In December 1987, Speaking as a guest lecturer at the School of Tel Aviv University’s School of Law, Raphael Eitan, Chief of Staff of the Israeli army during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, said the following: “I don’t understand this comparison between us and South Africa. What is similar here and there is that both they and we must prevent others from taking us over. Anyone who says that the blacks are oppressed in South Africa is a liar. The blacks there want to gain control of the white minority just like the Arabs here want to gain control over us. And we, too, like the White minority in South Africa, must act to prevent them from taking us over. I was in a gold mine there and I saw what excellent conditions the black workers have. So there is separate elevators for Whites and Blacks, so what? That’s the way they like it.”
It is worthwhile to quote Mr. Eitan at length, given that short of quoting Israeli officials verbatim, it is still difficult to make people in the United States come to grips with the basic underlying racist subtext that informs and animates Israel’s actions and reactions against the struggle of Palestinians for a free, sovereign homeland.
But beyond outrageous, racist statements such as Raphael Eitan’s quoted words above, the parallels between Israeli reaction to the current Palestinian uprising and that of the Apartheid regime to the rebellion by black South Africans, are startling, to say the least.
Some quotes should quickly drive the point home. On June 3rd, 1985, the Los Angeles Times writes: “Senior [South African] police officers have complained recently that their efforts to deal with unrest are hampered by the rioters’ tactics, including the use of women and children as human shields’…” Sounds familiar? It should. Here is what Captain Natan Golan, IDF Spokesman, told the St. Petersburg Times on October 18, 2000: “We are dealing with a situation in which kids are cynically being used by being put on the front lines where they may be killed, maimed or injured….”
The New York Times, November 23, 1985, after thirteen protestors had been killed in one day in Mamelodi Township reported the following: “A police spokesman said riot-squad patrols had been ‘confronted by particularly violent mobs’ and were ‘bombarded with petrol bombs, half bricks and other objects’.” The Los Angeles Times, October 5, 2000, quotes Israeli Internal Security Minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, saying: “What happened in recent days was not just a protest demonstration, but rather a phenomenon of unprecedented degree….”
President P.W. Botha, proposing almost exactly the same “generous deal” to Blacks as Mr. Barak is offering the Palestinians — i.e., a program which consisted in the creation of subservient bantustans for blacks — said the following after six black protestors were shot dead by South African forces: “We shall continue with the process of peaceful deliberation and consultations to find solutions for our unsolved problems.” Ehud Barak, said the following on CNN, October 12, 2000: “We have no hostile intention against anyone around us. We were ready to go further than any previous government in Israel, be it Netanyahu or Shamir or even Rabin and Peres, in contemplating ideas that will put an end to it.”
P.W. Botha, just like Ehud Barak, insisted that the indigenous uprising represented nothing less than a threat to the very survival of his country. On August 16, 1985, The San Diego Union-Tribune quotes him saying: “I am not prepared to lead white South Africans and other minority groups on a road to abdication and suicide.” Ehud Barak said the following on CNN, October 12, 2000: “Israel is determined to defend itselfé we will fight to defend ourself and our right to live in freedom in this part of the world.”
We all know how the story ended in South Africa. The unthinkable became a reality: the struggling, rebellious blacks freed themselves from the horror of Apartheid, and their leader, jailed “terrorist” Nelson Mandela, became president of South Africa. The unthinkable will also become real in Palestine: the Palestinians will free themselves of racist Israeli colonial rule and will fly high their flag in sovereign freedom.
Mr. Ahmed Bouzid is President of Palestine Media Watch