‘It’s hard to see why Israel won’t follow white South Africa’s road to extinction,’ says ‘Forward’ writer

Israel/Palestine
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Nelson Mandela addresses the UN's Special Committee Against Apartheid. (UN Photo/Flickr)

Nelson Mandela addresses the UN’s Special Committee Against Apartheid. (UN Photo/Flickr)

The wheels may be coming off a wee bit faster than expected. Articles in two leading Jewish papers on the Mandela funeral and the clumsy official Israeli response concede the similarity of conditions in Palestine to apartheid in South Africa. Both articles use moral language. The Forward says that Israel may well face extinction ala South Africa. The Jewish Week says Israel cannot remove the indelible stain of supporting apartheid.

(By the way, Jimmy Carter said it was apartheid 7 years ago, and Terry Gross and others said he was wrong to do so.)

First, Jay Michaelson, a contributing editor, writing in the Forward: “Is the Israel of Today Becoming 1980s South Africa?”:

Unless Israel changes its policies, it will soon be quite similar to South Africa in the 1980s, and it’s hard to see why it won’t follow white South Africa’s road to extinction. True, Israel has much better lobbyists, but South Africa had its supporters too, especially within the Republican party (sound familiar?) and with its mineral wealth, it had plenty of money to spend. It also had wonderful tourist attractions, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a thriving cultural scene. Nothing helped. You can’t whitewash apartheid. Eventually, unless you’re too big to oppose, like China or Russia, the world does turn against you.

There is one open question, though, to which no one can yet know the answer. If Israel/Palestine 2025 is South Africa 1985, who will be Palestine’s Mandela?

And here is Rabbi Gerald Skolnik in the Jewish Week, faulting Netanyahu for blowing off the Mandela funeral:

Is it possible that a man who is such a political animal – and a remarkably effective one at that – could actually be so tone-deaf to political sensitivities that he would risk hurting the global interests of the country he loves for the sake of making a sarcastic and very ill-advised political point? If true, it was as if he were saying, “OK, you want me to spend less, I’ll spend less. I’ll skip Mandela’s funeral.” It would be the ultimate example of penny-wise, pound-foolish…

It is hardly a secret that, during the years of apartheid in South Africa, Jerusalem and Pretoria were serious trade partners. Weapons, nuclear technology, agriculture… it was all part of a lucrative arrangement for both sides. …

None of this is to be understood as a “whitewash.” Dealing with South Africa during its apartheid years left an indelible stain on Israel’s soul –  a price that, one might say, it willingly and understandably had no choice but to pay at the time. I have to think that, in some way, the lasting impact of that stain played a role in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to stay away from Pretoria last week. The decision was at best an ill-advised one, enhancing the perception that Israel’s policies on the West Bank are comparable to apartheid.

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