No fake analogy

5 March 2007

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Joel Pollak wants people to believe comparisons between Israeli policies and apartheid are nothing but a fraud, The trouble with the apartheid analogy (March 2). He castigates former US president Jimmy Carter for quoting a six-year-old letter from Nelson Mandela to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman making the apartheid comparison, and accuses me of perpetrating a hoax and admitting I made the whole thing up.

There is no possible basis for Pollak to say I intended people to believe the memo was written by anyone other than myself. At the time, Friedman, a staunch defender of Israel, was famous for writing mock memos in the voice of the US president. In a clearly labelled spoof, under my byline, I published a mock memo from Mandela to Friedman on March 28 2001. Unfortunately, someone forwarded it on the internet without my byline, as I explained to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.

The point is: although the Mandela memo was only a piece of satire, it is not necessary to believe it to understand the Israel-apartheid comparison is grounded in an ugly reality.

In 2002 South African Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu made the analogy in The Guardian and The Nation. Other South African anti-apartheid activists who were struck by the similarities were Farid Esack, Ronnie Kasrils, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Allister Sparks, Arun Ghandhi, Dennis Goldberg and Breyten Breytenbach.*

Former Italian prime minister Massimo D’Alema told the Israeli press in 2003 that in a visit to Rome, Ariel Sharon had “explained at length that the Bantustan model was the most appropriate solution to the conflict” between Israel and the Palestinians.*

Current Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert noticed the similarity in 2003: “We are approaching the point where more and more Palestinians will say: ‘There is no place for two states between the Jordan and the sea. All we want is the right to vote.’ The day they get it, we will lose everything.”

And warning that Israel could not remain both a Jewish state and a democracy if it held all the territories, Olmert said: “I shudder to think that liberal Jewish organisations that shouldered the burden of struggle against apartheid in SA will lead the struggle against us.”

Surely Pollak is not suggesting I made all this up?

Arjan El Fassed
Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada

* The above letter, published in Business Today contained several
paragraphs quoted from a Wikipedia article, without attribution. Although an unintentional error, the author hereby acknowledges that this should not have occurred and offers an unreserved apology. Due credit to Wikipedia is hereby given, and the entire text of this letter is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.”

Related Links

  • The Mandela Memo
  • Business Day