It is 12 June 1986 and South African President P.W. Botha is calling for war. Malan describes him as “wagging his authoritarian finger,” “speaking in Afrikaans to Afrikaners.”
“There comes a time,” Botha says in a statement broadcast on national television, “when a nation must choose between war and a dishonorable, fearful peace, and we have arrived at that point.”
In describing what led Botha to declare this war, Malan writes: “His policies had set the stage for a black rebellion, and his ruthless attempts to quell it had triggered a furious outcry in the outside world. He had lost the battle for world opinion, and he was losing the fight to stave off sanctions. He was even losing his right wing.
“Fractious right-wing elements were forming vigilante groups, demanding shoot-on-site curfews and throwing government supporters through plate glass windows at stormy rallies. The white right wanted their government to unglove the iron fist and put blacks in their place, once and for all.”
If we could look into a crystal ball and see five or seven years from now, we would see an older Benjamin Netanyahu still a prime minister trying to hold on. In a televised appearance, he would warn Palestinians to beware the true might of the state of Israel. He would warn them not to mess with the Jewish state, not to tempt fate and fight the descendants of the Maccabees and the Zealots of Masada.
By then there will be a solid Palestinian majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. A UN report from August 2012 predicts that by 2020 an additional 500,000 people will be living in Gaza alone, bringing the population of the Strip to 2.1 million people.
If US Secretary of State John Kerry had any sense he would act now to avert a looming disaster. He would lay the groundwork to a peaceful transition of power from the exclusive Jewish-Zionist regime to a democratically elected government that represents all people living in Palestine/Israel.
He would explain to the current Israeli regime that it is time to free all political prisoners, lift the siege on Gaza and plan for free and fair elections where all Palestinians and Israelis vote as equals, one person one vote. Kerry would explain that voting districts should be created, so that elected officials will be answerable to their constituents and that the entire political structure needs to be amended to accommodate the new reality of a bi-national, democratic state of Palestine/Israel.
Perhaps John Kerry doesn’t realize that a global intifada is already underway.
That the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel is growing in popularity and its successes are encouraging and bolstering its support; that pro-Palestinian student groups on campuses in the US and elsewhere are growing and becoming bolder and more influential; that churches in the US are organizing tours to the holy land, not for the sake of pilgrimage to holy sites, but rather to help the Palestinian cause; that the debate on a single democracy has gone from “if” to “how” and “how soon.”
Perhaps John Kerry isn’t aware that Palestinian youth are no longer interested in a small state in what used to be the West Bank.
Popular resistance in the West Bank and Gaza is growing in popularity and demanding a free Palestine, not just a free West Bank. Palestinians in Israel identify with the larger Palestinian cause, carry Palestinian flags and no longer refer to themselves as “Israeli Arabs” — a term coined by Israel to strip them of their identity.
Perhaps Kerry doesn’t know that “occupied Palestine” refers once again to the occupation that began in 1948 and Palestinians demand their right to live and work, study, travel and return to every part of Palestine.
Someone should tell John Kerry that a free, democratic Palestine, with equal rights will not only free Palestinians, it will also free Israelis. Their prime minster may be a Palestinian and their children will go to school with Palestinian children and everyone will be better off.
Someone ought to suggest to John Kerry that rather than beat the dead horse of negotiations between an uncompromising, brutally racist Israeli government and a defunct Palestinian Authority, he can actually do something good and bring about change. We can avoid the uncertainty, the potential for greater violence and suffering.
Rian Malan’s book ends prior to the fall of apartheid and the release of Nelson Mandela. But we know how apartheid in South Africa ended. On 2 February 1990, F.W. De Klerk announced the unconditional release of Nelson Mandela and the unbanning of the African National Congress, the Pan Africanist Congress and the South African Communist Party.
Now, as we look into our crystal ball, we may see an older and more weary Netanyahu, or perhaps a younger, fresher, though no less Zionist Israeli politician, forced to announce the release of Palestinian political prisoners and the unbanning of all Palestinian political parties in preparation for the establishment of a new democratic state in Palestine.
Miko Peled is an Israeli writer and activist living in California. He is the author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine.