Targeting Israel’s Legitimacy

By Iqbal Jassat – Pretoria

While Kader Asmal’s opinion piece ‘World must deny legitimacy to Israel’ [South Africa’s Mail & Guardian, June 25] was welcomed as a breathtakingly courageous call for action against the Zionist entity, unsurprisingly it has also elicited raging howls of complaints from the usual suspects.

However, what I do find quite intriguing is the personal attack David Saks of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies hurls at Asmal. His insulting response as an apologist for Israel is reflective of the increasing difficulty spin-doctors for the usurpers of Palestine have in countering credible and sound analysis.

Accusing Asmal of falsehood and of “standard anti-Israel polemic” and then himself indulging in emotive rhetoric without any reference to the key components of Asmal’s brilliant argument to bring an end to Palestinians’ long ordeal, is a total cop-out!

Asmal, a veteran of the struggle against apartheid and having been closely associated with legal probes into violations of international law by Israel following its invasion of Lebanon in 1980 and the Sabra and Shatila massacres of hundreds of defenceless Palestinian refugees, cannot neither be dismissed as “ignorant”, nor of having a “jaundiced approach”. 

If anything, one could correctly ask Asmal why the silence for more than two decades – especially during his tenure as a senior cabinet minister during both the Mandela and Mbeki era – until now with the publication of this significant piece?

The main thrust of Asmal’s argument is that unless there are negative consequences for maintaining the status quo; Israel will not voluntarily relinquish control of the Palestinian territories, extend equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel, or negotiate a just resolution to all outstanding issues.

He also recognizes that Palestinians have been turned into scapegoats for Europe’s past crimes and that every tenet of freedom and equality is violated by Israel.  The all-important question posed by Asmal regarding Israeli impunity that Saks chooses to ignore is: Why must the Palestinian people pay with their lives and freedom to ease the consciences of Europeans?

The stark facts pointed out by him – also avoided by the apologists – are that non-Jewish nationals have no right to return. Non-Jews are severely restricted in owning land in Israel and in the occupied territories. There is no freedom of movement for Palestinians and with the existence of more than 600 checkpoints in the West Bank; they require identity cards to travel from one village to another.

In Asmal’s assessment the matrix of controls surpasses the restrictions once imposed by South Africa’s apartheid regime and thus the need to engage in a “legitimacy war”. 

It is this call that converges with current global pressure sparked by the Goldstone report and the flotilla raid to disrupt normal relations with Israel.  It also echoes the demands made by an array of scholars, academics, commentators and analysts, both Jewish and non-Jewish.

Global justice movements and campaigners for Palestinian solidarity have consistently warned that unless a legitimacy war is unleashed, Israel’s cruel occupation covering all of historic Palestine will remain total and merciless.

– Iqbal Jassat is chairperson of the Media Review Network (MRN), an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa. He contributed this article to Visit:

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