FIGHT ISRAEL: From South Africa to Israel – Time for a New Divestment Campaign

Barack Obama’s inauguration coming as we celebrate of Martin Luther King Day predictably draws linkages between the two. Many use Obama’s election to claim a realization of the “dream.” Others mumble something about a post-racial America. I suspect that King, if alive, would reject such nonsense. Although when asked “who he thought King would support” in the 2008 primary campaign Obama made a good case for answering “Nobody,” it is possible that King may have supported Obama.

King was a politician of sorts, although not so much at the time of his assassination. We love King now, but at the end of his life he wasn’t so popular. Younger activists criticized him and called him names such as “Da Lord” – mocking his once high place in civil rights politics. President Lyndon B. Johnson and a host of government officials, local and national, condemned him when he spoke out against the Vietnam War. King was not universally cheered when he marched, to his death, with the garbage workers in Memphis striking for fair wages and respect. Truth be told, he was jeered, even by some blacks.

Sure, we love King now, but there was a time when people turned their back on him and his message.

It has always been troubling to witness King’s mission and message reduced to “I have a dream” in the popular culture. It’s taught to kids in kindergarten, and they carry it with them all their lives. But all dreams are not equal. They can be interpreted in a number of ways. And some dreams are nightmares, or turn into nightmares for other people.

Before it became a “quagmire” the war in Vietnam was a dream of the American political establishment. Exactly one year before his assassination, King, setting aside the grave danger it brought to him, challenged his government and broke with American imperial policy. At New York City’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, King linked the domestic exploitation of African Americans with “the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long.”

In his speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”, King said, “A time comes when silence is betrayal..,” And, “I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government.”

King’s charge is just as true today as it was 40-plus years ago.

America is still the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. Silence is still betrayal. But let’s take it a step beyond silence. Non-action is the other betrayal. Change isn’t just about an election in November and a celebration in January. It’s about doing something measurable to usher in a more peaceful world. Sure it’s good to change one’s perspective and way of looking at things. But the trick is to make your actions match what’s on your mind.

There is an arc. People and events are linked on the arc.

So, this year we should honor King in an active sense. We should commit ourselves to organize against the American policy of violence and empire. The anti-war movement should apply pressure on Obama to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan. And, just as important, particularly amid the horror that has been visited on the people of Gaza; a broader peace movement must also build real economic and political pressure against Israel’s immoral and criminal acts against the Palestinians. This King Day should mark the beginning of an organized push for American divestment from Israel.

When you think about it, US foreign policy toward Palestine has been a segregationist or apartheid policy. In his 2006 book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, former President Jimmy Carter likened Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and its repression of Palestinian people, both within Israel and in the occupied territories, to the state of apartheid, which existed in South Africa prior to the early 1990s. Apartheid means ‘separateness.’ And there is little debate that Zionism, the official ideology of Israel, is predicated on religious and ethnic separation or segregation. A self-described Jewish state — that is, a state that operates of, by and on behalf of a single group of people — cannot also be a secular, democratic state where persons of all religious and ethnic backgrounds are treated equally. A Jewish state that has never declared its borders, that has annexed and occupied territories, flouting international law and subjecting the indigenous population to poverty, indignity, theft, torture and death, is not only a colonialist outlaw state; it is also racist. As one Palestinian gentleman remarked to me, “While blacks in America were once considered subhuman, Palestinians are not considered humans at all.”

And Israel could not have pursued any of these policies without the steadfast financial and political support of the United States. It is no secret that Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. aid in the world. It receives more than $15 million every day from the United States, or $30 billion a year by most estimates. The F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters that have dropped hundreds of tons of bombs and missiles on Gaza are made in the United States and provided to the Israeli government. Every American taxpayer underwrites Israeli-style apartheid.

Divestment may be at odds with the position of many elected black leaders (the Congressional Black Caucus included), but it’s not at odds with what King spoke of and died for. It is not at odds with those he championed. He championed the locked out and oppressed.

Throughout my life, black politics has lined up with oppressed people in other nations. Malcolm X stood with Fidel Castro and the Cuban people following the 1958 ouster of US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, and with him the organized crime and American corporatist mobsters who exploited the Cuban people. Harlemites greeted Castro with affection as they gathered to welcome him during his stay at the Hotel Theresa in 1960 because he wanted to be “among the workers.”

Muhammad Ali is a “national treasure” now. But he wasn’t when he dropped the name Cassius Clay and said “Ain’t no Vietnamese ever called me nigger.”

Americans love Nelson Mandela, now. But he was a “terrorist” while he was heading “Spear of the Nation” – the armed wing of the African National Congress. That’s why he was locked up at Robben Island. Mandela’s name was only recently – during the 2nd part of the Bush Administration – removed from the State Department’s “terrorists list.” In the days of Ronald Reagan it was America and Israel that supported South Africa when the rest of the world said “enough.”

But black Americans remembered the hundreds of kids who died in Sharpesville Massacre in the 60s. We were in solidarity with those who took part in the Soweto uprising of 1976. We cried and protested when the South African police killed Steve Biko in 1977.

What’s happening in Palestine is not fundamentally different from what occurred in apartheid South Africa. Kids are being killed. People have been herded into the (more deadly) equivalent of bantustans. Political leaders are targeted for assassination. Most recently Hamas Interior Minister Said Siam was killed along with nine others, when Israeli warplanes bombed a home in the Jabalya refugee camp.

Israel’s behavior demands the same response from the world human rights community as was mustered against South Africa.

The facts are clear. The citizens of Gaza live in a virtual prison. They are surrounded by water, walls, fences and watch/gun towers.

In the latest assault, at least 1,133 Palestinians have been killed, including 346 children and 105 women; at least 5,200 have been injured. People talk about “suffering on both sides,” but there is no proportion in weaponry or force, which is why 100 Palestinians have died for every one Israeli.

The Palestinian people live under Israel’s apartheid blockade where even humanitarian aid is not allowed through – where citizens can get food, medicine and even goats, in addition to guns and weapons, only through tunnels.

Not just in Gaza but throughout all the occupied territories, Palestinian water rights along with their land and human rights have been stolen. Fundamentalist Jewish immigrants from Brooklyn have automatic citizenship and automatic civil and property rights, while the indigenous Palestinians lose and lose some more. Most often, it is Palestinian land that the migrants have settled on, with the blessings of Israel and the financial support of the United States via the Israeli government – in the face of international and United Nations’ resolutions against such settlements. It is Palestinian land, stolen for Israeli settlements, that the Palestinians have been firing mortars onto; Palestinian land that is bisected by Israeli-only roads and a wall that exceeds the Berlin Wall in size and cruelty. (No German had his farm or homestead cut in two by the wall.) They are Palestinian orchards that have been bulldozed; Palestinian homes that have been demolished; and American-made bulldozers that have done the job. A Caterpillar bulldozer crushed 23-year-old American peace activist Rachel Corrie to death when she stood in front of a doctor’s house in Gaza trying to prevent its demolition on March 16, 2003. And the same bulldozers have taken everything from Palestinian families year after year for decades.

