by Ronnie Kasrils
Nakba Day – 73 years since the onset of the ‘catastrophe’, with Apartheid Israel having believed Palestinian memories would fade away, has witnessed unity and courage of a people unbowed, relentlessly fighting for their land and rights, and resisting the last of the colonial monsters.
As in all anti-colonial struggles there is an agonising high price to pay. The death toll rises hourly in Gaza, the West Bank and throughout Palestine. The international community cannot remain indifferent, and it has been uplifting for the beleaguered Palestinian people to see they are not alone in their struggle for survival.
Humanity’s voice and resolve must rise in sustained anger and to mourn and mobilise as the best way to respect the dead and wounded, the families grieving over the corpses of mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, venerable elders and broken bodies of children some still infants. At times virtually entire families obliterated. The spreading of awareness and the truth is necessary to break through Zionist Israel’s false narrative, the impunity provided by the West for its heinous crimes, and the need to beat mainstream media disinformation. Our resolve is more vital with the barbaric onslaught on the people of Palestine as Israel warmongers, and a corrupt, desperate Netanyahu, threaten unrestrained war and a final solution. This is a time for rededication as never before. We must protest our outrage at Israel’s war crimes, recognised as such in international law. By Sunday, 200 Palestinians slaughtered of which 29 women, 68 children – 9 Israelis. As office blocks in Gaza are turned to rubble, one housing Associated Press and Al Jazeera offices, Israel’s intentions to obliterate media outlets along with Palestinian lives shows its fear of the extent of its crimes reaching the outside world. So much for the claim that it is the Middle East’s sole democracy. Hogwash.
Palestinian comrades have asked us to break the criminal international support and appeasement of Israel and match their courage. It is imperative we confront the shameless complicity passed on from Trump to Biden, the legacy of USA administrations since 1948. How macabre this Joe Biden is, asserting that Israel is justified in bombing Gaza in self-defence. How insidious the connivance of perfidious Britain, hypocritical France, shameless Germany, the repugnant regimes from Austria, Brazil, Hungary to India, Lithuania and Poland; the white domains of Australia and Canada; along with the treachery of spineless Arab states.
It is South Africa’s sacred duty to mobilise for Nakba Day every day; build the BDS campaign to new heights; rally to the defence of our Palestinian brothers, sisters and children. Stop Zionist liars in their tracks with the truth. Support international Jewish voices for justice, along with humanity, to expose Zionism equating criticising Israel with antisemitism and the flawed depravity of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition Israel’s racism, complicity between the racist mobs and police, and history of colonial settlement shared by the West, has spread the poison of such xenophobia and let loose the pogroms so reminiscent of Czarist times and Kristal Nacht in Germany, 1938. There are Nazi era analogies. One of Ben Gurion’s own ministers, Aharon Cizling, stated after the Deir Yassin massacre in May 1948 – ‘now we have behaved like Nazis and my whole being is shaken.’ Einstein and Hannah Arendt warned of the rise of fascist parties in Israel that very year when Menachem Begin visited New York to raise funds. Future Prime Minister Begin, leader of the terrorist Irgun, and forerunner of Likud and the butchers Sharon and Netanyahu.
A desperate Netanyahu, seeing his prime ministerial post slipping away, and as a result the increasing likelihood of a prison term on corruption charges, grasps an escape route by fermenting war on besieged Gaza. The Israeli armaments industry is licking its chops at the opportunity to show off its latest and now once again war-proven hardware to repulsive international warmongers and arms merchants. It’s time again for good business. Every time Gaza is demolished and lives crushed Israeli sales and shares rocket.
What Netanyahu and the criminal Israeli military did not bargain for was the way in which the forced displacement of Palestinian households in Sheikh Jarrah and across Jerusalem – to Judaize the Holy City – and the sacrilegious assault on the Al Aqsa Mosque, shooting and beating those at prayer, would unite as never seen before the people of Gaza, West Bank and Palestinians living within Israel itself, and the potential enormous support in the diaspora.
