The group of five major emerging national economies known as the BRICS has rejected the Western sanctions against Russia and the “hostile language” being directed at the country over the crisis in Ukraine.
“The escalation of hostile language, sanctions and counter-sanctions, and force does not contribute to a sustainable and peaceful solution, according to international law, including the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter,” foreign ministers of the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – said in a statement issued on Monday.
The group agreed that the challenges that exist within the regions of the BRICS countries must be addressed within the framework of the United Nations.
“BRICS countries agreed that the challenges that exist within the regions of the BRICS countries must be addressed within the fold of the United Nations in a calm and level-headed manner,” the statement added.
The White House said earlier on Monday that US President Barack Obama and the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan decided to end Russia’s role in the G8 over the crisis in Ukraine and the status of Crimea.
Meanwhile, the G7 group of top economic powers has snubbed a planned meeting that Russian President Vladimir Putin was due to host in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi in June.
The G7 said they would hold a meeting in Brussels without Russia instead of the wider G8 summit, and threatened tougher sanctions against Russia.
Russia brushed off the Western threat to expel it from the G8 on the same day. The Autonomous Republic of Crimea declared independence from Ukraine on March 17 and formally applied to become part of Russia following a referendum a day earlier, in which nearly 97 percent of the participants voted in favor of the move.
On March 21, Putin signed into law the documents officially making Crimea part of the Russian territory. Putin said the move was carried out based on the international law.
There is an abundance of discourse over the means and methods that are pursued and/or justified by the Palestinians in their quest for independence and liberation. In the first part of this essay, I presented the legal, historical, and current context that forms the root of their current predicament. In this segment, I want to address the pros and cons of pursuing an exclusively non-armed struggle both by looking at the uniqueness of Palestinian circumstances and also by comparing it with the Indian National Liberation Movement, which is usually presented in Western narratives as almost exclusively non-violent, and successful, for having (ostensibly) been so.
A Brief History of Palestinian Non-Violent Resistance
Palestinians are continuously asked to not resist. The truth is that whether they resist violently or non-violently, Israeli violence continues unabated. Perhaps the scale, ugliness and the immediacy of the trauma are exaggerated in a massacre like we recently saw in Gaza, but the reality of purposeful eradication persists.
Examples of Palestinian non-violent resistance have existed since the very start of Jewish immigration into Palestine, but were never enough to attain freedom. Ultimately it is an imperative but frequently unstated precondition, that Palestinians accept a permanent subjugated and defeated status, preferably outside of their historic lands. It is otherwise known as the Yigal Allon Plan (1967), a policy actively pursued by even the “Dove” Shimon Peres and entailing the expulsion of Palestinians. The Allon plan formed the basis of Israel’s settlements/colonization. Frequently unacknowledged in mainstream Western coverage is that only after acceptance of defeat and eradication can Israel’s violence (aka “retaliation”) against Palestinians stop.
Unwilling to accept that, and choosing a policy of “sumoud”/steadfastness on the land, Palestinians pursue(d) non-violent resistance as a complimentary and grassroots approach against the occupation. Here are just a few examples of Palestinian non-violent resistance to Israeli aggression: in 1902, villages of al-Shajara, Misha, and Melhamiyya peacefully protested against the takeover of 7000 hectares of agricultural land by the first Zionist settlers; in 1936, Palestinians held a six-month industrial strike protesting the British Mandate’s refusal to grant them self-determination; in 1986, Hannah Siniora and Mubarak ‘Awad (who advocates the power of non-violence and is a self-described disciple of Gandhi; recently deported by Israel) drew a list of civic disobedience activities heavily reliant on boycotting Israeli products and economic self-sufficiency, helping launch the 1987-93 First Intifada; in 1993, the signing of the Oslo Accords and the pursuit of the “settlement” path; and currently, the holding of protests in the villages of Jayyous, Budrus, Bil’in, Ni’lin and Umm Salamonah against the apartheid wall (1: See here). Today, the tradition of non-violence is still practiced and promoted by some secular and independent Palestinian political leaders, like the Palestinian National Initiative led by Mustafa Barghouti. And even Hamas, often presented as the ultimate terrorist organization, upheld a six month ceasefire with Israel but was still subjected to a non-lifting of the suffocating siege of Gaza. (The ceasefire ended on November 4, 2008 when Israel conducted a targeted assassination that killed six Hamas members.)
Needless to say, these facts are rarely, if ever covered in mainstream accounts. Instead the focus is consistently on “terror” and “Israel’s right to defend itself,” ignoring the cumulative suffering of the occupation. As for Israel’s response, it consistently uses overwhelming force, including tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition, etc. against protesters and justifies this as “self-defense,” even when protecting illegal settlement colonies.
Which raises the question of the efficacy of non-violent resistance as the sole or primary means of achieving national liberation. While each national liberation struggle is unique, there are certain conditions and methods that may translate across people. One thing that many have in common is that non-violent resistance was not pursued exclusively. This was true of the African National Congress’ anti-apartheid Boycott and Divestment Movement in South Africa, which accompanied armed struggle. It was also true of the struggle for national liberation from British rule in India, a fact usually unmentioned in Western press, which tends to focus on Mahatma Gandhi’s satyagraha / non-violent path to resistance. In doing so, there is a grave disservice done to explaining how Indian independence came to be. There is also a convenient decontextualization of the struggle. And I use “convenient” intentionally, because Gandhi’s model is often held up (by Israel and the West) as the best and “most civilized” one that ought to be emulated by the oppressed Palestinians.
