Can Restoring Israel’s Relations with South Africa Prove a Key to Breaking BDS?

June 20 2017

Last month, Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Liberia to meet with a number of West African heads of state; he made a similar visit to East African capitals last year. The trips are part of the prime minister’s global effort to strengthen Israel’s diplomatic standing. But Netanyahu also had a more specific goal in mind: putting pressure on South Africa—to which many of the continents’ nations look for leadership—to end its hostility toward the Jewish state. Amnon Lord explains:

The strengthening of relations with African countries is intended, among other things, to create a greenhouse effect, melting the “glacier” of South Africa’s hostility that [in turn] limits Israel’s relations with [other] African countries. . . .

South Africa’s experience under apartheid is used by the BDS movement as a political weapon. South Africa is largely the territorial base of BDS. . . . The power of [anti-Israel] movements is multiplied in South Africa, [which despite] all of its corruption and failures, has been transformed since the elimination of apartheid by Nelson Mandela’s leadership into a “moral power.” This [authority] could be a strategic resource for Israel—but South Africa’s status as a moral power is instead directed against Israel. . . .

Official solidarity with the Palestinian cause is absolute. It is a South African legacy of the longstanding partnership with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) that was created by the Soviet Union during the cold war. The [governing] African National Congress (ANC), [which led the anti-apartheid movement under Nelson Mandela] had many Communist members, many of them Jews. They formed the connecting link between the ANC and the PLO. This is why the senior Hamas official Khaled Meshal was received in South Africa as an official guest of honor, and even had a meeting with President Jacob Zuma.

The surprise is that there are black South Africans who are willing to fight for Israel’s sake. These are young people who feel cheated by the lies of the boycott movement; some of them are even former student BDS activists. They feel insulted that the term “apartheid” is used against Israel. As far as they are concerned, this is a kind of denial of the suffering they endured under the real apartheid system that existed in South Africa.

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More about: Africa, BDS, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, South Africa

 

Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

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More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat