An Open Letter to South
African Minister of Intelligence, Ronnie Kasrils
May 21, 2006
About the Author
Dear Minister Ronnie Kasrils
Your article [Israel should face sanctions] (The Guardian, May 19,
I heartily agree with your statement, There is no excuse for not
knowing the truth about what is now happening to the Palestinians and
I hope you will join me in examining some facts so that we can establish
the unbiased truth.
Your empathy for the PLO as fellow freedom fighters is absolutely
understandable in view of your praiseworthy role amongst the first
anti-apartheid guerrillas. I hope, however that if I remind you of some
concrete facts, you will agree that the parallels you draw between the ANC
struggle against apartheid and the Palestinian struggle are not quite
In presenting these facts, I draw on my experience when I lived in South
Africa. As an early, low-key anti-apartheid activist and member of the
Springbok Legion as well as the Federation of Progressive Students, of
which the late Ruth First was a founder, I admired some great
personalities who you certainly also knew very well. I speak for example
of the late Jock Isacowitz and the late Wolfie Kodesh. As you know, the
Springbok Legion was formed during WW2 by South African soldiers who
objected to the discriminatory treatment meted out to their fellow Black
soldiers. It was probably the first mass movement of whites promoting the
liberation of Blacks.
But most of all I was influenced by Chief Albert Luthuli. Even after the
massacre at Sharpeville in 1961 he was quoted as saying "How easy
it would have been in South Africa for the natural feelings of resentment
at white domination to have been turned into feelings of hatred and a
desire for revenge against the white community. Here, where every day in
every aspect of life, every non-white comes up against the ubiquitous
sign, "Europeans Only," and the equally ubiquitous policeman to
enforce it - here it could well be expected that a racialism equal to that
of their oppressors would flourish to counter the white arrogance towards
blacks. That it has not done so is no accident. It is because,
deliberately and advisedly, African leadership for the past 50 years, with
the inspiration of the African National Congress which I had the honour to
lead for the last decade or so until it was banned, had set itself
steadfastly against racial vain-gloriousness."
I have not heard any statements from the PLO or Hamas remotely
resembling the Chiefs inspiring message. Have you?
The sad but factual difference between the ANC and the PLO or Hamas is
that the latter two have been unfortunate in lacking leadership of the
caliber of Chief Luthuli or Nelson Mandela. Who can doubt that, had Yasser
Arafat possessed some of their qualities, he and Ehud Barak, would have
achieved a satisfactory peace agreement?
You refer negatively to the efforts of Western leaders to get the Hamas
government to recognize Israel and adhere to earlier agreements. It is
extremely doubtful that in similar circumstances the ANC under Chief
Luthuli or President Mandela would have acted as Hamas is doing, in
adamantly refusing these obvious essentials before any move towards a
peaceful solution can even be started.
The lofty aims of the ANC's Freedom Charter bears no similarity
whatsoever, to the hate-filled PLO and Hamas covenants. In fact such
comparisons are insulting to the ANC. While the ANC Charter states
"South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement
of all international disputes by negotiation - not war" article 9 of
the PLO Charter declares bluntly that the armed struggle is not merely
tactical, it is the overall strategy. Article 19 rejects outright, the
1947 UN partition of Palestine, implying that liberating Palestine means
destruction of the entire Jewish state. The Balfour Declaration, the
Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are
unashamedly deemed null and void in article 20.
The Hamas charter makes it even clearer that there is absolutely no room
for peaceful negotiation. Article 13 unambiguously states,
"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.
The imaginative irrationality of the Hamas concept, so different from the
sober tone of the ANC Charter, is illustrated by obsessive phobia about
freemasons, rotary clubs, Lions and similar organizations, promising that
the day Islam is in control, these organizations, will be obliterated.
They are accused of everything from control of the world media, stirring
the French Revolution, the Communist revolution, World War I and even of
forming the League of Nations. They are alleged to have been behind World
War II, and instigating replacement of the League of Nations with the
United Nations and the Security Council.
I believe you will confirm sir, 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 indiscriminate violence against uninvolved
civilians, (women, children and invalids alike), which has been emanating
for years from the mosques and PA controlled media and taught in schools
from the earliest age.
Minister Kasrils, may I hope, that with your credentials as a former
leader in the MK, you may be able to persuade the PA government to adopt
some of the noble concepts, which led the ANC to achieve a bloodless
revolution in South Africa, so as to open the way to a peaceful solution
of the Arab-Israel conflict.
more articles by Maurice Ostroff