Gandhi in Context: Was the Indian National Liberation Struggle Entirely Non-Violent? The name Gandhi and non-violent resistance (satyagraha) are almost synonymous in most people’s minds. Satyagraha’s aim is not just to defeat the opponent, but aims to convert the adversary as well. And yet there are important nuances and definite progression in Gandhi’s approach to war and colonialism. On the subject of whether it is better to be a coward or to resist violently, he said: “I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence… I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour…” (2: Eds. R. K. Rabhu & U. R. Rao, “Between Cowardice and Violence,” The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi, Ahemadabad, India, 1967, p. 3) He also said: “Though violence is not lawful, when it is offered in self-defence or for the defence of the defenseless, it is an act of bravery far better than cowardly submission. The latter befits neither man nor woman. Under violence, there are many stages and varieties of bravery. Every man must judge this for himself. No other person can or has the right. (3: Ibid, pp. 369-70) Applied to the Palestinian context, this would indicate that Palestinians have the duty to fight back against their own annihilation. However, he would have probably qualified that by saying that non-violence could cause the same changes with lower loss in life.
Historically, too Gandhi’s attitudes to war evolved. While still in South Africa, and in reaction to the Bambatha (Zulu) Rebellion of 1906 against a new British poll-tax, to which Britain responded by declaring a war, Gandhi encouraged the British to recruit Indians. He wanted to advance Indian claims as full citizens of the Empire. He also encouraged Indians to join the war through his columns in Indian Opinion.
Gandhi’s statecraft and thought did not happen in a vacuum. Likewise, India’s independence was not the work of only one man or one concept or one strategy. In fact, India’s nationalist feelings pre-existed Gandhi and the Congress Party, and evidence of it can be found as early as 1857. The first group to call for complete independence was the uncompromisingly secular Ghadar Party, organized in 1913 by Indian immigrants in California. (3: See here) The party actively pursued violent resistance and revolution (rejecting caste as well) and predictably, their actions were labeled as “terrorism” by Britain. Operating mainly in the first two decades of the 20th Century, the Ghadarites were successful in recruiting Indian soldiers in the British Army (in Hong Kong, Singapore, Rangoon, and Basra) and urging them to revolt.
As for Gandhi, once in India, he progressed to advocating non-violent resistance as a “weapon.” His political views on Indian independence evolved as well. Consider that at the age of 45, Gandhi still held some esteem for the British empire, calling it a “spiritual foundation,” in contrast to the views of most Indian revolutionaries. (4: See here) It wasn’t until after the Amritsar Massacre of civilians by British troops in the Punjab, that Gandhi advocated complete self-government maturing into independence (swaraj). In the intervening years there was a constant push and pull between Gandhi’s satyagraha policy and other political personalities and groups pursuing independence — not always non-violently.
A massive wave of revolutionary unrest swept India in 1919. British violent retaliation was unable to quell it. For example, there were more than 200 strikes in the first six months of 1920 alone. And yet in 1921, when Muslim leader Hasrat Mohani wrote a resolution asking for complete independence, Gandhi led the opposition against it and secured its rejection. Likewise, he supported Britain in WWI by trying to recruit Indians for the war effort. He himself volunteered twice for it, in present-day Iraq and in France, reasoning that he “owed” this to the empire in return for military protection. (5: Ibid) This led to deep divisions within the Congress party and also caused a dramatic drop in the popularity of Congress. Young revolutionaries like Rash Behari Bose, Shaheed Bhagat Singh, and revolutionary groups like the Workers and Peasant Party (Kirti Kisan Party) and militant unions like the Bombay textile workers were frequently at odds with Congress. Armed revolutionary groups that emerged in this period included the Hindustan Republican Army and the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army in northern India, as well as the “Revolt Groups” in Bengal (e.g. Chittagong group led by Surya Sen). Working class and union resistance continued throughout the 1930s. Eventually, it was in response to this revolutionary tide, that the Congress Party became less conservative and more supportive of the more militant attitude. As for Gandhi, he returned to advocating non-violent struggle and launched the salt satyagraha (1930-31) and the boycott campaigns. He has been criticized by some for not taking advantage of this revolutionary tide, thereby delaying independence.
Even at the time of World War II, Gandhi prevaricated on non-violence: first offering “non-violent moral support” to the British effort, and only later rescinding that decision when members of the Congress Party objected to the inclusion of India in the war effort without her consultation. In 1939-40, strikes and uprisings in the countryside swelled dramatically. Afterwards, the Congress party was compelled by grassroots pressure to launch the Quit India movement in August of 1942. It is important to note that this period in the struggle was one of extreme violence, mass arrests, and so forth. And yet, Quit India’s success in contributing to independence is controversial. Those arguing that it failed say that it fizzled out after five months (largely due to the army’s loyalty) and didn’t topple the Raj or bring it to the negotiating table for independence. In contrast, those who see it as a success, focus on how it sapped colonial energy and resources and on its success at mobilizing masses of people.(5: See here) Importantly, it inspired the final phase of the fight for independence, which witnessed increasingly militant peasant uprisings, sometimes joined by some of the landlords.
By the end of the war, Britain was indicating that power would be transferred to Indians. Aware that they couldn’t hold on any longer, they instead focused on partitioning India – bringing to mind Israel’s recent attempts to divide Gaza from the West Bank. In the meantime, Congress’ adherence to a policy of non-violence was entirely dependent on the British soldiers – as opposed to the armed Muslim League – and were unable to prevent partition. Thus, Congress’ inherent conservatism with regards to armed struggle hindered its goal of keeping India intact. They failed to build on numerous past instances of Hindu-Muslim cooperation against British colonialism. (Not all members of the Muslim league supported Muslim self-determination: Communist leader Ghaffar Ali opposed it vociferously.)
As is evident from the history recounted above, the agreeable and reasonable- sounding frame of the superiority of peaceful resistance sets up a false dichotomy. Presenting satyagraha as the exemplary approach to liberation is deceptive mainly because India’s independence was not achieved through non-violence alone. Moreover, its historical context and enemy are do not translate well across time and location. Finally, while inspirational and useful on many levels, it is not sufficient as sole guide or solution to achieving Palestinian liberation.
