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American pro-Israel conservative, Ben Stein, made an interesting admission when he recently went to bat for Israel with respect to Israel’s desire to make a pre-emptive attack on Iran. Stein contends that since Israel is such a small country, even one nuclear bomb dropped on Israel would amount to another holocaust for the Jewish people. Hence Iran’s so called quest for nuclear weapons must be stopped at any cost.
This idea hardly fits with the popular notion that Jews are more safe from another Holocaust by living in Israel than by any other means. In pre-Zionist times the primary way that Jewish people fought against antisemitism was by ensuring that Jewish people did not “bunch up”. This strategy ensured that if danger arouse for Jewish people in one region of the world, they would have multiple routes to safety. No doubt this strategy was part of the reason that Hitler’s plan to wipe out the Jews of Europe was a failure. Surely Hitler’s evil plans to exterminate the Jews of the world would have been much easier if he knew that all the Jews of the world were located in one small country far away from the borders of Germany. Bunched up, they simply would have been an easier target.
The argument is then made that if the above proposition is true, then Israel should have a nuclear deterrent to stop it’s evil neighbors from attacking them first. But Israel does have nuclear weapons and this apparently is no deterrent to Iran! If it were then why would a pre-emptive strike be needed? While some argue that Israel’s military power is a stabilizing factor in the Middle East, it certainly has not brought and end to the conflict. Nuclear deterrents don’t bring justice on their own. Until Israel admits to it’s role in Palestinian dispossession and oppression, peace will be a dream for the future.
The following insightful article on Israeli apartheid, the real cause of the continued conflict in Israel-Palestine, was posted on the Mondoweiss website.
Mustafa Barghouti to US Jews:
“I know you don’t like the word apartheid, but what do you call a system that gives a settler 50 times more water than a Palestinian?”
MONDOWEISS - 17 April 2012
On March 26, at the J Street conference in Washington, DC, Palestinian leader Mustafa Barghouti described apartheid in Palestine to a largely-Jewish audience. As he spoke, you could have heard a pin drop in a room jammed with 500 people hearing about the one-state option. His comments have resonated in the weeks since. It is a marvel, and a tragedy, that this description of Palestinian conditions has not been published in America. Here is a substantial portion of his remarks. Halfway down is his description of apartheid and segregation. At the end is his explanation of why nonviolent resistance and international solidarity are the Palestinians’ only weapon today. - Philip Weiss
Let me remind you that back in the 40s, the Palestinians wanted a one-state solution. It was under lots of Israeli pressure and international pressure that the Palestinian national movement decided in 1988 to accept a compromise, and that compromise was, two state solution. When we agreed on that, we accepted to have a state in 22 percent of the land of historic Palestine instead of 44 percent which we should have had according to the Partition plan of 47. So this was a very painful compromise.
During the last 30 years maybe, or 25 years, what we’ve witnessed is a process where Israeli governments have been … compromising the compromise. And that’s why we find ourselves in a very difficult position today. To many Palestinians, after signing the Oslo agreement, today they feel that they have discovered that they were living in an act of deceit. That the two states option was not really meant to produce a two states option but to produce a system of segregation and apartheid.
The main factor that is destroying the two states option has always been there, which was the continuation of settlement activity. If Palestinians have made a mistake, their biggest mistake was to agree to sign an agreement in Oslo without insisting first on freezing all settlement activity. This was a mistake and should not have been done.
Today to ask Palestinians to go back to the table of negotiations again while settlements continue to happen is like asking two people to sit down around a table, negotiate over a piece of cheese, and one side is stuck behind bars and walls, that is the Palestinian side, and the other side is eating the cheese. At the end of the day there will be nothing left to negotiate about, that is the reality.
In one way or another, their Israeli government, their United States government, their majority of people in this game– are putting in the hands of the settlements the right to decide the future. That is the problem. With the continuation of settlements, the whole solution of two states becomes impossible.
What we are witnessing today is a creation, or a consolidation to be precise, of a system of segregation and Bantustans. The proposals to Palestinians to stick together in what is called an interim solution in less than 37 percent of the West Bank in the form of separate ghettos from each other– and having that as a solution.
Some people might not like the word apartheid, when we say that we live in a system of apartheid and segregation, and I understand why you wouldn’t like it. Because there is nothing to be proud about having a system of apartheid and segregation in the 21st century. But as Menachem [Klein] said, we actually live in that system. It’s one regime.