President Biden, all at sea, gives Israel carte blanche right to defend itself against home-made rockets launched from Gaza, seemingly oblivious to the IDF raining death and destruction on a besieged city of 2 million. The spineless Western governments and media bark their accent like poodles; former colonial powers with the same psyche as United States imperialism, never understanding that repression begets resistance. If those rockets came from Iran, they would have precision delivery mechanisms and would be far more sophisticated. No possibility of smuggling into the hermetically sealed Gaza Strip with Sisi’s Egypt treacherously guarding that back door. Home-made rockets, fashioned from water piping, are a testament to the resistance’s inventiveness but hardly on a par with the most advanced ordinance in the world. The reason for the response to Israeli occupation and aggression is patently clear to all but the aggressor and his allies – the justified anger of a people reacting against brutal racist oppression, colonial dispossession of land and rights, destruction of homes and property, murder of their children, savage ill-treatment and humiliation – for seven decades. That’s just how and why South Africans reacted to the apartheid system.
The cause of the response is the amazing resilience of a people the Israeli leader, Ben Gurion, an arch-racist and coloniser like South Africa’s unlamented architect of apartheid, Hendrik Verwoerd, told his followers in 1948, when he unleashed the terror and ethnic cleansing that saw 750,000 Palestinians driven from their homes and land, almost 600 villages destroyed, that the offspring of those set to flight would forget where they came from. The Palestinian people, including the youngest, who resist with stones, and some with rockets, are making a mockery of Zionist hopes. It is Palestinian dreams and fortitude that is winning the war as they show they are prepared to accept casualties in the bloody battles on their courageous road to freedom.We stand with them, righteous humanity, Christians. Jews, Muslims, Hindu, all faith groups, believers and non-believers.
The BDS Weapon
It is imperative that we of the international community redouble our efforts to aid the Palestinian people in solidarity actions. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] campaign remains the most formidable weapon in our arsenal. It worked to bring about the demise of South African Apartheid behind the indigenous black people’s resistance struggle, and is growing in scope and efficacy, to the extent that Israel has identified the non-violent global movement as a strategic threat.
Israel, like apartheid South Africa must pay for its crimes – above all by sanctions. We South Africans must continue to urge our Government and the African states, to break off all relations with Apartheid Israel. We must appeal to Africa to reject Israel’s sugar-coated bribes aimed at ensnaring them. We must apply full sanctions against the Apartheid state and become an international standard bearer for the Palestinian cause. South Africa should convene an international conference of solidarity with Palestine aimed at discussing a programme of global action by governments, trade unions and civil society to isolate Israel, strengthen the BDS campaign, end the occupation, lift the siege of Gaza, dismantle the illegal settlements, remove the apartheid wall and separation barriers, ensure the right of return of all refugees, ensure freedom of access to East Jerusalem and the rights of Palestinians residing there, declare equal rights for Palestinians within Israel which are treated as second class citizens and subject as we see to howling racist mobs.
Israeli war criminals must face the International Criminal Court. Israel must pay reparations for all the death and destruction it has caused. Some will laugh because of the impunity in which Israel basks.
What the BDS campaign advocates is boycotting and divesting from Israeli and international banks and corporations that are implicated in Israel’s regime of apartheid and settler-colonialism. The UN database of companies and banks that are complicit in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise in the occupied Palestinian territory, while incomplete, provides a good starting point. Boycotting American and European products, banks and companies, like Chase Manhattan, Caterpillar Tractors, Estee Lauder, Barclays and Elbit Systems UK, will pressurise that administration and corporate business to end such strategic support for Israel, as the USA’s 3.8 billion dollars annual blood money of military hardware and aid – together with its diplomatic protection and the emasculation of United Nations resolutions which if implemented could shake Israel’s intransigence to the core. It is a crime against humanity to allow Israel to continue to crush Palestinian lives. The world must place the USA in the dock alongside Israel, an Apartheid state. We accuse the Western cohort nation states with the same crime of complicity.
South Africans, along with international humanity, raise the battle cry Mayihlome in solidarity with the Palestinian people’s just resistance – our anger rises for the battle. There can be no neutrality in the fight for freedom and justice. A people united will never be defeated. Palestine will be free from the river to the sea – for all who live there in peace, equality and security.
Ronnie Kasrils – former South African Intelligence Minister
16 May, 2021