Options for Palestinian Resistance
Fundamentally, all theories of national liberation emanate from the ethical and legal principle that a people have the right to be free from alien occupation and exploitation. Resistance is their inalienable right. Insistence on non-violent resistance can sometimes be counterproductive – as happened with Gandhi’s insistence on it when confronting partition. Relying solely on non-violence subordinates the fundamental moral and ethical goal of independence to all sorts of conditionalities in order to achieve it in the “right” way.
All events so far indicate that non-violent resistance has been of modest benefit to Palestinians, with the important exceptions of tarnishing Israel’s image and moral claims. One could argue that Israel pursued the (sham) Oslo peace process precisely because the First Intifada rendered the population ungovernable. Unfortunately for the Palestinians, the Fateh leadership of the PLO squandered those achievements and marginalized popular input. Since then, pursuit of “settlement” and “negotiation” in the absence of a concomitant armed struggle has produced regressive and contradictory effects. Why is that?
One reason is the nature of the adversary. Zionist and Israeli ideology and statecraft are fundamentally violent, involving ethnic cleansing and relying first and foremost on war as an instrument in achieving Greater (Eretz) Israel. Unlike Great Britain, which had developed a liberal democratic tradition when Indians were struggling for their independence, Israel is essentially a highly militarized, ethnically-based and legally privileged society. It made no difference whatsoever how the Palestinians resisted, whether violently or not. As happened in other Western colonial historical experiences, like the US, Australia, or apartheid South Africa, the settlers use overwhelming force to convince the native populations of their ultimate defeat.
A second important difference is that after World War II, England could no longer hold onto its colonies. This is in sharp contrast to the US-superpower-backed-Israel, which maintains a pronounced military superiority over all its neighbors.
A third difference is that ever since the Jewish Land Agency started buying Palestinian lands from absentee landowners, and continuing after its war-time conquest of land, Israel stipulated that Palestinians cannot lease or be employed on purchased land. As a result, Palestinians are less important to the Israeli economy than India was to Britain. Their marginalization and de-development are intentional and serve to facilitate Israeli expropriation of valuable water, land, and other resources. Moreover, Israel receives significant financial and military “aid” from the United States which also reduces its need to integrate economically with its neighbors. The lack of economic dependency makes non-violent resistance much less effective as a weapon in fighting the occupation. Any economic levers the Palestinians may have had were further diminished (intentionally) via their PA leadership’s dependency on and distribution of foreign “aid.” This had the double effects of corrupting and ensuring the cooptation and cooperation of the leadership, as well as minimizing the size and role of an educated middle class that could lead the struggle – as was the case in India.
A fourth difference is the lack of a charismatic leader like Gandhi. Which brings us right back to the first reason, the nature of the opponent. Israel has a long history of assassinating and / or deporting any potential leader who is incorruptible or charismatic or effective. (6: For a partial list of Palestinian leaders assassinated by Mossad, see here.)
In the final analysis, non-violence is still a worthy means of resistance. Significantly, it enhances growing international perceptions of the brutality of the occupation and builds on the legal consensus and framework of the legitimacy of Palestinian rights, as recurrently affirmed through UN General Assembly annual resolutions and the most recent ruling against the apartheid wall at the International Court of Justice. Non-violent resistance, by being more accessible to ordinary people, additionally creates more sustainable and widespread networks of resistance. At a minimum, it establishes a network of interdependence for the newly liberated society to build on.
But it is not enough. And arguably, it has never been enough, especially in the absence of a more just as opposed to legalistic international relations.
- Dina Jadallah-Taschler is an Arab-American of Palestinian and Egyptian descent, a political science graduate, an artist and a writer. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thousands of platinum miners in South Africa have embarked on a strike demanding their entry-level pay be doubled to nearly 1,200 dollars a month.
Workers at Impala Platinum, Anglo American Platinum, and Lonmin mines embarked on an indefinite strike on Thursday, crippling output at the world’s three biggest platinum producers.
Striking miners chanted slogans as they marched to Wonderkop Stadium near the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana.
The protest, organized by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, is the biggest industrial action in South Africa’s platinum sector since 2012, when police shot and killed 34 striking miners in Marikana.
South Africa’s mining companies have been rejecting calls for a wage increase, pointing to weaker profits and rising costs.
South Africa’s mining sector has been paralyzed by a series of wildcat strikes over miners’ low pay since August, 2012. The strikes have also damaged South Africa’s reputation as an investment destination.
The three top platinum companies operating in the African country say strikes cost the industry a total loss of output amounting to about USD 1.2 billion in 2012 and 2013.
South Africa possesses nearly 80 percent of the world’s known platinum reserves. The country’s mining sector directly employs around 500,000 people and accounts for nearly one-fifth of the country’s gross domestic product.
Human rights groups, trade unions and several other major civil society organisations have called for the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to exclude Israel. The international diamond regulatory body is meeting in South Africa and is chaired currently by Pretoria’s former ambassador to Washington, Mr Welile Nhlapo.
Organisations including South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers (NUM); the country’s largest trade union federation, COSATU; the SACP; YCL; South African Students Congress (SASCO); Congress of South African Students (COSAS), the Coalition for a Free Palestine and BDS South Africa are behind the call.
A statement issued at a press conference held at COSATU’s Head Office in Johannesburg pointed out that the KPCS presents an opportunity for South African officials to show “moral vision and political leadership” by excluding Israel. “The billions of dollars’ worth of diamonds exported via Israel are,” said the coalition, “a major source of revenue for the Israeli military, which stands accused of war crimes.” Such a move would have local benefits too, it added, by “bringing home” many lucrative diamond processing jobs to South Africa. Income from diamond processing carried out in Israel also, alleges the coalition, helps to develop military hardware such as pilotless drones.
