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Published:July 8th, 2012 12:39 EST
Israel: The State beyond the Pale

Israel: The State beyond the Pale

By SOP newswire


Harry Belafonte once said, "Oppression cannot live forever, it always ends." He was speaking in the context of the right-wing, apartheid regime in South Africa. During that time, the South African National Party government had one strong ally: that ally, implausibly, was the state of Israel. That might seem, at first sight, an odd fact. What was an essentially left-wing, socialist state, that was built on the basis of co-operative kibbutzim doing, consorting with and helping the extremist, right-wing governments of such unpleasant characters as Hendrik Verwoerd and P W Botha?


Apartheid was a system of racial segregation enforced through legislation by successive National Party governments from 1948 to 1994. It effectively disenfranchised the entire, black, majority population of the country. The ideology was implemented by the Dutch Afrikaaner who also denied land purchase to the `native` population. Forced removals were the original ethnic cleansing. It was the rule of 4.5 million whites upon 19 million blacks that was harsh, brutal and often murderous.


Within this scenario, there were the whites of English extraction who were mainly not members of the National Party but who accepted the regime by `holding their noses`, but they stayed. Within this white minority, there was another minority, the Jewish community originally based in Cape Town but which largely relocated to Johannesburg in later years when it became the country`s business centre. This community was prominent in the retail business sector which it dominated, and still does, and, of course, in the diamond industry that was started in the late 19th century by Harry Oppenheimer, a German Jewish entrepreneur from Krefeld, on the Rhine. The Jewish community, cognizant of their own origins as refugees from Europe, was often unhappy with the apartheid regime and many left the country to look for a land without murderous police on the streets. However, a few so incensed at the inequity and inequality around them, stayed on and became active members of Mandela`s ANC party, but they were a very small minority.


It has recently been reported that current Israeli president, Shimon Peres, who held various ministerial posts in the Israeli cabinet in the 70s and 80s, offered to supply the South African government with nuclear weapons. This was at the height of the apartheid regime when thousands were being displaced and dispossessed by the cruel, inhuman laws of the interior ministry. Peres has issued a denial to this allegation, but the fact remains that the Israeli and South African governments were close enough to be bedfellows even when the world was awash with anti-apartheid activity that went as far as, and included, the United Nations.


All this poses again the original question as to how an essentially liberal, socialist state, made up originally almost entire of refugees who had suffered under the Nazism of Hitler`s Europe, could possibly extend support to the proponents of apartheid.  The answer lies in the situation we see today. What was originally an agrarian state built on Chaim Weizmann`s vision of Zionism, took maybe just a single decade to decide that it would suppress and oppress the majority indigenous people of the region, the Arabs, and drive them away. They succeeded in making about 700,000 flee in 1947-8, the year the Zionist state was established in the midst of a Muslim Middle East. However, a number of Arabs stayed and took-up Israeli citizenship albeit with restrictions.


So the two strands started to converge and then crossover: the extremist right-wing, Afrikaaner and the original socialist (but now turned right-wing) Israeli politicians who, like Peres, originated from Poland, or eastern Europe.  


Now, of course, we have the invidious situation of Mandela`s socialist South Africa and Netanyahu`s extremist, right-wing Israel: the reversal of political positions of half a century ago. That, in a nutshell, is the tragic story of a country established with the best intentions that has now become a state beyond the pale.


by Douglas Reed