Article By Maurice Ostroff

[Comments are welcome at our Dialogue Corner]


Israel and South Africa

The facts contradict the parallel so often drawn between Israel and the old apartheid South Africa, as well as the allegation that Israel was a major supporter of the apartheid regime..

Israel is widely accused of having violated international sanctions by continuing to trade with South Africa in the eighties. Yet in 1986, while apartheid was suffering worldwide opprobrium, South Africa's main trading partners were U.S.A. - $3.4 billion, Japan - $2.9 billion, Germany- $2.8 billion and the U.K. - $2.6 billion. By comparison, Israel's miniscule $0.2 billion total trade with South Africa amounted to less than 1% of South Africa's total trade.

The ANC's resentment of Israel's supplying arms to the apartheid government is fully justified. The puzzle however, is why the resentment continues to smolder only against Israel, while the main suppliers of weaponry, France, Britain, Canada, West Germany, Italy, India, Belgium, Taiwan and the United States have been forgiven. In addition, the apartheid regime could have been brought to its knees much earlier, had its oil supply been cut off. All of its $2 billion annual oil import came from Arab states, mainly Saudi Arabia. A $1 billion barter deal was concluded with Iran, exchanging South African weapons with Iranian oil. A similar deal for $750 million was concluded with Iraq. Is it not strange that none of these countries are judged by the same yardstick as applied to Israel?

Contrary to conventional wisdom and compared with many other countries, Israel has much to be proud of in its contribution towards the new South Africa. It receives no credit for its unique contribution during the apartheid years in providing intensive programs for training Blacks in leadership skills to use in a future new democratic South Africa. Of necessity these Community Development and Leadership programs, under the auspices of the Histadrut, were held covertly so as avoid the attention of the apartheid government.

Some two dozen graduates went on to become mayors of cities such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Randburg, George, Grahamstown and Port Alfred. Hundreds of members of local government councils and at least twenty members of parliament and ministers of provincial councils passed through Beit Berl at some time.

In addition, The Center for International Cooperation ("MASHAV") of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has over the years carried out capacity-building and technology-transfer activities in 30 different African countries. Some of the courses were carried out at teaching and training facilities in Israel. Others were conducted in the relevant countries, including long-term agricultural projects. Today, the "He-atid" program continues to organize training sessions in Israel for Black middle managers.

While the ANC's empathy with the Palestinians is an understandable result of having been comrades in arms, the commonality ends there. Indeed the Palestinian people deserve a better life, but they have been unfortunate in lacking leadership of the caliber of Nelson Mandela. Who can doubt that, had Yasser Arafat possessed Mandela's qualities, he and Ehud Barak, would have achieved a satisfactory peace agreement?

Unfortunately, the Islamic based, hate-filled PLO and Hamas covenants are vastly different from the ANC's Freedom Charter, which promotes "world peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation - not war". In contrast, article 9 of the PLO Charter declares bluntly that the armed struggle is not merely tactical, it is the overall strategy. Article 19 rejects outright, the 1947 UN partition of Palestine, implying that liberating Palestine means destruction of the entire Jewish State. All international resolutions concerning Palestine are unashamedly rejected in article 20.

Article 13 of the Hamas unambiguously states "Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad." The late Hamas leader Dr. Rantisi told NY Times journalist Joel Binkley in April 2003, "We in Hamas believe peace talks will do no good. We do not believe we can live with the enemy." Mahmoud al-Zahar told Binkley with a smile, "Forty were killed and 200 injured in just two operations."

The imaginative irrationality of the Hamas concept, so different from the sober tone of the ANC Charter, is illustrated by obsessive phobia about Freemasons, Rotary clubs, Lions and similar organizations, promising that the day Islam is in control, these organizations, will be obliterated. These groups are accused of everything from control of the world media, stirring the French and Communist Revolutions, instigating both World Wars, and forming the League of Nations and the UN.

The ANC would never tolerate the type of incitement to violence, which has been emanating for years from the mosques and PA controlled media and taught in schools from the earliest age. The time has come to introduce into the Middle East, some of the ANC's concept of reconciliation and love of humanity!

Maurice Ostroff, 6/October/2004

Mr. Ostroff took part in many anti-apartheid demonstrations while living in South Africa..

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