Israel's Special Relationship with South Africa's Apartheid Regime
Recently Israel has increasingly come under fire for the similarity of it's policies to those of South African Apartheid. These similarities are even more ironic when one considers Israel's past relations with South Africa. It also highlights Israel's now forgotten role in stepping in to help those regimes that because of international pressure the United States could no longer openly support. Perhaps it will build some solidarity with the Palestinian people when the world realizes that like it's allies the US, Britain, and France and the rest of NATO Israel is an imperial power that oppresses people all over the world. This article will examine the Israeli role in Southern Africa. It should be noted that the US, UK, and France were also allies of the Apartheid regime who only cut aid because of strong organized domestic opposition. However Regan and Thatcher were strong supporters of Apartheid. This is appropriate after all the US Jim Crow laws helped inspire Apartheid. UK and France founded colonies all over the world where the local inhabitants were second class citizens in their own lands. Still they went through a process of decolonization. Subtler forms of oppression were installed Neo-Colonialism. Israel is the last bastion of the old style Colonialist mentality in it's overt form. A state where by law all people are unequal. Hopefully once again an organized movement by the public can force an end to the racist and oppressive regime in Israel.
There are many similarities between Israel and the Apartheid regime. The Afrikaners were what we would call today fundamentalist Christians and like the pilgrims in America identified with the old Testament seeing themselves as a righteous people surrounded by Heathens ie their less fanatical countrymen. Once in Africa also like the American Pilgrims they demonized the African inhabitants. This demonization process seems to be increasing at an alarming pace in Israel. Unreported in the western Media angry Israeli mobs launch daily attacks on Palestinians often targeting schoolchildren in scenes reminiscent of the American South in the 1950' s. Recently these attacks have spread to assaults on Israel's African Migrant workers. Besides vehement racism both countries must deny equal rights to their populations to maintain control. An explicit system of discrimination with Jewish only areas and Jewish only roads has been established. Palestinians spend hours crossing various arbitrary checkpoints. It is illegal for them to build homes in order that Israel can regularly demolish homes in Palestinian areas under legal cover. South Africa attempted to set up so called bantustans a false form of independence. Blacks were given fake independence under black puppet regimes such as that of Buthelezi Brutal ruler of KwaZulu who was invited to Israel for a state visit where he was lauded as a moderate reformer. Israel has taken a similar strategy with the illegitimate Palestinian puppet Abbas. The chief similarity however is that both states wage a brutal endless counterinsurgency war on the native population. Arbitrary arrests, beatings and systematic torture these are what the palestinians deal with in periods of relative calm. That and both random and selective murder. Periodically they are subjected to all the horrors of invasion with bombs, tanks, and machine guns. In addition both states were hated by their neighbors for their oppressive policies and responded with aggressive wars.
A little known fact is that the State of Israel might have been built in Africa in Uganda a large Jewish Colony was founded. Israeli business interests are major players in the modern genocide in the Congo (10 million dead so far) Along with european, american, Canadian and asian corporations. Israel has also been involved with destabilizing Sudan since the 1950's along with the British. Thus there is a little mentioned but extensive Israeli role in the exploitation of Africa. Israel trained Mobutu's personal security, it also put Idi Amin in power. In South Africa after diamonds were discovered along with a large number of british settlers a number of jewish settlers arrived. This south african jewish community became enthusiastic supporters of the idea of a state of Israel long before jewish communities in Europe or America. Thus Israel's special relationship with South Africa began because of the importance of their south African supporters. The south African president Jan Smuts was a strong advocate of the Balfour declaration. On the South african side the elites there identified with the situation of Israel outnumbered and surrounded by Arab States with their own surrounded with Africans. The paranoia of invaders. Israel's military success impressed them. However because Israel had it's own plans in Africa it kept the unpopular south African regime at arms length. However the Israel's 1967 war changed things. First it turned the newly independent African states against Israel. More importantly it led France to halt an important weapons shipment to Israel. Israel decided it needed to vastly expand it's arms industry. To defray costs it needed to start exporting weapons. Since this was the cold war most countries weapons were suppled by Nato countries or the Eastern bloc. Israel decided to sell to the countries no one wanted to supply because they were too controversial mostly Latin American, African and Asian dictators. In addition they provided advisers to train the security forces of these dictators. Yacov Meridor the chief economic coordinator in the Israeli cabinet explained
"We are going to say to the American's "Don't compete with us in South Africa don't compete with us in the Caribbean or in any other country where you can't operate in the open" Let us do it. I even use the expression "You sell the ammunition and equipment by proxy. Israel will be your Proxy" and this would be worked out with a certain agreement with the United States where we will have certain markets...which will be left for us." (Hunter P.16)
South Africa because of it's unpopularity worldwide became a major client for Israel. Israel would supply weapons and advisers. The techniques they used in occupied Palestine they taught to South Africa so it could refine it's Apartheid. In addition they could use places like South Africa or Guatemala as giant laboratories for testing the science of counterinsurgency and even in the case of Guatemala Genocide. This support was under tacit American approval.