Throughout the latest assault on Gaza, those blindly supportive of Israel raise a straw man argument asking, “Who struck the blow?” Or, “Fired the first shot?” Or, “Launched the first mortar.” Their answer to the question is almost always certain to be, “Hamas.” Before the days Hamas came to power, the same straw man was raised and knocked down as the answer back then was sure to be, “Fatah” – led by PLO leader Yasser Arafat.

Supporters of Israel never mention the blockade on Gaza or political assassinations or the wall or the poverty and despair. Instead, they label Hamas or anyone opposing occupation as “terrorists” and lamely apologize for the civilians killed calling them “collateral damage,” or they claim that the women and children killed in the school or hospital or UN facilities were “being used as human shield.” No one calls the Jewish settlers human shields, though their incursions into occupied territory has been both a provocation and an excuse since 1967.

Just take a look at a map of the territory lost by the Palestinian people since 1948 and at an inexorable pace since 1967. Then answer the question, “Who stuck the first blow?”

Throughout the latest attack on the Palestinian people I have heard a few people openly make the bloodthirsty suggestion that “they (the Israelis) should kill them all.” But the most common thing one hears is something similar to what Obama said on a visit to Israel in the summer 2008 that “If somebody shot rockets at my house where my two daughters were sleeping at night, I’d do everything in my power to stop them.” The new president’s comment was one of the first things that came out the mouths of various spokespersons for the Israeli government as the Christmastime onslaught on Gaza began. But what of the Israeli rockets and bombs and bullets and bulldozers that for years have hit the homes where Palestinian children were sleeping?

Now Israel has called a cease fire in Gaza, if only for a moment. Still, we must organize and protest in an effective way beyond the moment. We have our work cut out for us. The Palestinians have few friends in high places. By a vote of 404-1 the House recently signaled its support for Israel’s apartheid regime and literally condemned the Palestinians right of self-defense. The only member of Congress to take a stand with the Palestinians was and is Ohio’s Dennis Kucinich.

On the campaign trail at a conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Obama declared himself a “Zionist,” and upon being elected chose Rahm Emanuel, a dual citizen of the US and Israel, as his chief of staff. The Israeli paper Ha’aretz (6 Nov. 2008) said it all: Obama’s first pick: Israeli Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff. Some say that Emanuel “has a track record on Israel well to the right of George Bush.” This includes signing a 2003 letter justifying Israel’s policy of political assassinations and criticizing George Bush for not supporting Israel enough. Emanuel backed a resolution supporting Israel’s bombing of Lebanon in the summer of 2006 and he called on the US government to cancel a planned speech to Congress by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki because he had condemned Israel’s actions in Lebanon.

As president, where will Obama stand? More important, what is the moral stand, and what must we do to press the government to take it?

First, we must see Israel with the same eyes as we saw South Africa in the apartheid years – as a racist nation deserving of international isolation and sanctions. Second, we must demand that the United States end its $30 billion a year military support to the country. Third, we should organize, confront and demand that public bodies such as universities, local and state governments divest their portfolios from companies that do business in or with Israel. Fourth, we should identify and boycott those companies that do business with and in Israel. Fifth, we should call for a cultural boycott of Israel, and boycott those artists who perform in the country.

As for the new president we should continue to pressure him (1) to establish a fair involvement with the disputing parties, recognizing their equal humanity, not take the one-sided, Israel-first position of his predecessors; (2) to pressure the Israeli government to allow unimpeded access of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip; (3) to call for an investigation into Israel’s misuse of U.S. weapons, to include the use of white phosphorous and urge the UN weapons inspectors to determine if Israel is using depleted uranium-tipped missiles on the Palestinians. This would be a first step toward ending arms transfers to Israel.

All people have a right to exist – Jews and Palestinians. The way to peace is for each side to respect the other’s right to live.

But America must be a fair player in what is now a continual catastrophe with our country on the wrong side of history. We must remember that “where you spend your money is a political act.” Putting pressure on business and government is a means to force change. By “getting in their pockets” we can say no to the violence. We can say, “Not in our names.” That’s what I think Dr. King would say and do at a time like this.

Almost 40 years ago, Martin Luther King warned that “the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated.” Those “triple evils” of racism, economic injustice and militarism are what we must fight – the dream of King’s was the defeat of the “triple evils.”

As we celebrate his day, let’s do it in solidarity with the dispossessed. As Vice-President Joe Biden was saying his farewell to the Senate he quoted King saying, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” I believe Biden is right as King was right. But there’s a strong magnetic pull that has the needle still pointed on injustice. The injustice of being the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” We can help move the needle toward just by insisting that our country sees a Palestinian life having as much value as an Israeli life.

Ref: Counterpunch
Kevin Alexander Gray is a civil rights organizer in South Carolina. His book, Waiting for Lightning to Strike, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: kagamba@bellsouth.net

American Hegemony – the timeline A must read!

The US maintains to this day over a dozen direct dependencies, the largest of which is Puerto Rico. Its military forces are active over most of the globe: at last audit about 226 countries have US military troops, 63 of which host American bases, while only 46 countries in the world have no US military presence – a projection of military power that makes the Roman, British, and Soviet empires pale in comparison. The bulk of this document will deal with what is alternatively referred to as “neo-colonialism”, “hegemony”, “proxy rule”, or “informal empire”: roughly, a system of “dual elite” political rule, in which domestic elites (the proxy) recieve backing from (are dependent on – to varying degrees) a foreign elite, and in return protect (to varying degrees) the foreign power’s interests in the country (security, economic, or domestic political interests). This is, at least, the framework within which I use the terms – as it is generally accepted by students of history. To take an explanation cited by Ariel Cohen as “One of the more successful attempts made to create a coherent theory of empires” in Russian Imperialism:

“Empire is a relationship, formal or informal, in which one state controls the effective political sovereignty of another political society. It can be achieved by force, by political collaboration, by economic, social, or cultural dependence. Imperialism is simply the process or policy of establishing or maintaining an empire.”
–Michael Doyle, Empires
As a point of reference formal American imperialism begins (or not – one would have to completely ignore the genocide of the native population, African and Native-American slavery, rapid and continuous expansion of the national borders through war, rapid and continuous expansion of mercantilism through war and the threat of war, the ethnic cleansing of indigenous peoples, the mid 1800s mercantilist state established in Nicaragua, etc.) with the aquisition of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Phillipines after the Spanish-American War of 1898. It’s a good point to remember how that war started: part hoax, part sensationalized, war mongering “journalism”, and of course much talk about the brutality of the enemy and the necessity of our intervention on behalf of the suffering – in this case on behalf of the Cubans and their savage treatment at the hands of the tyrannical Spaniards: much better for them to suffer at our hands.

