Does Israel need South Africa to salvage its poor image?

Less than a week after thousands of South Africans marched onto Parliament to demand that the ANC government sever ties with the zionist regime, a senior SA Defense Ministry spokesman has confirmed that a delegation headed by a senior Defense official is en route to Israel.

Before the ink had dried on the memorandum addressed to SA’s Minister of Foreign Affairs wherein a collective of Muslims and the Anti-War Movement demanded that the Mbeki government lead an international campaign to isolate Israel, in addition to a comprehensive suspension of ties; a Haaretz report revealed that the two countries are resuming security cooperation.

This shocking revelation has stunned Muslims who have always held the view that an ANC led government would never betray Palestine. Their opinion flows from the belief that because Israel had been a frontline ally of apartheid South Africa and collaborated extensively with its military, security and intelligence apparatus, no self-respecting liberation movement once in power would fail to deal appropriately with adversaries of the freedom struggle.

They point out that after the June ’67 war, four years into the UN arms embargo against the white minority regime, Israel defied the International Community and in particular the ANC, by supplying arms to SA. In addition, the zionist regime also supplied counterinsurgency weapons and instructors.

The record of alliance between these two pariah states is a shameful catalogue of brutality against the liberation movements.

Since the fall of apartheid, many South Africans have been looking forward to an announcement which would pronounce in clear, unambigious terms, a dissolution of ties with Israel and a commitment to actively campaign for the liberation of Palestine.

What we have instead are a series of mixed signals. On the one hand a number of very bold gestures such as the team of experts led by Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Pahad to the International Court of Justice to argue the illegality of the Apartheid Wall and the consistent support for a boycott campaign against Israel by Ronnie Kasrils, a senior member of the Cabinet.

On the other hand we are confronted with the red-carpet treatment meted out to high ranking members of Ariel Sharon’s Likud Party and Deputy Olmert.

New trade ties and talk of "improvement in relations" and now the biggest shocker of all: "Israel, South Africa to revive defense ties"!

Is the strengthening of ties with the last outpost of apartheid a betrayal to the struggling masses of Palestine? Or is it simply a case of SA being used as a pawn by Israel to bolster its poor image?

There is little doubt that Israel is losing the PR battle and how wonderful to be able to count on the support of a country such as South Africa with its internationally renowned credentials. It makes much greater sense for Sharon in defending charges of being a brutal occupier and oppressor, to be seen being embraced by Mbeki.

Israel’s abhorrent repression of the Palestinians which accounts for its "image problem" and confirms public opinion of Sharon as an extremist war criminal, will not cease. Instead Israel will continue its illegal construction of the Wall; settlements and occupation; and above all its apartheid system! It will remain in contempt of International Laws and arrogantly defy UN resolutions.

With South Africa’s embrace becoming warmer, Israel will also be able to claim that it has yet again succeeding it subverting the human rights ethos of a newly liberated country.

As Haim Yavin, Israel’s latest high profile critic of settlements and occupation would say: "This merrymaking will never be stopped."