The Herald's page 1 lead story, verbatim
Tempers rage as 'Israeli war' breaks out at NMMU debate
Tempers flared yesterday during a lively debate at the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan University where former Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils argued against Bay businessman Chuck Volpe that Israel was operating as an apartheid state.
A vocal audience of about 300 watched as the debate, organised by the NMMU Centre for the Advancement of Non•Raciasm and Democracy.
It began on a cordial note, but quickly descended into jibes between the speakers amid a mixture of clapping and jeering from the gallery.
After the debate concluded and as a visibly agitated Kasrils had words with Volpe, Bay-based Jewish-Palestinian refugee Aliza Rachman - who had earlier made her pro-lsrael sentiment clear - tried to interject, to which Kasrils snapped: "Get your hands off of me!"
Kasrils had argued that Israel was acting as South Africa's apartheid government had, by suppressing its Palestinian population as "second-rate citizens," while Volpe tried to rubbish the claims by stating, among other points, that the state was simply protecting itself from increasingly violent attacks from Islamic extremists.
Kasrils, who spoke first, said South Africa's former prime minister and "architect of apartheid," Hendrik Verwoerd, had labelled Israel an apartheid state when he complained that it, the "blue-eyed boy of the West," was favourably received while South Africa's apartheid regime had attracted strict sanctions. "Many Jews within Israel itself and certainly in this country and around the world agree [that Israel is an apartheid state].
"The essential comparison is that there is colonial secondment from foreign people in Europe in what was then the British-mandated Palestine territory and [that) meant the dispossession of land and the removal of people.
"In the case of Israel, in 1948, there was a policy of ethnic cleansing: the removal of the indigenous Palestinians who had lived there for centuries."
Aside from Verwoerd, Kasrils said, Jews opposed to the Zionists said "it is wrong and it is racist to create a society in which only one people, those of Jewish extraction, have all the rights ... and that the indigenous people who have been supplanted”
Ending his 10-minute speech, Kasrils said his contention was "that the nature of rule within Israel is to create a second class status for the Palestinians of Israeli citizenship living in Israel, that they do not have the same rights as the Jewish citizens."
But Volpe hit back, calling Kasrils' proposal "iniquitous."
"What you've heard is a cunningly woven tapestry of half-truths, inaccuracies and omissions; a barely disguised attempt to deceive," he said, adding that Kasrils' attempt to link the name of Verwoerd with Israel was "basing his argument on the fantasies of a racist."
"There are scores of Islamic states but there is one Jewish state, and apparently for you, Ronnie, that is one too many," jibed Volpe.
"Israel is the only country in the Middle East categorised by US-based NGO Freedom House as free, a rating it could certainly not get if it were an apartheid state."
Volpe said calling Israel an apartheid state was a gross insult to every black South African who suffered under apartheid.
Responding to questions, he said there were "humiliations which Palestinians face daily [but] that didn't exist before the Intifada [Arab uprising against Israel].
"There was no war, The roadblocks were non-existent. "As far as brutality is concerned, I want to talk about the brutality of [Islamic extremist group] Hamas. "They love death more than they love life. That's brutality," Volpe said.
Kasrils said that after the "ethnic cleansing" in Israel in 1948, there had been I,000 Palestinian deaths for every Jewish death. "It's not that I’m against the one Jewish state, I'm against the place where the settlers came and evicted the indigenous people and massacred them, and killed and terrorised them and sent them into refugee camps."
Next year will be different
“Next year says David Abel in his e-mail, “when we – the Jewish and Christian Zionists of South Africa; men and women; white and black - set up the ‘National Purim Celebration of Israel’ (celebrating the amazing democratic, economic and spiritual achievements of the Jewish state) to coinside with the annual ‘Israel Apartheid Week,’ we will call on Chuck and the two dozen (or more) brilliant local speakers to fly the Zionist flag high and proud,” writes Abel.
“And we will start planning and coordinating our efforts well in advance; in conjunction with the major Jewish organizations, user-friendly synagogues and churches; as well as our universities and even the media.”
Text of Chuck Volpe’s speech
Ladies and gentlemen, what you've just heard is a cunningly-woven tapestry of half-truths, inaccuracies and omissions - a barely-disguised attempt to deceive. I'm going to start by pointing some of these out.
Firstly, Mr Kasrils attempts, with the deviousness of a conjurer, to link the name of Hendrik Verwoerd with Israel. It doesn't work. That Verwoerd entertained Herrenvolk fantasies is beyond dispute, but that does not mean one should give credence to their content; and that is exactly what Ronnie Kasrils does - he bases his argument on the fantasies of a racist.
Second, he deliberately obscures the distinction between Israel and the West Bank, and he uses this device to attribute to Israel, a sovereign state, certain conditions that prevail on the West Bank, a disputed territory. These are different countries and one cannot conflate the two.
