Shimon Peres’ selective memory of apartheid

Israeli president Shimon Peres.

Israeli president Shimon Peres.

Following the death of Nelson Mandela, Israeli President Shimon Peres issued an official statement.  It read:

The world lost a great leader who changed the course of history. On behalf of the citizens of Israel we mourn alongside the nations of the world and the people of South Africa, who lost an exceptional leader.

Nelson Mandela was a fighter for human rights who left an indelible mark on the struggle against racism and discrimination. He was a passionate advocate for democracy, a respected mediator, a Nobel peace prize laureate and above all a builder of bridges of peace and dialogue who paid a heavy personal price for his struggle in the years he spent in prison and fighting for his people. Nelson Mandela’s legacy for his people and for the world will forever remain engraved in the pages of history and the hearts of all those who were touched by him. He will be remembered forever.

Conveniently, Peres decided to leave out any mention of Israel’s close and abiding relationship with the Apartheid regime in South Africa, even when all other nations on Earth had cut ties and joined the international boycott.

The Israel-South Africa alliance was not one of mere convenience; rather, it was one based on shared values.

“The Jews took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state,” South African Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd proudly declared back in 1961.

Fifteen years later, in April 1976, two months before the Soweto Uprising, South African Prime Minister (and known former Nazi sympathizer) John Vorster made an official state visit to Israel, where he was hosted by Israeli Prime Minster Yitzhak Rabin. A number of friendship pacts and bilateral economic, military and nuclear agreements were signed.

At a banquet held in Vorster’s honor, Rabin hailed “the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence” and praised Vorster as a champion of freedom. Both Israel and South Africa, Rabin said, faced “foreign-inspired instability and recklessness.”

Vorster lamented that both South Africa and Israel were victims of the enemies of Western civilization. Only a few months later, an official South African Government’s document reinforced this shared predicament: “Israel and South Africa have one thing above all else in common: they are both situated in a predominantly hostile world inhabited by dark peoples.”

The groundwork for such close ties had been forged over the preceding couple of years by the defense ministers of Israel and South Africa.

In November 1974, after visiting the leadership in Pretoria, the Israeli Defense Minister emphasized to the Knesset the “vitally important” economic, political and military ties between the Apartheid state in South Africa and the Zionist state in Israel, writing that “this cooperation is based not only on common interests and on the determination to resist equally our enemies, but also on the unshakeable foundations of our common hatred of injustice and out refusal to submit to it.”

That minister was none other than Shimon Peres.

The following year, through “top secret” correspondence with his South African counterpart (and later Prime Minister) PW Botha, Peres offered to sell Israeli nuclear warheads to the Apartheid regime, while Mandela languished in a prison cell on Robben Island. A bilateral propaganda outfit named the “Joint Secretariate for Political and Psychological Warfare” was established between the two states in an effort to boost the public image of Apartheid.

As late as 1987, Ha’aretz reported last year, “Israel was the only Western nation that upheld diplomatic ties with South Africa” and was one of the last countries to join the international boycott campaign.

It is clear that Mandela’s anti-Apartheid struggle, which – according to Peres – “changed the course of history,” went wholly unsupported, and deliberately subverted, by Peres and the Israeli government. It is no surprise that many South African anti-Apartheid activists and religious leaders, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have consistently described Israel as an Apartheid state, if not worse.

In 2005, the Guardian’s Chris McGreal asked Peres “about his close dealings with the old South African regime, including two periods as prime minister during the 1980s when Israel drew closest to the apartheid government. His response was to brush away history. ‘I never think back. Since I cannot change the past, why should I deal with it?’ he said.”

He doubled down on this concept, albeit in a vastly different context, just a few years ago. Speaking in Paris at a technology conference, Peres said that the internet made memory obsolete. “Why should we remember?,” he wondered, “The past is not so brilliant. It’s full of troubles, of wars. Not only that, why should we waste our intellectual energies to remember, when the internet or the computer can remember in your place? ‘Buy Google and stop remembering!’”

Stating that “the task of human beings nowadays is not to remember, but to imagine, to create, to discover,” Peres urged his audience to “change our efforts from traditional memory to intellectual imagination.”

So, does Peres even believe his own words, that the past is past, reflection and remembrance are exercises in futility and only the future matters?  No. At least not when it comes to history he can exploit for political gain.

Peres has made a career of commemorating the victims of genocide in order to promote the narcissistic ideology of Zionism, justify the permanent oppression of indigenous Palestinians, fear-monger about exaggerated and non-existent external threats, and maintain continued Israeli hegemony in the Middle East.

In 2002, Peres claimed that a failure to heed the lessons of history by not confronting Saddam Hussein would result in a repeat of Hitlerian aggression and genocide. He said effectively the same thing in 2008 about Iran. And again in 2012.

