RONNIE KASRILS. I fought South African apartheid. I see the same brutal policies in Israel.

As a Jewish South African anti-apartheid activist I look with horror on the far-right shift in Israel ahead of this month’s elections, and the impact in the Palestinian territories and worldwide.

Israel’s repression of Palestinian citizens, African refugees and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza has become more brutal over time. Ethnic cleansing, land seizure, home demolition, military occupation, bombing of Gaza and international law violations led Archbishop Tutu to declare that the treatment of Palestinians reminded him of apartheid, only worse.

I’m also deeply disturbed that critics of Israel’s brutal policies are frequently threatened with repression of their freedom of speech, a reality I’ve now experienced at first hand. Last week, a public meeting in Vienna where I was scheduled to speak in support of Palestinian freedom, as part of the global Israeli Apartheid Week, was cancelled by the museum hosting the event – under pressure from Vienna’s city council, which opposes the international movement to divest from Israel.

South Africa’s apartheid government banned me for life from attending meetings. Nothing I said could be published, because I stood up against apartheid. How disgraceful that, despite the lessons of our struggle against racism, such intolerance continues to this day, stifling free speech on Palestine.

During the South African struggle, we were accused of following a communist agenda, but smears didn’t deflect us. Today, Israel’s propaganda follows a similar route, repeated by its supporters – conflating opposition to Israel with antisemitism. This must be resisted.

A growing number of Jews worldwide are taking positions opposing Israel’s policies. Many younger Jews are supporting the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a peaceful mobilisation inspired by the movement that helped to end apartheid in South Africa.

The parallels with South Africa are many. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, recently said: “Israel is not a state of all its citizens … Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and them alone”.

Similar racist utterances were common in apartheid South Africa. We argued that a just peace could be reached, and that white people would find security only in a unitary, non-racist, democratic society after ending the oppression of black South Africans and providing freedom and equality for all.

By contrast, Netanyahu’s Likud is desperately courting extremist parties, and abandoning any pretext of negotiating with the Palestinians. His plan to bring an extremist settler party and Kahanist terrorist party into his governing coalition is obscene. His most serious opponent is a general accused of war crimes in Gaza. As long as a repressive apartheid-like regime rules, things will only worsen for Palestinians and Israelis too.

The anti-apartheid movement grew over three decades, in concert with the liberation struggle of South Africa’s people, to make a decisive difference in toppling the racist regime. Europeans refused to buy apartheid fruit; there were sports boycotts; dockworkers from Liverpool to Melbourne refused to handle South African cargo; an academic boycott turned universities into apartheid-free zones; and arms sanctions helped to shift the balance against South Africa’s military.

As the movement developed and UN resolutions isolated Pretoria’s regime, pressure mounted on trading partners and supportive governments. The US Congress’s historic adoption of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act (1986) was a major turning point. When the Chase and Barclays banks closed in South Africa and withdrew their lines of credit, the battle was well-nigh over.

This required huge organisational effort, grassroots mobilisation and education. Similar elements characterise today’s BDS movement to isolate apartheid-like Israel.

Every step is important – pressing institutions and corporations that are complicit in Israel’s crimes and supporting Palestinians in their struggle for liberation. This is not about destroying Israel and its people but about working for a just solution, as we did in South Africa.

It is the duty of supporters of justice worldwide to mobilise in solidarity with Palestinians to help usher in an era of freedom.

Ronnie Kasrils is a former South African government minister, and was a leading member of the African National Congress during the apartheid era.

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5 Responses to RONNIE KASRILS. I fought South African apartheid. I see the same brutal policies in Israel.

  1. Vincent Matthews says:

    Why are Australian politicians and media too afraid to publish anything like Ronnie’s article? No other nation but Issrael would be allowed to behave so brutally to a virtually defenceless people like the Palestinians without being denounced and threatened with sanctions.
    Yet Netanyahu can take over land and homes from Palestinians with complete contempt because he knows no nation will or can take action against him.
    He has become more aggressive since his business ally Trump entered the White House.
    What a commentary on Australian politics when an ALP candidate has to withdraw from an election campaign because she said what Ronnie confirms in his article. Jewish influence in our politics has corrupted the system. An example was Morrison’s pledge to move Australia’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, hoping to win votes in Wentworth by-election. And Shorten is no better, glad that candidate Melissa Parke quit and muttering that he disagreed with her.
    So thanks to John Menadue for being free and fearless in using articles of such value and profound interest. Because our politicians and media are shameless in their reaction to Israel’s crimes against Palestinians.

  2. Richard Barnes says:

    Posted on the very day that Melissa Parke, ALP candidate for the seat of Curtin, fell on her sword and withdrew her candidacy, after expressing very similar views.

    • Hal Duell says:

      I’ve been trying to think of a reason for Shorten’s betrayal of one of his candidates, and I’m just not getting there. I fear there may be real depth and heft to his perfidy, something we can observe at our leisure if/when he gains the Lodge.
      In Lampedusa’s novel The Leopard there’s a comment about something having to change so everything can go on as before. Oz elections, 2019.

    • Jocelyn Pixley says:

      True, and look at the dirt cast on Bernie Sanders and George Soros, both of whom are Jewish, for expressing similar views. The Murdoch press loathes Soros and has derided him for being anti-Semitic for at least two decades.
      Forget the facts, as always, notably that Soros is one of the very few billionaires in the world who supports higher education and very mildly, an Open Society. His funding is banished in his own country, Hungary, and by the distressing rise of far right dictators.

  3. Rex Williams says:

    “A growing number of Jews worldwide are taking positions opposing Israel’s policies.”

    Ronnie. It is indeed refreshing to see this written. If it is true and I have no reason to doubt you, it is certainly well hidden from the world per courtesy of the mainstream media. In this subservient feeble country as well.

    Yes, the similarities to apartheid are well made in your article and such similarities have been there for decades and correspond identically to my understanding of that past regime in South Africa.
    The undeserving Palestinian world is seriously handicapped in having an egoistical and arrogant president in the US able to be manipulated by Israel to the point that Israel’s interests are totally entrenched daily in the activities of both houses of government in the US, almost to the point of it being something of a joke, worldwide. But it is not a joke as we all know and decisions like Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and now further possible concessions to the rightwing, fascistic Israeli government will make daily life for Palestinians even more unbearable than before.

    But it is fair to say that the point of view you and others represent does not receive any recognition anywhere except in the ranks of that minority like you with an inside knowledge of the goings-on in the Knesset. As for people like me, I blame the USA in respect of all the failures that are so evident in Israel today because they could have been countered by influencing a weak and feckless United Nations, now without any semblance of power to change any inhumane act by the US to add to its power throughout the world. It is in fact, a worthless identity today.

    You would have to agree that the UN in the days of apartheid Africa was much more influential and respected than the same UN is today, particularly in respect of actions that have taken place over recent times in LIbya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen today, and soon Venezuela and if the US is foolhardy, with Iran on the horizon.

    So I wish you well in acquainting others with you recognition of the evils of Israeli apartheid. While you are doing that, with some success I hope, I will join others in contributing to their understanding of what the US has become. It is now a terrorist country, power-mad using cruel sanctions as their first weapon of threat, dictated by a junta of neocon misfits ( as was the case with the same junta and their WMD lies in Iraq), all of whom would not pass the first test of not being engaged in un-American activities as in the McCarthy era in the 1950’s. Sadly, they are emboldened by having a thorough understanding of the apathy that is entrenched in the general public of America controlled and influenced as they are by Zionist owned media.
    The US is an empire on the downhill run.

    Thanks for your article. I trust that it is read by many

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