Old habits die hard.

For the sake of what has become a very very poor attempt at brevity, or in recognition of the precedent set by the Nuremberg Tribunal and principles laid out under the UN charter, these notes will mostly focus on post-WWII history – though it would seem imperative to include interventions that fly in the face of the popular misconception that the United States ended its imperial project at the end of the Spanish-American war. There were military involvements during the 1890s by the USG in Argentina, Chile, Haiti, Hawaii, Nicaragua, China, Korea, Panama, Samoa, in extremely brutal labour conflicts within the nation, and something akin to a war on working Americans waged by the National Association of Manufacturers that will otherwise go undiscussed. The Phillipines makes a decent representative example of the US’ first official exercise in colonial imperialism and formal empire [*], also referred to as “civilizational imperialism” – a project we’re presently repeating.

“Lest this seem to be the bellicose pipedream of some dyspeptic desk soldier, let us remember that the military deal of our country has never been defensive warfare. Since the Revolution, only the United Kingdom has beaten our record for square miles of territory acquired by military conquest. Our exploits against the American Indian, against the Filipinos, the Mexicans, and against Spain are on a par with the campaigns of Genghis Khan, the Japanese in Manchuria and the African attack of Mussolini. No country has ever declared war on us before we first obliged them with that gesture. Our whole history shows we have never fought a defensive war. And at the rate our armed forces are being implemented at present, the odds are against our fighting one in the near future.”
–Major General Smedley D. Butler, America’s Armed Forces: ‘In Time of Peace’, 1935.


1898-1914: The Phillipines
1903-1936: Panama
1904-1978: Dominican Republic
1915-1934: Haiti
1912-1979: Nicaragua
1917-1920: Russian Civil War
1932-1972: The Tuskegee Syphilis Study
1936-1958: America
1940: The McCollum Memo.
1942-1945: Japanese-American internment.
1945-1974: Greece.
1945-1960s: China. Tibet. Taiwan.
1945-1952: South Korean Occupation, Cheju Island, the Korean War
1945-1994: Vietnam: “Remember! Only you can prevent forests.”
1945-Present: Projection of American Nuclear Power
1946-1954: Phillipines
1946-1996: Marshall Islands.
1949-1961: Burma
1948-1976: Italy.
1948-1956: Peru
1949: Syria
1949-1953: Ukraine
1949-1976: Thailand
1950-?: Congress for Cultural Freedom/International Association for Cultural Freedom
1950: Puerto Rico
1950s-1970s: United States
1950-1975: Spain
1952-1959: Cuba
1952-1992: South Korea
1953: Costa Rica
1953-1979: Iran
1950-1952: Albania
1950-1952: Poland
1950s: Japan
1953: Segue: explosion of the first Russian hydrogen bomb; Destalinization begins; the McCarthy Era
1953-1996: Guatemala
1954-1965: Pakistan
1955-1958: Indonesia – Operation HAIK
1956-1976: Jordan
957-1975: Laos.
1957-1986: Haiti
1957: Syria
1958-1973: Cambodia
1958: Lebanon
1959: Iraq
1959-Present: Cuba
1960-1963: Ecuador
1960-Present: Congo
1961-Present: Diego Garcia
1962: Brazil
1962-Present: Guyana
1962-1975: Paraguay
1962-1977: Chile
1962-1989: South Africa
1962-1979: The Enemy of Communists are Islamic Fundamentalists are Our Kind of Bastards
1963-1979: Iraq *
1964: Brazil
1964: Panama
1963-1994: Malawi
1964-1971: Uruguay
1965-1987: Phillipines – the Democratizing Virtues of “Constitutional Authoritarianism”
1965: Indonesia.
1966-1967: Guatemala
1966: Ghana
1967: Bolivia; Assassination of Ernesto Guevara
1967: Detroit, Michigan
1968: El Salvador
1968-2000: Peru
1970s: Mexico
1971: Pakistan East and West, or ‘Don’t squeeze Yahya’ [*] [*]
1971: Uganda
1971-1978: Bolivia
1972: Philippines
USG backs overthrow of Philippine republic.
1972-1976: Ecuador
1973: Oman
1973-Present: The “War on Drugs”
1973: Uruguay
1973-1978: Afghanistan
1974: Pine Ridge, South Dakota
1974-1976: Portugal
1974-Present: The Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act
1975: Australia
1975-1992: Angola
1975-1999: East Timor: the Indonesian Occupation
1975-?: US backs the Khmer Rouge.
1975-Present: Morocco
1976: Operation CONDOR
Plan CONDOR, Part Deux
1976-1980: Jamaica
1976-1984: Mozambique
1976-1983: Argentina
1977-1978: Ethiopia; Somalia; the Ogaden Swap
1978-2002: Kenya
July 3, 1979-1989: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Operation CYCLONE
1979: Greensboro Massacre.
1979-2001: Sudan
1979-1990: Nicaragua, “The Threat of a Good Example.”
1980s: Iran-Contra; the CIA and the Crack Trade
1980s: Romania
1980: Grenada
1980: Guyana. Fun with FOIA.
1980-1992: El Salvador
1980-1989: Liberia [2]
1962 and 1980.
1980: The Nojeh Coup and the origins of the Iraq-Iran war.
1980-1988: The Gulf War, Genocide of the Kurds
1980-Present: Turkey
Turkey becomes a long-running top recipient of US foreign military aid shortly after the 1980 coup, upon which time the new regime passes several laws banning cultural and literary expression of Kurdish identity: the Kurdish language becomes illegal, as were Kurdish broadcasts, publications, and other means of cultural expression – everything down to Kurdish first names (until August 2002, when such restrictions began being lifted with some relationship to reality under European pressure, though still not much).
Out from under the harsh state repression a Kurish seperatist movement forms in 1984, which the Turkish government duly attempts to wipe out with violence. Throughout the conflict, which by any standard is an explicit campaign of outright cultural genocide, Turkey remains a top recipient of US military support. In fact military aid escalates through the counter-insurgency campaign, in which some of the most brutal tactics are largely dependent on lethal resources generously delivered by the USG.

The war against Kurdish society and the PKK forcibly evacuated anywhere between 500,000 to 2,000,000 Kurds and killed over 30,000; Turkish military razed entire villages as part of the force evacuation program, burning nearly all Kurdish villages in southeast Turkey to the ground by the end of the campaign. Uncritical, unconditional support for Turkey continued despite ongoing political repression and numerous human rights abuses, including the use of torture, “virginity exams”, and racist governmental policies.

The PKK in the meantime has the onerous distinction of being considered freedom fighters when in Iraq and terrorists when in Turkey, demonstrating once again Western politicians’ inability to just call an indigenous nationalist movement an indigenous nationalist movement.

