THE HIGH court is allowing 16,000 protesters to gather outside US singer, Pharrell Williams‘ concert in two days. Williams, who recently performed in Tel Aviv, has come under fire from several pro-Palestinian groups for partnering with retailer, Woolworths, accused of trading with the Jewish state. South Africa currently has diplomatic and trade ties with Israel, and Pharrell Williams’ tour thus has full support of the country’s laws.
BDS is comprised of mainly religious groups and the anti-Secular left.
The move comes days after a fact-finding mission by opposition leaders, including Mosiuoa Lekota (Cope), Bantu Holomisa, (UDM), Pieter Mulder, (FF+) Kenneth Meshoe (ACDP), and Mangosuthu Buthelezi (IFP) who returned from Israel and the Palestinian territories, after meeting with the Palestinian Authority ambassador to South Africa.
In an interview on Radio Islam, Holomisa and Lekota explained their reasons for the mission, and the group’s findings.
The opposition group believes that Israel is not an apartheid state per se, and supports South Africa’s bipartisan role, drafted by the late Nelson Mandela, in bringing both sides to the negotiation table. The country must rather support peace though negotiations they say.
“I don’t see the signs of apartheid there,” says Lekota, “in Israel today, in the Knesset, their parliament, are sitting Jewish people, both supporting the party in power and other parties, and also sitting there are Palestinians with their representatives, and Muslim elected representatives. We could never sit in the Assembly under apartheid.”
Both Lekota and Holomisa met with their counterparts, leaders of the opposition in the Knesset and the Palestinian Authority. Holomisa, has travelled previously to Ramallah, as a guest of the late Yasser Arafat.
“They indicated their dissatisfaction, for instance, the Israeli flag does not express them. They don’t have equal language rights, the national anthem does not express them, when it comes to land rights, they don’t have equal land rights. Now those elements are there, but to say this is apartheid is a misnomer.” says Lekota.
This view is backed up by Holomisa who concurs: “What we have seen in Israel, we went to hospitals, we saw that Israelis and other communities are treated equally. We also saw in the streets that we don’t see taxi ranks, this one is for Israelis, that one is for Arabs. We also heard from minority MPs in the [Knesset], who say they don’t have access to land, and when we asked this question, they didn’t give us any answers. If Israel was an apartheid state, South Africa, I submit would not have established diplomatic ties with [the country], under the ANC.”
Lekota says he holds the firm views which Mandela taught him. “When we were here under apartheid, we understood from him that it was critical on our part to convince our oppressors that there would be no solution unless there was negotiation between us and them.The situation is not very dissimilar. It is critical to find a counterpart to negotiate with in Israel.”
Both agree with the Palestinian Authority, that the conflict in that part of the world, will never end “as long as USA is the sole mediator of peace”, in order to solve this problem, they would like to see a similar thing, as the team which negotiated in South Africa. But in order for this to happen, “we need to recognise the realities of people who have lived in the area for centuries”.
FOR years the tragic conflict between those who want Israel to be replaced by an Arab state from the Jordan to the sea; those who want a greater Israel to include the ancient sites of Judea and Samaria; those who demand that Israel retreat to the 1967 borders (which could mean giving up Jerusalem); and those who believe in the possibility of a binational solution in which all Israeli’s whether Jewish or Arab, Muslim or Christian, can live side by side, has raged on, and on and on.
The sheer complexity of the many issues surrounding the 1000-year-old conflict surrounding competing monotheisms has meant honest, open debate, has been near impossible.
Now, as Israel faces an election — with the real possibility that Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu will be replaced by Isaac Herzog, whose center left block “Zionist Union” party along with co-leader Tzipi Livni, has emerged as a primary rival — a number of articles have appeared in the international press. Each one tackling the unthinkable: Could a binational state, or one state solution be on the cards?
For celebrated author Amos Oz, writing in Haaretz, the one-state solution presents too many difficulties. He says: “If there will be one state here, it will be an Arab state, from the sea to the Jordan River. If there will be an Arab state here, I don’t envy my children and my grandchildren.” Oz goes on to discuss binationalism.
“With the exception of Switzerland, all the existing binational and multinational states are creaking badly (Belgium, Spain) or have already collapsed into a bloodbath (Lebanon, Cyprus, Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union).”