Third, he speaks about the Palestinians having "a mere 12% of historic pre-1948 Palestine." Why does he specify pre-1948? If we look at what was called historic Palestine, it includes the land on both sides of the Jordan River - a much bigger area. The reason he specifies 'pre-1948' is because he doesn't want you to know that in 1923, 75% of historic Palestine, all of which had been set aside for a Jewish homeland, (75%) was 'chopped off,' to form an Arab Palestinian state, and that state is called Jordan. The remaining 25% west of the Jordan River was to become a much-reduced Jewish homeland. It is this remnant, the 25%, that is once again to be divided in the hope of a peace agreement. This is deception by omission.
Four, to speak of Jews as colonisers is utter codswallop. Who exactly was the colonising nation? The Jewish claim to Israel is substantiated by scores of archaeological digs and museums full of artefacts showing Jewish habitation going back 3000 years. To deny this is, amongst other things, to negate the history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Even the word 'Jew' and 'Judaism' come from the kingdom of Judah, one of the Jewish states in biblical times.
Five, what is wrong with Israel calling itself a Jewish state? United Nations Resolution 181 in 1947, called for the establishment of a Jewish state and an Arab state; and it was supported by a two thirds majority. There are many ethnic states. Czechoslovakia broke up along ethnic lines, into a Czech state and a Slovak state. Belgium is on the brink of splitting into a Francophone and Dutch entity. There are scores of Islamic states, and Mahmoud Abbas has said that a future Palestine will be an Islamic state. Right now, there are 50 states in the world with a Muslim majority, any number of states where Christians are secure and comfortable, but only one Jewish state. For Mr Kasrils, that, apparently, is one too many.
Let us turn our attention to the title of this debate: "Is Israel an apartheid state?" One certain way of finding out, is to determine whether Israel is a democracy, because if Israel is a democracy - a free society - it cannot be an apartheid state. Either it is a democracy OR it is an apartheid state - it cannot be both. So is Israel a democracy?
Let's start with Freedom House, the internationally-recognised authority on political rights and civil liberties. This is an entirely neutral organisation. They classify countries into one of three groups - FREE, PARTLY FREE & NOT FREE. As it happens, Israel is the only country in the Middle East categorised as FREE, a rating it would certainly not get if it were an apartheid state! Not one Arab country is designated as FREE or even PARTLY FREE, with the single exception of Lebanon which is PARTLY FREE.
That should be enough to settle the debate; but let's continue; let's have a look at Israeli democracy:
1. every citizen has the right to vote;
2. there are Arab political parties and Arab members of Parliament;
3. the Former Deputy Speaker of the Israeli Parliament is a Druse;
4. there are Arabs on the bench of the Israeli Supreme Court;
5. there is freedom of religion and freedom of speech (the only country in the Middle East);
6. the judiciary is fiercely independent – (Listen to this] last year, the President of Israel was convicted on sexual molestation charges and sentenced to 7 years in prison, by an Arab judge. One can't even imagine PW Botha being sentenced by a black judge;
7. Israel was represented at the Miss World beauty competition by an Arab;
8. Majalli Wahabi, an Arab, served as Acting President of the State of Israel in February 2007;
9. The Israeli ambassador to Ecuador is an Arab. Would they send a second-class citizen, an Arab, abroad, to represent the country and promote it?
10. Jews and Arabs mix freely everywhere - on buses, on the beach, in restaurants, in government buildings, and in the workplace;
11. Israel has taken in thousands of black African refugees from Darfur who had to cross a number of Arab countries on foot to reach Israel. Why would they choose Israel if it was an apartheid state?
What does all of this tell you? Does this sound like apartheid? I think the answer is obvious. But, there is another side to this.
Not only is the use of the apartheid analogy disgraceful because it's a gross insult to Israelis and Jews; it's disgraceful because it's a gross insult to every black South African who suffered under apartheid. If somebody from America or England or Sweden was to arrive in Israel after having heard Ronnie Kasrils, what would he think? He'd think: "Oh, if this is apartheid, what were black people in South Africa complaining about? People have rights, everyone mixes; it seems like apartheid wasn't that bad.
The instrumentalisation of apartheid for a political agenda is pure can sleep are opportunism. It hijacks South African history by devaluing black suffering. The history of the ANC is distinguished by its tradition of non-violent resistance. Only as a last resort, did the ANC turn to violence, and even then it was limited. It cannot in any way be compared to the indiscriminate and brutal massacres by suicide bombers, of children in kindergartens and hundreds of other innocent people. Nor did the ANC spent seven go to sleep are years firing rockets at hospitals, old-age homes and schools.
