Here is an interesting article, from the Manchester Guardian,  comparing
Israel and South Africa under Apartheid.

Ed Corrigan

Israel should learn from the Boers

It was no coincidence that Israel was one of apartheid South Africa's few
friends. In both societies, fear fed racial bigotry

Special report: Israel and the Middle East

Liz McGregor Thursday May 17, 2001 The Guardian

In the old days in apartheid South Africa, one heard a British accent - or
indeed a French or German one - with a sinking heart. It invariably meant
that yet another racist loser had arrived to bolster the cause of white
supremacy.

By the 70s, the horrors of apartheid were so widely known one assumed that
anyone who chose to settle in South Africa was comfortable with the idea
that black people were thrown off their land and denied skilled jobs to give
whites privileged access.

Immigration to South Africa worked contrary to the normal rules whereby host
states can cream off the brightest and best from other countries and
immigrants struggle against intense competition - and, not infrequently,
prejudice - to make a place for themselves in their adopted countries. If
you couldn't cope with the competition at home, South Africa offered a warm
welcome and sheltered employment - as long as you were white. This did no
favours to the gene pool and skewed the society further against the forces
of reform.

In Palestine today, the words of war uttered in strong South African and
American accents by Jewish settlers during the past turbulent months speak
of a similar scenario. The law of return requires Israel to accept any
Jewish person, regardless of their ethics or ability. As well as immigrants
of talent and principle this must include bigots and losers. The settlements
in particular attract fanatics: the nobody from New Jersey who acquires an
heroic new role in a narrative that puts him at the forefront of a biblical
struggle.

Israel and the old South Africa illustrate the dangers of the state based on
ethnicity, where there is the notion of a particular ethnic group which
prospers at the ex pense of the perceived lesser races. Apartheid South
Africa was, like modern Israel, born of a strong sense of religious destiny
and experience of persecution. Afrikaners believed they were God's chosen
people and saw the success of the Great Trek away from British rule in the
Cape as a sign of God's favour. Their displacement of other tribes in
pursuit of their destiny was, they believed, sanctified by God. Their
subsequent suffering in the Boer war concentration camps instilled a deep
sense of victimhood. Their fundamentalism in the end rendered them fatally
inflexible.

Some 20 years ago, fresh from my protest-torn campus in South Africa, I
spent a couple of months on a kibbutz. Even then I found the similarities
too close for comfort. The racial hierarchy - Ashkenazi Jews, then Sephardic
Jews followed way, way down by Arabs - was disconcertingly familiar. As was
the Israeli demonisation of Arabs: lazy, unmotivated, lacking ambition,
which was exactly what whites said of blacks to rationalise their
discriminatory policies.

In both countries, subordinate races were dispossessed of their land and
crowded into marginal, drought-stricken ghettoes; their movement was
restricted; access to education and skilled jobs limited so that they
inevitably sank into a pool of low-wage labour. In both societies, bans on
inter-marriage and daily lives segregated by race did little to dispel the
fear and ignorance that feeds racial bigotry.

Obviously the differences between the two countries are also huge: the
persecution of Jews that led to the founding of modern Israel makes the
Afrikaners' wounds look like a scratch. Unlike apartheid South Africa,
Israel gets the good as well as the bad. They can draw on the best and
brightest from the US - or South Africa or Britain - as well as the worst.
South Africa's international isolation and repressive, Calvinist government
resulted in an increasingly stagnant society - quite unlike vibrant,
democratic Israel. But the similarities are too strong to go unremarked. In
South Africa, white lives counted; blacks didn't. The odd white soldier who
died putting down black rebellion was mourned as a hero. He was given a
state funeral, his life celebrated, the media carried endless interviews
with grieving relatives. The black victims - or "terrorists" - were
recorded, if at all, in nameless lists. In mainstream Israel these past
months, the Palestinian dead have scarcely registered beside the far smaller
number of Israeli fatalities. Photographs and biographical details of the
two Israeli boys stoned to death last week, for instance, were broadcast
around the world. Most Palestinian fatalities remain nameless and faceless.

It is not coincidental that Israel was one of apartheid South Africa's few
friends. The two cooperated extensively militarily, not least in the
development of nuclear weapons. This comradeship was partly born of a shared
sense of vulnerability: both saw themselves as minorities under threat of
annihilation from hostile neighbours. In South Africa, it was the swart
gevaar or black peril: the African hordes who would sweep all Christian
whites into the sea if given half a chance. In Israel's case, many in the
Arab world are thought to resent its very existence. Both depended heavily
on superpower indulgence. It is no coincidence that FW de Klerk started
talking to the ANC around the same time that the end of the cold war
dispensed with the need for dodgy allies in strategically important parts of
the world.

In South Africa everything has changed. Israelis might look at what has
happened to whites there and take heart. They might have lost political
power but they still control the economy and they live as well as ever,
still largely remote from the black majority. They have lost their pariah
status and no longer live under a state of siege. Despite the inevitable
teething problems, the transition from a racially discrete group living off
and in fear of another has been remarkably pain-free.

But, above all, they no longer live in fear of approaching Armageddon. They
have a future.
 

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001
 

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