Travelling on the M1 motorway between Johannesburg and Pretoria, two huge posters have been placed, on private property, close to the Grayston Drive off-ramp. The posters reflect quotations from a speech delivered by the late President, Nelson Mandela, on 21st August, 1993. The event was held at the Carlton Hotel and attended by leading members of the Jewish Community.
The quotations used on the posters are:
“………..we recognise the legitimacy of the Zionism as a Jewish nationalism” and “We insist on the right of the State of Israel to exist within secure borders…….”.
The Media Review Network (MRN) is in possession of the speech from which the Late President is being quoted. Both quotations have a context around which they were made and therefore should be read within that context, if the President’s message is to be understood. Taken out of that context will convey a distorted version of the President’s speech.
The MRN, being part of South African civil society, find it reprehensible and morally unethical that an attempt is made to taint the legacy of the late President, by suggesting that he approved of an ideology that was declared by the United Nations as being racist and discriminatory. (UNGA Res. 3379 of 1975). However this resolution was revoked in 1991 when Israel made this a condition for her participation in the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991. Nothing came of that Conference.
In 1990, the late Nelson Mandela visited New York City, where he received a hero’s welcome. At the welcoming table there was an empty chair. The mainstream Jewish organisations in the New York were not willing to meet him. The reason: he had criticised Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
In his Address to this gathering, the late former President made reference to various aspects of the new dispensation facing all South Africans. He spoke of a shared commitment to the future of our country by all communities and the importance to recognise our past and not to forget whence we came from. Our liberation meant the overthrow of racism and racial oppression. He mentioned the sacrifices mad e by thousands of South Africans of all races and religious backgrounds. He spoke of his hope to see all South Africans work together to build a bright future for all.
For the Pro-Israeli lobby in South Africa, to extract probably 1% of the contents of the presentation and to project it as if it formed the most important part of the message is disingenuous and misleading. To create the impression that the late President supported the Zionist ideology is an affront to the man, his legacy and his stature.
In any critique of the Palestine/Israeli conflict, it is important that a clear distinction be made between Zionism and Judaism. Zionism is a man-made political ideology which has allied itself in every way to the powers of world imperialism. What national liberation struggle found its basis on the colonisation of another people, on the obliteration of that peoples’ history, their culture and their land? The founding fathers of Zionism were honest about what they stood for. David Ben Gurion, a Polish Jew and a founding father of Zionism and first Prime Minister of Israel, told an American Journalist in 1949:
“I am not in a hurry, I can wait ten years. We are under no pressure whatsoever,” referring to peace with the Palestinians. The cost of peace was too much for him to bear. On another occasion he wrote:
“Israel will not discuss a peace involving the concession of any piece of territory. The neighboring states do not deserve an inch of Israel’s land. . . .”.
It is clear from the present political dynamics in the Middle East that the Zionist Regime in Tel Aviv want nothing less than to make Palestine “as Jewish as England is English.” If the Palestinians could not be coerced into leaving, they would have to be forced out. The Zionists are determined to reenact in this modern era the exclusive settler colonialist entity of the past. They are resolute to repeat the supremacist history of the white colonialists. By the measure of any historical era, the Zionist project is radical in the destiny it had planned for the Palestinians: their complete or near-complete displacement from Palestine or ethnic cleansing and genocide. Indeed, to deny the existence of a vibrant community such as the Palestinian society in the early twentieth century and describe Palestine as “a land without a people for a people without a land” is indeed a disease of the mind.
An article in the New York Times of 12 September 2013, described a visit to the city in 1990 by newly freed Nelson Mandela which was boycotted by the mainstream Jewish organisations as:
“This abject ethical failure by the “official” line-up of Jewish organizations was a rejection of the broadest human ethical standards, as well as a denial of the prophetic tradition at the heart of the Torah…………………………………… Perhaps more important, it was not only a blemish upon the New York Jewish community thirteen years ago, but raises some continuing profound questions about the stance of the American Jewish community today.”
South Africans must not forget the debacle during the Memorial Service in honour of the late President. Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu was supposed to attend, then pulled out for logistical reasons, whatever that meant. President Shimon Peres was too ill to attend. This must be seen in the light of the relationship between Apartheid South Africa and Israel, during the height of the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
The book “The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s secret relationship with Apartheid South Africa” by Sasha Polakow-Suransky, is an important work on international relations which uses extensive archival documents and interviews with key players to discuss in detail the development of a strategic military and diplomatic relationship between Israel and South Africa. The height of this cooperation probably came in the mid-1970s when then Israeli Defense Minister Shimon Peres sought to secure nuclear cooperation between Israel and South Africa. While Israel already had an operating nuclear facility capable of producing nuclear weapons, South Africa had enough nuclear fuel like uranium to ensure that the Israeli reactor could continue to operate should it face further international isolation. Israel would provide not only weapons, but military advisers and clandestine support for military and nuclear development in Apartheid South Africa.
The speech by the Late President referred to Israel’s borders. In over six decades Israel has yet to declare its borders. Imagine there being no borders between South Africa and Zimbabwe. People would not know which country they belonged to, what laws to follow, what currency to use and what was their citizenship. There would be utter chaos. For peace to prevail in this region, justice must first be established. That is what Nelson Mandela stood for, lived, fought and died for.
Comrade Ibrahim Vawda is a Research at the Media Review Network