The Dynamics of Power in South Africa and Palestine


Length: 1148 words (3.3 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Excellent
Open Document
Need writing help? Check your paper »

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Text Preview

More ↓
The Dynamics of Power in South Africa and Palestine


For over a hundred years, whites consolidated their power in predominantly black South Africa. In the last fifty years, Israelis have played a major hand in dispersing and oppressing the Palestinian people. Edward Said believes that “The relationship between Occident and Orient is a relationship of power, of domination, of varying degrees of a complex hegemony” (Orientalism 133). Though the geographic reference of this quotation seems less applicable to South Africa, Said’s intuition into the complexity of race relations between oppressors and the oppressed still rings true. Nadine Gordimer’s two short stories, “Once Upon a Time” and “The Moment Before the Gun Went Off,” and Edward Said’s work “After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives” describe the power structures in South Africa and Palestine, respectively. Both authors clearly depict situations in which one group wields disproportionate authority in its relationship with another group. This parallel confusedly meets the oblique disparities between black/white and Jew/non-Jew interaction. In the exclusive context of Gordimer’s two short stories and Said’s piece, the hegemonies in South Africa and in Palestine are maintained in similar fashion, but with greatly differing results.

Both black South Africans and Palestinians are forced to live in segregated, poor communities and are subject to dehumanizing legislation. Gordimer’s story, “Once Upon a Time,” speaks of economic and racial segregation explicitly: “There were riots, but they were outside the city, where a people of another color were quartered” (Gordimer 25).

The classism and condescension of the white residents is clear as they recall with contempt those black robbers who snagged stores of fine alcohol: “the thieves wouldn’t even have been able to appreciate what it was they were drinking” (27). Moreover, they speak disdainfully of the unemployed blacks who spoiled “a beautiful suburb” (27) “only by their presence” (27). As Said painfully depicts, Palestinians find themselves in a very similar position in a system of “virtual apartheid” (Said 142). He describes the process through which Palestinians are “herded into new camps” (19) and their “identity is confined to frightened little islands in an inhospitable environment of superior military force” (19). Said paints a sad picture of the poor and destitute nature of life in the Palestinian refugee camps. Physical and economic segregation leaves both black South Africans and Palestinians on the outside, looking in.

