About the Author
An Open Letter to Cosatu President, Willie Madisha
Dear Mr. Madisha
It was with great sadness that I read the headline in the Mail and Guardian of
July 10, reporting your speech to Cosatu "Apartheid Israel worse than
I am sad because I can fully appreciate that in the light of the information
available to you from mainstream media, the situation appears as you described
it. Yet from personal experience as a member of anti-apartheid movements when I
lived in South Africa as well as from my experience in Israel, I know that the
accusation that Israel is an apartheid state is completely baseless.
I hope sir that you will allow me to present some factual information, which, as
a reasonable man, may lead you to reconsider your views.
As you well know, in South Africa, apartheid was entrenched in the law and
strictly enforced. The law not only denied the vote to Black citizens, it
legislated to force discrimination in almost every aspect of daily life. In
stark contrast, Israels Declaration of Independence specifically ensures
complete equality of social and political rights to all inhabitants irrespective
of religion, race, or gender. Israeli Muslims, Christians, Druse and other
minority groups enjoy exactly the same civil and political rights as Jews. They
serve in the Knesset and speak freely against the government. On the other hand,
Israel's Arab neighbors strictly enforce gender and religious apartheid.
An unblinkered visit to any Israeli hospital will convince the most biased
individual about the complete absence of any form of racial discrimination. Arab
and Jewish doctors collaborate easily and in some hospitals Arabs outnumber
Jewish patients. Especially noticeable after bombing incidents, which have
become too common, is the equal treatment given to victims and perpetrators. An
Israeli nurse has been quoted saying, "All patients are human beings, but
sometimes when we experience these terrible deeds and see the mangled bodies of
victims, we have to suppress our emotions when treating the perpetrators. It is
so difficult to understand how they can do the inhuman things they do "
Of course Israel is not perfect. There are aspects that need improvement, but we
are proud that human rights organizations work vigorously and freely here and
that our law courts do not hesitate to rule against the government when
necessary. But the defects in Israel are no worse than in most other democracies
including the new South Africa. For example the COSATU Political Discussion
Document for the September 2006 National Congress states that at a
micro-enterprise level, the promise of democracy has been thwarted and that the
apartheid world order and discipline have been re-imposed in many South African
If you can spare a few moments from your busy schedule, please click on the
following links to read more detailed information about apartheid in
Israel, the Israel-SA connection and the part played by Jews in the
Jews vs apartheid
Israel SA Connection
The media and other opinion makers create the impression that there is a
direct comparison between the captured Israeli soldier and the Palestinians in
Israeli jails. They ignore an all-important difference. The families of
Palestinian prisoners in Israel know where their loved ones are. They visit them
and communicate by telephone. By contrast, the Palestinians deliberately keep
the families of captives in a state of unbearable anxiety by holding their
captives incommunicado; emulating the late Yassir Arafat. In an exquisite
refinement of torture in 1993, Arafat acknowledged that he knew the fate of
missing in action soldier Zachary Baumel and handed one half of Baumel's
identity tag to Yitzchak Rabin, with a firm promise that more information about
Baumel and other MIA's would be forthcoming. He never kept that promise.
These same media and other opinion makers ignore the context
in which events occur. They ignore, Israel's restrained reaction, until now, to
the more than one thousand deadly missiles fired at Israeli towns during the
past twelve months since Israel unilaterally left Gaza. They also ignore
Palestinians diverting their resources to firing missiles instead of creating
employment and trade opportunities in the hothouses left behind by the Israelis.
It is difficult to understand their wanton destruction of these valuable assets,
which could have done a great deal to improve the quality of life of Gazans.
- Mr. Madisha, as a family man, I am sure you cannot
condone this type of inhuman behavior. May one hope that you will be
moved to demand that, at the very least, the kidnappers allow the captured
soldier to be visited by the Red Cross or other neutral persons and to
telephone to his parents in their presence.
It is only by the grace of the almighty that casualties have not been greater;
certainly not due to lack of intent to kill and maim as many civilians as
possible. In making their hasty judgments, these opinion makers fail to
take account of the "intent and "malice aforethought" of
the people who fire these rockets deliberately into populated areas. Surely, you
will agree that such deliberate attempts to kill, even when they dont
achieve their objectives, are heinous offences, deserving severest condemnation
For example, at an intersection in Sderot, a town suffering multiple daily
rocket attacks, a community center is located adjacent to elementary schools and
preschools. At this normally busy intersection, two craters bear testimony
to tragedies narrowly averted through sheer luck or divine intervention.
One missile landed just 15 minutes after the intersection had been filled with
By contrast Israel aims its missiles at specific hostile targets, taking pains
to minimize collateral damage and holds critical internal enquiries whenever
uninvolved persons are hurt unintentionally.
Indeed the Palestinian people deserve a better life, but they have been
unfortunate in lacking leadership of the caliber of Nelson Mandela. Who can
doubt that, had Yasser Arafat possessed half of Mandela's qualities, he and Ehud
Barak, would have achieved a satisfactory peace agreement at Camp David.
The ANC and Hamas
As the first chairman of the ANC in the Zebediela area, you are no
doubt justifiably proud of the Congress' lofty principles set out in the Freedom
Charter. While the ANC's empathy with the Palestinians is a natural and
understandable result of having been comrades in arms, the commonality
unfortunately ends there.
I believe Sir, you will confirm that this type of irrational
hate, had, and still has, no place in ANC thinking. Nor would the ANC tolerate
the type of incitement to violence, which has been emanating for years from the
mosques and PA controlled media and taught in schools from the earliest age.
- A brief examination of the Hamas Charter, explains
the intractability of the present conflict. While the ANC Charter states
"South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement
of all international disputes by negotiation - not war" the Hamas
Covenant makes it perfectly clear that there is absolutely no
room for peaceful negotiation. Article 13 unambiguously declares,
"Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international
conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic
Resistance Movement. There is no solution for the Palestinian question
except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences
are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."
Training Programmes for Blacks in Israel during the apartheid era
Not widely known was the unpublicized, ongoing program in Israel during the
apartheid era, organized by the Histadrut and opposed by the South African
government, to train Black South Africans in leadership agriculture and
organization. The Center for International Cooperation ("MASHAV") of
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has over the years carried out capacity-building
and technology-transfer activities in 30 different African countries. Some of
the courses were carried out at several teaching and training facilities in
Israel. Others were conducted in the relevant countries, including long-term
agricultural projects, The "He-atid" programme also continues to
organize training sessions in Israel for Black middle managers.
I would very much appreciate your considered response
more articles by Maurice Ostroff