Chikane’s Courageous Stand in Solidarity with Palestine Deserves Support, Not Rebuke

South African Reverend Frank Chicane at the Palestine Solidarity Forum. (Photo: Meraj Chhaya, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Iqbal Jassat

Having read Pastor Tom Mofokeng’s scurrilous attempt (City Press, June 17) to discredit and undermine Reverend Frank Chikane, it astounded me to discover a complete absence of substance in his letter.

The lack of depth displayed by Mofokeng in his futile effort to renounce Chikane’s brilliant analysis of Israel’s apartheid regime is compounded by a shocking resort to name-calling.

Paradoxically, he sets out to patronize Chikane, claiming that he grew up “loving and respecting” him, but ends up calling him a liar. Such disrespect is far removed from Mofokeng’s insistence that Chikane had a huge influence on his life for which he thanks him.

Though he sounds convoluted and contradictory, the real purpose of Mofokeng’s open letter is to denigrate Chikane. This is evident in one sentence: “It is a lie to say Israel is an apartheid state”.

In other words, Pastor Mofokeng revealed that his purpose was crystal clear – to defend Israel even at the cost of slandering a revered church leader whom he loved and respected.

The rest of his incoherent arguments in defense of Israel’s apartheid regime are no different from the usual rhetoric emanating from Zionist Hasbara (propaganda) outfits.

His statement disputing Chikane’s report is eerily similar to the Israeli narrative: “You say Israel is an apartheid state. That is a lie. On the two occasions that I have visited the country, I went to schools, hospitals, and hotels, and I never saw any sign of apartheid”.

What he forgets or chooses to ignore is that overwhelming evidence of Israel’s apartheid status has been comprehensively documented by a range of human rights organizations.

One such institution is the Israeli-based B’Tselem NGO. Its website proclaims the following:

“Israel’s regime of apartheid and occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end this regime, as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.”

A cursory glance at B’Tselem’s role as a leading human rights monitor will indicate that it has since its inception in 1989 been documenting, researching, and publishing statistics, testimonies, video footage, position papers and reports on human rights violations committed by Israel.

Chikane’s report back on his findings is an affirmation of a glaring truth about Israel’s barbaric assault on the fundamental human rights of Palestinians.

I am reminded by TV personality  Mehdi Hassan of his account of Israeli journalist Hirsh Goodman’s description of when he returned home from the Six-Day War in June 1967 to hear the country’s founding father and first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, speak on the radio. “Israel, he said, better rid itself of the territories and their Arab population as soon as possible. If it did not Israel would soon become an apartheid state.”

Goodman was born and raised in apartheid-era South Africa. “That phrase, ‘Israel will become an apartheid state,’ resonated with me,” Goodman wrote in his memoir.

Following his pastoral visit, Chikane lamented the pain and suffering of the people of Palestine. He is quoted on the SACBC website as saying:

“We witnessed immense pain from the restrictions imposed by the Israeli security forces and the subsequent displacement of the Palestinian people. We believe that God cannot watch the unending pain and suffering of the people of Palestine and those who are racially discriminated against within Israel and turn a blind eye to it.”

An apt reminder to Mofokeng to accept the harsh reality of Israel’s brutality and genocidal policies. To dismiss it as a lie, is to turn a blind eye to it.

Chikane’s report is not only accurate but courageous too for speaking truth to power.

He correctly asserted that over and above the Reports of Amnesty International, B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch which declare Israel an Apartheid State, his delegation could see the blatant apartheid in the laws and enforcement of the illegal occupation.

In fact, they found the system to be more than Apartheid South Africa where at least there were civilian courts rather than military courts and military rules.

If Mofokeng is sincere about his love and respect for Chikane, it would be wiser to heed his heartfelt plea to stand in solidarity with Palestine, instead of disparaging the messenger as a liar.

“Having lived through the apartheid regime in South Africa, we were quickly able to draw parallels between present-day Israel/Palestine and South Africa under apartheid rule. We fought the injustices imposed on us as Africans  – supported by the world; and it is our turn to stand in solidarity with Palestine in challenging the same oppressive practices and beliefs carried out by Israel.”

- Iqbal Jassat is an Executive Member of the South Africa-based Media Review Network. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit: www.mediareviewnet.com
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