What is apartheid? Apartheid is a system where you have two laws, two different laws, for two people living in the same area. If you don’t like the word apartheid, give me an alternative to a situation where a Palestinian citizen is allowed to use no more than 50 cubic meters of water per capital year, while an Israeli illegal settler from the West Bank is allowed to use 2400. How would you classify a situation where the Israeli GDP per capita is about $30,000 while a Palestinian’s GDP per capita is less than $1400?
Yet we are obliged to pay the same prices for products as Israelis do. More than that: We are obliged to pay double the price for electricity and water that Israelis do though they make 30 times more than we do.
Segregation of roads is another issue. This is the last place on earth, actually the first place on earth where people have been segregated with roads. I’m talking about roads in the West Bank, major roads are exclusive to Israeli settlers or army or Israeli citizens.
I cannot describe to you to the level of violation of human rights.. we’ve left to see Israeli army using dogs against our nonviolent settlers in the most vicious way. Which reminds us of what happened during the Segregation system here in the United States.
So the problem is very clear. Of course it is either two states or one state. But the reality is, What we are witnessing today with the passage of time is that people will be [left] with one or two alternatives. Either it’s a segregation apartheid system, or one democratic state system. This is the choice we will all face unless some kind of a miracle happens and I don’t know what that miracle is.
The two state solution will not happen because the balance of power is so skewed in the interest of one side. That’s why we are opting today for nonviolent resistance and opting for a strong international solidarity movement, because we want to change the balance of power.
When do we decide that the two state solution is over? What is the time point at which we both decide that it is over and say, the two state solution cannot work anymore? I don’t know. Maybe we’ve crossed the line already. Maybe we’re about to cross it.
But the fact that you’re having this discussion at this conference this day in DC is an indicator that we have either crossed the line or are about to cross it.
Second, there is no way you can have a Jewish democratic state and keep occupation and oppression of another people. It’s impossible. We cannot have this operation. Not only because from a moral point of view it is inconsistent with your history and Jewish tradition, but because we as Palestinians, as people, will never accept to remain slaves of occupation. That has to be understood.
…If the two state option is dead, please understand me, this time it will not be Palestinian responsibility. As many of you would say, the Palestinians were responsible in 1947 for not having the two state option. This time it is an Israeli responsibility and no one can avoid that.
Original link: http://tiny.cc/dpizcw
AFP link: http://www.australiansforpalestine.net/61678#more-61678
Martin Luther once said, “If I knew that the world were to end tomorrow, I would plant a tree.” Luther’s attitude to end times prophecy sums up the proper response to the reality of God’s final plan for creation in both the Christian and Jewish traditions. In these traditions human responsibility toward others is not to be abrogated by falling in to the trap of fatalistic indifference. Unambiguous portents of the imminent judgement of God, if indeed they exist, are not meant to be greeted by the faithful with cries of self righteous, pitiless joy over the fate of those deemed to be on the “wrong” side. Scripture tells us that we must not rejoice in the destruction of our foes no matter how much we feel they deserve it.
I would rephrase Luther’s statement to become: “Even if I knew that the current Zionist state of Israel was an unambiguous portent of Christ’s return, I would still fight for the rights of Palestinians to live in Israel-Palestine with full equality and seek justice for the wrongs done to them by the Zionist state. I would still resist the apartheid policies of the Zionist state and pray for the end of Zionist rule in Israel.”
Christian responsibility is always about trying to make today’s world a better place than it was yesterday. We are to work to make the world better, not just try an save some out of the world while we sit and wait for the end to come. Christian Zionist doctrines that teach that the world must necessarily come to a hideous end before Christ’s final return have inspired many to fatalism, indifference and even outright war mongering. If the world must come to a divinely ordained cataclysm, why should we care about doing anything to help the environment or ending the arms race? The most we can expect from the advocates of such doomsday prophecies is endless threats of judgment intended to win us over to their fatalistic ideologies in order for us to be saved out of this world as it goes into oblivion.
