01 March 2007 – Some published materials
I managed to convert the digital video of the debate at Rocky Sullivan’s into a computer file, and I uploaded a clip to YouTube. Here’s where I expose Hadas Thier’s use of the fake Mandela letter:
Also, I have published the following article in today’s Business Day responding to John Dugard’s latest report on human rights in the occupied territories—which is one-sided, as usual.
The trouble with the apartheid analogy
IS ISRAEL an apartheid state? Apparently Nelson Mandela thinks so. In a recent letter to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, Mandela lays out the case against Israel with unusual candour. Mandela’s words are now being quoted all over the world. Last month, former US president Jimmy Carter cited the letter in a speech at Brandeis University. And who’s going to argue with Madiba? Unfortunately for Israel’s critics, the letter is a hoax. It is the creation of a man named Arjan El Fassed, who runs an anti-Israel website called The Electronic Intifada. El-Fassad has admitted that he made the whole thing up, but the Mandela letter has now entered the anti-Israel canon alongside countless other fictions. Yet, much like the Israel-apartheid comparison itself, it is completely spurious.
Last week, United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur John Dugard invoked the Israel-apartheid analogy in his report on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Dugard is not the first person to compare Israel to apartheid SA at the UN. That distinction belongs to the late Idi Amin Dada, the murderous dictator of Uganda, who made the comparison in a speech to the General Assembly in 1975. Shortly thereafter, the Arab states pushed through the infamous UN resolution equating Zionism with racism, which former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan later called “lamentable” and which was rescinded in 1991.
The Israel-apartheid fallacy was revived in 2001, in the run-up to the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, which collapsed into an orgy of anti-Semitic hatred.
At the time, I interviewed Yossi Beilin, leftist Israeli politician and architect of the Oslo peace accords, and asked him what he thought of the Israel-apartheid comparison.
“It’s really crazy,” Beilin told me. “Only ignorant people, or people with malice, can say something like that. The ignorance is either about what apartheid was all about, or about Israel,” he said.
Yet opponents of Israel have persisted in their use of the analogy. Why? Benjamin Pogrund, former deputy editor of the Rand Daily Mail, provides an answer: “Apartheid … comes easily to hand: it is a lazy label for the complexities of the Middle East conflict. It is also used because, if it can be made to stick, then Israel can be made to appear to be as vile as was apartheid SA and seeking its destruction can be presented to the world as an equally moral cause.”
The irony is that it is the Palestinian Authority, and not Israel, which is being treated as a pariah in the world today.
Since the election of Hamas last year, the Palestinians have suffered an international aid embargo — since no one wants to fund a government of terrorists — and have been cut off from trade and employment opportunities in Israel, which Hamas still seeks to destroy.
In his report, Dugard sets out to describe the resulting misery. But his investigation is entirely one-sided. In his introduction he states: “I shall not consider the violation of human rights caused by Palestinian suicide bombers. Nor shall I consider the violation of human rights caused by the political conflict between Fatah and Hamas.”
That sort of bias taints every page of Dugard’s report and destroys the credibility of its conclusions.
Consider his description of Israel’s security barrier, which he insists on calling a “wall”. Dugard illustrates the hardships that the barrier creates for Palestinians, but fails to mention that it has also drastically reduced the number of Jews and Arabs killed by terrorist attacks.
Dugard also spins the facts to fit his conclusions. Palestinians and especially Israelis come in all colours, but Dugard describes them as different races to make the apartheid analogy work: “Can it seriously be denied that the purpose (of Israeli actions) is to establish and maintain domination by one racial group (Jews) over another racial group (Palestinians) and systematically oppressing them?” he asks.
Well, yes, actually. The continued refusal by Palestinian leaders to stop terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians has created the need for Israel’s checkpoints. Security, not domination, is the reason.
The situation could have been different had Palestinian leaders chosen to negotiate a final agreement instead of launching a new intifada in 2000.
Dugard writes: “In 1994, apartheid came to an end and Palestine became the only developing country in the world under the subjugation of a western-affiliated regime.”
But what he neglects to mention is that Israelis and Palestinians were by then engaged in the Oslo peace process, which should have led to a comprehensive peace and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Israeli settlement policy is indefensible. But Palestinian terrorism and the civil war between Hamas and Fatah have dealt more harm to human rights and Palestinian aspirations than anything Israel has done in the occupied territories.
The Mandela letter is a fraud, but his example is relevant. Shortly after his release in 1990, he suspended the armed struggle, realising violence had to stop if future negotiations were to be conducted in good faith.
Had Palestinian leaders followed his example, the world would be celebrating Palestinian independence instead of reading Dugard’s reports.
And so Dugard is right when he says that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories is a threat to the very concept of human rights itself. But the danger does not come from Israel or the west, as Dugard contends.
Rather, it comes from one-sided investigations and false analogies with apartheid that undermine the credibility of the UN — and do little to address the real challenges facing the Palestinian people.