After the capture of the PKK’s top leader the conflict diminished in intensity, but the conflict remains largely unsettled in terms of general Turkish repression of the Kurdish population.

Human Rights Watch: Turkey: Weapons Transfers and Violations of International Law, 1995
1981: Libya
Two Libyan jets shot down in 1981. Evidence of CIA involvement dates back to the early 70s and extends into the late 90s.
1982-84: Lebanon
1982-84 marines expel PLO and back Phalangists and Navy bombs and shells Muslim positions.
1982-1990: Chad
1982: Guatemala
1982-1983: Surinam ^
1983: Guatemala
1983: Grenada
1984-1990: Honduras
1986: Libya
1987: Fiji ^
1987: Bolivia
1988-1989: Panama [*]
1988-Present: Columbia
1989: Libya
1989: Phillipines
1989-1994: Afghanistan.
1990: Segue: Collapse of the Soviet Union
1991: Gulf War II – The Empire Strikes Back.
1991: Kuwait, or “Liberate this!”
1991-2003: Iraq Sanctions, Disarmament, and Bombing
1991-?: De-Industrialization of Russia
1992-95: Balkans
1992: Los Angeles, California.
1992-1994: Somalia, or “Defense Contractor Job Security”
1992: Algeria
1993: Waco: “Crush Satan, Crush Satan”.
1993-2006: Central Asia – The New Friendly Dictators
1994: Rwanda
1995: Croatia
1995: Bosnia
1995-Present: Mexico: Chiapas, Mexico
1998: Sudan
1998: Nicaragua.
1998-Present: Indonesia/East Timor (continued)
2002-Present: Iraq – ‘The attack has been spectacular.’
2004-Present: Somalia – The Hard Power of Reverse Psychology
2006-Present: Iran
Present: The New Colonialism – US Military Cities Abroad
1944-Present: The US government tries to erase its own history.
1950-Present: The IMF, World Bank, GATS, FTAA, NAFTA, WTO, etc.
10/2001-Present: US campaign in Afghanistan. You Too Can Make a Desert and Call It Peace.
4/2002: Venezuela.
School of the Americas: Now the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation – an old dog with a new name.
2001-Present: Haiti [* *]

Ref: Flagrancy

Intresting? Then follow the american colonialism thread …
Further reading:

Empire’s Workshop, Greg Grandin.
Legacy of Ashes, Tim Weiner.
Hope and Memory, 1801-2004.
CCR: The Complete 9/11 Timeline
US Foreign Policy in the Periphery: 30 case studies.
PeaceWorks: Backgrounder on the current crisis
The Acts of Democracies, 1945-Present.
US Uses of Force 1870-1995 [pdf].
US Crimes in Africa.
CIA Death Squad Timeline compiled by Ralph McGehee.
US Interventions in the Middle East – A Timeline.
McGehee: CIA Death Squad Timeline
A list of covert US operations, prepared by “Tom Gervasi of the Center for Military Research and Analysis in 1984”.
FAS: Coldwar and US Military Interventions.
Zmag: Timeline of US Policy in the Middle East, US military interventions.
Blum: US Assassination Plots. Read a fairly full accounting of disservices to the nation: Killing Hope. I haven’t yet, but you should.
American Peace
US Intervention in the Middle East
US Labor Timeline
Instances of Use of United States Forces Abroad, 1798 – 1993
imperial stats

Further resources:
American Studies Resources.
1975 Congressional Church Interim Report.
Cold War International History Project.

South African Intelligence Minister Kasrils: Israel’s behaviour worse than apartheid

Kasrils says Israel’s behaviour worse than apartheid

PRETORIA – South African Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils Thursday accused Israel of conducting a policy against the Palestinians that was worse than apartheid.

Speaking on the sidelines of a UN meeting on the situation in the Palestinian territories, Kasrils said South Africa’s townships had never been attacked by helicopter gunships and tanks, in contrast to the military means employed by Israel.

“The analogy between apartheid and Israel’s occupation of Palestine is often made. It is not the same thing. The occupation is absolutely worse,” Kasrils told reporters.

“It is important that we tell the Israeli authorities they are behaving like fascists when they do certain things, although we are not calling it a fascist state.”
Kastrils called on the United States and European Union to lift their economic and political embargo of the Palestinian Authority now that Hamas and Fatah have joined in a government of national unity.

He said the meeting would, among things, prepare for demonstrations marking the 40th anniversary year of the Israel occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian observer at the United Nations, said the gathering had been organised in Pretoria to deliver lessons from South Africa about how it had dismantled apartheid.

“An unjust system was defeated here and they have been elsewhere. We can do it in Palestine too,” he said.

“The cracks are showing in the Israeli occupation. They tried to break the Palestinian Authority but they were unable to.” –Sapa-AFP

Ref: Global Research

South Africa: not yet post-colonial

Recent violence between the poor and the poorer in South Africa was the by-product of the country’s stagnation – it has achieved what it set out to do racially, but not economically or socially. The old colonial model of modernity is still the basis for power

The image of an unknown young black man being burned alive in a South African township street defined the recent xenophobic violence, mostly by black South Africans against black foreigners, many of them refugees from Zimbabwe. (Investigations by a veteran journalist, Beauregard Tromp, from the Johannesburg daily, The Star, later identified him as Ernesto Nhamuave, 35, from Mozambique.)

It reminded us of the violence that engulfed the townships in the final years of apartheid – except that it happened 14 years into South Africa’s post-apartheid democracy. The world was once again shocked, especially as this violence came soon after another racist incident that made the international headlines: a video clip of four Afrikaner students at the historically Afrikaans University of the Free State in Bloemfontein playing humiliating “practical jokes” on blacks, mostly older women, who work in their student residence.

How could this racism and xenophobia reappear in Nelson Mandela’s rainbow nation which was held up as a model of reconciliation and hope for the African continent and the planet? To answer this, we have to look beyond the romantic image of post-apartheid South Africa. The image was an illusion, with its own script: that South Africa’s main historical challenge was to overcome the division between whites and blacks, which had been achieved with Mandela’s inauguration as South Africa’s first democratically elected president on 27 April 1994. And with a model liberal democratic constitution and promises of real economic growth, the country could now look to a bright, unified, non-racial future.

Race is important in South Africa. But this illusion spoke more of the prevailing Manichean world-view and its simplistic belief in good triumphing over evil, and a hopeless global epoch desperately seeking stories of hope, than about South Africa itself. To understand what is happening in South Africa we need a much longer timeline than the few decades of apartheid, namely the colonial era, which hasn’t yet ended. It was from the British colonisation of the Cape after 1806 that the main characteristics of the modern South African political economy evolved. 
Political alliance

In the 19th century, and first half of the 20th, western Europe exported its modernity to Africa and other parts of the world via colonialism; this included the idea of a unified nation-state with a dominant national language, an industrial economy, a national schooling system and modern technology. The British imposed most of this in South Africa between the discovery of gold and diamonds in the 1860-1870s and the founding of the Union of South Africa in 1910. The founding more or less completed the unification of the territory of present-day South Africa, and firmly sealed the political alliance between its most powerful white communities, those of British descent and the Afrikaners (1).

