Margaret Ferguson is Distinguished Professor of English at the University of California, Davis. A scholar of the Renaissance, with many awards and honors to her name, Professor Ferguson was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2014 and is a recent past-President of the Modern Language Association (MLA). Her 2015 MLA presidential address can be read here.
While she was president of MLA, there was significant discussion of actions that the association might take to show support for Palestinian scholars and students as well as to support American academics who have been denied entry into the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel. The MLA is currently considering a resolution to endorse a Palestinian call for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions, on which its Delegate Assembly will vote in January 2017 during the annual convention.
Click this link to listen to or download the podcast of the radio interview with Margaret Ferguson in which she discusses Israel and apartheid states.
Professor Ferguson was David Lloyd’s guest on SWANA Region Radio on August 8. On the show, Lloyd discussed with her recent research into the history of the anti-apartheid struggle and the role of academic boycott in it, as well as the value and limits of the often-cited analogy between South African Apartheid and Israel’s system of discrimination against Palestinians. During the interview, Ferguson refers to numerous publications on the topic of apartheid and Israel, among them Uri Davis’s books Israel: An Apartheid State (1987), Apartheid Israel: A Critical Reading of the Draft Permanent Agreement, known as the “Geneva Accords” (2003), and Apartheid Israel: Possibilities for the Struggle Within (2003). Davis is a founding member of The Movement Against Israeli Apartheid in Palestine (MAIAP). In addition she sites Ariella Azoulay and Adi Ophir’s The One-State Condition: Occupation and Democracy in Israel / Palestine (2012), an excellent account of the three branches of the Israeli government’s discrimination system, offering three models for a “federated” solution that would eradicate the huge stumbling block of the idea of a “Jewish majority”). Other sources sited in the interview include Saree Makdisi’s Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation (2010), which develops the apartheid analogy very cogently in the final chapter, Ilan Pappe’s edited collection, Israel and South Africa (2015), and Sasha Polakow-Suransky’s The Unspoken Alliance (2011), both of which offer useful histories of the military and diplomatic links between Israel and South Africa in the 1970s. For further reading on the topic, people should see Jon Soske and Sean Jacobs, eds. Apartheid Israel: The politics of an analogy (2015), which contains 20 essays, including a powerful chapter by Heidi Grunebaum, “Reflections in a Mirror: From South Africa to Palestine/Israel and Back Again,” about her making of the 2013 film “The Village under the Forest,” Salim Vally’s “Solidarity with Palestine,” M. Neelika Jayawardane’s “Cultural Weapons Against Apartheid: Art, Artists, Cultural Boycotts,” and Ran Greenstein’s “Israel, the Apartheid Analogy, and the Labor Question.” J.M. Coetzee’s speech at the 2016 PalFest (Palestinian literary festival in the West Bank) cautions against the rhetorical pitfalls of the analogy, but then goes on to list the the similarities between Israel today and South Africa in the apartheid era.