Surprisingly, Israel’s new president, Reuven Rivlen, quoted in the New Yorker by David Remnick in a provocative article entitled “The one-state reality”, and who has long been an ardent advocate of a greater Israel that includes Jerusalem, is not adverse to a federalised “binational state plan”, since as many critics point out, “there is too much history and not enough land.”
“The map of Ireland is a veritable continent compared with Israel and the Palestinian territories,” says Rivlen “…the West Bank, as Israelis are quick to point out, is seven miles from Ben Gurion Airport. Any two-state solution with a chance of working would have to include federal arrangements not only about security but also about water, cell-phone coverage, sewage, and countless other details of a common infrastructure. Talk of a one-state solution, limited as it is, will never be serious if it is an attempt to mask annexation, expulsion, or population transfer, on one side, or the eradication of an existing nation, on the other. Israel exists; the Palestinian people exist. Neither is provisional. Within these territorial confines, two nationally distinct groups, who are divided by language, culture, and history, cannot live wholly apart or wholly together.”
For Oz, the only persons who thus agree on the need for a binational state are the far left and the far right.
The rather convoluted New Yorker article by Remnick, carries informative background to the origin of the concept of a binational state, which is also favoured by persons such as Noam Chomsky, and Peter Hain.
Martin Buber, the eponymous Jewish philosopher, he says “warned of excessive nationalism in Zionist thought and counselled against the creation of a “tiny state of Jews, completely militarized and unsustainable.”
“The idea of two states for two peoples came together in official form in 1936, when Lord Peel was charged by the British Mandate with investigating unrest between Arabs and Jews. His commission set out the initial boundaries of partition. By the time the United Nations voted in support of partition, in 1947, the binational idea, and its array of supporting factions … had dissolved. The surrounding Arab states rejected partition and invaded the new state of Israel, which emerged victorious.”
“The reappearance of a one-state discussion in Israel came out of frustration over the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank following the Six-Day War and the failures to gain an agreement with the Palestinians. Meron Benvenisti, who was the deputy mayor of Jerusalem from 1971 to 1978, years when Israel kept expanding the city, spoke out against the occupation of lands won in the 1967 war and what he saw as Israel’s broader intentions. By the early eighties, he concluded that the leaders of both Labor and Likud were complicit in the ever-widening construction of settlements throughout the territories and were making it impossible to lay any groundwork for Palestinian independence. “
With the possibility of the overthrow of the Likud party, all solutions are now on the cards, bringing fresh ideas.
Is a two-state solution in itself racist, as implied by Remnick and other critics? Is the possibility of several satellite Arab states existing inside Israel going to result in a dictatorship by far-right Jews according to Oz?
Is all of this merely the politics of “divide and rule” or a real step in the right direction?
Questions such as these are inevitable as some of the political notions that have dogged the 20th Century seem no longer to hold water in the 21st century and its version of the Middle East.
UPDATE: Response from the Jerusalem Post.
TWO incidents involving campus politics in South Africa need some explanation.
The first involved the Durban University of Technology (DUT). Last week its SRC chair was calling for all Jews to be deregistered and in particular, those Jews who support Israel.
This week, the SRC was issuing a retraction. The announcement was shortly followed by news that members of the University of Cape Town (UCT) students council would be visiting Israel, ostensibly on a fact-finding mission.
The predictable anger from the vocal Palestinian lobby on campus looks set to disintegrate into yet another round of name-calling. So far as PSF is concerned, issues in the Middle East should not be debated, Jews must be banned or restricted from holding any opinions not authored by the BDS central committee.
It is not surprising then that some of the basic tenets associated with the campaign are falling apart, since BDS appear to be living in a Cold War time warp, cherry-picking UN resolutions to back up their arguments.
After the end of the Cold War, the same UN general assembly issued a resolution reversing the earlier resolution.
Thus in 1991 “the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly … to revoke the bitterly contested statement it approved in 1975 that said “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.”
“The official count found 111 nations in favor of repealing the statement and 25 nations, mostly Islamic and hard-line Communists, voting against. Thirteen nations abstained. Seventeen other countries, including Egypt, which recognizes Israel, and Kuwait and China, did not take part in the voting.”
The earlier 1975 resolution 3379 is the basis for several conferences in South Africa, each one arriving at the conclusion that Zionism is Racism and worse, apartheid.
The 1975 resolution is also the basis for a Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) research paper reiterating its findings.
No resolution has ever been issued by the UN for any similar form of ethnic nationalism, for example: Kemalism.
FIRST there were the fatwas and pronouncements by Islamic scholars on the status of Woolworths in the global BDS movement. Then well-heeled young Muslim students staged a bizarre flash-mob event, consisting of coordinated dance and movement while shouting Pro-Palestinian slogans. Then the combined sit-ins by SACP and BDS members, and now the latest round involving COSAS and a badly executed pig.
Although Woolworths stocks less than 0.1% products sourced in Israel, the high-end retailer has come under fire by youth groups and students who wish to see Israel replaced by an Islamic republic under the Caliphate.*
The recent COSAS porker incident, (what about cruelty to animals?) involved a failed attempt to contaminate a “kosher” meat section of an outlet in Sea Point, frequented by Jews, and marks a strange new turn in the campaign.
If anything, COSAS has merely demonstrated the troublesome nature of competing dichotomies in the Middle East.
It is one thing to target so-called ‘Israel Made’ goods, it is quite another thing entirely to black-list Kosher products eaten by Jews, forcing Woolworths to also recall Halaal products. Similar dietary laws apply to both groups and many of the products affected have duel labeling.
“Woolworths is appalled by this incident. Placing a pigs head in our store is unacceptable and offensive to our employees and customers, including Jewish and Muslim employees and customers” according to Woolworths Group Director of Retail Operations Paula Disberry
“We will destroy any halaal products that may be affected and take any other appropriate measures.” she said.
The resulting misadventure, in essence the expose of the culinary habits of rival and competing religions, and the rules surrounding kashrut and halaal produce, signals a troubling escalation, and we have surely not seen the end of it — over 40 BDS members were arrested over the weekend for creating a public nuisance in a campaign endorsed by SACP Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande and struggle luminary Denis Goldberg.
While Goldberg has criticised the SAJBD for not taking a stand on apartheid, it should be noted this position was also common to the MJC which refused to demand an inquiry into the death of Iman Haron. Muslim support for apartheid as recorded in the TRC Final Report, is thus also part of the broader picture relating to BDS’s political project — the revision of South African history, and the relocation of apartheid to the Middle East in a short-circuiting of debate that avoids crucial questions regarding a solution.
The Woolworths ruckus may seem opportunistic and ill-considered, given that other retailers such as Pick ‘n Pay and Shoprite have more exposure to Israeli produce.
Then there are the uncomfortable questions which need to be posed regarding Israel’s many BEE deals with the ANC ruling party.
Remgro, a South African industrial conglomerate, which is also a large investor in Kagiso and Sabido, own several Israeli equity and IT firms, including Veritas Venture Partners and Fring.
Naspers which has ties with Remgro, recently bought Similarweb, an Israeli IT firm.
(*Certainly, the nuanced bipartisan and non-sectarian secular views of the late Nelson Mandela relating to a two-state solution and the 1967 borders, do not make for a pithy slogan, as those waving around the Jordanian flag and shouting: Free Palestine! The paradox of support for another Palestinian state while there is a war against a renegade Islamic State has also been remarked upon.)
WHEN I joined the struggle against the apartheid regime there was never any doubt in my mind that the armed struggle was a just struggle against an oppressive state. Not only was there a Freedom Charter guaranteeing human rights for all, but our demands and that of the demands of our leaders such as Nelson Mandela were rock solid and beyond reproach.
One of the reasons I became an anarchist and non-zionist in the 1980s was the aggressive Palestinian Solidarity campaign in which the two struggles were ostensibly linked. Although Jews had made an enormous contribution to the anti-apartheid movement in particular the Treason Trial, the situation back then presented itself with many predicaments.
Nelson Mandela himself recounts his conversation with the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who had complained about the presence of Jews in the ANC, to which Mandela replied, ‘yes, we have Jews, … we work with Jews in our organisation.’
The absence of Jews in the Hamas organisation is telling. In South Africa, we were not simply silent partners in the liberation of our country, but active participants and in some instances, heroes. Hamas’ lame explanation that it has Jewish supporters, who like me, support rights for Palestinians, does not ring true given their absurd lack of commitment to civil rights in their own domain, for their own people in Gaza.
When people call for the death of something, such political rhetoric may be excused in the heat of the moment, a battle cry of the oppressed against the oppressor, it is quite another issue to have a vendetta in a written document, a credo enshrining death and destruction.