By this time South Africa’s industrialisation was well under way, based on its huge mineral wealth. A system of railways, then of roads, was built to link the main areas of white settlement and industrial economic activity. By the middle of the 20th century the state and a few big corporations together established control over the South African media, which rarely threatened the status quo. The state was designed to keep a minority in government, and the government’s main economic function was to serve as gateway between South Africa’s wealth and the colonial motherland, later broadened to include its main trading partners (2).

Possibly the highest price paid for the establishment of the modern colonial political economy was the cultural humiliation and economic weakening of its indigenous communities. (This is not to say that the pre-colonial era was a peaceful idyll.) Indigenous norms of cultural and economic excellence were damaged to the point that the humiliated quietly accepted South Africa’s imported, colonial modernity as the norm. This was colonialism’s most significant and longest-lasting effect. And its acceptance can be seen in the behaviour of the two most successful indigenous political resistance movements once they won power, Afrikaner and African nationalism.

Afrikaner nationalism is now viewed through the prism of its dying days in the violent, racist 1970s and 1980s. People overlook the truth that Afrikaner nationalism was, in important ways, a classic, indigenous African anti-colonial movement. Such movements often assumed that salvation meant taking over the state from the colonists. This goal became so important (and was often achieved after a long armed struggle, in which few state 
and economic management skills were developed) that the real challenge was only identified much 
later: how to reconcile imported colonial modernity with local needs.
Vehicle of patronage

Instead, new elites used the state as a vehicle of patronage (often for their ethnic constituencies), replacing the former colonial elites as the outside world’s gateway to local riches, and changing very little in the lives of most of the citizens.

When Afrikaner nationalism’s vehicle, the National Party (NP), won the election in 1948, it quickly set about distributing patronage through the state to its ethnic constituency. Although the state and the civil service were seen as primarily in the service of the whites, the westernised Afrikaners who took over the state, using their mother-tongue, were, like post-colonial elites all over the third world, fiercely nationalist while at the same they craved western recognition (3). Afrikaner nationalists sought this recognition through further technological, economic and bureaucratic modernisation, which, in spite of many impressive achievements, failed where it mattered most: in reconciling imported colonial modernity with the needs of all the indigenous communities.

In these circumstances, when it became clear in the 1950s that the NP was not interested in serious dialogue with black political groupings, African nationalism’s main vehicle, the African National Congress (ANC), under the spirited and brave leadership of such people as Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, gained momentum. Crucially for an African resistance movement, the ANC’s target was not a foreign colonial power, but a local power acting colonially, the NP. This explains why one of the key concepts of Nelson Mandela’s generation of leaders was non-racialism, through which they refused the racism of the NP; it has still has to become a reality in South Africa.

Instead of learning from the NP’s failures, the ANC repeated the anti-colonial errors of judgment: they also assumed that if only they could take over the state, there would be a truly new dispensation.
The ANC, mostly under the influence of the South Africa Communist Party, also realised the need to take control of the economy, but until the fall of the Berlin Wall it was thought that nationalising key sectors would be the main way to do this.

By the time the ANC came to power in 1994, there were at least three powerful factions, belonging to two generations of leaders. These were the “Robben Islanders”, the older generation of leaders under Mandela (many were in prison with him); the “exiles”under Thabo Mbeki, a younger generation of leaders who had been in political exile from the 1960s to the early 1990s; and the “in-ziles”, also a younger generation, mostly former civil society activists who hadn’t gone into exile, with prominent names like the lawyer and now businessman Matthews Phosa, and the former trade unionist and also now businessman, Cyril Ramaphosa.

The “Robben Islanders” under Mandela first led the ANC after its unbanning in 1990, and the government from April 1994. Their guiding ideology was a non-racial nationalism and they laid strong emphasis on reconciliation. The combination of Mandela’s extraordinary unifying power, a relatively strong state and infrastructure, and the huge goodwill and trust in the future by the majority of citizens gave them a unique chance in South Africa’s history to balance imported modernity with outstanding local needs.

Laying the ground for social reform

Unfortunately they did not grasp this because of a failure to understand that even non-racial nationalism is an effect of the colonial political economy, rather than its alternative; a failure to rise to the challenges of the “Washington Consensus”, which meant South Africa, under Mbeki’s stewardship, was the first African government to “voluntarily” adopt the WC’s approach through the neo-liberal GEAR (Growth, Employment and Redistribution) economic policy in 1996 without consulting the country or the ANC; and an adoption of race-based policies of positive labour discrimination (affirmative action) and economic empowerment of the poor (Black Economic Empowerment, BEE).

The last two factors, especially, laid the ground for the African race-nationalist exile faction led by Mbeki, who was deputy president at the time, and played the role of an executive prime minister. Their moment arrived at the ANC’s 50th national conference in December 1997 in Upington, when Mandela announced (in a speech widely believed to have been written by Mbeki) that the era of reconciliation was over, and the era of social transformation had begun, as envisioned in the Mbeki faction’s cherished project, the “National Democratic Revolution” (NDR).

The aims of the NDR have been stated bluntly by Mbeki’s senior policy aide, Joel Netshitenzhe – that the ANC as “vanguard” of the “masses of our people” should deploy its “loyal cadres” to take control of all sectors of society, including the economy, in which BEE, affirmative action and land restitution were to be key policy tools, and where the achievement of blunt racial quotas effectively became the main criterion of “success”.

The real disaster is a basic error of logic: wanting to correct the social injustices of the racist apartheid era by using race as guiding principle, instead of language or income levels, both of which overlap on the race-based social injustices of the past, but do not maintain an ugly fiction of race in the corrective policies.

What were the effects of the Mbeki approach? Its initial (now seriously threatened) achievements at first overshadowed the longer-term crisis that it has created. Through BEE and affirmative action, guided by the centralist NDR, a small black middle-class was created, of which the new black billionaires, such as Ramaphosa, are the proud symbol. But at the same time relatively little changed in the lives of the 60% poor to very poor South Africans, overwhelmingly black and living in townships or squatter camps.

State companies such as the national broadcaster, electricity provider (Eskom), telecommunications company (Telkom) and the civil service, from which more than a 100,000 skilled people (mostly white) have been lost since 1995, became vehicles of party patronage. The most important effect of this was the lack of improvement and indeed further collapse of public health, education, transport and other infrastructure; the 60% of poor, black South Africans suffer most from this.