Speaking to Business Day newspaper, Southern Africa Resource Watch director Claude Kabemba commented that most diamond-linked conflicts had been resolved, and the Kimberley Process now had to expand its mandate and monitor the entire diamond chain: “The Kimberley Process has played an important role over the past decade in resolving conflicts linked to the diamond trade but there is no doubt that it has to be reformed… [by] expanding the definition of conflict to include human rights abuses linked to diamond extraction perpetrated by governments and companies; and expanding downstream monitoring so that the process covers not just the rough diamond trade but also the international movement and polishing of diamonds.”
The statement from South Africa’s civil society groups called on the Kimberley Process to:
- Exclude Israel from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) due to Israel’s human rights abuses against the indigenous Palestinians;
- Expand the Kimberley Process to include cut and polished diamonds in addition to rough diamonds; and
- End all exports of rough diamonds to Israel immediately.
A member of South Africa’s Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign said that a boycott of Israeli “blood diamonds”, and specifically the banning of diamond-polishing in the country, is a win-win solution for all. “Consumers will have a clear conscience that their diamonds are not funding, assisting or in any way involved with the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine,” insisted Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, “and more jobs will be created locally for our people by bringing this diamond processing back home instead of it being done in Israel.” While opponents of the Israel boycott often try to claim that the boycott will harm South Africans, added Ndlozi, this is a case where it only benefits them.
The Kimberley Process was launched 10 years ago to address the trade in conflict diamonds and to ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebel movements seeking to undermine legitimate governments. It has 54 participants, representing 90 countries, and its members account for about 99.8 per cent of the global production of rough diamonds. The KPCS is coming under increasing pressure to exclude Israel due to the Israeli government’s involvement in human rights abuses against the Palestinians.
Jimmy Carter’s book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, has opened up much of the American public to serious discussion of Israel’s realities. He’s no expert on Zionist history, but the Anti-Defamation League and other pro-Israel propagandists must now work 25 hours a day, 366 days a year, trying to discredit equating Israel and apartheid South Africa.
Curiously, Carter only mentions South African apartheid 3 times. He relates how, on his 1973 visit to Israel,
“General Rabin described the close relationship that Israel had with South Africa in the diamond trade (he had returned from there a day or two early to greet us) but commented that the South African system of apartheid could not long survive.”
He also tells us that
“Israeli leaders have embarked on a series of unilateral decisions, bypassing both Washington and the Palestinians. Their presumption is that an encircling barrier will finally resolve the Palestinian problem. Utilizing their political and military dominance, they are imposing a system of partial withdrawal, encapsulation, and apartheid on the Muslim and Christian citizens of the occupied territories. The driving purpose for the forced separation of the two peoples is unlike that in South Africa — not racism, but the acquisition of land. There has been a determined and remarkably effective effort to isolate settlers from Palestinians, so that a Jewish family can commute from Jerusalem to their highly subsidized home deep in the West Bank on roads from which others are excluded, without ever coming in contact with any facet of Arab life.”
And he presents the 3 unattractive options in front of Israel’s public. One is
“A system of apartheid, with two peoples occupying the same land but completely separated from each other, with Israelis totally dominant and suppressing violence by depriving Palestinians of their basic human rights. This is the policy now being followed, although many citizens of Israel deride the racist connotation of prescribing permanent second-class status for the Palestinians. As one prominent Israeli stated, ‘I am afraid that we are moving toward a government like that of South Africa, with dual society of Jewish rulers and Arab subjects with few rights of citizenship. The West Bank is not worth it.’”
Beyond that, his only citation re post-apartheid South Africa is listing Nelson Mandela as supporting the “Geneva Initiative” Israel/Palestine peace plan that Carter was involved in drawing up.
In reality, Israeli and American Zionist ties to racist Pretoria were so close that there can be no doubt that Zionism’s leaders were accomplices in apartheid’s crimes, including murderous invasions of Angola and Namibia.
Israel denounced apartheid until the 1973 Yom Kippur war as it sought to diplomatically outflank the Arabs in the UN by courting Black Africa. But most Black states broke ties after the war, in solidarity with Egypt, trying to drive non-African Israel out of the Sinai, part of Africa. Jerusalem then turned towards South Africa.
During WW ll, Britain had John Vorster interned as a Nazi sympathizer. But in 1976 Israel invited South Africa’s Prime Minister to Jerusalem. Yitzhak Rabin, then Israel’s PM, hailed “the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence.” Both confronted “foreign-inspired instability and recklessness.” Israel, alone in the world, allowed Bophuthatswana, SA’s puppet ‘black homeland,’ to open an embassy.
In 1989, Ariel Sharon, with David Chanoff, wrote Warrior: An Autobiography. He told of his 1981 trip to Africa and the US as Israel’s Defense Minister:
“From Zaire we went to South Africa, where Lily and I were taken to see the Angola border. There South Africans were fighting a continuing war against Cuban-led guerrilla groups infiltrating from the north. To land there our plane came in very high as helicopters circled, searching the area. When the helicopters were satisfied, we corkscrewed down toward the field in a tight spiral to avoid the danger of ground-to-air missiles, the Russian-supplied SAM 7 Strellas that I had gotten to know at the Canal.
On the ground I saw familiar scenes. Soldiers and their families lived in this border zone at constant risk, their children driven to school in convoys protected by high-built armored cars, which were less vulnerable to mines.
I went from unit to unit, and in each place I was briefed and tried to get a feel for the situation. It is not in any way possible to compare Israel with South Africa, and I don’t believe that any Jew can support apartheid. But seeing these units trying to close their border against terrorist raids from Angola, you could not ignore their persistence and determination. So even though conditions in the two countries were so vastly different, in some ways life on the Angolan border looked not that much different from life on some of our own borders.”
Sharon went to Washington to deal with a range of Middle Eastern questions. He also
“took the opportunity to discuss with Secretary of State Alexander Haig, Secretary of Defense Casper Weinburger, and CIA Director William Casey other issues of mutual interest. I described what I had seen in Africa, including the problems facing the Central African Republic. I recommended to them that we should try to go into the vacuums that existed in the region and suggested that efforts of this sort would be ideally suited for American-Israeli cooperation.”
