Zionism is Racism: In Defense of Palestinian Resistance – Ronnie Kasrils

What does Gaza Resistance look like. (Image: The Palestine Chronicle)

By Ronnie Kasrils

(Author’s Note: This is my response to a South African commentator who runs the Brenthurst Foundation. He criticized me in several South African online publications for my support for Palestinian Resistance, and more particularly a lecture I gave to solidarity activists after October 7, which had gone viral. Palestine Chronicle ran that article.)

Greg Mills accuses me of having no ‘moral compass’ because I support the right of all oppressed people to resist, and to resist armed oppression with armed resistance. 

My principles are universal, they apply in all situations. In the same way, I oppose all forms of racism. Naturally, this includes antisemitism, which is a form of racism.

Mills, however, appears indifferent to the lives of Palestinians, and other Muslims. He has been directly involved in imperialist oppression, and remains complicit with it. In 2006, he was a special advisor to the commander of the NATO forces occupying Afghanistan.

Today, the board of the Brenthurst Foundation, which Mills directs, includes Richard Myers – the Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the USA – and Nick Carter – the Former Chief of the Defence Staff, in the United Kingdom. Myers and Carter both took leading roles in the destruction of Iraq following the invasion led by the US in 2003.

I Oppose All Forms Of Racism

The destruction of Iraq, at the price of over a million lives, is widely recognized as a war crime and yet, Mills happily consorts with perpetrators of the most horrific war crime in a generation. He does not show an ounce of the concern he lavishes on the lives of people in Israel and Ukraine for the lives of Iraqis and other Arabs. His racism is rank.

I oppose all forms of racism, support the right of all people living under military occupation to armed resistance and oppose and regret all loss of civilian life. I hold these principles without regard to the race of the oppressor or the oppressed.

Mills does not engage with the situation in Gaza or the West Bank with any factual rigor, and the same is true of his attack on myself where he wholly ignores the context of my remarks. For instance, he says that Hamas has an “ideology to eliminate Israel and Israelis” and uses this claim to compare Hamas to Nazis.

The 2017 Hamas Charter, which remains current, clearly states it is in conflict “with the Zionist project not with the Jews” and that it “rejects the persecution of any human being or the undermining of his or her rights on nationalist, religious or sectarian grounds.” 

It correctly describes the Zionist project as a “racist, aggressive, colonial and expansionist project based on seizing the properties of others” and correctly asserts the right of the victims of Zionism to take up arms against their oppressors but does not, in anyway, call for attacks on Jewish people because they are Jewish people. 

The Hamas Charter reveals the Palestinian Struggle to be no different to the South African struggle which was waged against the abominations of the Apartheid system and colonial dispossession of land, not against Whites because they were White.

My personal view is that there should be a single secular democratic state with rights for all – along the lines of post-apartheid South Africa – in the territory of historical Palestine but the 2017 Hamas charter does not call for the replacement of the Israeli ethno-state with a single inclusive state and clearly accepts a two state solution with a Palestinian state contiguous with the 1967 borders.

Right to Resist

In terms of his attack on myself, Mills takes a statement out of context – always a shortcut for those who decline to stay the course of critical thinking and journalistic integrity. 

In an address at a private meeting of approximately 40 trade unionists and activists on 24 November, my words on the success of the military raid on the Israeli Gaza Division undertaken by Hamas on 7 October, were as follows:

“They swept on them and they killed them and damn good. I was so pleased and people who supported the resistance applauded, absolutely. If we had been able to spring a surprise on the Boers and knock down a hundred of them, the people would have been rejoicing on the rooftops. It’s the struggle, the armed struggle and in International Law, the occupied people are (justified). It’s accepted International Law that they have the right to that kind of resistance.”

In the context of my talk and discussion, I was referring to the Israeli military garrison, cruelly imprisoning the people of Gaza for over sixteen years, having tormented and killed thousands in that period – “mowing the lawn” as the IDF phrase describes massacre after massacre.   