Three thousand years of Jewish religious tradition reveal that Jewish identity is centered on ones acceptance of the ethical and religious traditions of the Torah. Traditions that demand equal treatment between Jew and gentile. Traditions that transcend the place of ones birth. Judaism’s essential nature is God centered, not nation centered. A Jew can be faithful to the revelation of Torah regardless of whether one was born or lives in Israel or not. The end game is about what is in one’s heart, not about what nation you live in.
The nature of prophecy in the Bible has always been far more about God’s desire to see justice prevail in today’s world rather than some type of soothsaying concerning future events. Jewish tradition is replete with stories of conflict between those who think that being Jewish is about nationalism and those who think Jewishness is about living with God’s law in your heart. The Jewish quest for nationhood outside of God’s commandments is a sure way to disaster for the Jewish people. Just as God resists salvation by works in the Christian tradition, so in the Jewish tradition does God resist the Jewish people in the land of Israel outside the ethical and religious traditions of the Torah.
God’s plan for the current Zionist state of Israel is His business. Our responsibility is to live up to the divinely ordained mandate for us to do justice for all peoples and walk humbly with our God. In this venture I have come across numerous secular activists that have been far more in line with God’s heart for the oppressed in Israel-Palestine than any number of devout Christian Zionists.
Stephen Sizer has recently posted an interesting article on his blog contradicting the much loved narrative of the supporters of Zionist Israel that tells us that Iran wishes to wipe Israel off the map. The original article appeared at…
Israeli Minister Meridor Concedes Iran’s Leaders Have Never Called for Israel’s Destruction
In an Al Jazeera interview, one of the more moderate ministers in the current government, Dan Meridor, conceded that a notorious phrase widely attributed to Iran’s leaders including Pres. Ahmadinejad, that Iran would wipe Israel from the map, is false. Though Meridor, a senior cabinet member in the Netanyahu ruling coalition, believes that Iranian statements about Israel being a cancer in the region are equally distressing to Israel, he acknowledged that neither of Iran’s current leaders had ever called for destroying Israel. That of course, didn’t prevent him from lapsing back into precisely the same claim not once, but twice later in the interview. It seems that some tropes are so engraved in a nation’s consciousness that a politician can intellectually know they are false, publicly admit it, and then contradict himself.
The interview proved interesting as well for exposing some of the underlying assumptions of Israeli attitudes and policy toward Iran. When asked about the unique dangers that Iran posed to Israel or the Middle East, Meridor claimed that Iran has introduced a dangerous element into the region: religion. Now, there’s no question that Islam is a critical element of the Iranian regime. But was Iran the first to introduce such religious nationalism? What about that notion of Israel being a “Jewish” state? Seems to me that is a clear expression of it as well. Of course, Israelis will argue that the character of religious expression in the Iranian state is fanatical, intolerant and homicidal, while the character of religious expression in Israel is moderate and tolerant. That may be what Israelis would like to believe. But is it true?
One of the primary elements of Israeli national purpose these days is the settlement enterprise. The justification for it is purely religious in nature. God gave us the land and commanded us to settle in it and warned us never to part with it. That’s more or less the gist of the argument. So if the Muslims and Arabs of the Middle East see such a fundamental element of Israeli nationhood underpinned by religious theology, what are they to think?
Further, when Bibi Netanyahu lays out his argument for Israel attacking Iran what language does he use? The Holocaust. Once again, this is discourse that is fundamentally religious in nature. A Jew may argue that the prime minister has no choice because the Jews were exterminated during the Holocaust for their religion. But the plain fact is that Netanyahu has many arguments he could wield in making his case. The fact that he’s offered this one hundreds of times over the years indicates not only that he finds it a powerful one, but that it resonates deeply inside him as a Jew, and he believes it will affect his domestic and international audience in a similar way.
If I were to have to isolate one of the most important parts of my mission in writing this blog it’s to point out to both sides, but especially to Jews and Israelis, that whatever fanatical notions you seek to attribute to the other side, you better look in the mirror first, because it’s more than likely that your co-religionists and fellow citizens have expressed thoughts equally as fundamentalist in nature.
In yesterday’s Times, Steven Erlanger also reveals a certain western awkwardness about the injection of religious rhetoric into political discourse. He says that Ayatollah Khamenei’s statements about Iran’s nuclear intentions are shrouded in a “fog” of theological terms:
Ayatollah Khamenei, who is not only the leader of Iran’s government but also the final authority on Islamic law, often uses religious language when he talks about the nuclear issue, which can jar Western analysts trying to gauge the meaning of such strong statements.