Earlier this year, Peres made a similar analogy with Syria. Speaking from the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, he said, “Your voice, Anne, is the voice that rings in our ears and will forever remind the Jewish people and the entire world of the victory of the sons of light over the sons of darkness.”

Peres travels the world giving speeches about the the importance of remembering tragic history and learning from the past, while also believing his own intimate role in the unspeakable discrimination, repression, and violence against blacks in South Africa should be expunged and ignored – “why should I deal with it?” – and any semblance of penance or retribution dismissed.

In 2010, Peres delivered a speech at Yad Vashem on Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day. “Our dead will not come back to life; their memory lives within us. Our wounds will not heal; our strength will not ebb,” he said, speaking of the Jewish community, and added, “We remain a people with memory, faith and determination.”

The same year, on the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Peres spoke before the German parliament in Berlin. “The Holocaust raises painful questions that touch on the infinite depth of a man’s soul,” he declared, “The Holocaust must always be prominent in our minds and in the conscience of humanity, and serve as an unequivocal warning in perpetuity. As a binding decree to uphold the sanctity of life, equality among men, freedom and peace.”

Last year, Peres again insisted, “We will always remember our 6 million brothers who perished in the Holocaust,” and this April reiterated, “The Holocaust will not sink into the dark hole of history. It is here with us, burning, real.”

“The history of the Holocaust is not just a lesson from the past, it is also a lesson for the future,” Peres said.

A week later, speaking at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Israel’s Memorial Day, he exclaimed, “We will not forget even for a moment and will always remember those to whom the survival of Israel and its glory are indebted.”

A few months after that, Peres traveled to Lithuania and gave another speech on the Holocaust. “We cannot change the past so we don’t have to forget it,” he said. “But we can change the future and that we should always remember.”

For Peres, there are clearly some people whose lives should be honored and memorialized, and some who deserve to be forgotten. The Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust and the Israeli soldiers who ethnically cleanse, colonize and occupy Palestine fall into the former group. African victims of Apartheid? Not so lucky. Why would Shimon Peres need to reconcile his deeds with their past? Why should he “deal with it”?

It came as no surprise that neither Peres nor Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to attend Mandela’s memorial service.  As architects and defenders of their own Apartheid state, the greeting Israeli leaders might have received in South Africa may have been a bit cold.

So they made weak and transparent excuses for why they couldn’t make the trip – Peres had the “flu,” while Netanyahu was pinching pennies – and sent a Likud underling in their stead.  No one was fooled as to why they bailed.

In his 2012 speech at Yad Vashem, Peres said, “Holocaust deniers negate the deeds of their predecessors so as to cover their own crimes. The falsehood of negation will not extinguish the fire of the inferno.”

Ignoring his own past deeds to cover his own crimes, however, appears to be something Peres can deal with.

About Nima Shirazi

Nima Shirazi is co-editor of the Iran, Iraq and Turkey pages for the online magazine Muftah. His political analysis can be found on his blog, WideAsleepinAmerica.com, where this post first appeared. Follow him on Twitter @WideAsleepNima.
Posted in Israel/Palestine, Israeli Government | Tagged

{ 20 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. amigo says:

    “Nelson Mandela was a fighter for human rights who left an indelible mark on the struggle against racism and discrimination. He was a passionate advocate for democracy, a respected mediator, a Nobel peace prize laureate and above all a builder of bridges of peace and dialogue who paid a heavy personal price for his struggle in the years he spent in prison and fighting for his people. Nelson Mandela’s legacy for his people and for the world will forever remain engraved in the pages of history and the hearts of all those who were touched by him. He will be remembered forever.”peres

    He was everything you are not.

  2. amigo says:

    “Israel and South Africa have one thing above all else in common: they are both situated in a predominantly hostile world inhabited by dark peoples.”vorster

    How dare those pesky Eribs and Blekks insist on continuing their claims of indigenous rights.

    ““this cooperation is based not only on common interests and on the determination to resist equally our enemies, but also on the unshakeable foundations of our common hatred of injustice and out refusal to submit to it.”peres.

    Hypocrisy Peresonified.

  3. Citizen says:

    Like Bibi himself, Peres has no problem at all selling his own lack of universally applied moral/ethical integrity. Anything is ok if in their view, it benefits the Jews. Contrary views are mere matters of PR challenge. Neither went to Mandela’s memorial service because even they choked at how difficult it would be to spin their attendance there in the face of the known facts too much of the world knows, that is, the world media not yet taken over by Zionist power and influence, as in the USA, Australia, Canada, for example.