Palestinians have the same right to armed resistance as black South Africans had under apartheid, and as all oppressed people do. 

The October 7 raid penetrating  the militarized Gaza border followed 16 years of the brutal Gaza siege and a history of oppression going back to 1967, and indeed all the way back to 1947-48. Supporters of the oppressed will always rejoice in their achievements against the oppressor. 

At the same time, empathy for any civilian victim is felt. This is felt for civilians who died on October 7. Such rejoicing is no different to the way in which we celebrate military defeats against every oppressive state – from Nazi Germany to Apartheid South Africa – while regretting civilian casualties.

Those who wish to say that all celebration of military success is perverse are silent about the fact that the Zionists of what was deemed a Jewish Resistance Movement celebrated foul atrocities committed in the founding of a state on land soaked with the blood and tears of its indigenous Palestinian population. 

They forget that the IDF and settler militias continuously celebrate their abhorrent undertakings growing more brutal by the day, as seen in the wild settler pogroms on the West Bank, in East Jerusalem as in the Gaza genocide. We may ask who has the true right to celebration, the oppressor or the oppressed?

October 7 Operation

The  October 7 incursion by Hamas and other resistance groups comprised two elements: The legal and justifiable military operation against the IDF and the illegal taking of civilian captives. 

The latter admittedly a breach of international law but an action holding validity in terms of the intention to secure an exchange for detainees, including women and children, held in Israeli prisons without charge, with little chance of fair trial and under appalling conditions. The offer of an exchange of captives was extended by Hamas within 48 hours of the event.

With regard to the tragedy of violent civilian deaths, completion of the initial phase of military attack was compromised by the music festival, an obstacle to access to  command centers. 

The ensuing carnage was exacerbated by the IDF’s chaotic arrival on the scene, which as the shooting of three Israeli hostages by Israeli soldiers on December 25 showed, is far from a model of military efficiency. 

Increasing witness accounts and information from IDF and Intelligence personnel reveal a need for independent investigation in the interests of equitable apportionment of blame among the IDF, al-Qassam Brigades, other armed groups and the crowd which poured through the breached Gaza fence.

Unfortunately, much evidence has been lost or intentionally removed. But we do know that the Resistance fighters were armed with light arms, RPGs and grenades, weapons that could not destroy hundreds of vehicles or demolish buildings.

The purpose of the military attack on IDF installations and taking of captives certainly did not entail carrying fuel canisters, as per Mr Mills’ assumption that arson was on the To Do list. 

Allegations of depravity committed against women in particular likewise require a measure of explanation. Claims of mass rape and disembowelment, along with accounts of 40 beheaded babies, a baby cooked in an oven, chopping off of limbs and bodies bound together for burning alive have been authoritatively dismissed as simple propaganda.

Having suffered the humiliation of a serious military defeat during the initial phase of the incursion, Israel has elected to divert attention to the second phase during which the massacres occurred. 

However, disclosures to Israeli media reveal the carnage to have ensued by the actions of not only different groups of resistance fighters but particularly those of the IDF, who applied the Hannibal Directive in indiscriminate usage of missiles and shells fired from attack helicopters and tanks.  

It remains to be seen whether the self-proclaimed ‘most moral army in the world’ finds the modicum of courage required to admit to extensive culpability for the civilian deaths on October 7.

Ongoing Genocide

Israeli retaliation for the attack was inevitable. But the world has been left aghast at the disproportionate response, the ongoing genocide, ethnic cleansing, starvation, collective punishment, relentless bombing, obliteration of civilian infrastructure and residential areas, wilful destruction of hospitals overflowing with wounded who have to be treated under horrific conditions, extermination of healthcare workers and journalists, cold-blooded sniper fire and detention of individuals, hooded and stripped to their underwear, who become disappeared and subject to torture.  

