No Need To Embrace Israel

As South Africa celebrates its 10th year of freedom from the repressive policies of apartheid, Israel has intensified its brutal repression of a just cause - now entering 56 years of dispossession and dismemberment. It is strange therefore that a disgruntled former Israeli diplomat in South Africa, has made a desperate effort to ridicule SA’s pro-Palestinian leanings.

Tova Herzl

It is lamentable that Tova Herzl’s term as Israeli ambassador in Pretoria did not teach her any lessons about the stark differences which exist between her country and a post-1994 South Africa. Her ignorance about South Africa’s political history is conflated by equating it with the so-called “birth of Israel”. These misrepresentations reflect a tendency usually associated with ardent pro-Israeli propagandists, desirous of avoiding an honest discourse on the reality of Israel’s criminal conduct.

Herzl will therefore find it impossible to acknowledge that the parallels with apartheid South Africa ended in 1994. Since then South Africa has emerged as a full fledged democracy which guarantees equality and franchise to all its citizens, while Israel continues along its original apartheid path. Hence when Archbishop Desmond Tutu visited the Holy Land in 2002, he expressed his distress at the conditions of the Palestinians. He observed that Israelis were “treating Palestinians in the same way the apartheid South African government treated blacks”.

Quoting a faceless source in The Economist in order to dispel an “odious comparison to pre-democracy South Africa” is therefore a foolish effort to hide the ugly reality of Israeli barbarity. Like Tutu, many more respectable South Africans of different persuasions, have testified about the colonial character of Israel.

In any event many brave and courageous activists from Europe, America and indeed South Africa who are currently facing awesome bulldozers and mean machines deployed by Herzl’s former boss Ariel Sharon to plunder more Palestinian land will be able to refute Herzl’s reliance on an un-named correspondent, by providing in-depth analysis of events there.

Herzl’s subtle threat that South Africa may face a void in contacts once “the conflict is resolved”, is yet again reflective of the arrogance associated with Israeli intransigence. By stubbornly refusing to listen to voices of reason on the pretext that these are aligned with “Israel’s detractors”, she in fact is caught in the same rut which caused former apartheid spin-doctors extreme frustration. South Africans have a unique advantage to recognise human rights abuses and an equally burdensome responsibility to support the victims of such violations.

It is futile to pretend that South Africa has ganged up against Israel for no apparent reason. The fact is that Israel today and South Africa until 1994 represent two forms of apartheid. According to Dr Uri Davis, either form of apartheid represents a flagrant violation of international law, notably the Covenant on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid of 1973. Therefore South Africa would be correct in seeking the cessation of diplomatic and economic ties including the imposition of comprehensive sanctions against Israel.

Given Tova Herzl’s record of service to Israel, it would be unrealistic to expect her to confront the questionable legal status of Israel. Fortunately for South Africa, people with impeccable credentials who enjoy the admiration of their fellow citizens for their enormous contribution to liberate this country from the shackles of racism and oppression have no such hang-up.

One thinks of Minister Ronnie Kasrils’ observations after his recent visit to Palestine: “The dispossession, dispersion and domination of the Palestinian people has taken place through a relatively swift and extreme violent six decades and is not yet complete.” One also thinks of the telling remarks made by Max Ozinsky, a member of the Western Cape Privincial Legislature, when he described the Zionist state as “an alien state” imposed on the territory of another people.

Herzl must be either very naive or foolish - perhaps both - to expect South Africans to allow faulty comparisons with a state which according to Kasrils has sunk to the lowest depths of moral and political depravity.

The brutal slaying of Hamas leaders, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi, is further evidence of how a crazy political ideology and an equally deranged serial killer in office as Premier of Israel has driven Herzl’s beloved Israel into a cul-de-sac.

Iqbal Jassat is Chairman of the South African-based Media Review Network (MRN).