By Iqbal Jassat – Pretoria
The late Palestinian author and eloquent spokesman for the Palestinian cause in the West, Edward W. Said, in a ‘96 essay titled ‘Mandela, Netanyahu, and Arafat’ brilliantly captured the contrasts amongst these leaders.
But the defining gaps were not related to personalities; instead Said unpacked crucial differences related to and informed by ideology. For instance he cited Nelson Mandela’s commitment to the African National Congress’ [ANC] single goal for which it was created: the end of apartheid, and the institution of legal equality – one person, one vote – between blacks and whites.
On the other hand, Benjamin Netanyahu, who incidentally was on his first official trip to the United States, represented bigotry and falsehood. Today almost fifteen years later, one will fully appreciate Said’s critic of this man. His analysis likened Netanyahu to all other Israeli leaders who denied the past and the reality of the Palestinians. Netanyahu was a man insensitive to the human toll caused by Israel to literally millions of Arabs, claimed one of the leading authorities on the Middle East.
Having read South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein’s open letter to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, I am reminded of the above analogy and thus tempted to attribute Said’s brutal assessment of Netanyahu to Goldstein.
And the reason for doing so is relatively easy once you read and understand the Chief Rabbi’s shameless denial that “Israel is not an apartheid state”. And to underpin his misleading assertion, he seeks to confound it by another blatant untruth: “In the state of Israel all citizens – Jew and Arab – are equal before the law”.
He then proceeds to paint Israel as a “vibrant liberal democracy”, listing “facts” in a style reminiscent of apartheid-era National Party propagandists. That the Chief Rabbi would yet again unsheathe his sword in defense of Israel in a country such as South Africa where crimes perpetrated in the name of apartheid and all its collaborators [including Israel], are too fresh to gloss over, is distasteful, humourless and downright insulting!
What is quite incomprehensible about the Chief Rabbi’s letter is that it is addressed to an iconic figure whose struggle against apartheid was informed by an experience directly related to persecution flowing from resisting it.
Thus – unlike Goldstein’s apologetic stance and irrational denial – Archbishop Tutu’s devastating critique of Israeli apartheid is matched by his demands that unless a future in which Jews and Palestinians alike share civil rights, human dignity and international justice, sanctions against Israel must continue and intensify!
Another distressing signal about how Goldstein misconstrues legitimate critique of apartheid Israel as an attack on Jews is contained in his opening argument that the sanctions campaign is “…based on horrific and grotesquely false accusations against the Jewish people”. Apart from being ridiculous, it is outrageous to imply that persons such as Archbishop Tutu would be “Jew-haters”!
Goldstein is known for having nailed his colours to the Zionist mast and thus his constant defence of Israel – notwithstanding conclusive evidence of anti-Arab discrimination, illegal settlements, violations of international conventions and war crimes – does raise very profound questions of his so-called moral regeneration crusade.
Indeed as co-publishers of “Apartheid Israel” by veteran human rights activist and academic Prof Uri Davis, we, the Media Review Network [MRN] are convinced that it provides a thorough critique of Israel’s legal and political structure establishing beyond doubt that Israel is an apartheid state.
– Iqbal Jassat is chairperson of the Media Review Network (MRN), an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.mediareviewnet.com.