This is a further indication of how clueless secular western journalists can be to the role of religion in regions like the Middle East. The unstated implication of such statements is that because Iran’s leaders are religious fanatics their word may not be trusted, nor can we ever know for sure what they really mean. A further implication is that western secular leaders, when they make political statements, are speaking clearly in a language every reasonable person can understand.
This assumption is riddled with unsupported cultural assumptions. If this were only a case of cultural misunderstanding, that wouldn’t rise to the level of an issue worth being overly concerned about. But the fact is that western mis-impressions of the states, cultures and religions of the Middle East has caused round after round of mayhem throughout history. And we may be walking into yet another one.
James Risen, in an article from yesterday’s Times makes the following racist claim:
…Some analysts say that Ayatollah Khamenei’s denial of Iranian nuclear ambitions has to be seen as part of a Shiite historical concept called taqiyya, or religious dissembling. For centuries an oppressed minority within Islam, Shiites learned to conceal their sectarian identity to survive, and so there is a precedent for lying to protect the Shiite community.
Why is it that some otherwise excellent reporters seem to lose their heads when writing about this subject? Note Risen refuses to tell us who “some analysts” are so we can judge the credibility of this. Further, while I’ve seen neo-cons, anti-jihadis and other crackpots make this claim about Shiites, I’ve never heard anyone support it with any proof that any Shiite has ever used taqiyya as justification for lying in a political context. Just as Jews may annul vows in a purely religious context on Kol Nidre, I’m sure taqiyya is a similarly religious-based precept having nothing whatsoever to do with politics. This is at best shoddy journalism and at worst outright racism.
Another interesting side issue that arose in the Meridor interview was a reference by the reporter to a statement by Avigdor Lieberman during Cast Lead that Israel should level a crushing blow upon “Hamas” (by which he meant Gaza) that would destroy its will to resist. He likened such a blog to the atom bombs that the U.S. dropped on Japan to end WWII. Meridor claims Lieberman never made the statement, and clearly believes the interviewer is making it up. Unfortunately, he is not and Maariv provides the proof.
In the context of the interview, Lieberman’s statement is important because it shows that Israeli leaders have spoken with bellicosity equal to anything Iran’s leaders have said about Israel. Israel has used homicidal, if not genocidal rhetoric in reference to its Arab neighbors no less than Iran may have. I would actually argue that no matter how troubling or hostile some of Iran’s rhetoric may have been, Iran has repeatedly said that it had no plans to attack Israel pre-emptively. Israel has repeatedly threatened to do precisely that to Iran. So whose rhetoric is worse?
In the interview, Meridor repeats another false claim often made by Israeli leaders and journalists: that the IAEA report released a few months ago says that Iran “has” a military nuclear “plan.” At another point, he says that Iran is “aiming” at building a “nuclear warhead” for its missiles so that they might reach Israel. At another point in the interview he claims the IAEA has said:
Yes, they [the Iranians] are going for nuclear weapons…They are after nuclear weapons. They [the IAEA] described the plan very well.
This is at best a wild overstatement of what the report actually said and at worst a tissue of outright lies. The report said there are indications that Iran may have such a program. After the interviewer points out to Meridor that all of the U.S. intelligence establishment believes that Iran has not made a decision to get a nuclear bomb, the Israeli minister says:
They said, if I remember correctly, that Iran is going after nuclear weapons…A general understanding between us and American, I think, and Europe–England, France, Germany–is, with no doubts whatsoever, that Iran has made a decision to go there…
Er, well no, they didn’t say that nor do any of the countries named believe that. Of such errors are wars made.
Then Meridor surprised even me, by tearing a page right out of Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes and invoking Kulturkampf to explain Iran’s supposed desire to wipe out Israel and the entire western world. The grandiose conspiratorial nature of his thinking reveals just how delusional is the mindset of some of Israel’s key decision-makers:
I think that the standoff between America and Iran, and the Muslim world is a sort of Kulturkampf, a clash of civilizations. And some groups that are not nationally based, but religiously based–call them Al Qaeda or Jihad or Taliban and others–who think that this is a way to stop the west and the domination of those ideas, will have a real boost in a victory of Iran over those westerners that are trying to change the course, the historical course…
With thinking like this coming from one of the more moderate and supposedly sophisticated members of the Israeli governing coalition, you might as well have Anders Breivik making Israel’s strategic decisions. There doesn’t appear that much difference in thinking between Meridor and Breivik regarding the threat posed by the Muslim world.