By 1989 it was certain that apartheid was about to close down, hence Sharon’s “I don’t believe that any Jew can support apartheid.” But a 12/14/81 NY Times article, “South Africa Needs More Arms, Israeli Says,” gave a vivid picture of Israel’s earlier zeal for its ally’s cause:
“The military relationship between South Africa and Israel, never fully acknowledged by either country, has assumed a new significance with the recent 10 day visit by Israel’s Defense Minister, Ariel Sharon, to South African forces in Namibia along the border with Angola.
In an interview during his recent visit to the United States, Mr. Sharon made several points concerning the South African position.
First, he said that South Africa is one of the few countries in Africa and southwestern Asia that is trying to resist Soviet military infiltration in the area.
He added that there had been a steady flow of increasingly sophisticated Soviet weapons to Angola and other African nations, and that as a result of this, and Moscow’s political and economic leverage, the Soviet Union was ‘gaining ground daily’ throughout the region.
Mr. Sharon, in company with many American and NATO military analysts, reported that South Africa needed more modern weapons if it is to fight successfully against Soviet-Supplied troops. The United Nations arms embargo, imposed in November 1977, cut off established weapons sources such as Britain, France and Israel, and forced South Africa into under-the-table deals….
Israel, which has a small but flourishing arms export industry, benefited from South African military trade before the 1977 embargo.
According to The Military Balance, the annual publication of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, the South African Navy includes seven Israeli-built fast attack craft armed with Israeli missiles. The publication noted that seven more such vessels are under order. Presumably the order was placed before the 1977 embargo was imposed….
Mr. Sharon said Moscow and its allies had made sizable gains in Central Africa and had established ‘corridors of power,’ such as one connecting Libya and Chad. He said that Mozambique was under Soviet control and that Soviet influence was growing in Zimbabwe.
The Israeli official… saw the placement of Soviet weapons, particularly tanks, throughout the area as another danger.
South Africa’s military policy of maintaining adequate reserves, Mr. Sharon said, will enable it to keep forces in the field in the foreseeable future but he warned that in time the country may be faced by more powerful weapons and better armed and trained soldiers.”
American Zionists were equally committed to apartheid. The 5/86 ADL Bulletin ran “The African National Congress: A Closer Look.” It revealed the organization’s hatred of the movement leading the liberation struggle in South Africa. The ADL sent its tirade to every member of the US Congress!
It formally bowed to political correctness: “Discussion of the political scene in South Africa properly begins with the self-evident stipulation that apartheid is racist and dehumanizing.” But
“… this is not to suggest closing our eyes to what may emerge once apartheid is gone…. We must distinguish between those who will work for a humane, democratic, pro-western South Africa and those who are totalitarian, anti-humane, anti-democratic, anti-Israeli and anti-American.
It is in this context that the African National Congress (ANC), so frequently discussed as an alternative to the Botha government, merits a close, unsentimental look…. The ANC, which seeks to overthrow the South African government, is a ‘national liberation movement’ that, plainly said, is under heavy Communist influence. The ANC has been allied with the South African Communist Party (SACP) for 50 years…. The fall of South Africa to such a Soviet oriented and Communist influenced force would be a severe setback to the United States, whose defense industry relies heavily on South Africa’s wealth of strategic minerals.”
ADL spying on America’s anti-apartheid movement, for BOSS, South Africa’s secret police, became public in 1993 when San Francisco papers revealed that Tom Gerard, a local cop and ex-CIA man, illegally gave police information to Roy Bullock, ADL’s man in SF.
Gerard pled no contest to illegal access to police computers. The ADL made a ‘we didn’t do it and won’t do it again’ deal with the DA. It agreed to an injunction not to use illegal methods in ‘monitoring’ the political universe. ADL National Director Abe Foxman said that, rather than go to trial, where — of course! — they would certainly have been found innocent, ADL settled because “continuing with an investigation over your head for months and years leads some to believe there is something wrong.”
Despite the slap-on-the-wrist deal, Bullock’s activities were documented. The ADL claimed that he was a free-lance informer whose activities for the apartheid regime were unknown to them. But (FBI) FD-302, a 1993 FBI report on an interview with Bullock, takes up a letter found in his computer files, “prepared for transmission to the South Africans.” It said that, “during an extended conversation with two FBI agents,” in 1990, they asked
“‘Why do you think South African agents are coming to the West Coast? Did I know any agents’ they finally asked?…. I replied that a meeting had been arranged, in confidence, by the ADL which wanted information on radical right activities in SA and their American connections. To that end I met an agent at Rockefeller Center cafeteria.”
The FBI said that “Bullock commented that the TRIP.DBX letter was a very ‘damning’ piece of evidence. He said he had forgotten it was in his computer.” Of course he hastened to tell the FBI that “his statements to the FBI that the ADL had set up his relationship with the South Africans were untrue.”
The ADL was so anti-ANC that only fools could think that they didn’t know that Bullock was working with the South Africans. Isn’t it more likely that he told the truth in 1990 and lied in 1993? The feds came on another matter in 1990, surprising him with questions re South Africans. They interviewed him in his lawyers’ office in 1993. Be certain that they told him what not to say. He also knew that if he wanted ADL help in his FBI troubles concerning South Africa, he had to claim that they had nothing to do with his BOSS connection. In any case, the ADL continued to work with Bullock. And NY’s 7/27/93 Village Voice reported that Irwin Suall, its Chief Fact-finder, i.e., head spy, told the FBI that “he didn’t think dealing with South African intelligence was different than dealing with any other police agency.”