Hamas, far from being a noble liberation movement like the ANC, seeking the end of oppression, the end of the colonial occupation as they see it, have made it abundantly clear that their objective is the destruction of the Jews in a final battle, alongside the creation of an Islamic state on the rubble of Israel.
The movement’s ultimate goal is a theocracy under the Caliphate, in which Jews are expected to either die or conform to an Islamic version of Judaism, as Dhimmi or People of the Book.
Now while a piece entitled: ‘7 Zionist Myths’ based on work published by David Duke, an American White nationalist, writer, right-wing politician, and a former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, is being reposted and circulating on the Internet, (see my analysis of a similar piece by Illan Pappe and others) I am moved to write the following:
The struggle for a Jew-free Palestine must be condemned as too the struggle for a Palestinian-free Israel. The tactics of genocide and targeting of civilians by either side can never be condoned. The war being fought by adults against children in the Middle East must end.
I am an anarchist, I am also most certainly a secularist. When it comes down to being held hostage by an Islamic State vs being held hostage by a Secular State, I choose Secularism. In a battle of ideologies, I reserve my right to reject authoritarianism and fascism on either side.
As the humanitarian disaster of 40 000 members of the minority Yazidi sect who have taken refuge from ISIS on Mount Sinjar, (identified in local legend as the final resting place of Noah’s ark), plays itself out — the group face slaughter if they go down and dehydration if they stay, — and Gazans begin to pick up their lives after the retreat of the IDF amidst the rubble of a 20 day war, and a lengthy siege surpassing the Cuban missile crisis, one can only hope and dare one say, pray for peace in the Middle East.
BRITISH Labour MP and former cabinet minister Peter Hain says a one-state solution could “more easily resolve the deadlock than the two-state solution I and many others have long favoured”. In an article published by New Statesman, Hain says the establishment of a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians – must now be seriously considered
“For close to seventy years the cycle of violence and hatred has ripped the region apart. Stop-start negotiations to achieve a two-state solution – an Israel with secure borders, not living under siege from its neighbours, and alongside an independent Palestine – have led nowhere, despite the fact that a majority of both peoples (Palestinian and Israeli) continue publicly to support it. ”
“I am both a longstanding supporter of the Palestinian cause and a friend of Israel.
As a British Minister for the Middle East in 1999-2001 Hain worked closely with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
“My record of fighting apartheid, racism and anti-Semitism is long and recognised.”
Hain is the first British figure with direct ministerial experience to argue that after decades of failure, a one-state solution to the conflict should be considered.
This comes as both Arab and Jewish Palestinians are engaged in peace talks involving the United States brokered framework agreement.
The latest proposal involves land swaps in which Israel would gain sovereignty over 70% of Jewish settlements on the West Bank in return for the resolution of the Jewish refugee land question involving 100 000 sq/km of deeded property owned by Jews which was confiscated by Arab States following Israel’s declaration of Independence in 1948 and the war which followed after these states refused to accept Israeli independence.
The talks have faltered on the issue of *Jerusalem and the extension of citizenship to some **6 million Jordanian-Palestinians living in Jordan.
NOTE: Medialternatives has already presented the case for a binational “one-state solution” also known as the three-state solution in which two states coexist within the borders of a third on the basis of a constitutional arrangement. Such a plan may involve a strong federal system as in South Africa, or a weak central government as is the case in Belgium.
* The original partition plan for “Palestine” involved the creation of a Corpus Seperatum, in which the UN declared that the city be placed under a special international regime. During the 1948 War, Jordan captured the old city of Jerusalem and the City was effectively partitioned until 1967 when Israel gained control of the West Bank and the East City. Islamic fundamentalists continue to maintain that Jerusalem should be the capital of an Islamic Empire which includes Palestine. However, there are now several such Palestinian entities, including the self-declared “State of Palestine” in the Levant. Its independence was declared on 15 November 1988 and only recognised by the UN in 2013.
**Under the Lausanne treaty following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, a population exchange between Greece and Turkey, occurred whereby 1.1 million Greeks left Turkey for Greece in exchange for 380,000 Muslims transferred from Greece to Turkey. Similarly, under the Belfour Declaration, population swaps occurred between the newly created state of Israel and the new state of Jordan. Because of an ongoing theological and territorial conflict amongst the Arab States, Jordan invaded Israel and occupied the West Bank until 1967.