Give Israel the South African treatment

March 5, 2011

“I am a black South African, and if I were to change the names, the description of what is happening in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank would be a description of what is happening in South Africa” - Archbishop Desmond Tutu, New York 1989.

When Desmond Tutu made this comment, the South African apartheid regime was still in power. In 1994, after 45 years of racial segregation, the apartheid era was officially over.

When watershed moments like this occur, multiple factors can be attributed. But history is clear that one of the many reasons this tyranny finally succumbed was an international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (BDS).

There is no doubt the decision taken by Sydney’s Marrickville council last December to heed the 2005 call for BDS by virtually all of Palestinian civil society was going to be controversial; so was the international movement against apartheid South Africa.

With a New South Wales state election just around the corner, and other local councils considering similar BDS proposals across Australia, this issue is generating predictable heat.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Gerard Henderson recently condemned the Greens for ignoring “democratic” Israel.

A prominent mural in inner Sydney, normally aimed at attacking Muslim women who wear the burqa, was changed to attack Marrickville mayor and leading Greens candidate Fiona Byrne for supporting BDS.

Even Department of Foreign Affairs secretary Dennis Richardson has entered the debate, calling BDS “wacko stuff”. 
Sydney's Daily Telegraph has slammed Byrne for daring to consider a trade boycott of China over its human rights abuses in Tibet.

She should be praised for consistency, acknowledging that we should not conduct international relations, even with a major trading partner, and ignore gross human rights outrages to make a buck. 
As a Palestinian and a Jew, we salute Marrickville council for understanding that words about “two-state solution” and “peace process” are soothing to elite media and political ears, but desperate facts on the ground in Palestine require direct action in a consultative and non-violent way.

When governments fail to arrest the illegal march of colonisation on Palestinian land, it is not enough to wait for futile peace negotiations that only lead to a more deeply entrenched occupation.

Marrickville council is at least trying to advance the debate about occupation while our leaders visit Israel and dine with Benjamin Netanyahu.

Foreign minister Kevin Rudd led the largest ever delegation to Israel in December, barely stopping in the occupied Palestinian territories for a few meetings.

Much as staunch Israel advocates would like to have us believe that apartheid South Africa and Israel are completely different, they are actually intimately linked.

Israel was one of the few countries that continued to support apartheid South Africa when most of the international community had instituted its boycott.

In his recent book about the relationship, The Unspoken Alliance, author Sasha Polakow-Suransky said that the Zionist state is “playing its part” in comparison to the darkest apartheid days by instituting a matrix of control against the Palestinians.

In reality, the resolution that Marrickville council passed is probably more symbolic than anything else, but it is a necessary one precisely because it has had its intended impact; leading a debate on Palestine/Israel both here and overseas. 

In early February, Israeli Member of the Knesset Miri Regev announced: “In the realm of the boycott alone, one can point to real damage to the State of Israel, assessed at tens of millions of US dollars”.

It is as legitimate to target Western security firms that assist Israel in the West Bank as boycotting arms dealers who sell weapons to the brutal regimes of Egypt and Libya.

When Israel refuses to cease colony building and Western states, including Australia, continue to fete Israeli “democracy”, BDS becomes a logical and moral tactic. A wide selection of Jewish groups, activists, unions and Israeli citizens has now embraced BDS worldwide.

Israel’s illegal military occupation, West Bank settlements, home demolitions and blockade of Gaza have sometimes been met with Palestinian violence.

BDS, however, is a categorical act of non-violence, yet those who support BDS as a way of franchising the international community into making Israel more accountable are themselves now attacked as “delegitimisers”.

This is as insidious as calling critics of Israel “anti-Semites” as a way to shut down discussion. It should not succeed.

In the past 25 years, Australia has unfortunately lost its way with respect to dictating any real policy on Palestine/Israel.

The major parties say they support a two state solution, but what does that mean when there are 500,000 plus illegal colonists in the lands that are designated as the future “Palestine”?

Ironically, a UN vote on settlements that took place recently saw only the US reject a resolution calling for the immediate halt to all construction in the occupied Palestinian territories.

