A lot of folks are noticing Israeli president Shimon Peres’s bald hypocrisy in celebrating Nelson Mandela when he once helped to prop up the apartheid regime in South Africa. We did so over the weekend. So did Chris McGreal of the Guardian, who quotes Mandela to the effect: “never forget how the free world’s leaders learned to change their tune,” and reports that “among those eulogising Mandela are people who once damned him as a terrorist and supported apartheid.”
McGreal once quizzed Peres about the relationship and Peres said Let bygones be bygones.
As defence minister in the 1970s, Peres signed secret military pacts with Pretoria that, among other things, helped developed weapons used against black Africans…
A few years back, I asked Shimon 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. Peres is clearly not alone in that view.
The story is also getting legs on NBC. “In the 1970s, while Mandela was languishing in a damp prison cell on Robben Island, Peres was making deals with South Africa’s apartheid regime,” reports Robert Windrem:
But in the 1970s, while Mandela was languishing in a damp prison cell on Robben Island, Peres was making deals with South Africa’s apartheid regime, according to interviews and documents gathered by NBC News, a recent documentary and a book based on Israeli and South African government documents….
At the center of the relationship was a “Joint Secretariate for Political and Psychological Warfare” set up in 1975 to handle various matters, not the least of which was “propaganda and psychological warfare.” It was an outgrowth of a $100 million South African propaganda campaign to fix the country’s tarnished image. Leading the effort was the late Eschel Rhoodie, a brash apparatchik who had convinced the regime’s leaders they needed to sell apartheid to the western media.
Shades of Israel’s desperate efforts to fix its international image. The report ties into the story about Hollywood producer, and Israeli spy, Arnon Milchan lately reported on Israeli TV. NBC again:
In a February 1993 interview, Rhoodie told NBC News he was the chief representative on the South African side. “Arnon Milchan was the chief representative on the Israeli side,” said Rhoodie. “We paid him about 30,000 rand [$40,000] a year.” Milchan is now a Hollywood billionaire who has produced more than 120 movies, including “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “L.A. Confidential.” When he was in his 20s, however, Peres recruited him for the Science Liaison Bureau. Peres designated Milchan to represent Israel in South Africa.
The story also describes the cooperation in nuclear technology between the two countries. The U.S. was aware of the dubious trade. But of course that nuclear issue didn’t dominate our political debate.
H/t Max Blumenthal.