The combination of the Department of Home Affairs’ collapse, the Zimbabwe crisis (Mbeki’s “quiet diplomacy” has failed spectacularly), and up to three million Zimbabwean refugees (turned into illegal immigrants by the department’s mismanagement of their status), and the poor control of borders, has caused a refugee crisis that remained unacknowledged by Mbeki, whose main tactic in a crisis is denial: even the 10 refugee camps that are being set up for more than 40,000 displaced Africans from other countries at the time of writing, are not officially called refugee camps, but temporary shelters.

In hindsight, the xenophobic violence that erupted in May was entirely predictable (and had been predicted by several intellectuals, such as Rhoda Khadalie in August 2006 in the daily Business Day, after attacks on Somali citizens in the Western Cape). Against the background of poor service delivery, crumbling infrastructure and continuing poverty in townships and squatter camps (mostly in the richest province, Gauteng, and the second richest province, the Western Cape), where many refugees live in desperate conditions, black South Africans, neglected by the government, finally turned against foreign citizens accused of taking houses and jobs. They had seldom in the 20th century displayed xenophobic behaviour but they now were perfect exemplars of the traumatised victim who demands recognition through violence against a weaker party.

Perhaps the most worrying sign for the Mbeki government is that its chief anti-poverty tool, social grants, financed by strong commodity and mineral prices, and (according to the minister of finance) currently provided to 12.4 million South Africans, did not buy the political stability that the government probably hoped for as pay-off for the devastating effects of its neo-liberal economics and state mismanagement.

In the broader colonial period of South Africa’s history, the Mbeki government has, through the threatened small black middle-class, reconfirmed the old post-colonial pattern of including a small part of its constituency in imported modernity without reforming it to address local needs. More crucially, through the erosion of the state and infrastructure (as well as its failure to stop the flood of skilled, mostly white, emigration), the Mbeki government has destroyed significant parts of the imported modernity. This is why anti-modern pathologies, which manifest in similar conditions all over the world (racism, ethnocentrism, xenophobia and fundamentalist forms of religion), are on the rise.

Does this mean that all hope is lost for South Africa? It needn’t be. Mbeki’s eviction as leader of the ANC in December 2007, and his replacement by Jacob Zuma, who connects both the exile and inzile factions, has opened up a space for serious national debate. Just as Mbeki’s eviction acted as a pressure-release valve for simmering anti-modern discontent, it also released new ideas from civil society into the public space. Whether South Africa slides further into anti-modern pathologies, or whether it re-invents itself, depends on how fast existing alternative policies, emphasising indigenous languages more, and community-orientated economics are adopted by the ANC, or by the new party the country now needs.

The trouble with the ANC is that the policy alternatives talked about by its main (and increasingly powerful) allies, the trade union federation Cosatu and the South Africa Communist Party, are still in a command-style economic vein, which will not work in the absence of an effective state, or in the presence of the country’s rich cultural diversity. Besides this, a new group of dubious characters in the Zuma camp, including convicted criminals elected in December to the ANC’s National Executive Committee, have vested interests in maintaining the illusion of a strong unified ANC as a vehicle of continued state patronage, tenders and contracts.

The main political hope for South Africa is now in its powerful civil society and rich cultural diversity. Together they have a wealth of local experience for workable policy alternatives and a record of true participation in change. But they will need help from friends all over the planet for the push beyond imported modernity and nationalism that must eventually come.

Ref: Le MOnde By Johann Rossouw

South Africa: not yet post-colonial

Recent violence between the poor and the poorer in South Africa was the by-product of the country’s stagnation – it has achieved what it set out to do racially, but not economically or socially. The old colonial model of modernity is still the basis for power

The image of an unknown young black man being burned alive in a South African township street defined the recent xenophobic violence, mostly by black South Africans against black foreigners, many of them refugees from Zimbabwe. (Investigations by a veteran journalist, Beauregard Tromp, from the Johannesburg daily, The Star, later identified him as Ernesto Nhamuave, 35, from Mozambique.)

It reminded us of the violence that engulfed the townships in the final years of apartheid – except that it happened 14 years into South Africa’s post-apartheid democracy. The world was once again shocked, especially as this violence came soon after another racist incident that made the international headlines: a video clip of four Afrikaner students at the historically Afrikaans University of the Free State in Bloemfontein playing humiliating “practical jokes” on blacks, mostly older women, who work in their student residence.

How could this racism and xenophobia reappear in Nelson Mandela’s rainbow nation which was held up as a model of reconciliation and hope for the African continent and the planet? To answer this, we have to look beyond the romantic image of post-apartheid South Africa. The image was an illusion, with its own script: that South Africa’s main historical challenge was to overcome the division between whites and blacks, which had been achieved with Mandela’s inauguration as South Africa’s first democratically elected president on 27 April 1994. And with a model liberal democratic constitution and promises of real economic growth, the country could now look to a bright, unified, non-racial future.

Race is important in South Africa. But this illusion spoke more of the prevailing Manichean world-view and its simplistic belief in good triumphing over evil, and a hopeless global epoch desperately seeking stories of hope, than about South Africa itself. To understand what is happening in South Africa we need a much longer timeline than the few decades of apartheid, namely the colonial era, which hasn’t yet ended. It was from the British colonisation of the Cape after 1806 that the main characteristics of the modern South African political economy evolved. 


Political alliance

In the 19th century, and first half of the 20th, western Europe exported its modernity to Africa and other parts of the world via colonialism; this included the idea of a unified nation-state with a dominant national language, an industrial economy, a national schooling system and modern technology. The British imposed most of this in South Africa between the discovery of gold and diamonds in the 1860-1870s and the founding of the Union of South Africa in 1910. The founding more or less completed the unification of the territory of present-day South Africa, and firmly sealed the political alliance between its most powerful white communities, those of British descent and the Afrikaners (1).

By this time South Africa’s industrialisation was well under way, based on its huge mineral wealth. A system of railways, then of roads, was built to link the main areas of white settlement and industrial economic activity. By the middle of the 20th century the state and a few big corporations together established control over the South African media, which rarely threatened the status quo. The state was designed to keep a minority in government, and the government’s main economic function was to serve as gateway between South Africa’s wealth and the colonial motherland, later broadened to include its main trading partners (2).

Possibly the highest price paid for the establishment of the modern colonial political economy was the cultural humiliation and economic weakening of its indigenous communities. (This is not to say that the pre-colonial era was a peaceful idyll.) Indigenous norms of cultural and economic excellence were damaged to the point that the humiliated quietly accepted South Africa’s imported, colonial modernity as the norm. This was colonialism’s most significant and longest-lasting effect. And its acceptance can be seen in the behaviour of the two most successful indigenous political resistance movements once they won power, Afrikaner and African nationalism.

