Wednesday, September 3

A Visit to South Africa and Some Observations

Table Mountain - majestically overlooks Cape Town
and the cold Atlantic Ocean.

During the month of August 2008, my wife and I travelled to Cape Town to visit my mother, sister and family. While we were there, I could not help making certain comparisons between the way South Africa had handled her race problems and had solved many of them. Israel, on the other hand, has not made much headway in solving her problems with the Palestinians.

South Africa’s problems during the evil apartheid years were racial. The whites had dominated the blacks and they were without any address whatsoever. The situation in Israel cannot really be compared to apartheid South Africa. It is different. Nevertheless, the problem with the Palestinians can be divided into two:

  1. Security problems – Some Palestinians were involved in terrorist attacks against Israelis during the first and second Intifada years. This resulted in Israel taking retaliatory actions which unfortunately had also caused untold suffering amongst the innocent Palestinian population.
  2. Racial problems – there has been an increased emphasis on Israel being referred to as a Jewish State. The innuendo by this statement is that those who are not Jewish may not have the same status and if one were to read some statements by establishment rabbis this feeling is further reinforced. Maybe it is here that some parallels may be found similar to the apartheid system in South Africa.

I had written in a previous post about the differences between apartheid South Africa and the Israeli Palestinian Conflict and I shall not delve into this again.

However, the racial aspect does remain and this can be found in the way Israel is usurping Palestinian lands by forced removals of Palestinians from their agricultural lands in the occupied territories, clearing the way for Jewish settlement expansion. This continues all the time. There is an overlap of security and racial issues. The security fence whose purpose is to protect Israelis from Palestinian terrorist infiltration encroaches into Palestinian agricultural lands creating enormous logistic problems for Palestinian farmers to cultivate their lands which is interspersed with roadblocks and brutal body searches. Also Palestinian homes are demolished without warning in many cases to make way for illegal settlement expansion. This has nothing to do with Palestinian terrorist action but plenty to do with Israeli greed to usurp Palestinian lands for high class settlement expansion and the building of new settlements for Zionist zealots. All this is occurring under the guise of “freezing existing settlements, and halting the building of new settlements”. On the ground the situation is different.

Had the security fence been built along the green line and not crossed into the Palestinian lands the case for its necessity to protect Israeli citizens from terror would be stronger and justified.

While in South Africa, I noticed how the different races had integrated to form a common multiracial society. Blacks and whites are working shoulder to shoulder in executive jobs, factories, the professions and in all aspects of life. I never saw any hostility between the races at all. South Africa was blessed with one of the greatest leaders of the last decade of the 20th Century – Nelson Mandela! He had a tremendous influence in the relative peaceful transition from a tyrannical apartheid state to a multiracial democratic state.

Here in Israel/Palestine, a leader of the calibre of Nelson Mandela is lacking.

South Africa has many problems, but race is not one of them.

However, this does not mean that South Africa has created the perfect society. Crime is rampant and it has one of the highest crime rates in the world. Another excellent source of information is the South African Police Report on the Crime Situation in South Africa.

Another serious problem is the AIDS problem which was not addressed by President Thabo Mbeki in the past. Southern Africa remains the region worst-affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. A combination of factors seem to be responsible for this including: poverty and social instability, high levels of sexually transmitted infections, the low status of women, sexual violence, high mobility (particularly migrant labour), and lack of good governance. South Africa has the sixth highest prevalence of HIV in the world, with 18.8% of the population estimated to be infected. The UNAIDS 2006 Global Report, estimated that 320 000 people died of AIDS related deaths in South Africa during 2005. South Africa is regarded as having the most severe HIV epidemic in the world.

Many South Africans won their freedom from apartheid but lost it to AIDS.

Despite all these serious problems, there is a feeling of a common patriotism shared by all South Africans, irrespective of their race, colour or creed. We, who live in volatile Israel/Palestine, could learn from the way South Africa had solved its racial issues and instilled a common feeling of “we are in this together and we owe it to ourselves and our children to move forward together for a better South Africa”. This feeling unfortunately is lacking in this part of the world and from this we can learn from South Africa’s experience on solving race problems.

On previous visits to South Africa during the past ten years, unemployment was so high and the large numbers of illegal immigrants entering South Africa to seek work had exacerbated the unemployment situation. Homeless people were found seeking shelter under bus shelters, park benches and just about every public place imaginable. There were also many street venders peddling products that were for sale in upbeat stores at cheaper prices. Today there is an improvement in the situation.

On my recent visit, there were fewer homeless and beggars. There used to be parking meters for those parking at the side of the pavements. These meters have been replaced by parking attendants who give out parking tickets for a nominal fee. This is one of the many ingenious ways to create jobs.

The shopping malls are very upbeat and are a real treat – very inviting to spend money! Wherever one goes one becomes more and more aware of how apartheid has collapsed being replaced by a multiracial society with an eye towards a better future.

The beauty of the Cape Peninsula is unsurpassed with the majestic Table Mountain greeting one on arrival at Cape Town Airport by plane.


aoc gold said...


Rain is falling all around,

It falls on field and tree,

It rains on the umbrella here,
And on the ships at sea.

-------- by warcraft gold

Carolyn said...

I'm an editorial assistant for "Boston Review," a national magazine of nonpartisan politics and culture. The current issue of the magazine features a great article by Joseph Levine called "History Matters," which explores the importance of knowing the history of Israeli-Palestinian relations in order to resolve the current conflict.

You can check out the article here: