Saturday, July 22

Israel and Apartheid South Africa

Israel is involved in a war against terrorism directed from the south (Hamas in Gaza) and the north (Hezbollah in Lebanon). As the war on both fronts goes on, there are Islamist fundamentalist sympathizers who compare Israel to apartheid South Africa ad nauseam. As I had mentioned, in a previous post that I wrote on my blog site about a year ago, nothing could be further from the truth. Those who wish Israel’s destruction make the comparison.

I had lived in South Africa during the height of the apartheid period. We had experienced a Special Branch search in our home because of purchasing a book on South Africa’s Third Reich written by Brian Bunting. Some friends, living in London during the 1960s, sent the book to us in a plain cover. The book was published in 1964. The South African Police hounded those who opposed the apartheid government without mercy. I remember my late father, Chaim Eli Klein, burning many banned political books because of fears of police raids that could occur at any time.

Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu are great people and they both had achieved very much in the liberation of South Africa from fascism and apartheid. Both these leaders made a tremendous contribution to uniting all South Africans irrespective of their skin colour, race or creed. They found a common denominator in all South Africans who share a common homeland and destiny. All South Africans owe a tremendous amount of gratitude towards these incredible leaders.

The frivolous use of the term “ethnic cleansing” of the Palestinians when referring to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians shows total ignorance of the situation. If anything, there is an attempt by Hezbollah and Hamas (had they been stronger) to ethnically cleanse Israel of the Jews. Sheik Nasrallah has made this more than clear in his rabble-rousing addresses to his supporters and in his terrorist activities against the Jews even beyond the borders of Israel.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to give a chance to those with authority vested in them by the apartheid SA regime, who abused human rights, to obtain forgiveness from those who had suffered under white rule. Many whites who were involved in suppressing blacks came out of the cupboard and confessed the cruelties that they had committed against their black victims. This commission was highly successful and played a part in the healing process to unite South Africans in a common destiny. All races, despite the terrible bloody history of white supremacy, were prepared to forgive and rebuild the new South Africa from scratch.

As great as these two leaders are, they had one failing. Their knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian problem is poor and inadequate. Their intentions are good but they fail to understand the major difference between Israel’s problems with the Palestinians and with the fundamentalist Islamist terrorist groups who are committed to Israel’s total destruction. These Islamist terrorists are highly motivated in wreaking havoc and terror on innocent Israelis irrespective of their creed.

I had witnessed cruelty to blacks who happened to be in “white areas” at the wrong time and who never had their passbooks (reference books or identity document “dompas”) on their person. The police arrested them and their white employers bailed them out the following day when they showed the police the relevant papers proving that they were under their employment.

Under Apartheid South Africa, Blacks, Coloureds (people of mixed race), Moslems and Indians had very few basic human rights. There were so many draconian laws that prevented these people from competing in the employment market. There was the Job Reservation Act that reserved professional jobs for whites. There was the Groups Areas Act, the Mixed Marriages Act that prevented people of different colour from living in select White areas. Whites and blacks were forbidden to marry and if they did, they were sentenced to prison.

There was total separation between whites and blacks. Law enforced this. Despite all these travesties of justice, goodwill between the various races in South Africa remained a uniting factor. The desire to end apartheid by all races won the day. South Africa was fortunate that they had Nelson Mandela as leader. He had served so many years in prison and came out without any malice towards anybody. He even hosted his former adversaries who imprisoned him when he became President of South Africa. This proves his greatness.

South Africa’s new leaders are unable to accept the fact that Israel’s problem with her Palestinian neighbours is existential. There are not even the basic ingredients for some kind of rapprochement with the Palestinians. The ruling ANC (African National Congress) never had a manifesto that promoted destruction of the whites like Hamas and Hezbollah that has destruction of the Jews and Israel as an essential goal (genocide). Their manifesto is filled with hate for Israel and there is nothing even hinting at recognizing Israel’s right to exist let alone making peace with Israel. Where are the parallels between apartheid South Africa and Israel? Only a wild imagination of the likes of Israel-bashers could find a perverse parallel. There is no racism in the ANC manifesto in contrast to the Islamist terrorist groups’ manifestos.

Much has been written about the rights of Arab citizens in Israel in previous posts and I shall not repeat that again. Suffice it to say, Israel’s Arabs have equal rights, have representation in the Knesset and there are no separate facilities such as for “Jews Only” or signs such as “Arabs not allowed”. In apartheid South Africa, signs such us “Europeans or Whites only” on park benches and public facilities was commonplace. Every public place, including public telephone booths, was segregated. The list was endless. Apartheid signs on buses insured very little seating accommodation for blacks.

