‘Apartheid’ slur is a ploy, Mr Kasrils

Sep 12, 2011

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I refer to the letter of Mr Ronnie Kasrils (“Palestine tribunal will help Israel, too”, The Star, September 7).

South Africa once had a regime that drove the majority of the people from the land to which they had a prior and at least equal claim and set up a “democracy” for a small minority. This was apartheid and the international world correctly condemned it.

Israel has a regime which drove the majority of the people from the land to which they have a prior and at least equal claim and set up a “democracy” for a small minority.

Some argue strenuously that this is not apartheid. Others argue that it is. I have a problem with both sides.

Those who oppose the Russell Tribunal on Palestine sound too much like the apologists at the time for apartheid.

I remember a cabinet minister, the oracle of his party, who used to work himself up into quite a state on TV about the misguided international community who stubbornly refused to recognise South Africa as an exemplary democracy.

And there were many other strange leaders of strange little parties created by the regime who confidently and merrily took part in the charade. (Remember them?)

Then the house of cards came tumbling down. And people still wonder: did those people deliberately and knowingly try to mislead the world, or were they themselves deluded?

And why did the world permit them to build such a brick wall around their deceit or delusion?

It seems to me that a process like the Russell Tribunal on Palestine should be welcomed. There is nothing like a good, hard look at things that do not seem to be quite what they claim to be.

But those in favour of the tribunal’s work should also reflect on the wisdom of their methods.

Ronnie Kasrils is a man I have long admired for his healthy lack of regard for brick walls. But, with sincere respect, I am disappointed that he seems so keen to have Israel’s sin diagnosed as apartheid. Surely it is bad enough that Israel has driven the people from their land and occupied it, and is in breach of UN resolutions about it. Why call it apartheid?

I am sure it is because it is hoped that the international community, who for half a century has failed to do anything about Israel, might be stung into action by the spectre of an evil they think they have already destroyed.

I do not like this, because it is a ploy. To call what is happening in Israel apartheid is a ploy. President Jacob Zuma’s nomination of just one candidate for chief justice and not two or three, which would have enabled the Judicial Service Commission to do meaningful work instead of going through the motions with much noise and no hope, was another obvious ploy in the same week.

Ploys, whether used by good people claiming to act in the better interest of everybody, or by evil people wishing to spread their own wrong assumptions, are never quite honest and never satisfy both contending sides.

They lead to suspicion among those of us who insist on evidence for what we believe, who scrutinise all statements which we are invited to endorse and who feel that we betray humanity every time we stop questioning and let ourselves be bamboozled into believing what others want us to believe.

Ploys lead only to mistrust about anything else that is said among those who feel they are victims.

Will Israeli Jews, to quote Mr Kasrils, accept that “efforts such as the tribunal are not anti-Israel-Jewish population but in the better interest of all”?

And will white children in South Africa who were toddlers at the demise of apartheid yet cannot work or study accept that “the struggle to end apartheid was not anti-white, but was in fact in their better interests”?

These days a ploy or a ruse is the knee-jerk reaction of most politicians. I think that every time politicians for whom we have some respect do this, we should let them know.

CJ Nortje


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