Time hasn’t been kind to the ADL. The ANC runs its country and is a model of ethnic and religious tolerance. It never was anti-Semitic and there are Jewish ANCers in the Pretoria parliament. But Foxman always has a cleanup for Israeli and ADL infamies. On October 11th, 2007 he spoke at a NY Barnes & Noble bookstore on his latest book, “The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control”. It has a chapter denouncing Carter. I was in his audience and challenged him:
“You brought up the fact that Jimmy Carter used the word apartheid in his title. But I would remind you that of course that Israel was allied to apartheid South Africa. I’m looking at the December 14, 1981 New York Times, “South Africa needs more arms, Israeli says,” Israeli meaning Ariel Sharon, the Minister of Defense, who was on a tour, as it were, with the South African army as it was invading Angola. And then, in May 1986…
Foxman: I get the point.
Brenner: Excuse me! The ADL sent this to every member of Congress, denouncing the African National Congress as pro-Soviet and wicked, yes, and anti-Semitic and so on and so forth.”
I sat several rows from him. Two words on my tape are indistinct and tentatively printed here in caps. But they don’t effect general understanding of his statement, even with its grammatical irregularities as he grappled with my surprise accusations:
“OK. The African National Congress during the fight for SUFFRAGE, the struggle for AFRICAN liberation, was anti-Semitic, it was pro-Communist, it was anti-Israel, it was, where ever it could, become friends and allies of Arab, Palestinian terrorism, etc.
I had the privilege, I had the privilege of flying to Geneva to meet President Mandela, before he was President, after he was freed and before he came to the United States on his 1st visit. I had the very, very special privilege of spending 5 hours with him and several American Jews who came to meet with him in advance of his visit, to better understand. And he said to us, ‘if,’ he said,
‘I understand why Israel made friends with apartheid South Africa. Because Israel was boycotted all over the world, Israel couldn’t have relations with other countries in the world, Israel wasn’t sold arms to defend itself, so I do not judge Israel, I understand why Israel, you need not to judge me, for the friends that I make. I make friends with the PLO, I make friends with those who supported our liberation movement, and if you don’t make it as a prerequisite that your enemies have to be my enemies, I will not make it a prerequisite for me.’
So Mandela, who was a heroic fighter in the struggle for, understood, very well, that just like he had to make deals with the devil, he made deals for support with people that he didn’t agree with, that he didn’t like. You certainly know from his record, he was not a Communist, yet he took the support of Communists, because they were the only ones, he understood, and respected, that Israel was dealing with South Africa.
South Africa was one of the few countries that sold it arms. Now these were the years that America wouldn’t sell Israel arms. Those were the years that Europe wouldn’t sell Israel arms. So he understood it. Was it pleasant for everybody? No. Did we send the stuff about the ANC then? Yes. And today things are changed, very dramatically changed.”
How accurately did he recall Mandela’s remarks? We know that the ANC made a deal with apartheid’s leaders. Blacks got their rights and hearings were to be held on what repressive crimes actually happened during the racist era. But white military and other officials retained their posts under the new Black-led government. So if Mandela said what Foxman claims he said, it was in that reconciling spirit: ‘You did what you thought you had to do, same with me, now lets move on.’
The ANC’s generous peace didn’t retrospectively make apartheid less criminal. If Mandela wanted relations between his new government and Israel to go to a friendlier level, that didn’t make Israeli and ADL collaboration with racism even a speck less felonious. And of course ANCers still denounce Israeli crimes against Palestinians. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was emphatic at a Boston “End the Occupation” rally in 2002:
“You know as well as I do that, somehow, the Israeli government is placed on a pedestal. To criticize it is to be immediately dubbed anti-Semitic…. People are scared to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful — very powerful. Well, so what?
For goodness sake, this is God’s world! We live in a moral universe. The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic and Idi Amin were all powerful, but in the end they bit the dust.”
Five years later, Israel is still very powerful. But in time it too shall be replaced by a democratic secular binational Palestinian/Israeli state. The model for that is today’s South African constitution. Most whites there say that they as well as blacks are the better for it. And when secular bi-nationalism finally wins, Israelis as well as Palestinians will likewise rejoice in their equality, peace and prosperity.
A Faustian Pact With Neoliberalism
South Africa’s young people today are known as the Born Free generation. They enjoy the dignity of being born into a democratic society with the right to vote and choose who will govern. But modern South Africa is not a perfect society. Full equality – social and economic – does not exist, and control of the country’s wealth remains in the hands of a few, so new challenges and frustrations arise. Veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle like myself are frequently asked whether, in the light of such disappointment, the sacrifice was worth it. While my answer is yes, I must confess to grave misgivings: I believe we should be doing far better.
There have been impressive achievements since the attainment of freedom in 1994: in building houses, crèches, schools, roads and infrastructure; the provision of water and electricity to millions; free education and healthcare; increases in pensions and social grants; financial and banking stability; and slow but steady economic growth (until the 2008 crisis at any rate). These gains, however, have been offset by a breakdown in service delivery, resulting in violent protests by poor and marginalised communities; gross inadequacies and inequities in the education and health sectors; a ferocious rise in unemployment; endemic police brutality and torture; unseemly power struggles within the ruling party that have grown far worse since the ousting of Mbeki in 2008; an alarming tendency to secrecy and authoritarianism in government; the meddling with the judiciary; and threats to the media and freedom of expression. Even Nelson Mandela’s privacy and dignity are violated for the sake of a cheap photo opportunity by the ANC’s top echelon.
Most shameful and shocking of all, the events of Bloody Thursday – 16 August 2012 – when police massacred 34 striking miners at Marikana mine, owned by the London-based Lonmin company. The Sharpeville massacre in 1960 prompted me to join the ANC. I found Marikana even more distressing: a democratic South Africa was meant to bring an end to such barbarity. And yet the president and his ministers, locked into a culture of cover-up. Incredibly, the South African Communist party, my party of over 50 years, did not condemn the police either.