To compare, to even think of comparing, the behaviour of the Palestinians, to what was ANC policy and practice during the struggle, is an unconscionable insult. Palestinians could do well to learn from the ANC, as much of the world already has, to put resentment and hatred aside and seek peace and reconciliation.
If you want to know whether apartheid is practised against Palestinians, the answer is yes; but not in Israel. In Lebanon, 1.1 million Palestinians who have lived there for 60 years, have yet to receive political rights. The same in Syria. Jordan, on the other hand, plays games, awarding rights to some and not to others.
Now let's look at the Palestinian record. One of the major stumbling blocks in negotiations has been the daily incitement on Palestinian radio, television and from the pulpit of mosques.
Three weeks ago, Mohammed Hussein, the Mufti of Jerusalem (the highest religious official), broadcast on official Palestinian television, the following: "Kill the Jews; [and when] the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, [the rocks and trees] will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!"
Apartheid? Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, has stated on numerous occasions, that a future Palestinian state will be Judenfrei; that means Jew-free. It gets worse. A 1997 Palestinian Authority law authorizes the execution of Palestinians who sell land to Jews, not only on the West Bank and Gaza, but in Israel as well.
Never mind what this says about human rights and civil liberties; what does this say about the Palestinian commitment to a two-state solution? Why should they worry about what happens in Israel unless they regard Israel as part of a future Palestinian state?
That's the Palestinian Authority. Now let us look at Hamas. Just as the Freedom Charter is the founding document of the ANC, so the Hamas Charter is the founding document of Hamas. While the Freedom Charter is a document that is noble and something we can be proud of, the Hamas Charter, is undeniably genocidal when it is not delusional; for example:
1. [quote] - "Hamas strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine"(at least they're honest);
2. then the quotation you heard earlier "Kill the Jews; [and when] the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, [the rocks and trees] will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!". This is unquestionably genocidal;
3. [quote] - "[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of Hamas." (In other words, their constitution commits them to violence);
4. It goes on to blame the Jews for the the French Revolution, the Communist Revolution, the First World War and the Second World War, and accuses them (don't laugh) of having established clandestine societies such as the Freemasons, Rotary and Lions Clubs to destroy societies.
In 2007 Mr Kasrils went to Gaza to meet the leader of Hamas, Mr Ismail Haniyeh, who is also the Palestinian Prime Minister. He went as a political tourist and was so impressed that he tried to bring him to South Africa. He believes that Israel should be negotiating with him, notwithstanding his call to genocide. What, I ask you, do you discuss with the man who wants to kill you?
Hamas is also go to sleep are closely aligned with Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calls Israel a 'tumour' which must be excised from the body of humanity and wiped from the face of the earth; and we know that he is building a bomb to do just this. Hamas is fully in tune with this objective. I want to ask Ronnie one question: "You know their Charter, you've heard their statements. Are you willing to publicly denounce Hamas as a genocidal terrorist organisation?"
To present Israel as the world's greatest violator of human rights, is breathtaking hypocrisy. But it goes beyond hypocrisy. There is a selection process here; it is called prestidigitation - finger-pointing. Incidentally. Black people also know about that.
When Jews or the Jewish state is uniquely selected and accused of having contravened or violated some standard, and then denigrated and delegitimised for that reason, we are dealing with anti-Semitism. Martin Luther King, the American civil rights leader, said: "when people criticise Zionists, they mean Jews." He didn't mean that you can't criticise Israel. There is plenty to criticise, as in any country. What he meant was, when you single out Israel from everyone else for demonisation and delegitimisation, you have crossed the line into anti-Semitism. And this is what Mr Kasrils is doing.
What is more, his view, that Palestinian rights can only be realised in a world without the Jewish State, aligns entirely with that of the Iranian President. That is the view and the objective of Israel Apartheid Week of which this debate is a part. For them, the realization of the Palestinian right to self-determination, requires the denial of the Jewish right to self-determination.
To this end, they adopt the totalitarian belief that 'the end justifies the means,' and so award themselves a license to lie, manipulate and manufacture falsehoods. Lies are not incidental to their campaign, they are its foundation - apartheid, colonialism, occupation, racism, genocide, holocaust - they use all these words for their emotional content, to sew hatred and ratchet up the conflict. Worse still, they turn what is a political dispute into a racial conflict. Everyone needs to understand clearly that a vote for Mr Kasrils is a vote for contempt and hatred, not for peace and reconciliation which a two state solution could bring.
Richard Goldstone, a former Constitutional Court judge who played an important part in the peaceful transition in our country between 1991 and 1994, had this to say on the subject: "The mutual recognition and protection of the human dignity of all people is indispensable to bringing an end to hatred and anger. The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is a false and malicious one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony."
Ladies and gentlemen, the truth is that nobody really believes Israel is an apartheid state - not even Mr Kasrils and I'll put good money on that!