Thursday, March 3, 2011

In defense of the word apartheid

Dear Ms. Natalie Portman,

I'm writing to express my dismay of your rejection to the term "apartheid" used by Faisal Chaudhry in his Op-Ed, "An Ideology of Oppression." Although I agree that physically, the Palestinian and Israelis physiques are not as markedly different as Africans and Caucasians in South Africa, it does not mean that discrimination does not occur.

We don't have to look any further beyond the encroaching separation wall, built by Israel, to "contain" violent elements away from Israeli civilian lives. A separation wall that obviously makes mere transport difficult for the Palestinian. And then there's the checkpoints, where people without Israeli ID can be hold up for hours, making any journey to work, study, or emergency medical situation uncertain.

All I am saying is that discriminations occur. It might be not on the base of race, but it occurs. And the term apartheid feels more apt than anything to describe that. As the saying goes, "A rose by any other name still smells sweet," so does the injustice done to the Palestinian. It doesn't matter that you refuse to name it so, we still know life is fraught with unfairness for the Palestinians.

You say that it was an untrue finger-pointing tactic, I say it is untrue indeed but only if we adhere to the strictest of definition. You say it is finger pointing, but time and again we read that israel often does not honor its words to freeze settlements. You say it is childish, I say it's an evocative name that befits the injustice on the ground.

If you fear that such name will portray a sweeping insensitive prejudice of the Israeli, I wish you had the ability to stomach that. Maybe if it persists, it would finally force your government to act accordingly. For far too long of a time the world have been ready to condemn Israel by a UN resolution, and it was only by the veto from US that the resolution is not passed.

However, I agree with you that any loss of life on either side is a loss immeasurable. Countless blood have been shed, and if you dream of a future where Israel and Palestine people live together with no bloodshed, I share the same dream too.

At the end, I would like to acknowledge that your letter was 9 years old, and maybe you have been all but forgotten it. Maybe you had even changed your stance. It's a shame I wouldn't know, as the people who shared the link to your letter say no more word of it. So maybe my feeling of dismay shouldn't have been directed at you, but rather to the self-proclaimed critical thinkers who blindly pass your old words along, in their haste to praise you. I'm aware that people can be starstruck even from a mighty distance, and maybe it's what breaks my heart.

Lastly, I would like to congratulate you on your Academy Award success with Black Swan. I haven't had the chance to see it on the big screen--I'm not even sure it has already been screened in japan--but I'm sure it must be riveting. After all, I did enjoy your portrayal of Evey Hammond.


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