It has never been clearer, with revolution sweeping across the Arab world, that the US and its Western allies much prefer Arab “stability” to maintain the illusion of Israeli democracy.

BDS punctures this bubble and clearly asks; do you believe in representative democracy in Palestine and Israel or a state that discriminates against non-Jews in the name of religion?

While the two major Australian parties continue to whitewash this critical issue, the void will inevitably be filled by those compelled to act.

We congratulate the NSW Greens for embracing BDS, with the support of their Labor colleagues in Marrickville, as it demonstrates that the impending state election will be hotly contested on local and global issues — not least whether we as Australians truly value equality, human rights and real democracy for all Israelis and Palestinians.

Our globalised world dictates acting when injustice rages, whether in Burma, Sri Lanka or Palestine.

At a recent “meet the candidates” forum in inner Sydney, Byrne defended her decision to back BDS by saying it was a question of universal human rights, just as councils in the past have supported actions against Burma and China. Israel is committing human rights abuses and we are compelled to act.

To dismiss BDS out of hand as some sort of revolutionary cause celebre of the left is to utterly denigrate those who died in the name of freedom from oppression.

When the Australian Jewish News runs an entire front page headline, “Laughing stock of the world” and “a joke”, in reference to the decision by Marrickville council, one seriously wonders whether backing illegal settlements in the West Bank is their way to further 21st century Zionism.

The stated purpose of BDS is “to end Israel's occupation, colonisation and system of apartheid”. As Israel descends into an increasingly intolerant state with fascist members of parliament in major positions of power, BDS seems the most reasonable response imaginable.

[Antony Loewenstein is a freelance journalist, author and blogger. Moammar Mashni is co-founder of Australians for Palestine. This article first appeared on ]