South Africa’s liberation struggle reached a high point but not its zenith when we overcame apartheid rule. Back then, our hopes were high for our country given its modern industrial economy, strategic mineral resources (not only gold and diamonds), and a working class and organised trade union movement with a rich tradition of struggle. But that optimism overlooked the tenacity of the international capitalist system. From 1991 to 1996 the battle for the ANC’s soul got under way, and was eventually lost to corporate power: we were entrapped by the neoliberal economy – or, as some today cry out, we “sold our people down the river”.
What I call our Faustian moment came when we took an IMF loan on the eve of our first democratic election. That loan, with strings attached that precluded a radical economic agenda, was considered a necessary evil, as were concessions to keep negotiations on track and take delivery of the promised land for our people. Doubt had come to reign supreme: we believed, wrongly, there was no other option; that we had to be cautious, since by 1991 our once powerful ally, the Soviet union, bankrupted by the arms race, had collapsed. Inexcusably, we had lost faith in the ability of our own revolutionary masses to overcome all obstacles. Whatever the threats to isolate a radicalising South Africa, the world could not have done without our vast reserves of minerals. To lose our nerve was not necessary or inevitable. The ANC leadership needed to remain determined, united and free of corruption – and, above all, to hold on to its revolutionary will. Instead, we chickened out. The ANC leadership needed to remain true to its commitment of serving the people. This would have given it the hegemony it required not only over the entrenched capitalist class but over emergent elitists, many of whom would seek wealth through black economic empowerment, corrupt practices and selling political influence.
To break apartheid rule through negotiation, rather than a bloody civil war, seemed then an option too good to be ignored. However, at that time, the balance of power was with the ANC, and conditions were favourable for more radical change at the negotiating table than we ultimately accepted. It is by no means certain that the old order, apart from isolated rightist extremists, had the will or capability to resort to the bloody repression envisaged by Mandela’s leadership. If we had held our nerve, we could have pressed forward without making the concessions we did.
It was a dire error on my part to focus on my own responsibilities and leave the economic issues to the ANC’s experts. However, at the time, most of us never quite knew what was happening with the top-level economic discussions. As Sampie Terreblanche has revealed in his critique, Lost in Transformation, by late 1993 big business strategies – hatched in 1991 at the mining mogul Harry Oppenheimer‘s Johannesburg residence – were crystallising in secret late-night discussions at the Development Bank of South Africa. Present were South Africa’s mineral and energy leaders, the bosses of US and British companies with a presence in South Africa – and young ANC economists schooled in western economics. They were reporting to Mandela, and were either outwitted or frightened into submission by hints of the dire consequences for South Africa should an ANC government prevail with what were considered ruinous economic policies.
All means to eradicate poverty, which was Mandela’s and the ANC’s sworn promise to the “poorest of the poor”, were lost in the process. Nationalisation of the mines and heights of the economy as envisaged by the Freedom charter was abandoned. The ANC accepted responsibility for a vast apartheid-era debt, which should have been cancelled. A wealth tax on the super-rich to fund developmental projects was set aside, and domestic and international corporations, enriched by apartheid, were excused from any financial reparations. Extremely tight budgetary obligations were instituted that would tie the hands of any future governments; obligations to implement a free-trade policy and abolish all forms of tariff protection in keeping with neo-liberal free trade fundamentals were accepted. Big corporations were allowed to shift their main listings abroad. In Terreblanche’s opinion, these ANC concessions constituted “treacherous decisions that [will] haunt South Africa for generations to come”.
An ANC-Communist party leadership eager to assume political office (myself no less than others) readily accepted this devil’s pact, only to be damned in the process. It has bequeathed an economy so tied in to the neoliberal global formula and market fundamentalism that there is very little room to alleviate the plight of most of our people.
Little wonder that their patience is running out; that their anguished protests increase as they wrestle with deteriorating conditions of life; that those in power have no solutions. The scraps that are left go to the emergent black elite; corruption has taken root as the greedy and ambitious fight like dogs over a bone.
In South Africa in 2008 the poorest 50% received only 7.8% of total income. While 83% of white South Africans were among the top 20% of income receivers in 2008, only 11% of our black population were. These statistics conceal unmitigated human suffering. Little wonder that the country has seen such an enormous rise in civil protest.
A descent into darkness must be curtailed. I do not believe the ANC alliance is beyond hope. There are countless good people in the ranks. But a revitalisation and renewal from top to bottom is urgently required. The ANC’s soul needs to be restored; its traditional values and culture of service reinstated. The pact with the devil needs to be broken.
At present the impoverished majority do not see any hope other than the ruling party, although the ANC’s ability to hold those allegiances is deteriorating. The effective parliamentary opposition reflects big business interests of various stripes, and while a strong parliamentary opposition is vital to keep the ANC on its toes, most voters want socialist policies, not measures inclined to serve big business interests, more privatisation and neoliberal economics.
This does not mean it is only up to the ANC, SACP and Cosatu to rescue the country from crises. There are countless patriots and comrades in existing and emerging organised formations who are vital to the process. Then there are the legal avenues and institutions such as the public protector’s office and human rights commission that – including the ultimate appeal to the constitutional court – can test, expose and challenge injustice and the infringement of rights. The strategies and tactics of the grassroots – trade unions, civic and community organisations, women’s and youth groups – signpost the way ahead with their non-violent and dignified but militant action.
The space and freedom to express one’s views, won through decades of struggle, are available and need to be developed. We look to the Born Frees as the future torchbearers.
Ronnie Kasrils was a member of the national executive committee of the African National Congress from 1987 to 2007, and a member of the central committee of the South African Communist party from December 1986 to 2007. He was the country’s minister for intelligence services from 2004 to 2008. This is an extract from the new introduction to his autobiography, Armed and Dangerous.
It’s enough to make one who knows even a little history gag.
The death of Nelson Mandela has led to an outpouring of vapid commentary about Canada’s supposed role in defeating South African Apartheid. “Canada helped lead international fight against Apartheid”, noted a Toronto Star headline while a National Post piece declared, “Canada’s stance against apartheid helped bring freedom to South Africa.”