The unprecedented global objection to the atrocities wrought against the Palestinians indicates the tectonic plates of geopolitics are shifting. In the United States most younger people, including very many younger Jews, no longer support Israel. However, Mr. Mills has not been able to wean himself from the imperialist interests of the West, over which the US reigns supreme. Some might refer to him as a propagandist.

Moreover, his article is a diatribe, not only against me but the multitudes of previously oppressed South Africans who share my views.

It’s a sorry state of affairs that so much of his article comprises a derogatory ad hominem attack. Personal insult and a crudely intemperate tone typify a deficit of valid argument.  

Mills has succumbed to the lure of what can only be described as malevolently hysterical Zionist fabrication and hasn’t taken the trouble to study the 2017 Hamas Charter, or the strong criticisms made of the recent conduct of the Israeli state and its military in the Israeli media.

The Palestinian Struggle is not waged against Zionism because Zionists are Jewish but against Zionism because it is the imposition of a  monstrous dispensation, which Jews of conscience around the world oppose. 

Israel’s claim to the right of an oppressor to defend itself perpetuates a singularly inhumane dispensation in the form of land seizures, military occupation, settlement expansion, vandalism, violence, expulsion, massacres, surveillance, arbitrary checkpoints, illegal detention, more than 65 discriminatory laws against Palestinians within the 1948 borders, the Apartheid Wall and constant harassment, intimidation and humiliation. 

As a Jew who grew up in the 1940s, my blood chills at comparative images of Nazi behavior.  

Anti-Semitism is racism.

Zionism is racism.

The Israeli state is a structurally and viciously racist state.

Those who stand against racism, must simultaneously stand against anti-Semitism, Zionism and the Israeli state.

– Ronnie Kasrils, veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle, and South Africa’s former Minister for Intelligence Services, activist and author. He contributed this piece to The Palestine Chronicle

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
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  1. Apparently, while some identifiable groups have been brutally victimized throughout history a disproportionately large number of times, the victims of one place and time can and sometimes do become the victimizers of another place and time.

    Indeed, people should avoid believing, let alone claiming, that they are not capable of committing an atrocity, even if relentlessly pushed.

    Contrary to what is claimed or felt by many of us, deep down there’s a tyrant in each of us that, under the just-right circumstances, can be unleashed; and maybe even more so when convinced that God is on our side.

  2. It’s atrocious that so many Palestinian non-combatants have been prevented from crossing borders to safety since Israel began unrelentingly bombarding Gaza and its citizens, sometimes even as they fled their homes upon Israeli insistence.

    The general western corporate news-media’s ‘coverage’ of the Israel-Palestinian conflict has long been very wanting. This includes their reporting on the current and past violence but especially their non-reporting on the consequential anti-Palestinian social injustices that continue in between every military flare up over decades of Israeli occupation.

    Palestinian suffering and deaths in their entirety have not been justly represented.

  3. Palestinians seem to be considered disposable life. But then maybe Israel and Westerners in general, including our legacy news-media, have been getting accustomed to so many Palestinian deaths over many decades of Palestinian/Hamas-Israel warring.

    For quite some time, maybe even decades, Palestinians have been perceived thus treated as not being of equal value to those within Israel.

    Therefor their great suffering and deaths are somehow less worthy of our actionable concern as otherwise relatively civilized nations. Atrociously, the worth of such life can/will be measured by the overabundance of protracted conditions under which it suffers.

  4. Ronnie Kasrils, some points: the IDF claim to be “the most moral army in the world” reminds me of New Zealand’s claim in the 80s to “the world’s best race relations”. Neither standing up to scrutiny. Zionism according to the IHRA, is antisemitism. Zionists claim to represent all Jews everywhere, any time. If someone represents you, you find yourself with the reciprocal responsibility for their actions undertaken on your (alleged) behalf. IHRA’s ‘working definition of antisemitism’: “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.” Making Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s actions surely must be even more vicious than holding them responsible …

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