Israeli Apartheid

Who said nearly 50 years ago that Israel was an Apartheid State?

Saturday 14 March 2009, by Ronnie Kasrils

I want to start by quoting a South African
who emphatically stated as far back as
1963 that “Israel is an apartheid state.”
Those were not the words of Nelson
Mandela, Archbishop Tutu or Joe Slovo,
but were uttered by none other than the
architect of apartheid itself, racist Prime
Minister, Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd.

He was irked by the criticism of apartheid
policy and Harold Macmillan’s “Winds of
Change” speech, in contrast to the West’s
unconditional support for Zionist Israel.

To be sure Verwoerd was correct. Both
states preached and implemented a
policy based on racial ethnicity; the
sole claim of Jews in Israel and whites
in South Africa to exclusive citizenship;
monopolised rights in law regarding the
ownership of land, property, business;
superior access to education, health,
social, sporting and cultural amenities,
pensions and municipal services at
the expense of the original indigenous
population; the virtual monopoly
membership of military and security
forces, and privileged development
along their own racial supremacist lines even both countries marriage laws
designed to safeguard racial “purity”.

The so-called “non-whites” in apartheid
South Africa, indigenous Africans, others
of mixed race or of Indian origin - like
second or third class non-Jews in Israel were consigned to a non-citizenship
status of Kafkaesque existence, subject
to bureaucratic whims and the laws
prohibiting their free movement, access
to work and trade, dictating where they
could reside and so forth.

Verwoerd would have been well aware
of Israel’s dispossession of indigenous
Palestinian in 1948 - the year his
apartheid party similarly came to power of the unfolding destruction of their
villages, the premeditated massacres
and the systematic ethnic cleansing.

Within a few short years the apartheid
regime was ruthlessly clearing South
Africa’s cities and towns of so-called
“black spots” - where the “non-whites”
lived, socialised, studied and traded -
bulldozing homes, loading families onto
military trucks, and forcibly relocating them
to distant settlements. Unlike the “native
reserves” - soon to be reconstituted
as Bantustans - not too far away from
industrial areas because the economy
thrived on a quota of cheap black labour.

Whilst he did not live to see the division
of Palestinian territory after the Six Day
War, and the subsequent creation of
miniscule Bantustans in the West Bank
and Gaza, he would have greatly admired
and approved of the machinations that
enclosed the Palestinians in their own
ghettoised prisons. This after all was
the Verwoerdian grand plan, and the
reason why Jimmy Carter could so
readily identify the Occupied Palestinian
Territories as being akin to apartheid. In
fact the Bantustans consisted of 13%
of apartheid South Africa, uncannily
comparable to the derisory, ever
shrinking pieces of ground Israel is
consigning to the Palestinians.

A further comment about the Bantustans.
When I visited Yasser Arafat in his
virtually demolished headquarters in
Ramallah as part of a South African
delegation in 2004, he pointed around
him and said “See this is nothing but a
Bantustan!” No, we responded, pointing
out that no Bantustan, in fact not even
our townships, had been bombed by
warplanes, pulverised by tanks. To a
wide-eyed Arafat we pointed out that
Pretoria pumped in funds, constructed
impressive administration buildings, even
allowed for Bantustan airlines to service
the Mickey Mouse capitals in order to
impress the world that they were serious
about so-called “separate development.”

What Verwoerd admired too was the
impunity with which Israel exercised
state violence and terror to get its way,
without hindrance from its Western
allies, increasingly key among them the
USA. What Verwoerd and his ilk came
to admire in Israel, and seek to emulate
in the southern African region, was the
way the Western powers permitted an
imperialist Israel to use its unbridled
military with impunity in expanding its
territory and holding back the rising tide of
Arab nationalism in its neighbourhood.

After the Six Day War, Verwoerd’s
successor John Vorster, infamously
stated: “The Israelis have beaten the
Arabs before lunchtime. We will eat the
African states for breakfast.”

But it was not only the racial doctrine of
Israel that excited apartheid’s leaders,
it was the use of the biblical narrative
as the ideological rationale to justify its
vision, aims and methods.

The early Dutch pioneers, the Afrikaners,
had used Bible and gun as colonisers
elsewhere, to carve out their exclusive
fortress bastion in South Africa’s
hinterland. Like the biblical Israelites they
claimed to be “God’s chosen people”
with a mission to tame and civilise the
wilderness; disregarding the productivity
and industriousness of people who had
tilled the soil and traded for centuries claiming it was only they who would
make the land flow with milk and honey.

They invoked a covenant with God to
deliver their enemies into their hands
and to bless their deeds. Until the advent
of South Africa’s democracy, the racial
history books generally taught that the
white man arrived in South Africa more
or less as the so-called “Bantu tribes”
from the north were wandering across
the Limpopo - South Africa’s border
with Zimbabwe - and that they the were
pioneer settlers in a land without people.

Such a colonial racist mentality which
rationalised the genocide of the
indigenous peoples of the Americas and
Australasia, in Africa from Namibia to
the Congo and elsewhere, most clearly
has its parallels in Palestine.

What is so shameless about this
anachronistic colonial barbarism is that
Zionist Israel has been permitted by the
West to aspire to such a goal even into
the 21st Century.

À propos de Ronnie Kasrils

Ronnie Kasrils is a South African
politician. He has been a member of
the Executive Committee of the African
National Congress since 1987.

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