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Israeli-Palestinian impasse in focus

Dr Pali Lehohla is a professor of practice at the University of Johannesburg and the former Statistician General of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Afric

Dr Pali Lehohla is a professor of practice at the University of Johannesburg and the former Statistician General of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Afric

Published Apr 19, 2022


IN a right to reply to my article “an unprovoked provocation” to Allan Wolman’s title of “Tell us more about the ghost of apartheid”, Benj Shulman, a director of Public Policy South African Zionist Federation, countered my article with “Lehohla should stick to statistics.”

Shulman makes an important conclusion that is not to be missed, though: “That with a better understanding of what is going on in the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel, we can start, as South Africans, to work toward being part of the solution and help building on the ground relations so the two sides can understand each other better toward accomplishing peace.”

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One would not argue against this noble statement. However, the path that Shulman walks through to arrive at this conclusion is full of erroneous accusations and the typical evangelisation of the other, considered to be of the junior breed. In this regard Shulman insists on zionising me by instructing me to stick to statistics, a typical colonial mission over the colonised.

Not only does he state that he sets the path by selecting statistics I did not use in my article and insisting that I should have used those. So, not only am I directed to stay with statistics but I am chided for not using other statistics to compare Palestine to South Africa.

By introducing these statistics on life expectancy, Shulman unashamedly wants to show how well they treat the Palestinians in that they even have a higher level of life expectancy, which incidentally, has to be attributed to the good treatment Israel provides to the Palestinians and thus justifies why Israel exercises no apartheid to the Palestinians. He goes on an evangelising mission of blaming the Palestinians for choosing to be in refugee camps in the Arab states where they are not treated as well as Israel treats them in the occupied territory.

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In fact, Shulman sees the creation of the Israel State as a necessary condition for maintaining peace in the Middle East. Unfortunately, the more Shulman elaborates on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the more he confirms the common evangelising mission narrative of a colonising power relative to the natives.

This is what Israel holds true with apartheid South Africa in the execution of evangelisation of the native. Who would forget the statements by P W Botha, the former and late State President of South and his predecessors, on the evangelisation of natives?

He said: “The security and happiness of all minority groups in South Africa depends on the Afrikaner”. By saying so, he elevated Afrikaners to this demi-god status which Shulman does in relation to Palestinian – Israeli Oslo accord when he asserts that “Palestinian life expectancy has improved from an average of 68.0 years in 1990 to 74.8 years today”.

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For this reason, Botha’s assertion that “most blacks are happy, except those who have had other ideas pushed into their ears”. So, Palestinians and blacks are minors whose choice of future through struggle is irrational.

Coming back to the instruction from Shulman that I should stick to statistics, I am reminded of my second-year registration procedure at university, where we were asked about the career we sought. A colleague, who was going into their third year, a military combatant from Uganda who served in Idi Amin’s army, Ladu Gore, ridiculed the procedure and asked: “What is this nonsense called career sought? I want to be a revolutionary”.

I saw Ladu Gore, now the Minister of Home Affairs in South Sudan, commenting on the peace process, and he reiterated the point he made almost five decades ago, as he said: “I am a revolutionary, and I am not afraid of confronting issues, but we should give peace a chance”.

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Ladu, in his third year, became the President of the Student Representative Council, in which I served as a deputy treasurer. I recall how we invoked the OAU Resolution on playing the film Raid on Entebbe, which barred it from being played on the African continent. In accordance with that resolution, the film could not be played at the National University of Lesotho. Do I hold the same views today? Not at all.

The OAU fed the ego of a dictator who committed unforgivable atrocities that, through the assistance of Mwalimu Nyerere, who referred to Amin as an incorrigible buffoon, Uganda was relieved of Amin. Palestinians, like South Africans, deserve to enjoy their land, water and peace from land invasion by Israel.

Equally, I refuse to be Zionised by not only Shulman, but anyone daring a career intervention.

Rather, one must put one’s efforts into a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, which in my estimation is the most important point Shulman makes.

Dr Pali Lehohla is a professor of practice at the University of Johannesburg and the former Statistician General of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa. @Palilj01 and at


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