by Ralph Seliger
I was disturbed to find that the Feb. 7 issue of the left-wing British daily, The Guardian, includes the first of a two-part investigative report called “Brothers in arms – Israel’s secret pact with Pretoria.” It’s introduced online as follows: “During the second world war the future South African prime minister John Vorster was interned as a Nazi sympathiser. Three decades later he was being feted in Jerusalem. In the second part of his remarkable special report, Chris McGreal investigates the clandestine alliance between Israel and the apartheid regime, cemented with the ultimate gift of friendship – A-bomb technology.”
It’s a challenging article, just as this is a challenging issue. Clearly, there are parallels to be drawn in terms of separation, discrimination, military repression, security threats, “native” uprisings and resistance movements, plus an actual relationship (or alliance) between Israel and the apartheid regime, apparently beginning in 1976 — after sub-Saharan African countries were bribed or otherwise influenced to turn against Israel following the Yom Kippur War — reversing two decades of Israel’s close friendship with and assistance of the emerging African states.
The reporter makes inadequate effort at contextualizing, with some diversity of opinion, but always coming back to a drumbeat of quotes and arguments that would tar Israel with the apartheid brush. And there are plenty of quotes (unfortunately) and evidences that would substantiate this view.
But if one sought them out, it would not be at all difficult to find Arab-Palestinian genocidal threats and gross anti-Semitic/racist views — both historical and contemporary– to substantiate reasonable fears on the Jewish-Israeli side. One critical difference between the African National Congress and the PLO, is that the former never practiced terrorist actions of major consequence against white civilians (ANC military actions tended to be sabotage against property); the difference is summed up by what Israeli doves used to say with regret about Arafat as a partner for peace: that he’s no Mandela.
Also, you cannot regard as typical (as the article implies) the current level of repression and military action that Israel has engaged in since the Intifada began in 2000, as a reaction to attacks that have cost hundreds of civilian lives.
Here’s a heads-up about the coming spring issue of Israel Horizons. We examine exactly this matter with “AN APARTHEID STATE? Israel is a democracy in which Arabs vote.” Its author,
Benjamin Pogrund, is a native of South Africa, a journalist who opposed apartheid and has written books on Nelson Mandela and the press under apartheid. As an Israeli today, he is an activist for peace and reconciliation, including as a board member of the Palestine-Israel Journal.
Here are a few sample quotes from his article in IH:
1) In Israel, discrimination is extensive, but it is not remotely comparable with the South African panoply of discrimination enforced by parliamentary legislation.
2) Palestinians are not oppressed on racial grounds as Arabs, but as competitors in a national/religious conflict for land.
3) The barrier/wall/fence, as it is now, is a repugnant aspect of Israeli policy…. But calling it the “Apartheid Wall” is a debasement of the word for the sake of propaganda. “Apartheid” is a lazy label for the complexities of the Middle East conflict.
P.S. To the Guardian’s credit, it has allowed Mr. Pogrund to respond to this charge with an opinion piece. It begins: “Nearly three years ago I underwent an operation in a Jerusalem hospital. The surgeon was Jewish, the anaesthetist was Arab. The doctors and nurses who looked after me were Jews and Arabs. I lay in bed for a month and watched as they gave the same skilled care to other patients – half of whom were Arabs and half of whom were Jewish – all sharing the same wards, operating theatres and bathrooms.” Click here to read on….