This post currently appears in the SA Jewish Report:
One of the questions I am often asked is where is the Palestinian and Israeli, Mandela and De Klerk. Where is the Middle Eastern equivalent of these two historic peacemakers and Nobel Peace Prize winners who managed to negotiate a positive outcome from South Africa’s dark Apartheid past?
De Klerk, the last President to hold office during the Apartheid years was in Israel two weeks ago to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Haifa and mentioned in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 that the country was not an Apartheid State.
De Klerk is quoted as saying ““you don’t have discriminatory laws against them, I mean not letting them swim on certain beaches or anything like that. I think it’s unfair to call Israel an apartheid state. If [Secretary of State John] Kerry did so, I think he made a mistake.”
This statement obviously sticks in the craw of BDS supporters who use the word Apartheid as their weapon of choice to castigate the Jewish state. We know that their intention is to draw comparisons to South Africa thereby painting Israel as a pariah and calling into question her legitimacy as a sovereign state. Under the guise of concern for human rights, BDS supporters make light of the suffering of Apartheid’s victims and pervert the meaning of the word. De Klerk is not the first South African politician to say that Israel is not an Apartheid state. African Christian Democratic Party leader, Rev Kenneth Meshoe has said, “”As a black South African who lived under Apartheid, in my view, Israel cannot be compared to apartheid in South Africa,” Meshoe wrote in the San Francisco Examiner. “Those who make the accusation expose their ignorance of what apartheid really is.”
There you have it. The perpetrator and the victims have spoken. But what about Mandela, the greatest anti-Apartheid icon of all time? What was his position on Israel? BDS supporters love to exploit the relationship Mandela had with Arafat, failing at the same time to mention his love for Jews and his commitment to the existence of an Israeli state within secure borders. One famous Mandela quote was as follows, “I cannot conceive of Israel withdrawing if Arab states do not recognize Israel within secure borders.”
De Klerk spoke in his speech about the window of opportunity to negotiate two states rapidly closing. Many expect the solution between the Palestinians and Israel to mirror that of South Africa. There are fundamental differences – first of all, South Africans wanted to do away with the odious Apartheid system and live together as a unified nation. Palestinians and Israelis each have their own national aspirations. We seek an amicable divorce from each other. But for Israel, speaking to the new Palestinian Unity government that includes Hamas who have sworn to the destruction of Israel, how is this possible?
De Klerk compared the ending of Apartheid to the creation of an “economic omelet” where you could never separate white and yellow again. How do you make an omelet when one egg is rotten? A proposed Middle Eastern omelet won’t taste very nice when one of the ingredients is bitter.
The comparisons to the South African experience are nothing unusual or new. Many think that the South African experience is the magical solution that can be applied to the issues here. From Israel’s perspective, Hamas’ presence in a partnership for peace negates any chance for productive negotiations. One cannot possibly compare Hamas’ genocidal charter which advocates the destruction of the State of Israel to the ANC Freedom Charter which espouses freedom and equality for all.
A genocidal charter coupled with ongoing call for “armed resistance” and a stubborn refusal to recognize the existence of the State of Israel not only closes the window, it slams it shut. Realising a policy of sabotage was not going to change the minds of the Apartheid government, Mandela and the ANC decided on more peaceful methods. Can the Hamas leopard change its spots? Highly unlikely!
Looking back at South Africa’s tragic history and almost miraculous birth into democracy, it often begs the question, can the African state help bring about a solution to the problems in the Middle East. Following the transition to democracy, South Africa seemed to be the perfect middle man to negotiate peace but over the last few years, relations between Jerusalem and Pretoria have soured significantly. South Africa’s overt bias against Israel and the absurd statements against the Jewish State have completely destroyed any hopes of playing mediator in the region. But South Africa is of extreme strategic importance. South Africa is the benchmark by which many, especially European countries, measure the fight against racism. The country that birthed and defeated Apartheid sends its emissaries of hate against Israel on to campuses around the world to participate in the weekly festival of anti-Israel frenzy known as Israel Apartheid Week. This is so counteractive to negotiating for peace and most definitely does not reflect the actions of Mandela and De Klerk.
So where do we go from here? The South African solution is not one-size-fits-all and the situation between Israel and the Palestinians is filled with simplicities and complexities that cannot be taken at face value. This is a nebulous area that has to be negotiated (pun intended) with extreme care and patience. De Klerk issued a not so subtle zinger at the international community when he mentioned that he entered into negotiations with his partner Mandela without the interference of foreign powers. Can Israelis and Palestinians sort out the situation themselves?
Sadly, the situation between Israel and the Palestinians seems more like scrambled eggs than an omelet.