chapter
24 Pages

Introduction

Mandela’s ideal was the vision of the dominated side, in which the black majority, including the ‘coloureds’ and the Indians, would organize themselves in a resistance movement to get rid of oppression and build an inclusive free society. Thirty years later, in 1994, the year that apartheid formally collapsed, his vision had to a significant extent been achieved. This prompts some valid questions. What was the role of the white dissent or protest groups in building peace? Were their politics, their political platforms and their subsequent roles significant in the quest to reach a settlement that adopted the principles spoken of by Mandela – principles that conform to the universal values of human rights? What shaped the political views of the white groups, and how did they evolve over the years? These are among the main questions that this book aims to answer as part of a comparative research model. The other case study is that of Israeli Jewish protest groups, where the same questions are raised, examined and answered. The intention is to identify the similarities and the differences in their respective visions, positions and roles. It will also be possible to draw out patterns within each case and across the two cases. In the realm of protest, the characteristics and functions of protest groups differ from case to case. Existing political settings and subsequent challenges usually shape the politics, priorities and roles of protest groups. In areas of conflict, a high percentage of protest groups become active in different initiatives

that seek peace building and/or conflict resolution across the divide. This has been the situation with the two cases chosen for examination here. However, it is not the intention to address peace-building initiatives across the divide between the dominant-dominated sides in both cases, as is more usually done. Instead the study focuses on protest activism in the dominant communities of apartheid South Africa and Zionist Israel – i.e. the white population and the Jews – and compares the politics, political platforms and roles of both. To do this protest groups in both countries were studied as components of their respective civil societies; therefore the relation between the state political system and civil society serves as the theoretical framework. The author believes that an understanding of the existing political systems of these two ethnicnational states and their effects on their respective civil societies illuminates how, in both cases, the politics, political positions and the subsequent roles of protest groups have been shaped and played out. Details of the research methodology are explained in more detail below. In both ethnic-national states, protest groups flourished as part of the quest for building peace. While a majority of scholars and activists have in both cases been critical of the role of protest groups from the dominant side, and have claimed that this role has been marginal or even insignificant, this study argues differently. It maintains that their ‘marginal’ role can, at a critical point, prove to be essential once it has been combined with other factors (as, for example, a shift in the balance of power), that allow for a political settlement to take place. Thus, once other conditions become ready for a political breakthrough, their perceived ‘insignificance’ over a period of time can be shown to be incorrect, and, as this research will prove, the insignificant can become vital. The argument of this book therefore provides a fresh perspective on the politics and role/s of protest groups as a component of civil society and as contributors to the public space, i.e. where different powers and interests compete for shaping the moral order of society and obtaining the support of the state. At this point, the author wishes briefly to explain two conceptual issues pertaining to this book and to highlight the existence of meta-conflict in the IsraeliPalestinian conflict, an essential element that explains a major difference between the two case studies. First, the term used here is ‘peace building’, rather than ‘peace making’. Although some scholars and practitioners use the terms interchangeably, the author accepts that there is a distinction between them. In the field of peace studies and conflict resolution, the term ‘peace making’ is usually used in association with formal processes at the leadership level, to broker a deal between conflicting parties. With this type of process, power politics usually dictates and produces a win/lose result. On the other hand, the term ‘peace building’ is associated with a process that aims to build peace at different levels: grassroots, middle-rank leadership and high leadership. For example, in his model of peace building John Paul Lederach stresses the need to address the complexity of “multiple actors, pursuing a multiplicity of actions and initiatives, at numerous levels of social relationships in an interde-

pendent setting at the same time”.2 His model also emphasizes that peacebuilding processes pass through three stages: transition, transformation and reconciliation.3 In such processes, one paradigm of power relations is given up for an alternative paradigm that addresses the needs of both parties as well as the history of the conflict and can therefore move towards structural change. In other words, the process of power politics represents a settlement process, while one that addresses the felt needs and interests of all conflicting parties represents a resolution,4 or peace-building process. As such, in the context of researching protest groups as units of analysis, the term ‘peace building’ is more accurate. However, it should be made clear that its use does not imply that all or most protest groups in and across the two cases have abandoned the mindset of power politics, even though they have acted at different societal levels. The second conceptual issue has to do with the author’s use of the term ‘protest groups’ rather than ‘peace groups’ or any other. There are two reasons for this. First, in both cases protest groups themselves have not used a common label. The Israeli groups chose to label themselves ‘peace groups’ while South African white groups referred to themselves as ‘anti-apartheid groups’. The second reason, which is no less important, is that ‘peace’ as a word has many meanings: in the Palestinian-Israeli context, it has been misused and/or overused to such an extent that it is difficult to refer to it in a positive or neutral way. Some would even describe it as a contaminated word. Thus, the author felt that it was important to have a term that was neutral enough and could be used to refer to both cases with ease. The term ‘protest’ meets this function. The term ‘protest group’ is used to refer to groups that developed ideas and ran activities with the aim of building peace in their conflict areas. Some protest groups took the form of opposing the existing ideology in power and its state political system, as in the case of South Africa where, by the mid-1980s, most white protest groups stood against apartheid and for regime change. Others continue/d to associate themselves with their state’s exclusive ideology and prevailing consensus, and seek/sought compromise that would be of benefit to the dominant side. This has also been the case with a majority of Israeli protest groups. In the Israeli Zionist/anti-Zionist divide most of them belong to the Zionists. A third aspect to be highlighted in this book is a major difference that exists between the two case studies. It stems from the existence of meta-conflict, which represents a strong presence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Meta-conflict means differing over what the conflict is all about, i.e. “a conflict about what the conflict is about”.5 This political reality translated itself into the development of different versions of peace, no agreement as to the causes of the conflict and, as such, no agreement on the end result. These disagreements exist among the Israeli protest groups, as well as between them and Palestinian civil-society organizations. This was not the case in apartheid South Africa. By the mid-1980s, a joint platform had been agreed upon – that of a united, non-racial and democratic South Africa. The South African white protest groups never stood for a separate

historical narrative. They did not legitimize the colonial history of white settlers, and they sought a joint future based on equal political rights. In the case of Israel, most Israeli protest groups stand for a separate historical narrative since they believe in the legitimacy of the Zionist settler project in Palestine and, as such, seek separation and the Palestinians’ acceptance of the legitimacy of that narrative. The following sections explain the methodology used in this book, including the relation between the different variables involved, and discuss a number of principles, values or concepts that have been associated in both instances with peace-building initiatives. These concepts – equality, justice, racism, truth and peace – are examined with reference to their broad literature and their connection to the two case studies. This conceptual background provides initial thoughts about the political orientations and characteristics of white and Jewish protest groups in the two conflict areas. From this it becomes possible to detect how far protest groups have moved from their governments’ positions on these concepts, and whether protest groups are primarily pragmatic, principled, selective or practical, or offer a combination of these qualities. The final part of this Introduction includes a brief literature review.