Mandela on Israel
snedeker at concentric.net
Fri Apr 6 16:53:16 MDT 2001
To: Thomas L. Friedman (Columnist for the New York
From: Nelson Mandela (Former President South Africa)
I know that you and I long for peace in the Middle East, but before you
continue to talk about necessary conditions from an Israeli perspective,
you need to know what's on my mind.
Where to begin? How about 1964. Let me quote my own words during my
trial. They are true today as they were then: "I have fought against white
domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished
ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together
harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live
and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared
Today the world, black and white, recognise that apartheid has no
future. In South Africa it has been ended by our own decisive mass
action in order to build peace and security. That mass campaign of defiance
and other actions could only culminate in the establishment of democracy.
Perhaps it is strange for you to observe the situation in Palestine or
more specifically, the structure of political and cultural relationships
between Palestinians and Israelis, as an apartheid system. This is
because you incorrectly think that the problem of Palestine began in
1967. This was demonstrated in your recent column "Bush's First Memo" in
the New York Times on March 27, 2001. You seem to be surprised to hear
that there are still problems of 1948 to be solved, the most important
component of which is the Right to Return of Palestinian refugees.
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not just an issue of military
occupation and Israel is not a country that was established "normally"
and happened to occupy another country in 1967. Palestinians are not
struggling for a "state" but for freedom, liberation and equality, just
like we were struggling for freedom in South Africa.
In the last few years, and especially during the reign of the Labour
Party, Israel showed that it was not even willing to return what it
occupied in 1967; that settlements remain, Jerusalem would be under
Israeli sovereignty, and Palestinians would not have an independent
state, but would be under Israeli economic domination with Israeli
control of borders, land, air, water and sea.
Israel was not thinking of a "state" but of "separation". The value of
separation is measured in terms of the ability of Israel to keep the
Jewish state Jewish, and not to have a Palestinian minority that could
have the opportunity to become a majority at some time in the future. If
this takes place, it would force Israel to either become a secular
democratic or bi-national state, or to turn into a state of apartheid not
facto,but also de jure.
Thomas, if you follow the polls in Israel for the last 30 or 40 years,
you clearly find a vulgar racism that includes a third of the population
who openly declare themselves to be racist. This racism is of the nature
of "I hate Arabs" and "I wish Arabs would be dead". If you also follow
the judicial system in Israel you will see there is discrimination
against Palestinians, and if you further consider the 1967 occupied
territories you will find there are already two judicial systems in
operation that represent two different approaches to human life: one for
Palestinian life and the other for Jewish life. Additionally there are
two different approaches to property and to land. Palestinian property
is not recognised as private property because it can be confiscated. As
to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, there is an
additional factor. The so-called "Palestinian autonomous areas" are
bantustans. These are restricted entities within the power structure of
the Israeli apartheid system.
The Palestinian state cannot be the by-product of the Jewish state, just
in order to keep the Jewish purity of Israel. Israel's racial
discrimination is the daily life of most Palestinians. Since Israel is a
Jewish state, Israeli Jews are able to accrue special rights which
non-Jews cannot do. Palestinian Arabs have no place in a "Jewish" state.
Apartheid is a crime against humanity. Israel has deprived millions of
Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system
of gross racial discrimination and inequality. It has systematically
incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians, contrary to the
rules of international law. It has, in particular, waged a war against a
civilian population, in particular children.
The responses made by South Africa to human rights abuses emanating from
the removal policies and apartheid policies respectively, shed light on
what Israeli society must necessarily go through before one can speak of
a just and lasting peace in the Middle East and an end to its apartheid
Thomas, I'm not abandoning Mideast diplomacy. But I'm not going to
indulge you the way your supporters do. If you want peace and democracy,
I will support you. If you want formal apartheid, we will not support you.
If you want to support racial discrimination and ethnic cleansing, we will
oppose you. When you figure out what you're about, give me a call.
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