Afrikaner nationalism is now viewed through the prism of its dying days in the violent, racist 1970s and 1980s. People overlook the truth that Afrikaner nationalism was, in important ways, a classic, indigenous African anti-colonial movement. Such movements often assumed that salvation meant taking over the state from the colonists. This goal became so important (and was often achieved after a long armed struggle, in which few state 
and economic management skills were developed) that the real challenge was only identified much 
later: how to reconcile imported colonial modernity with local needs.

Vehicle of patronage

Instead, new elites used the state as a vehicle of patronage (often for their ethnic constituencies), replacing the former colonial elites as the outside world’s gateway to local riches, and changing very little in the lives of most of the citizens.

When Afrikaner nationalism’s vehicle, the National Party (NP), won the election in 1948, it quickly set about distributing patronage through the state to its ethnic constituency. Although the state and the civil service were seen as primarily in the service of the whites, the westernised Afrikaners who took over the state, using their mother-tongue, were, like post-colonial elites all over the third world, fiercely nationalist while at the same they craved western recognition (3). Afrikaner nationalists sought this recognition through further technological, economic and bureaucratic modernisation, which, in spite of many impressive achievements, failed where it mattered most: in reconciling imported colonial modernity with the needs of all the indigenous communities.

In these circumstances, when it became clear in the 1950s that the NP was not interested in serious dialogue with black political groupings, African nationalism’s main vehicle, the African National Congress (ANC), under the spirited and brave leadership of such people as Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, gained momentum. Crucially for an African resistance movement, the ANC’s target was not a foreign colonial power, but a local power acting colonially, the NP. This explains why one of the key concepts of Nelson Mandela’s generation of leaders was non-racialism, through which they refused the racism of the NP; it has still has to become a reality in South Africa.

Instead of learning from the NP’s failures, the ANC repeated the anti-colonial errors of judgment: they also assumed that if only they could take over the state, there would be a truly new dispensation. The ANC, mostly under the influence of the South Africa Communist Party, also realised the need to take control of the economy, but until the fall of the Berlin Wall it was thought that nationalising key sectors would be the main way to do this.

By the time the ANC came to power in 1994, there were at least three powerful factions, belonging to two generations of leaders. These were the “Robben Islanders”, the older generation of leaders under Mandela (many were in prison with him); the “exiles”under Thabo Mbeki, a younger generation of leaders who had been in political exile from the 1960s to the early 1990s; and the “in-ziles”, also a younger generation, mostly former civil society activists who hadn’t gone into exile, with prominent names like the lawyer and now businessman Matthews Phosa, and the former trade unionist and also now businessman, Cyril Ramaphosa.

The “Robben Islanders” under Mandela first led the ANC after its unbanning in 1990, and the government from April 1994. Their guiding ideology was a non-racial nationalism and they laid strong emphasis on reconciliation. The combination of Mandela’s extraordinary unifying power, a relatively strong state and infrastructure, and the huge goodwill and trust in the future by the majority of citizens gave them a unique chance in South Africa’s history to balance imported modernity with outstanding local needs.
Laying the ground for social reform

Unfortunately they did not grasp this because of a failure to understand that even non-racial nationalism is an effect of the colonial political economy, rather than its alternative; a failure to rise to the challenges of the “Washington Consensus”, which meant South Africa, under Mbeki’s stewardship, was the first African government to “voluntarily” adopt the WC’s approach through the neo-liberal GEAR (Growth, Employment and Redistribution) economic policy in 1996 without consulting the country or the ANC; and an adoption of race-based policies of positive labour discrimination (affirmative action) and economic empowerment of the poor (Black Economic Empowerment, BEE).

The last two factors, especially, laid the ground for the African race-nationalist exile faction led by Mbeki, who was deputy president at the time, and played the role of an executive prime minister. Their moment arrived at the ANC’s 50th national conference in December 1997 in Upington, when Mandela announced (in a speech widely believed to have been written by Mbeki) that the era of reconciliation was over, and the era of social transformation had begun, as envisioned in the Mbeki faction’s cherished project, the “National Democratic Revolution” (NDR).

The aims of the NDR have been stated bluntly by Mbeki’s senior policy aide, Joel Netshitenzhe – that the ANC as “vanguard” of the “masses of our people” should deploy its “loyal cadres” to take control of all sectors of society, including the economy, in which BEE, affirmative action and land restitution were to be key policy tools, and where the achievement of blunt racial quotas effectively became the main criterion of “success”.

The real disaster is a basic error of logic: wanting to correct the social injustices of the racist apartheid era by using race as guiding principle, instead of language or income levels, both of which overlap on the race-based social injustices of the past, but do not maintain an ugly fiction of race in the corrective policies.

What were the effects of the Mbeki approach? Its initial (now seriously threatened) achievements at first overshadowed the longer-term crisis that it has created. Through BEE and affirmative action, guided by the centralist NDR, a small black middle-class was created, of which the new black billionaires, such as Ramaphosa, are the proud symbol. But at the same time relatively little changed in the lives of the 60% poor to very poor South Africans, overwhelmingly black and living in townships or squatter camps.

State companies such as the national broadcaster, electricity provider (Eskom), telecommunications company (Telkom) and the civil service, from which more than a 100,000 skilled people (mostly white) have been lost since 1995, became vehicles of party patronage. The most important effect of this was the lack of improvement and indeed further collapse of public health, education, transport and other infrastructure; the 60% of poor, black South Africans suffer most from this.

The combination of the Department of Home Affairs’ collapse, the Zimbabwe crisis (Mbeki’s “quiet diplomacy” has failed spectacularly), and up to three million Zimbabwean refugees (turned into illegal immigrants by the department’s mismanagement of their status), and the poor control of borders, has caused a refugee crisis that remained unacknowledged by Mbeki, whose main tactic in a crisis is denial: even the 10 refugee camps that are being set up for more than 40,000 displaced Africans from other countries at the time of writing, are not officially called refugee camps, but temporary shelters.

In hindsight, the xenophobic violence that erupted in May was entirely predictable (and had been predicted by several intellectuals, such as Rhoda Khadalie in August 2006 in the daily Business Day, after attacks on Somali citizens in the Western Cape). Against the background of poor service delivery, crumbling infrastructure and continuing poverty in townships and squatter camps (mostly in the richest province, Gauteng, and the second richest province, the Western Cape), where many refugees live in desperate conditions, black South Africans, neglected by the government, finally turned against foreign citizens accused of taking houses and jobs. They had seldom in the 20th century displayed xenophobic behaviour but they now were perfect exemplars of the traumatised victim who demands recognition through violence against a weaker party.

Perhaps the most worrying sign for the Mbeki government is that its chief anti-poverty tool, social grants, financed by strong commodity and mineral prices, and (according to the minister of finance) currently provided to 12.4 million South Africans, did not buy the political stability that the government probably hoped for as pay-off for the devastating effects of its neo-liberal economics and state mismanagement.