When the Al Jazeera reporter asked Meridor whether Israel shouldn’t join the NPT protocol and lay its own nuclear program open to the same inspections that Iran allows. The Israeli almost laughably says that Israel’s refusal to join is a “sound and good” policy and “does not bother anyone seriously.” He also states that the question of whether there will be a war in the Middle East is “in the hands of Iran.” This reminds me in a number of ways of the thinking of the bullies, child abusers or wife beaters who tell their victims that the question of whether they will beat them up is solely in the victims’ hands. At the very least, it seems like putting the cart before the horse.
On a related note, the single most comprehensive debunking of the “wipe Israel off the map” claim is this article from the Washington Post.
Imagine if we encountered a nation in today’s world that was using rhetoric to defend it’s actions in a manner that was clearly analogous to the Nazi regime of Germany in the 1930′s to 1940′s. Claims that the nation of today was in fact being run by Nazis would be hard to dismiss. With that in mind I decided to post the following brilliant article from the Mondoweiss website.
Hasbara in 1988: ‘despite difficulties, South Africa is a vital, progressive state with much to admire ‘
Apr 09, 2012 11:38 am | Phan Nguyen
A promo for Radio RSA.
In this initial piece, we’ll explore some of the themes utilized in propaganda on behalf of South African apartheid. Defenders of Israel seek to stress Israel’s unique situation in order to excuse actions against the Palestinians. Yet if we look at the propaganda employed to defend apartheid in South Africa, we find the same arguments in use.
The lesson is that if supporters of Israel want to distinguish Israel’s oppressive regime against non-Jewish populations from that of South African apartheid, they should consider avoiding the same specious arguments made to defend South African apartheid. And if we want to know what is wrong with arguments made in defense of Israel, we need only consider why the same arguments fail to make the case for apartheid in South Africa.
Here I rely on a study conducted by Philo C. Wasburn of Purdue University (citations at the end).
Radio RSA: The Voice of South Africa
In 1988, Wasburn’s students analyzed five weeks of nightly radio broadcasts from Radio RSA (“The Voice of South Africa”), the South African government’s international radio service, which sought to improve world opinion of the apartheid regime.
Fanus Venter, then head of Radio RSA, referred to its mission as “the ultimate public relations challenge.”
According to Venter, the main objective of the station is to foster understanding of South Africa’s unique situation in the world and to counteract the untruths and the halftruths about the nation which has been spread worldwide. To this end, the [South African Broadcasting Corporation] claims that Radio RSA presents balanced and objective information which enables its audiences to make a more accurate assessment of South African affairs against a background of what it describes as inaccurate and often one-sided coverage given events in South Africa by foreign media.
The study took forty-five hours of Radio RSA broadcasts and categorized the narrative into six interrelated propaganda themes, which I summarize below.
1. Brand South Africa
The most common theme sought to deflect from the apartheid issue and instead focus on “positive” traits shared between South Africa and other Western nations:
Theme 1. South Africa is an unusually complex, modern society with a pro-Western government, a vital capitalist economy, vast natural resources, and a rich cultural life with ties to Western Europe. While the nation faces serious, continuing problems of race, exclusive focus on this single aspect of South African society, by the media of other countries, has produced a highly distorted and misleading international image of the nation.
[T]he view of South Africa as a modern, productive society with strong cultural links to the West, working to achieve greater participation for all of its citizens in national political and economic life through gradual reform, is introduced in a piecemeal fashion. Nevertheless items depicting day-to-day life in South Africa, music, literature, art, business, science, flora and fauna all carry Radio RSA’s most important message: contrary to the image of South Africa constructed by the international media, and despite admitted difficulties, South Africa is a vital, progressive state with much to admire and is deserving of support from the West.
Wasburn explained how something seemingly innocuous, such as focusing on South Africa’s achievements and rich culture, sought to mask the country’s crimes through an “apolitical” filter:
The accusation that a nation is insensitive to human rights or is militarily adventurous calls for the construction and presentation of a national image inconsistent with the labeling. The distinction between issue-specific and what will be termed thematic counterpropaganda is not hard and fast. However, it does clarify how manifestly nonpolitical material can be employed as a form of counterpropaganda.