South Africa provided Israel with Diamonds, an important Israeli export bought indirectly through London diamond exchanges. South african coal was important for the Israeli power industry. Also south Africa provided Uranium for Israel's massive secret nuclear program. Israel provided weapons and technical knowhow. They sold them stolen American technology so they could get around sanctions. They helped south Africa build fighter planes, tanks, and even nuclear devices. In 1979 they held a joint atomic test on a remote island belonging to South Africa. They helped South Africa create a defense electronics industry. Infamously South Africa used sophisticated electronics in the assassination of Mozambique's internationally revered president Samora Machel. They were able to send out false signals that led the plane off course and caused it to crash. Ironically weapons embargoes led South Africa to expand it's weapons production and just like Israel it became a major worldwide arms dealer.
Not only did Israel help South Africa technologically advance, it also provided important military advisers. One senior South african officer said to Uri Dan an aide to then defense minister Ariel Sharon "Don't underestimate the influence that the example of the Israeli army as a fighting army has on us" Uri Dan was so impressed by the similarities that he claimed he expected the South African officers to "begin giving orders in hebrew" From Israeli foreign policy South Africa and Central America by Jane Hunter (the source for most of the information in this article) p.56. 100s of Israeli advisers were active in training South African Forces "in the arts of suppressing a captive population and keeping hostile neighbors off balance" in the words of Jane Hunter. Israel was also actively involved in helping South Africa's attack it's neighbors supplying arms and training to US/South African Proxy armies like UNITA in Angola or MNR in Mozambique. Like it's Patron the united states Israel has allied with some of the most brutal death squads in the world.
Israeli guidance and influence was not only tactical but strategic. According to Jane Hunter A strange mirroring effect between the two nations foreign policy took place. Israeli actions would be mirrored by South Africa. Israel's invasion of Lebanon inspired South Africa to attack Mozambique and Angola. Israel's attack on the PLO in Tunisia inspired South Africa to attack Zambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. They even claimed to be attacking international terrorism in imitation of Israel. Like Israel, NATO, and the US they blew up hospitals and schools they falsely labeled terror training camps.
Politically Israel helped South Africa as well. For instance it set up a system to train "moderate" activists to undermine the genuine opposition of groups like the ANC and the UDF. It gave legitimacy to South Africa's Bantustans. When the state department was about to open contact with the ANC Nelson Mandela's party, while pressure was building for Mandela's release, Israel had it's allies in the ADL circulate information on capital hill pointing out the ANC alliance with communists. The ADL was also caught spying on the anti-apartheid movement in the US. Israel helped South Africa funnel money to defeat certain American politicians who were Anti-Apartheid. When sanctions threatened South African exports Israel found a loophole whereby it would finish assembling south African goods and sell them as Made in Israel in the US Tariff free. Israeli athletes and entertainers were among the few not to boycott South Africa.
Thus not only is the Israeli system similar to apartheid, Israel was vital in aiding, shaping and protecting the South African Apartheid regime. Israel's crimes are far more international in scope then is commonly realized. Like it's allies the US, UK, and NATO Israel is an imperial power. South Africa was an Apartheid state, Israel still is. Unfortunately the fall of the Apartheid was not accompanied by the necessary radical economic change. Like the MPLA in Angola and SWAPO in Namibia the ANC in South Africa betrayed it's promise of economic liberation. Injustice remains. Poverty is widespread. Something for Palestinians to keep in mind if by some miracle they should ever achieve liberation. Neocolonialism is far harder to throw off then colonialism.
For more information I recommend Jane Hunters excellent book Israeli Foreign Policy: South Africa and Central America.