Much remains to be achieved in Arab human rights in Israel. It is not one hundred per cent perfect. However, there is no discriminatory legislation on the statute books preventing Israeli Arabs from competing in the job market or any professional spheres.

Israel is fighting a war for its survival. This has been the case since Israel’s establishment in 1948. Those who use the apartheid South African parallel are delegitimizing Israel’s right to exist. There is no parallel whatsoever. The South African experience is not applicable to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The basic ingredient – the desire for coexistence and an end to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not there. There is no desire from Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist. The suffering of the Palestinian People is due to the desire of their Hamas leadership to carry on terror against Israel’s citizens. The rain of Qassam rockets in the south and Katyushas in the north is not a fight against “the occupation” but an attempt to bring Israel to her knees.
The ANC never used violence against innocent people to promote their liberation struggle against apartheid. Suicide bombings, kidnappings, murders and blowing up people in their daily business was never part of their manifesto to achieve human rights. The “brutal oppression” of the Palestinian people is a result of the violence that the Palestinians have wrought on Israel. Israel has a right to protect herself from Palestinian violence against her citizens. Hezbollah in the north in Lebanon and Hamas in the south in Gaza are responsible for the retaliations that Israel has wrought on their respective peoples.

Even if Israel carries out further disengagements without any watertight peace treaties with the Palestinians, the vacuum created will result in the rearmament of the Palestinians with Qassams and Hezbollah Katyushas in their quest to destroy Israel. It is not a matter of “liberation from the occupation” anymore. Their purpose is to establish an undemocratic caliphate or fundamentalist Islamic state replacing Israel. How does this compare with apartheid South Africa?

6 comments:

thinker said...

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meditations71 said...

I suppose there will never be agreement on these things. But surely most South Africans who fought against apartheid would not agree with your suggestion of a lack of comparison between apartheid South Africa and Israel. Moreover, you seem to forget that the National Party insisted it was fighting for its very survival, that western governments like the US and UK for a long time considered either explicitly or implicitly the ANC to be 'terrorists' (indeed some civilian targets were hit) and so on.
Other points of comparison could be (but not restricted to): the creation of a colonial state amidst an already settled population, creating tensions for the very long-term; dispossession of land and the confinement of the majority population into small densely populated enclaves that cannot be economically viable (bantustans, the ever shrinking occupied territories) from which the colonial state can conveniently draw cheap labour; the constant disregard of international law and resolutions; the propensity for inflicting great violence and collective punishment on civilians; a "chosen people" mythology used to justify the status quo; the lack of equal laws for all citizens, and so on.
But perhpas it is indeed right that apartheid for black South Africans and occupation for Palestinians cannot be equated. In the words of Willie Madisha, the President of the Congress of South African Trade Unions in a recent speech:
"Apartheid was characterised by killings, hangings, disappearances, arrests, exile, confiscations, inferior education, rapes and the creation of Bantustans. All this was like a Sunday picnic compared to what is happening to the Palestinian people."
It is interesting to partake of your opinion on the conflict, but I do not think that it could credibly be suggested that very many South Africans who were victims of apartheid would subscribe to it.

zac said...

Stefan,
Thank you very much for your erudite reply. It does give food for thought. I doubt if most South Africans, who fought apartheid, would disagree with “a lack of comparison between apartheid South Africa and Israel”. A census of that nature has never been taken. Apart from that, many of us fought apartheid during those times and were also strong supporters of Israel. Many of us were also victims of apartheid. The police tapped our telephones, our homes were searched and we were questioned. We never saw a parallel between apartheid South Africa and Israel. A so-called parallel has become popular over the last 10 years or so, perhaps since the first and second intifada.

There was a fear amongst the Afrikaner population of “swart gevaar” (black danger of swamping the white man) but this was not the main issue justifying apartheid, although this excuse was used to justify apartheid to the world. The creation of white supremacy was a tactic used to exploit the blacks for cheap labour in white industries, domestic servants and so forth. The creation of Bantustans was to ensure an unending reservoir of cheap, black labour. It was basically the suppression of the black majority by the white minority. Those blacks that lived in the Bantustans such as the Transkei had no future at all. The Nationalist claimed that they (the blacks) had rights in their own areas. However, the moment that the blacks left the Bantustans to seek work in white South Africa, their human rights were curtailed, as they were residents of a “foreign country”.

