Recent presentations

I’m now back behind the office desk after spending the last two weeks travelling, first to London and then to Beirut.  In London I presented my paper on poverty reduction in Brazil and the government’s (still relatively) new poverty elimination plan at the Institute for the Study of the Americas.  I was also hoping to present it at the symposium being organised by Middlesex University on Brazil, but I think there was a foul up in communications, as they didn’t seem to get my message.  Fortunately, they are organising another event, which may take place in April.  I may well be at that one.