In the broader colonial period of South Africa’s history, the Mbeki government has, through the threatened small black middle-class, reconfirmed the old post-colonial pattern of including a small part of its constituency in imported modernity without reforming it to address local needs. More crucially, through the erosion of the state and infrastructure (as well as its failure to stop the flood of skilled, mostly white, emigration), the Mbeki government has destroyed significant parts of the imported modernity. This is why anti-modern pathologies, which manifest in similar conditions all over the world (racism, ethnocentrism, xenophobia and fundamentalist forms of religion), are on the rise.

Does this mean that all hope is lost for South Africa? It needn’t be. Mbeki’s eviction as leader of the ANC in December 2007, and his replacement by Jacob Zuma, who connects both the exile and inzile factions, has opened up a space for serious national debate. Just as Mbeki’s eviction acted as a pressure-release valve for simmering anti-modern discontent, it also released new ideas from civil society into the public space. Whether South Africa slides further into anti-modern pathologies, or whether it re-invents itself, depends on how fast existing alternative policies, emphasising indigenous languages more, and community-orientated economics are adopted by the ANC, or by the new party the country now needs.

The trouble with the ANC is that the policy alternatives talked about by its main (and increasingly powerful) allies, the trade union federation Cosatu and the South Africa Communist Party, are still in a command-style economic vein, which will not work in the absence of an effective state, or in the presence of the country’s rich cultural diversity. Besides this, a new group of dubious characters in the Zuma camp, including convicted criminals elected in December to the ANC’s National Executive Committee, have vested interests in maintaining the illusion of a strong unified ANC as a vehicle of continued state patronage, tenders and contracts.

The main political hope for South Africa is now in its powerful civil society and rich cultural diversity. Together they have a wealth of local experience for workable policy alternatives and a record of true participation in change. But they will need help from friends all over the planet for the push beyond imported modernity and nationalism that must eventually come.

Ref: Le MOnde By Johann Rossouw

We fought APARTHEID: We see no reasons to celebrate it in Israel now!!!

End The Occupation South Africa sends a message out to supporters of the Palestinian liberation movement. Our advertisement as it appears on page 41 of the Citizen (15 May 2008) is reproduced below:

Israel and South Africa: Apartheid’s Accidental Prophecy

The apartheid government of South Africa came to power in 1948, the same year that the State of Israel was created in Palestine. Having lived and witnessed the legacy of Zionism, I wonder sometimes if this shared birth year was not an accidental prophecy.

Both governments were born on the miserable premise of entitlement for a select group of people. This entitlement, to land rights and resources, spawned laws and societies that measured human worth by human irrelevancies. In the case of South Africa, it was skin color. In the case of Israel, it is religion. In both lands, the privilege accorded to the chosen group came at the expense and detriment of the natives–the ‘un-chosen.’

As if we were children of a lesser God, we were uprooted from our ancestral homes and piled like garbage into wretched refugee camps or exiled into drifting oblivion. As if they were not quite human, black souls of South Africa were dumped in abject ghettos. In the Holy Land, where religion has no physical features, everyone carries color-coded ID cards and drives cars with color-coded plates. That is how oppression discriminates there.

During the gist of Apartheid’s cruelty, Nobel Laureate and Archbishop Desmund Tutu went to the land of my mothers. He stood in Jerusalem on Christmas Day of 1989 and said before an audience “I am a black South African, and if I were to change the names, a description of what is happening in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank could describe events in South Africa.”

Last month, Desmund Tutu gave a lecture in Boston, where he affirmed Israel’s right to security, but added “What is not so understandable, not justified, is what it does to another people to guarantee its existence. I’ve been very distressed during my visits to the Holy Land; it reminds me so much of what happened to us, black people, in South Africa during the apartheid rule.”

Many have long pointed to the tragic parallels between Israel and Apartheid South Africa where one people cruelly control the lives and fate of another. In Hebron, where 600 Uzi-toting Jewish settlers live among 240,000 Palestinians, 85% of the water is diverted to the few Jewish settlers. The remainder is rationed among Palestinians. The reality is a cruel contrast between a people with swimming pools amidst green lawns and a people who must share bathing water.

The shared values of Zionism and Apartheid spurred the nostalgic reflection in Henry Katzew’s book, South Africa: A Country Without Friends, in which he said: “What is the difference between the way in which the Jewish people struggles to remain what it is in the midst of a non-Jewish population, and the way the Afrikaners try to stay what they are?” (Die Transvaler, quoted by R. Stevens in Zionism, South Africa and Apartheid.)

Most people no longer recall that Israel remained a close ally with South Africa when the world embarked on a global boycott against it. Few remember that the weapons used to mow down young boys in Soweto were supplied by the State of Israel.

And long after the injustice of Apartheid fell to its knees, Ehud Barak made an offer for a Palestinian State in the style of apartheid’s bantustans. He was widely hailed as “brave” and his offer as “far reaching.” But to those of us who saw the map or witnessed the reality, the “97% concession” was clearly apartheid, cleverly repackaged and renamed. His offer was a patchwork of isolated islands hemmed on all fronts by Jewish-only settlements and Jewish-only roads.

Author Breyten Breytenbach was dispatched in March to the occupied territories as part of a delegation from the International Parliament of Writers. Upon his return he wrote:

“I recently visited the occupied territories for the first time. And yes, I’m afraid they can reasonably be described as resembling Bantustans, reminiscent of the ghettoes and controlled camps of misery one knew in South Africa.”

Breytenbach, too, is familiar with apartheid. He spent seven years in prison under the “Terrorism Act” in South Africa-the same act under which Mandela was imprisoned.

Yet a brutal Israeli occupation endures long after apartheid collapsed and it builds tall barriers throughout the land, long after the world understood the wickedness of the Berlin Wall.

Israel’s ironic denial of Palestine’s right to life (repeated again this month by its ruling party) spurs the hearts that fought apartheid like few others.

In an open letter to Ariel Sharon Breyten wrote: “there can be no peace through the annihilation of the other, just as there is no paradise for the ‘martyr’ you have not broken the spirit of the Palestinian people.”

Desmund Tutu uttered the questions that baffle us all. “My heart aches,” he said. “Why are our memories so short? Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolition, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?”

It makes my heart ache, too. The anger and helplessness I felt in Jenin and Ramallah subside now to a constant ache. But I keep looking to the final similarity between Zionism and Apartheid. The fruition of that accidental prophecy. The time when the subjugation of my people will end. When the institution of religious exclusivity will crumble in Palestine and Israel like apartheid did in South Africa.

Ref: Global research


Susan J. Abulhawa is a Palestinian living in Pennsylvania. She is the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine, a non-profit organization dedicated to building playgrounds and recreation areas for Palestinian children living under military occupation. To find out more about this vital project, visit: http://www.playgroundsforpalestine.org/ Susan can be contacted at: JABROLE@aol.com
Copyright © Susan J. Abulhawa 2002.