The so-called “oppression of the Palestinians” is based on security considerations only and NOT on skin colour. The security checks that migrant Palestinian workers undergo at check points are to prevent the infiltration of suicide bombers into Israel. The terrible delays in getting Palestinians, who were critically ill, to Israeli hospitals also became a severe problem. There were cases of ambulances being used by Palestinian terrorists for transporting suicide bombers and bombs into the main centers. I remember, prior to the intifada, Palestinians crossing into Israel seeking work without any harassment at all. When the intifada of September 2000 began, suicide bombers exploited the situation in order to carry out terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis. I had also crossed into the “occupied territories” without any fear in order to do some shopping. The Palestinians received us warmly in those days. Many Palestinians crossed into Israel unhindered with their families. There was no problem at all. In fact many did come to enjoy a “Sunday picnic” in the true sense of the word.

Dr Stefan Andreasson, you quote the words of Willie Madisha, the President of the Congress of South African Trade Unions in a recent speech:
"Apartheid was characterized by killings, hangings, disappearances, arrests, exile, confiscations, inferior education, rapes and the creation of Bantustans. All this was like a Sunday picnic compared to what is happening to the Palestinian people."

Note that Willie Madisha made no mention of the cruel terrorism that Palestinian terrorists had perpetrated against innocent Israelis. Israel NEVER killed, hanged, kidnapped, confiscated Palestinian property, or was responsible for inferior Palestinian education that was indoctrination of hate for Jews and Israel, rapes or the creation of Palestinian reservoirs of cheap labour. The Palestinian people, unfortunately, became victims of a situation created by the Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Al Aqsa Brigade terrorists in their midst.

meditations71 said...

Thank you for the thoughtful response. As I mentioned initially, I do not think our points of view are reconcileable (and I do think you use the term 'terrorism' in a quite manichean way) but it is nevertheless perhaps useful to exchange them.

Of course there has been no 'viewpoint census' conducted in South Africa about views on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but I doubt you will find much sympathy for the pro-Zionist position among those large organisations and movements that represent a majority of South Africans today and during apartheid: see official statements on Palestine by the ANC, the SACP, COSATU and so on.

It is probably entirely true that there is a greater sympathy for Israel among the today so-called liberal white elite, but that is hardly representative of South Africans as a whole.

Perhaps related to your comments about those with experience of apartheid and their views on Israel, I find your comments on Ronnie Kasrils quite informative if disheartening. Kasrils, as a Jew and anti-apartheid activist, does as you know take a strong anti-Zionist stance. This you smear as 'self hating' and compare with 'Kapos' in Nazi concentration camps. That is perhaps one of the most ingeneous and persistent ad hominem strategies invoked against those who criticise Israel, and perhaps also indicative of your willingness to simply dismiss what South Africans who experienced apartheid (as blacks, coloureds, Indians) may have to say about Israeli treatment of Palestinians under occupation today.

zac said...

Israel is not beyond criticism. I am not one of those who condemn people because they criticize Israel. Israel has made many mistakes in the past. One of these mistakes is the treatment of the Palestinians in the territories occupied after the Six Day War of June 1967. If you read my previous posts, I have illustrated this many times. The encouragement of Jewish settlement in these territories was a gross mistake! This should never have been allowed! Many of the Jewish settlers in the occupied territories are religious zealots imbued with self-righteousness in their ideology of occupying Palestinian lands. I oppose the occupation and am aware that this did play a part in the tragic situation that exists between Israel and the Palestinians. The Arab States passed the Khartoum Resolutions on September 1st 1967 that opposed any agreement with Israel.

One must also bear in mind that all the wars that Israel fought from the day of Israel’s establishment in 1948 until June 1967 were wars for her survival. There were no occupied territories then but the Arab nations under President Gamel Abdel Nasser attacked Israel by closing off the Straits of Tiran after Nasser requested the UN Emergency Force to leave in May 1967. Their intention was to destroy Israel.

However, I do realize that the present government also realizes that the encouragement of settlements beyond the green line was a severe error of judgment. The government is now groping at straws to find a way out of the predicament. I do believe and hope that eventually the two sides must sit down at the negotiating table to solve this occupation issue in a manner fair to both sides of this tragic conflict. Unfortunately, since the second intifada of 2000, all communications between the conflicting sides took a turn for the worse.

The problem between Israel and the Palestinians is existential and added to that is the extremist fundamentalist Islamist ideology. If you were to read the Hamas and Hezbollah Covenants, it leaves you with no doubt as to what their aims are! The aims of these two organizations in contrast to that of the ANC are NOT reconciliation or recognizing Israel’s right to exist.

Hezbollah is responsible for the war in Lebanon. They made an unprovoked attack on Israel by kidnapping two soldiers who were patrolling within Israel’s northern border and they leashed a volley of Katyusha rockets on Israel. The so-called similarity between the situation in Israel and apartheid South Africa in view of the situation here is in the minds of the ignorant.

If only Israel could return the occupied territories to a responsible Palestinian Government, most of us would support that. Unfortunately, as in the case of Gaza, the return of territory and the uprooting of Jewish settlements in the Gaza strip resulted in Hamas re-arming and sending Qassam rockets into Sderot, Ashkelon and kibbutzim within the green line. Hamas has reiterated all the time that they are not prepared to recognize Israel’s right to exist. They carry on their terrorist activities and expect Israel to sit back and do nothing to protect her citizens. What country in the world would allow their citizens to be canon fodder for terrorists? Many in South Africa, who suffered under apartheid, fail to see this reality. They view the Palestinians as oppressed people who are deserving of support and suffer under the Israeli Occupation. This does not change the reality as it is. Living in Israel for the last 32 years, I have seen victims of terror in the hospital where I work. The list of suicide terrorist acts against innocent Israelis is endless and cannot be ignored in order to maintain certain expediency towards Palestinian terrorist organizations as a show of sympathy for this form of cruelty and barbarism. Appeasement and sympathy for Palestinian terror organizations will not render the European Union free of Islamist terror in the end.

The terror at the Park Hotel over Passover in Netanya in 2003 has left an indelible mark as to the brutality of the Islamist suicide bombers. All should condemn terror. I supported the Palestinian cause for freedom in an independent Palestinian state even before mainstream Israeli political opinion did. I attended “Peace Now “demonstrations in the past to sympathize with their cause. However, I find it difficult to support the Palestinian cause when their Hamas and Hezbollah leadership wish to destroy us by their terrorist acts. Moderation and pragmatism in the Palestinian camp has been replaced by fundamental Islamist extremism that is not only a threat to Israel but also to the Middle East and the world at large.

The ANC and South Africans in contrast had a common desire to end apartheid and build a new non-racial South Africa. In the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, that common desire of two enemies to make peace does not exist. The fact that there are people who see a similarity between Israel and apartheid South Africa does not render this truth for the reasons mentioned in my posts. I wish to refer you to an article written in the Guardian by South African journalist Benjamin Pogrund. He had been banned by the South African Apartheid Government.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1704780,00.html

meditations71 said...

Thank you again for the thoughtful comments. I did indeed not read many other posts on your blog before replying. I would in any case not want to suggest that your line of argumentation is a blanket 'apology' for Israeli politics.

I can understand that you must have seen many gruesome scenes at Israeli hospitals. At the same time, just the number of deaths and maimings are surely much higher on 'the other side'. Moreover, however much Israeli politicians invoke the need for defense (which I am not at all suggesting does not exist - there are indeed extremist elements on both sides as we all know) it is simply beyond me, and I dare say the majority of the global community (which is NOT equated by the US and British governments and the handful others who fairly unreservedly support Israel), how the brutality of the occupation, the land removals, uprooting of olive groves, the targeted assassinations that so often kill civilians, the collective punishments of Palestinians and now the wanton destruction around Lebanon can ever amount to 'self defence'. It seems quite frankly to be about revenge, a government losing all bearings.

I also understand that there is an 'existentialist' element to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (but it is also about more mundande things such as opposition to occupation on one hand, the defense of land and housing made available via occupaton on the other, access to water, etc.) that was not evident in South Africa. That said, the extremist elements among the ones confronting Israel, and I will not buy the argument that all opposing Israel are extremists or terrorists, can surely only be strengthened by the occupation and the brutal, indeed disproportionate retaliations, by the IDF.

I suppose it comes down to this question for me: what on earth can the IDF and Israeli politicians ever hope to accomplish? Are they aiming to wipe out a whole people, or do they seriously think that the intifada can be quenched by continuing like this? Tragic circumstances surround the creation of Israel, tragic politics by the stronger part since 1967 have made the situation much worse, and you wonder whether Israel ultimately can continue existing in the environment which it has played such a great part in creating. Alan Paton wrote in "Cry the Beloved Country" about those perpetrating violence on a subject people (in that case black South Africans) that " I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they (the whites of South Africa) have turned to loving, they will find we (the blacks) are turned to hating" - this is perhaps what has happened between Israeli and Palestinian also.

In any case, I would think there is little those of us not in charge of Israeli and US policy can do about this all...

Finally, two suggestions for reading. Pape's highly respected article (based on a research article published in the American Political Science Review) on the rationality of terrorism (not just a blind, unappeasable threat) http://www.amconmag.com/2005_07_18/article.html and the link between Israel and apartheid South Africa http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,1703245,00.html and http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1704036,00.html.