That is ripe coming from someone whose nation was in Southern Africa from a migration process. when the Dutch landed in the Cape the ONLY indigenous people were the San or Bushmen......And what has the treatment given to South Africa and Zimbabwe achieved, forced to handover power to those that have done what exactly...Rhodesia , the bread basket of Africa, an exporter of food, became Zimbabwe a dry hell hole with millions starving. As the saying goes, People used to visit Rhodesia to see the Zimbabwe ruins, now the visit Zimbobwe to see the Rhodesian ruins. What has changed in SA, it is over run with illegals, people still live without water and electricty, it is host to the murder capital of the world, still has racially discriminatory laws on the books and has swopped a rich white elite for a rich black one. For the average South African, whether Black or White very little has improved, for many with closures of clinics and schools it has got worse. A healthcare system that will not provide Aids drugs despite 40-50% of the population infected...and education system that no longer enjoys the international recognition it once did.....and the ANC Youth Leasership still screaming One Farmer One Bullet.....and you want that for another country in the world!!!!
down to Israel
when i read such hatred filled words and lies against Israel it remembers me the time Europe was under the Nazi domination. Those who write such words are not Jews because they have nothing to do with the Jews ,they don't know nothing about Judaism . Those people do hate Jews because they hate themselves . they mask their ignorance under the pretext of to fight for "justice" but their "justice is only hatred ,ignorance and lies against the Jews and Israel. Yemach Shemam
The persecution of races other than Arab, and religions other than Islam is rife throughout the Arab world. Kurds (in Turkey and Iran), Druze (in Lebanon), Shiites (in Sunni ruled countries), Sunnis (in Shiite ruled countries), Christians (particularly in Egypt, Sudan, Syria), Bahais (Iran), south Asian guest workers(in the gulf states), Berbers (in Morocco), Jews (everywhere), blacks (everywhere), are all victims of often violent state sponsored repression. Women face an additional layer of persecution (even within their own culture), while sexual minorities often suffer the most extreme forms of intolerance, imprisonment, beatings and execution. The level of racial persecution varies through the region but in some cases amounts to state sponsored genocide (notably Iran, Sudan at present). In this context, the continued obsession with Israel and references to "apartheid", represent an appalling double standard, and show the people who continue to make these claims to be complete hypocrites in their refusal to criticize any other country (or religion) when it comes to human rights abuses. In justice is everywhere, even in our own backyards. Been to a Central Australian aboriginal community lately? Conditions in some of them look far worse than Soweto. Are we also an apartheid state?
Oh dear. Palestinian rights are trampled once more in the frenzied rush of supporters of colonisation and theft of indigenous lands. Marrickville Council's decision to support BDS against apartheid Israel is wonderful - it's a stellar beginning here in Australia to spread awareness for the just cause of dispossessed Palestinian people, many of whom are stateless, without any rights at all due to the usurpation of their land. The 43 year brutal Israeli military occupation must end, Israeli apartheid must end, international law must prevail, the right of return of Palestinians must be recognised, the dignity of Palestinians respected. Palestinians should not suffer the burden of nor pay the price for northern european racism.
They are Arabs from the region known formerly as Palestine. What's the difference you might ask? "Palestinian rights are trampled once more in the frenzied rush of supporters of colonisation and theft of indigenous lands. " This concept of "indigenous" lands - there are many peoples (including Jews) who inhabit the Middle East, and their occupation and domination of different regions has changed (indeed been colonized) many times during the course of history. Currently Arabs dominate (have "colonized" if you like) 26 countries in total across a region stretching from North Africa to Asia. The Palestinian situation is not analogous to an indigenous group who may have been exclusively and continuously inhabiting an area for thousands of years. Nor are they a separate "people" without shared cultural roots to others. In fact they share a language, culture and religion with 400 million other Arabs. Its a travesty that this situation has been allowed to persist for so long, and the neighboring Arab states must bear some responsibility for this. For many of the regional despots, Israel has provided a useful scapegoat and diversion from their own corrupt practices, and it has suited them to leave the Palestinian situation unresolved.
Why is a local council getting involved in international relations - hope they are ensuring all of the garbage is picked up on time because that is their job. Looks like some try hard activists have infiltrated councils and forgotten why they were elected in the first place - local administration!!!!
Nice article didn't take long for all the racists to come out in defence of Israel. First of all we have the red herring — the council should stick to collecting garbage. Well as a supporter of the council's BDS motion I agree, they should stick to collecting garbage — the motion prevents the council from doing what other Sydney council's have done & contracting it out to Veolia, the French multinational that is building an apartheid light rail system in the West Bank (what I mean by Apartheid light rail system is one dividing Palestinian communities & which Palestinians are banned from). The third poster shows disgusting racism by claiming that the Palestinian's are not a people. The eighth poster show's where this filth comes from — rehashing White South African Apartheid-era propaganda making similar claims about Black South Africans. Which rather undermines the Zionist denial of the link between their Apartheid system & that which used to exist in South Africa! To the poster who makes reference to Central Australia, the answer is yes, Australia is an Apartheid state. And if you'd spent half a minute reading GLW instead of just trawling through the internet looking for unfriendly references to Israel, you'd be aware that GLW has been in the forefront of campaigning against the NT intervention & other aspects of Australian Apartheid — a claim I'd hazard a guess that you could not make with any honesty. The second poster makes a link to a virulently right wing site who seem to specialise in over-the-top lies supporting any tyranny anywhere . An article posted on December 10, barely weeks after the Gdeim Izik massacre by Moroccan forces in occupied Western Sahara , trots out a lot of slanders against the Saharawi cause and starting with the absurd claim that the very secular Frente Polisario liberation movement has links to Al Qaeda! I had the oppurtunity to visit the Saharawi refugee camps last week & can assure readers that I saw no evidence of religious extremism (the Saharawi are Muslim but seem rather laid back about religion, there was free mixing between genders & while many women wore veils when outside, so did many men — understandable given the sand! Inside both men & women would remove their veils, in mixed gender company, including in front of foreigners such as myself). Neither did I see any evidence of South American drug gangs, another of the article's ludicrous claims! I roamed around the camp without any POLISARIO minder, and despite Hudson-ny's article describing terrifying control by POLISARIO authorities, all the Saharawi police I saw were unarmed. Finally, Yemach Shemam, while you should be congratulated for being the only racist not to post anonymously, your likening of the demand for equality between Jews and non-Jews to Nazi propaganda is sick beyond words. It is an insult to the memory of the victims of Nazi racist persecution. Tony Iltis, Newtown resident, currently overseas

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