Even the most cursory glance at the programming schedules of the major international broadcasting organizations reveals that a substantial amount of broadcast time is devoted to the transmission of materials such as music, sporting events, verbal travelogues, cultural affairs, business, and features purporting to depict daily life in the nation.
Although lacking obvious political content, numerous analysts have contended that such cultural materials can effectively promote particular values and national images that serve political and economic interests. Benevolence–malevolence is a common cognitive dimension of international images attributed to nations. A likely reason for allocating time to materials lacking obvious political intent is that they can cultivate a more benevolent image of a nation. Such materials do not evoke the resistance aroused by assertions that deal explicitly with political events, conditions, policies, principles, or other potentially controversial matters.
The goal of such strategy is to disprove that Country X is a “bad” country by demonstrating that it produces some “good.” If the country does good, then criticism of the country as “bad” cannot be correct. This assists us in parsing the strategy behind campaigns such as pinkwashing. Of course the flaw is that good actions do not offset bad ones, and criticism of a nation’s actions are not offset by positive labels ascribed to the country as a whole. The branding theme seeks to determine whether a country is inherently good or bad, thus deflecting criticisms of what the country’s government is doing.
2. Singling out South Africa
Theme 2. South Africa is wantonly and hypocritically singled out as a nation that oppresses its people. The government of South Africa is committed to democratic development. To this end, it is working to promote economic advancement, literacy, order, and stability, all of which are social preconditions for the maintenance of political liberties. The great threat to continuing social improvement in South Africa comes from revolutionary forces that are committed to violence and attempt to disrupt peace and legal order.
Radio RSA cited an opinion piece by British writer and commentator Simon Jenkins, who at the time had just returned from trips to Israel and South Africa.
Jenkins’s piece, titled “People Who Live In Glass Houses: Before the British Begin to Criticise Other Nations on Human Rights, They Should Go to See Ulsters’ Peace Wall,” was published in the Sunday Times on February 28, 1988.
Radio RSA quoted from the piece two days later:
“The past week saw media attention being paid to the violence in Northern Ireland, Israeli soldiers beating Palestinians, the reporting of uprisings in the Soviet Union as well as the news of the restrictions placed on organizations in South Africa … (I was) shocked by the complexity of the problems in Israel and South Africa, many of which were inherited from British policy decisions. (I was) impressed, however, by the efforts being made to overcome these problems. (I do) not believe that either Tel Aviv or Pretoria takes any more delight in increasing the permanent emergency powers than does the British government in extending its own increasingly permanent emergency powers.”
3. There are prominent and successful blacks in South Africa. Blacks are better off here than elsewhere.
Theme 3. South Africa has undertaken major programs to improve black–white relations—particularly through increasing black participation in the management of the South African economy.
This theme attempted to counter accusations of racism by demonstrating a commitment to improving the situation of blacks in South Africa.
For example, the director of the International Executive Service of South Africa discussed a program to develop small, black-owned businesses in Soweto (March 9, 1988) and the director of South Africa’s Urban Foundation described how the South African business community has tried to respond to the social needs of black South Africans (February 19, 1988).
Moreover, Radio RSA cited studies proving black success in South Africa.
“Contrary to much international criticism that blacks in South Africa lack opportunities, a recent survey shows that increasing numbers of black businessmen are reaching the top in the executive field with local companies.
“(Voice of Trevor Woodburn, head of the Woodburn-Mann consulting organization that conducted the survey) I was absolutely shocked to find that we, in fact, have placed far more blacks at the senior executive levels than most of the consultants around the world—in countries like Britain, Australia, Canada, for example, or even Italy or Germany…”
4. South Africa wants peace and good relations with its neighbors
Theme 4. South Africa maintains a policy of peaceful co-existence and helpfulness toward the other nations of Africa.