  4. dbroncos says:

    The perpetually sad, hang-dog look on Peres face isn’t the “tragic old sage” look of concern for Holocaust victims – it’s the sad face of a man who understands that Israel’s colonial dreams are crumbling and who fears that he’ll be remembered not as a champion of the oppressed but as a cheif architect of one of the most racist societies on earth in the post WWII era.

  5. Walid says:

    War criminal Peres in an interview with Richard Quest offered to meet Rouhani a few days ago, but the offer was immediately refused by the Iranians. Of course, Iranians know better than to associate with such people. That sad look on his face mentioned by dbroncos and his slow speech are nauseating.

    • seafoid says:

      He never won an election and is what passes for cultured in the Jewish Disneyland.

      • Walid says:

        Seafoid, the Jewish Disneyland just got some good marks and some very bad ones from the OECD:

        “… Israel’s output growth remains relatively strong, unemployment is at historically low levels, its high-tech sector continues to attract international admiration, and new off-shore gas fields have come on stream,” says the OECD in the executive summary of its 2013 Israel Economic Survey, published today. It adds, “However, average living standards remain well below those of top-ranking OECD countries, the rate of relative poverty is the highest in the OECD area, and there are ongoing environmental challenges.”

        The report goes on to drag Israel over the coals about the level of poverty and education, which is probably making the OECD regret having accepted Israel’s membership in the club. Things aren’t that rosy in their Disneyland.

        link to globes.co.il

        • seafoid says:

          It’s a real Mickey Mouse country, Walid.

          If you have any money to spare this Christmas remember Meir Panim. The settlers won’t.

          Donate and help poor kids feel normal. Last year’s summer camp featured a trip to the Latrun armoured corps camps. WTF
          link to meirpanim.org

          That’s NFI
          Normal for Israel

        • Walid says:

          Seafoid, I remember the link you posted a few weeks back on Meir Panim, it is a sad story. All the money going to arms that aren’t really needed anymore since Israel is armed enough, while so many children, as well as holocaust survivors, live in poverty there. It is a make-believe country, sort of a Jewish Disneyland as you describe it.

        • seafoid says:

          I feel the same about it, Walid. How can they look at those kids, their own people and not want to do something ? The whole system is incredibly cruel. Gaza gets the worst of it but a lot of Jews are also shafted. Haram.

          Militarism works like that. Look at masrumadunya next door.

    • Yitzgood says:

      Speaking of what Iran “knows,” the following appeared a few days ago at PressTV:

      [quote] The sad truth is that everything mankind needs to know about the deadly, radioactive nature of this political, social and cultural “element” on the periodic table of human ideas has been sitting there, screaming out to civilized man for literally thousands of years. Jewish power and violence, Jewish power and genocide, Jewish power and economic despoliation, Jewish power and corruption, none of this began in 1948 with the creation of Israel. It did not begin in 1913 with the creation of the Federal Reserve, as some like to imagine.

      It did not even begin with the writing of a literary abomination known as the Babylonian Talmud.

      It–the criminal, barbaric nature of Jewish power–has been there from the beginning, congenital from its birth, the moment a penniless nomad begins hearing voices in his head promising him kingdoms, riches and power beyond his wildest dreams, accompanied by the moral justification for doing whatever needs to be done in attaining these items, including lying, genocide, and theft. [end quote]

      And there is considerably more in the same vein in that article.

      link to presstv.ir

      We should recall Ahmadinejad’s statement that someone called “Zionists” “have been inflicting very heavy damage and suffering on the whole humanity for over two thousand years.”

      link to judeopundit.blogspot.com

  6. Israel was quite effective for a number of years, in assisting South Africa to circumvent sanctions. Great skill and planning.

  7. seafoid says:

    Peres reminds me of this George Carlin video

  8. jayn0t says:

    Isn’t it odd how people criticize Israel by comparing it to apartheid South Africa, when no-one criticized South Africa by comparing it to Israel? Isn’t it odd how Israel gets called ‘an apartheid state’, as if to say “Jewish racism is as bad as white racism!” but never the other way round? Isn’t it odd how apartheid was abolished, but Zionism continues?

    • Cliff says:

      Well Israel is an apartheid State. No need to rely solely on SA.

    • Walker says:

      I agree with your observations. The reason they’re true is that Israel has an undeservedly high reputation in the US due to media misrepresentation. And the primary reason that the media misrepresents is because of helpers like you.

  9. Stogumber says:

    As I’m interested in the study of “psychological warfare” – is there any more information about that “Joint Secretariate for Political and Psychological Warfare” , formed in 1975. Members? Connected journalists? Actions?

  10. Taxi says:

    Hope mister Peres lives long enough to be dragged off to the Hague in handcuffs.

  11. JaapBo says:

    Hypocrite – more hypocrite – most hypocrite – … … – Shimon Peres