A critical difference between the power hierarchies in these two countries lies in the level of integration and the nature of the interaction between oppressors and the oppressed.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"The Dynamics of Power in South Africa and Palestine." 123HelpMe.com. 16 Dec 2017
    <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=41427>.
Title Length Color Rating  
Essay on The Legacy of Apartheid in South Africa - The strength of a nation is not established by the force of its military, economic standing, or government, but rather how its citizens are regarded. In order to attain strength, a nation must respect the principle of solidarity; the power of one voice. For without a defined sense of unity, a society is likely to crumble. Unfortunately, as seen throughout history, civilization has often made it their mission to seek out the differences in one another instead of accepting them. This fear of the unknown has led to humankind’s most despicable behavior; the separation of individuals due to their physical attributes....   [tags: South Africa Apartheid Essays]
:: 8 Works Cited
1631 words
(4.7 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
The Apartheid in South Africa Essay - The Apartheid started in 1948 when Dr. Malan’s National Party beat the United Party who wanted integration. After the National Party won they had been given the Sauer report, which said that they had to choose between integration or an Apartheid. They chose the Apartheid which meant racial segregation of all of the races. They were split into 3 groups black, coloured and white and they were forced to move to an area specifically designated to their colour. There was petty Apartheid introduced so that black people couldn’t use the same building as white people....   [tags: South Africa Apartheid Essays] 1270 words
(3.6 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Essay on Apartheid in South Africa - The word apartheid comes in two forms, one being the system of racial segregation in South Africa, and the other form is the form that only those who were affected by apartheid can relate to, the deeper, truer, more horrifying, saddening and realistic form. The apartheid era truly began when white South Africans went to the polls to vote. Although the United Party and National Party were extremely close, the National party won. Since they won, they gained more seats and slowly began to eliminate the black’s involvement with the political system....   [tags: South Africa Apartheid Essays]
:: 7 Works Cited
1253 words
(3.6 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
South Africa Needs Apartheid Essay - Thesis Statement: Apartheid may have been a horrible era in South African history, but only so because the whites were forced to take action against the outrageous and threatening deeds of the blacks in order to sustain their power. United Nations members, and fellow concerned citizens, the world must discuss with the consequences of the initiation of apartheid. Apartheid, the separation of races completely, has become a horrible era in South African history, and has killed many innocent victims....   [tags: South Africa Apartheid Essays]
:: 5 Works Cited
1539 words
(4.4 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Adolescence in South Africa Essay - In this essay the concepts of sensitive periods and critical periods are going to be discussed, and critically evaluated in regards to identity development amongst South Africans. In doing so one should also take into consideration South Africa’s historical context. The period of Adolescence is when individual undergoes a set of physical and psychological changes, known as the teenage years, and begins the progression to adulthood. In other words the individual achieves psychological maturity and social maturity (Mwale, 2010)....   [tags: South Africa, Culture, Adolscence]
:: 6 Works Cited
1460 words
(4.2 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Apartheid in South Africa Essay examples - Origins of Apartheid In the seventeenth century, South Africa was colonized by Dutch and British imperialists. In response to British domination, Dutch settlers made two colonies: The Republic of the Orange Free State and Transvaal. Dutch descendants became known as “Afrikaners” or “Boers.” In the early 1900s, Boers discovered diamonds on their land. This led to a Britain invasion and sparked the Second Boer War, which lasted three years. This was the first modern war to see concentration camps; they were used successfully to break the will of Afrikaner guerilla forces by detaining their families....   [tags: South Africa Apartheid Essays] 2564 words
(7.3 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay about Political Violence in South Africa - Repression by the South African government during the apartheid era, has hurt the ability for civil society groups to form. Instead of channeling grievances through civil society organizations that act as a “safety valve” for discontent in a more peaceful way, most South Africans who want to get their voices heard end up using violence as a tool in order to bring political gain.1 The use of violence as a component of South Africa's political culture was originated during the 1980s anti-apartheid struggle, where the ANC and other underground anti-apartheid groups would use violent and militaristic actions, language, and ideas to get their voices heard as part of social mobilization....   [tags: south africa, political violence, anc]
:: 3 Works Cited
935 words
(2.7 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Ecotourism in South Africa Essay - South African ecologists currently face many challenges relating to the conservation of biodiversity and the growing economy. Excessive hunting and land development, as well as unemployment, all remain growing concerns for this struggling country. Jan-Hendrik, a South African who made contact with us, stated, “South Africa has lots of social and economic problems because most people are poor. To get them to middle class requires the economy to grow through mines and the expansion of living areas” (Hendrik)....   [tags: Ecology, Biodiversity, Economy, South Africa]
:: 8 Works Cited
1333 words
(3.8 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Essay South Africa - South Africa is a nation with a wonderful and varied culture. This country has been called “The Rainbow Nation”, a name that reflects the diversity of such amazing place. The different ethnic and cultural groups of the South Africa do, however, appreciate their own beliefs and customs. Many of these traditions, besides African culture, are influenced by European and Western heritage. The complex and diverse population of the country has made a strong impact to the various cultures. There are forty-five million people; about thirty million are black, five million white, three million coloured and one million Indians....   [tags: Africa] 990 words
(2.8 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Essay on South Africa - South Africa The Republic of South Africa is located on the southern tip of the continent of Africa. It is slightly less than twice the size of Texas, about 1,223,201 square kilometers. Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland run from west to east along South Africa’s northern border. The country of Lesotho lies entirely within the borders of South Africa and is completely landlocked. The South Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean surround the southern coast. South Africa is divided into nine provinces: the Northern Province, Kwazulu/Natal, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, the North West Province, the Western Cape, the Northern Cape and the Eastern Cape....   [tags: South Africa Governmental Cultural Essays]
:: 10 Works Cited
3519 words
(10.1 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]

