Palestinian Conflict with apartheid South Africa prior to 1994.
Both situations are different that when one examines the situation one
can note major differences. The idea is using this comparison is to
delegitimize Israel's right to exist within secure and recognized
borders and to justify the Palestinian methods of armed struggle in order to
remove the zionist entity.
In apartheid South Africa prior to 1994 before the first democratic
elections in South Africa's history, there was this odious apartheid
system. Its main purpose was to maintain white minority rule at all
costs and to keep the black majority disenfranchised and without
basic human rights. These blacks were a reservoir of cheap labour to
operate the white economy and to ensure white prosperity at their
expense. Blacks had suffered immense injustice under this system.
White South African Government spending on black education and their
general community welfare was minimal. The gap between the black
situation then and slavery was not very large.
Social intercourse between whites and blacks in those days was a
relationship between the white master and the black, underpaid
servant. The situation for non-white people was intolerable and even
cruel. It was forbidden for Blacks to travel freely in the country of
their birth except if they had a pass from the white authorities.
After 9.00 p.m., there was a curfew and blacks were not allowed in
the streets after that dreaded hour in many towns. These people were
not terrorists. They were not people who threatened the whites in any
way. Denial of their basic human rights was commonplace. There was
the dreaded Immorality Act, which prevented mixed marriages and sex
beyond the colour bar. Those who contravened the law were imprisoned.
There were separate public facilities for blacks and whites. Blacks
were forbidden to eat in white restaurants. Separate transport
facilities, which resulted in overcrowded conditions in buses and
trains, were part of this evil, cruel system. It was common to see a
black person being abused by the police for not having his pass
(identity or reference book) on his person when being searched. The
police pushed him into the back of the police van, and drove him to
the police station where he spent a night in the lock up cell.
Usually his white boss bailed out the unfortunate person when he
produced a permit that he was in his employ legally. Blacks could not
purchase property in white areas, as this was a contravention of the
notorious Group Areas Act.
Anybody who opposed the apartheid system in those days – especially
if he was black – was accused of being an agitator or communist. He
was imprisoned for 90 days without trial or recourse to a lawyer.
This was increased later to 180 days detention and the police officer
even had the power to keep a person imprisoned indefinitely without
trial. These incidents occurred during the period of 1950 – 1990.
Apartheid was at its zenith in those years. It was illegal to
criticise the white government for its apartheid practices. There was
limited criticism in those days by white opposition parties in
parliament. However, the law controlled the limit of legal criticism.
The abuse of prisoners for obtaining information was legal and
encouraged. The police tortured the famous black leader, Steve Biko,
to death when he was in prison for "anti-apartheid crimes" in 1977.
The majority of South African citizens were against apartheid and
wanted to be part of a multi racial South Africa. The leaders of the
liberation movements never spoke of destroying the white man and
denying him rights in South Africa. Their fight was a justified fight
for freedom and human rights as well as equality before the law.
If one were to contrast that with the situation in the Middle East,
it is different. Israel's Arab neighbours threatened her from the day
of her establishment in 1948. There was never a desire to recognise
Israel's right to exist. What has this to do with South African style
apartheid? Where is the comparison?
The blacks in their liberation struggle never targeted innocent
people by suicide bombings or terror. There were sporadic incidents
by some black extremists, but the mainstream liberation movements in
South Africa were forced underground. Their leaders, who were living
in exile, condemned this violence.
Perhaps, there may be a vague parallel of apartheid in the occupied
territories since June 1967. The occupation is a complex problem that
is the result of a war foisted onto Israel. Israel, being militarily
superior, occupied territory in the Six Day War of June 1967 and made
the fatal mistake of encouraging Jewish settlements there when it was
obvious that there was no Arab partner who was willing to sign a
peace treaty insuring the return of occupied territory as part of an
overall peace agreement. The occupation and rule of the Palestinians
is a tragic result of the wars that Israel fought for her survival.
However, had there been a willing partner on the Arab side who would
come to terms with Israel's existence the seemingly "apartheid-like"
situation would not have occurred. Israel never wished to conquer
another people. This is contrary to the apartheid South African
situation whereby the whites ruled and oppressed the blacks by force.
They denied them their basic human rights. The intifida of 2000
resulted in a heavy spate of suicide violence against innocent
Israelis, which resulted in heavy Israeli Army retaliation against
armed Palestinian terrorists. The Palestinian terrorist groups had
declared war on Israel and in a war innocent people on both sides are
killed and suffer.
The difference is that in South Africa both Whites and Blacks
realized that their fate is dependent on one another. Both realised
the importance of sitting down and negotiating a transitional period
to end apartheid. Both sides were determined to rebuild the new
democratic, multiracial South Africa. This feeling of mutual desire
to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is lacking.
The Palestinians have embarked on the road of terror and suicide
bombings. This is their chosen path. It differs from the path that
the freedom fighters in South Africa chose. Here there is no desire
to come to terms with Israel's existence that was always a "thorn" in
Palestinian flesh. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have made this perfectly
clear to the world. Their manifesto is no example in building an
alternative democratic Palestinian society in a state replacing
Is there not a similarity to nazism in the Hamas manifesto?
Many Palestinian observers in the UN Security council accuse Israel
of genocide. Is the Hamas Manifesto not promoting genocide of the
Jewish People? Compare this to the ideals of those who opposed and
fought the cruel racist regime of White South Africa during those
evil, apartheid years. Their fight was a fight to attain equality for
all South Africans irrespective of their skin colour. This is not the
case in the Israel-Palestinian dispute. Here there is no desire in
Palestinian street, as represented by Hamas and company, to come to
terms with Israel's existence – let alone negotiate a peace treaty,
which would eventually lead to the establishment of a Palestinian
state alongside Israel. Genocide is more part of the lexicon of the
Palestinian terrorist groups than in Israel. Perhaps from this point
of view, there is a similarity between the Palestinians and the
dominating whites of apartheid South Africa. Both peoples oppressed
their citizens and denied them basic human rights. Both regimes were
corrupt and were involved in feathering their own nests.
The similarity of apartheid South Africa to the Palestinian
Authority, including their methods of torture of opponents, makes
this comparison closer to the truth.
It remains to be seen as to what will happen in the post Arafat era.
It is hoped by all who believe in peace that a pragmatic leadership
will arise within the Palestinian camp that will have grass roots
support to end this cruel conflict.
Arafat, with all his rhetoric and
inability to control terrorism, was a failure and history will judge
him as a charismatic leader who had been responsible for the endless
suffering of his people.
Robin (Freethepeeps) Horsell