Saturday, December 7, 2013

'Moses' Mandela

How sweetly they're singing now:

"Nelson Mandela was one of the most prominent role models of our time. He was the father of his nation, a man of vision, a fighter for freedom who denounced violence. He gave a personal example to his people during the long years he was imprisoned." Benjamin Netanyahu,, 6/12/13

But back in the 70s and 8os they were singing a very different tune:

"The Israeli-South African relationship was not only about profit and battlefield bravado... After Menachem Begin's Likud Party came to power in 1977, these economic interests converged with ideological affinities to make the alliance even stronger. Many members of the Likud Party shared with South Africa's leaders an ideology of minority survivalism that presented the two countries as threatened outposts of European civilization defending their existence against barbarians at the gates.

"Indeed, much of Israel's top brass and Likud Party leadership felt am affinity with South Africa's white government, and unlike Peres and Rabin they did not feel a need to publicly denounce apartheid while secretly supporting Pretoria. Powerful military figures, such as Ariel Sharon and Rafael (Raful) Eitan, drew inspiration from the political tradition of Revisionist Zionism - a school of thought that favoured the use of military force to defend Jewish sovereignty and encouraged settlement of the biblical lands of Greater Israel, including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Sharon, Eitan, and many of their contemporaries were convinced that both nations faced a fundamentally similar predicament as embattled minorities under siege, fighting for their survival against what they saw as a common terrorist enemy epitomized by Nelson Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) and Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)." (The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa, Sasha Polakow-Suransky, 2010, p 8)


"The end of the Cold War dramatically altered the political and strategic landscape of Southern Africa. Cuban troops were already withdrawing from Angola when F.W. de Klerk replaced P.W. Botha as president in August 1989. The Berlin Wall fell 3 months later and de Klerk soon embarked on a radically different course that led to the release of Nelson Mandela in early 1990. With the Soviet and Cuban threat gone, South Africa could no longer appeal for Western support by invoking anticommunist arguments, nor could it rationalize repression of the democratic opposition by cloaking apartheid in Cold War rhetoric.

"... In Pretoria, the Israeli government went to great lengths to improve its image after Mandela's release. Veteran left-wing critics of apartheid were appointed to key posts, including Alon Liel, who became ambassador in 1992 and worked hard to redefine Israeli-South African relations for the postapartheid era. Even so, the legacy of the 1970s and 1980s left Mandela with a sour taste.

"A year before South Africa's first democratic elections, Elazar Granot of Israel's far-left Mapam Party addressed the delegates of the Socialist International - a global gathering of Social Democratic leaders attended by many European heads of state. Granot lavished praise on Mandela, comparing him to Moses and arguing that South Africa's president-in-waiting was even greater than Moses for he had actually reached the Promised Land. But Mandela did not succumb to his flattery. As Granot recalls it, the first words from South Africa's icon of foregiveness and reconciliation were: 'The people of South Africa will never forget the support of the state of Israel to the apartheid regime'." (ibid, pp 218-219)

That was in 1993. Today, neither the people of South Africa nor its government have forgotten worse-than-apartheid Israel's alliance with apartheid South Africa:

"As reported by South Africa's Mail & Guardian newspaper, Times LIVE, [and] Israel's Haaretz newspaper... South Africa's Minister for International Relations, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, has confirmed a long-standing South African government position of not engaging with Israel.  Speaking on Friday... Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said: 'Ministers of South Africa do not visit Israel currently... our Palestinian friends have asked us in formal meetings to not engage with the [Israeli] regime. We have agreed to slow down and curtail senior leadership contact with that regime until things begin to look better.' [She] also criticised the Israeli regime's recent announcement to build new, illegal, Jewish-only settler units on confiscated Palestinian lands: 'That arrangement there in Palestine keeps us awake... the last time I looked at the map of Palestine, I could not go to sleep. Its 'dots', smaller than those of the [former South African] homelands.'... Finally, [she] expressed her solidarity with the Palestinian people, saying: 'The struggle of the people of Palestine is our struggle'." (South Africa to 'curtail' relations with Israel, OptionsBDS South Africa, 2/12/13)

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