“A spokesman for the South African Department of Foreign Affairs said the positive areas of cooperation between South Africa and Mozambique are often overlooked by the international community. A group of diplomats had been invited so that they could be shown an aspect of the cooperation that existed. The spokesman said it was significant that representations of countries such as Canada and Australia, which have been so vociferous in their criticisms of South Africa, had failed to use the opportunity to see the true state of affairs.” (March 5, 1988)
As well, Radio RSA boasted that South Africa’s “economic strength” and “agricultural and technical know-how” could benefit less-developed countries in Africa:
“South African presence in central Africa has been criticized by the Nigerian government, according to two articles in the Johannesburg press yesterday. But South Africa’s aid to the development of agriculture in Equatorial Guinea will achieve wider acceptance of the fact that South Africa, with its economic strength and depth of agricultural and technical knowhow, is well placed to contribute significantly to development in Africa.” (February 10, 1988)
5. BDS is “counterproductive”
Theme 5. Efforts by foreign states to influence South Africa’s domestic policies through the imposition of negative economic sanctions are both futile and counterproductive. South Africa’s economy is fundamentally sound. A slide backward into recession, unemployment, and falling real income would worsen social problems. The nation’s social-political difficulties are complex and can be solved best by its own people.
Critics of BDS against South Africa often claimed that reforms were under way but could be hindered by negative actions that forced white South Africans to react defensively and “circle the wagons”—often referred to by its Afrikaner term as the “laager” mentality.
Moreover, BDS would hurt the population it sought to help:
“The London branch of the Washington based International Freedom Foundation has issued a publication that questions whether massive disruption of the South African economy is either in the interest of, or supported by, the blacks in South Africa. Entitled Understanding Sanctions, it analyzes opinions held by black South Africans and finds that opposition to sanctions encompasses all sectors, including trade unionists, church and tribal leaders, and the ordinary black population. It say disinvestment hurts no one except those too poor to do anything about it, and that means the vast majority of the black population of South Africa. The publication concluded that for positive reform to accelerate, the West has to take moral courage and positive action in the form of investment in South Africa.” (February 19, 1988)
The International Freedom Foundation, cited above, was a DC-based think-tank covertly funded by the South African government to promote the government’s interests.
6. South Africa resides in a tough neighborhood; South Africa is an asset to the West.
Theme 6. Political and economic instability is widespread across southern Africa. The chief sources of such problems are tribalism, incompetence, crime, corruption, and, most important, foreign interference. South Africa deserves Western support because of its potential as a major stabilizing force on the subcontinent.
With the assertion of this theme, South African national image construction comes full circle. It has moved from the defensive position that criticisms of South Africa’s domestic and foreign policies are based, for the most part, on misunderstanding are hypocrisy, to the offensive position that criticism and negative sanctions should be replaced by various forms of support for South Africa from the West.
To pursue this offensive strategy, it was first necessary to establish that factors, other than the activities of South Africa itself, were responsible for the region’s political and economic problems…[N]umerous items appeared in the top-of-the-hour newscasts that dealt with lack of cooperation, incompetence, and corruption in other African nations and even in Africa’s international organizations…
The position that the Republic of South Africa contributed to such stability as there was in southern Africa, rested on many of the same items presented in support of Theme 4, which expressed South Africa’s helpfulness toward the other nations of the continent. Additional items also were presented that expressed South Africa’s importance to the overall economy of Africa.
Invest, don’t divest
An additional argument stressed in both themes 5 and 6 called for investment, not divestment or sanctions, as a positive and constructive solution for South Africa:
“Investment, not sanctions, is the only way in which Europe (can) contribute towards a peaceful resolution of southern Africa’s problems. South Africa needs assistance in its struggle for stability, not avoidance or neglect.” (March 12, 1988)
And, as previously quoted:
“[D]isinvestment hurts no one except those too poor to do anything about it, and that means the vast majority of the black population of South Africa…[F]or positive reform to accelerate, the West has to take moral courage and positive action in the form of investment in South Africa.” (February 19, 1988)
I have provided only a brief introduction to the themes employed by South Africa in defense of its apartheid regime.
The study cited here had significant limitations. It was an analysis of a one-month period of radio broadcasts, from February 6 to March 5, 1988, constituting forty-five hours of programming. The themes were acknowledged to be both arbitrary and interrelated.
Moreover, the study only concentrated on one medium through which the original apartheid regime disseminated propaganda. There were other methods by which it attempted to get its narrative across and defend itself from criticism.
In future articles, either on Mondoweiss or elsewhere, I will address more specific arguments made in defense of South African apartheid and directly relate them to current arguments in defense of Israel.
