IN 1935 a series of antisemitic laws were introduced at the annual Nuremberg Rally of the Nazi Party. After Hitler assumed power in 1933, Nazism became an official ideology incorporating antisemitism as a form of scientific racism. The Nuremberg Laws classified people according to race and these polices were later emulated by D F Malan and H F Verwoerd in apartheid South Africa.
Germans with four German grandparents were classified as “German or kindred blood”, while people were classified as Jews if they descended from three or four Jewish grandparents.
A person with one or two Jewish grandparents was considered a Mischling, or a crossbreed, of “mixed blood”. The Nuremberg Laws classified people with “German or related blood” as “racially acceptable” but deprived Jews and other non-Aryans of German citizenship and prohibited racially mixed sexual relations and marriages between Germans and Jews. On 26 November 1935, the laws were extended to “Gypsies, Negroes or their bastard offspring”.
Similarly in apartheid South Africa the Population Registration Act of 1950 formalised racial classification and introduced an identity card for all persons over the age of 18, specifying their racial group. Scientific racism was thus introduced along with a version of the Nazi race classification system imported by Eugen Fischer. Several laws including the Group Areas Act and Immorality Act segregated persons according to racial criteria.
Unlike South Africa, which denationalised and de-emancipated black South Africans, Germany took the rash step further of seeking to once and for all, solve the race problem. In 1942 the Wannsee Conference formerly adopted Hitler’s Final Solution after receiving a deputation from Palestine. The role played by Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem and uncle of PLO founder Yasser Arafat, in formulating the extermination programme is mired in controversy, Husseini was indicted on war crimes by Yugoslavia for his role in drafting Arabs into the Waffen SS and later implicated in inciting hatred against the Jews during the Eichmann Trial. EIchmann’s deputy Dieter Wisliceny, stated that al-Husseini had “actively encouraged the extermination of European Jews.”
Husseini’s correspondence with Heinrich Himmler and other Nazis makes for interesting reading for anyone wanting a fresh perspective on the Middle East. Like D F Malan, Husseini sought to deny German-Jewish refugees refuge and redirected Jews from Eastern Europe fleeing Hitler’s blitzkrieg forces, to extermination camps in Poland and the Ukraine.
In the latest statement associated with the annual “Israel Apartheid Week” the “children, grandchildren and relatives of Anti-Apartheid stalwarts, veterans” gathered at the iconic Lilliesleaf Farm, a site used secretly by African National Congress activists in the 1960s and the location where many prominent African National Congress leaders including Zionist Arthur Goldreich and Jewish unionist Harold Wolpe were arrested, leading to the Rivonia Trial.
The statement by the group claims to renew a commitment to the freedom struggle in particular that “we have a responsibility to carry forward the spirit of those who came before .. As children who live in a free South Africa we carry a responsibility to those in the international community who contributed towards our liberation. As children of a larger human family we have a responsibility to ensure that children can live in a world where it is safe and okay to simply be a child. Regardless if they are black or white, regardless of their religion, race or nationality and regardless if they are an Israeli or Palestinian child.”
The message signed by some 40 unions, civil society and religious groups appears to be one of inter-racial tolerance and religious freedom, penned by the ‘heirs to the Freedom Charter’ in the ongoing struggle to make good on the Bill of Rights and constitutionalism, and may be mistaken for blanket support of the armed conflict in the Middle East and a call for an end to our government’s policy of African non-alignment.
This comes at a time when international politics is more polarised than ever before and where several conflicts involving Islamic radicals, the Islamic State and Palestinian nationalists, all seek to draw sympathy and support from South Africa’s youth and the freedom struggle.
Notably missing from the statement are prominent Jews. None of the signatories are Jewish student organisations.
BDS has been rocked by a number of scandals in recent years, including last months call for a blanket ban on Jews by the Durban University of Technology SRC, the singing of Dubela i’Juda/Kill the Jew at University of Witwatersrand and the contamination of kosher and halaal food at Woolworths.
One of the major criticisms of the Palestinian struggle, is that unlike the South African struggle no Jews occupy leadership positions.
The movement for Palestinian self-determination also lacks a Freedom Charter and is avowedly anti-Secular.
Thus as a war resister and anti-war activist, let me be the first to reasure readers that I am not about to be conscripted into the armed conflict in the Middle East. Especially not on the side of a clerical battle for control over hearts and minds.
Given a choice of being the hostage of a secular state and the hostage of a theocracy, I choose secularism.
As a Non-Zionist and Non-Theist, I reject the idea of religion, that any nation-state is the embodiment of religion.
Solidarity with the oppressed on either side, whether Palestinian Arab or Palestinian Jew, does not mean supporting war and violence. Quite the contrary, unlike the struggle for human rights in South Africa which had a militant dimension backed by the logic of civil rights and the defense of freedom, the struggle for human rights in the Middle East lacks many of the foundation documents we take for granted — the Hamas Death Charter for instance, calling for the extermination of Jews is not the corollary of our Freedom Charter.
It is uncomfortable facts which I have raised above which needs to be addressed by any activist or organisation claiming the two struggles are in any way connected.
Anarchist Against the Wall.