Related Searches




The two responses to terror in Palestine as described by Said and by Gordimer in “Once Upon a Time” illustrate this difference. Said laments the violent rejection and removal of Palestinian identity by the Israelis. He uses the image of an “ancient wall” (149) to describe the barriers the Israelis have erected to keep the Palestinians severed from their memories and from the Israeli communities. The defensive reaction of white South Africans proves less divisive along ethnic lines. The fictional white family described in Gordimer’s dreamy tale makes every effort to ward off potential black thieves. They deliberately chose the most elaborate, effective security system: “there would be no way of climbing over it and no way through its tunnel without getting entangled in its fangs” (Gordimer 29). In this respect, white South Africans show themselves to be just as eager as the Israelis to keep out potential threats from a destitute, desperate community of a different ethnicity. The distinction arises, however, when the reader discovers that the black employees of the white family remain on the same side of the fence as their employers. As disaster strikes and the white child struggles in the clutches of the serrated wire surrounding the property “the trusted housemaid… came running, the first to see and to scream with him” (30). The ethnic division is not as clean and tidy as it is in Palestine. White South Africans and their “trustworthy” or “highly recommended” workers share a living space and even seem to have an intimate connection, albeit one permeated with racism. Both groups find a comfort zone within the racially charged atmosphere: “These people were not allowed into the suburb except as reliable housemaids and gardeners, so there was nothing to fear” (25). In Palestine, genuine relationships between the two ethnic groups are few and far between.

Said and Gordimer’s accounts demonstrate a large disparity between the reactions and resistance of the oppressed. Said’s account reveals a strong current of Palestinian resistance against Israeli domination, while the short stories based in South Africa reveal a broken spirit among the disenfranchised. “The Moment Before the Gun Went Off” demonstrates the exploitation of a poor, young black woman at the hands of a wealthy white landowner, Mr. Van der Vyver. The story describes the accidental death of Lucas, the landowner’s illegitimate, mulatto son. Lucas’ mother was in her early teens when Van der Vyver impregnated her. At her son’s funeral, she finds herself incapable of resisting power structure which constrains her: “The parents hold her as if she were a prisoner or a crazy woman to be restrained. But she says nothing, does nothing. She does not look up; she does not look at Van der Vyver... His wife, Alida, is beside him” (116). The racist superstructure had become too grandiose for individuals to feel capable of altering it. The Palestinians, as described by Said, adopt a totally different approach to oppression. Quite simply, they reject it. Said praises a Palestinian spirit which has often prevailed even when under siege. He uses the dialogue from an interrogation of a young Palestinian to investigate this sentiment. In a radio broadcast, Israeli propaganda sought to demonize a young Palestinian “terrorist.” However, the young man cleverly concedes to his guilt all too willingly, aptly using hyperbole as means of resistance: “My mission was terrorism… in other words, we would enter villages and just terrorize” (Said 65). Said admires his flippant resistance, his “odd bravado, not meant to be a joke” (56). Said vividly and reverently describes the Palestinian rejection of the imposed power structure, while Gordimer describes a more reticent, cowed people.

The last ten years have witnessed a massive divergence in the paths these two racially charged atmospheres. The apartheid system collapsed while the situation in Palestine/Israel progressively worsens. International pressure has had much to do with this. South Africa crumbled under economic sanctions and embargoes, while Israel continues to receive massive American aid. Both Gordimer’s short stories and Said’s work were written before these new developments. They sought to spread understanding about the poor race relations tearing their countries apart. Said chose passionate non-fiction which rejected objectivity, while Gordimer resorted to fiction laced with irony. I would hope that both these authors can sleep peacefully at night. I would think, however, that one of them finds no solace because of the nightmare of an ongoing occupation.


Return to 123HelpMe.com