I will also be addressing other aspects of the apartheid analogy beyond the arguments made by both South Africa and Israel.
Wasburn’s study was published in at least three different sources, cited below.
“The Construction and Defense of National Self-Images: The Case of South Africa,” Journal of Political and Military Sociology, 17:2 (Winter 1989), pp. 203–221.
“The Counter-Propaganda of Radio RSA: The Voice of South Africa,” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 33:2 (Spring 1989), pp. 117–138.
Broadcasting Propaganda: International Radio Broadcasting and the Construction of Political Reality, Westport: Praeger, 1992, pp. 117–138.
The following article appeared at http://www.rabbisletter.org/ courtesy of the Jewish Voice for Peace website.
In a few weeks, the United Methodist Church will make a crucial vote on whether to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation. A few months later, the Presbyterian Church-USA will vote on the same issue as well.
These churches, and the people of faith behind these initiatives, are already being viciously attacked for saying what many of us have been saying all along: that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem must go and that the Israeli occupation must end because a true foundation for peace between Israelis and Palestinians can only be based on justice and equality for all. They are taking a stand, with their own resources fuelled by their faith—and so must we.
That is why a number of rabbis from Jewish Voice for Peace’s Rabbinical Council got together and wrote an open letter expressing our support for these churches.
Open Letter to the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA)
We write to you as members of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council to encourage your efforts to initiate phased selective divestment from corporations which profit from or support Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. We applaud your initiative and want to communicate our support as Jewish leaders who also work for justice and peace for the people of Israel and Palestine.
We are aware that the Jewish Council on Public Affairs (JCPA) has unleashed a powerful campaign to dissuade you, and consequently dissuade the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA) from moving forward with their well-considered divestment campaign.
As Jewish leaders, we believe the JCPA’s stance against church divestment does not represent the broader consensus of the American Jewish community. There is in fact a growing desire within the North American Jewish community to end our silence over Israel’s oppressive occupation of Palestine. Every day Jewish leaders – we among them – are stepping forward to express outrage over the confiscation of Palestinian land, destruction of farms and groves and homes, the choking of the Palestinian economy and daily harassment and violence against Palestinian people. Members of the Jewish community are increasingly voicing their support for nonviolent popular resistance against these outrages – including the kind of cautious, highly-specified divestment such as the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA) are preparing to undertake.
However, even if the American Jewish community were unanimously opposed to such phased selective divestment by your Church – which is not at all the case – we believe it is still important that you move forward with the thoughtful multi-year process which your Church has begun. Your Church has long been active in pursuing justice and peace by nonviolent means, including divestment, in many places around the world. As Christians, you have your own particular stake in the land to which both our traditions have long attachments of faith and history. We particularly acknowledge the oppression of Palestinian Christians under Israeli occupation and the justice of your efforts to relieve the oppression directed against your fellows.
To advocate for an end to an unjust policy is not anti-Semitic. To criticize Israel is not anti-Semitic. To invest your own resources in corporations which pursue your vision of a just and peaceful world, and to withdraw your resources from those which contradict this vision, is not anti-Semitic. There is a terrible history of actual anti-Semitism perpetrated by Christians at different times throughout the millennia and conscientious Christians today do bear a burden of conscience on that account. We can understand that, with your commitment to paths of peace and justice, it must be terribly painful and inhibiting to be accused of anti-Semitism.
In fact, many of us in the Jewish community recognize that the continuing occupation of Palestine itself presents a great danger to the safety of the Jewish people, not to mention oppressing our spirits and diminishing our honor in the world community. We appreciate the solidarity of people of conscience in pursuing conscientious nonviolent strategies, such as phased selective divestment, to end the occupation.
With prayers for peace,
Rabbi Margaret Holub
Rabbi Brant Rosen
Rabbi Alissa Wise
Rabbi Julie Greenberg
Rabbi Michael Feinberg
Cantor Michael Davis
Rabbi Rachel Barenblatt
Rabbi Lynn Gottleib
Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman
Rabbi Rebecca Alpert
Rabbi Joseph Berman
Rabbi David Mivasair
Rabbi Brian Walt
Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom
David Basior, Rabbinical Student
Alana Alpert, Rabbinical Student
Ari Lev Fornari, Rabbinical Student