“In no other democratic country in the world,” writes Ben Cohen, “has anti-Zionism enjoyed the kind of mainstream success that it has in South Africa.” During the recent few days of fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad, for instance, there was relatively little of the usual global uproar that surrounds such episodes—with South Africa being the exception, as the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party made a point of condemning the Jewish state and accusing it of apartheid. Cohen writes:
The word “apartheid” is key to understanding why South Africa—more than the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, most of Europe, and even parts of the Islamic world—has proved so receptive to the core anti-Zionist contention that Israel has no right to a sovereign, independent existence. Apartheid—the system of racial segregation and unequal development that prevailed in South Africa for most of the 20th century—ensured that a white minority of 10 percent ruled with an iron fist over a black majority of 90 percent.
The fact that no similar laws exist in Israel hasn’t stopped the ANC, which like many anti-colonial movements in the developing world embraced the Palestinian cause during the cold war, from applying word “apartheid” to the Palestinians. The ANC believes—and has persuaded many ordinary South Africans to believe—that Israel is a carbon copy of the old, unlamented apartheid regime, and that its Jewish citizens, who descend from all corners of the world, are the equivalent of the boorish Boer settlers from Holland who colonized their country during the 19th century.
As always the case with anti-Zionism, the hostility isn’t restricted to Israel as a state but spills over into open anti-Semitism targeting Jews more generally. Last week, one of South Africa’s most popular news outlets published an uncomplicatedly anti-Semitic op-ed that neatly demonstrated how easy it is to graft traditional anti-Semitism onto ostensibly progressive concerns about racial injustice. . . .
Our admiration for the struggle against apartheid, coupled with our knowledge of the suffering endured by black South Africans under that system, has perhaps made us reticent about criticizing the current generation of leaders. No more.
More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, South Africa