Notwithstanding this self-congratulatory revisionism, Canada mostly supported apartheid in South Africa. First, by providing it with a model. South Africa patterned its policy towards Blacks after Canadian policy towards First Nations. Ambiguous Champion explains, “South African officials regularly came to Canada to examine reserves set aside for First Nations, following colleagues who had studied residential schools in earlier parts of the century.”
Canada also supported South African apartheid through a duplicitous policy of publicly opposing the country’s racist system yet continuing to do business as usual with this former British Dominion. It’s true that in 1961 John Diefenbaker’s Conservative government called for South Africa to be expelled from the British Commonwealth. But this position was not a moral rebuke of apartheid. “Nothing has been more constant in Diefenbaker’s approach than his search for a tolerable way of averting South Africa’s withdrawal,” commented an External Affairs official at the 1961 Commonwealth meeting where South Africa left the organization. Diefenbaker pushed for South Africa’s exclusion in an attempt to save the Commonwealth. The former British colonies — notably in South Asia and Africa — threatened to leave the Commonwealth if South Africa stayed. This would have been the death of the British Empire’s Commonwealth. Diefenbaker’s lack of principled opposition to apartheid helps explain his refusal to cancel the 1932 Canada-South Africa trade agreement.
Sentenced to life in prison in 1964, Mandela joined 1,500 black political activists languishing in South African jails. In June 1964 NDP leader Tommy Douglas told the House of Commons: “Nelson Mandela and seven of his associates have been found guilty of contravening the apartheid laws … [I] ask the Prime Minister if he will make vigorous representation to the government of South Africa urging that they exercise clemency in this case”? Lester Pearson responded that the “eight defendants … have been found guilty on charges of sabotage and conspiracy … While the matter is still sub judice [before the courts] it would, I believe, be improper for the government to make any public statement on the verdict or on the possible sentences.” This author found no follow up comment by Pearson regarding Mandela.
Widely viewed as a progressive internationalist, Pierre Trudeau’s government (1968-1984) sympathized with the apartheid regime not the black liberation movement or nascent Canadian solidarity groups. Throughout Trudeau’s time in office, Canadian companies were heavily invested in South Africa, enjoying the benefits of cheap black labour. In October 1982 the Trudeau government delivered 4.91 percent of the votes that enabled Western powers to gain a slim 51.9 percent majority in support of South Africa’s application for a billion-dollar IMF credit. Sixty-eight IMF members opposed the loan as did 121 countries in a nonbinding vote at the U.N. General Assembly. Five IMF executive directors said South Africa did not meet the standards of conditionality imposed on other borrowers. The Canadian minister of finance justified support for the IMF loan claiming that “the IMF must be careful … not to be accused of meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign states.” A few months later, Ottawa opposed IMF funding for Vietnam because of its occupation of Cambodia (largely to stop the Khmer Rouge’s killing).
Officially, the Trudeau government supported the international arms embargo against South Africa. But his government mostly failed to enforce it. As late as 1978 Canadian-government financed weapons continued to make their way to South Africa. Canadair (at the time a Crown company) sold the apartheid regime amphibious water bombers, which according to the manufacturer, were useful “particularly in internal troop-lift operations.” (The official buyer was the South African forestry department.) In the early 1970s the Montréal Gazette discovered that the RCMP trained South African police in “some sort of liaison or intelligence gathering” instruction.
Supporters of apartheid would say anything to slow opposition to this cruel system. At a 1977 Commonwealth meeting, Trudeau dodged press questions on post-Soweto South Africa suggesting that Idi Amin’s brutal regime in Uganda should be discussed along with southern Africa. For its part, the Globe and Mail argued in 1982 that “disinvestment would be unwittingly an ally of apartheid” since foreign investment brought progressive ideas.
After decades of protest by Canadian unions, churches, students and others, Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government finally implemented economic sanctions on South Africa in 1986. The Conservatives only moved after numerous other countries had already done so. “The record clearly shows”, notes Ambiguous Champion, “that the Canadian government followed rather than led the sanctions campaign.” Unlike Canada, countries such as Norway, Denmark New Zealand, Brazil and Argentina also cut off diplomatic ties to South Africa. Even U.S. sanctions, due to an activist Congress, were tougher than those implemented by Ottawa.
From October 1986 to September 1993, the period in which economic sanctions were in effect, Canada’s two-way trade with South Africa totaled $1.6 billion — 44 percent of the comparable period before sanctions (1979-1985). Canadian imports from South Africa averaged $122 million a year during the sanctions period.
Canada did business with the apartheid regime and opposed the liberation movements. Ottawa’s relationship with the African National Congress (ANC) was initially one of hostility and then ambivalence.
Canada failed to recognize the ANC until July 1984 and then worked to moderate their direction. In an August 1987 letter to the Toronto Star, Foreign Affairs Minister Joe Clark explained the government’s thinking: “Canada has been able to develop a relationship of trust with the … African National Congress that it is hoped has helped to strengthen the hand of black moderates.”
With apartheid’s end on the horizon, Ottawa wanted to guarantee that an ANC government would follow pro-capitalist policy, contrary to the wishes of many of its supporters. The man in charge of External Affairs’ South African Taskforce said that Ottawa wanted an early IMF planning mission to the country to ensure that the post-apartheid government would “get things right” from the start. One author noted: “The Canadian state has entered fully in the drive to open South Africa to global forces and to promote the interests of the private sector.”
Ottawa’s policy towards apartheid South Africa was controversial among Canadians. There was an active solidarity movement that opposed Canadian support for the racist regime and to the extent that Canadian politicians played a role in challenging South African apartheid it was largely due to their efforts.
Former South African President and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela passed away Thursday evening at the age of 95 and eulogies from world leaders began to appear soon after his death.
US President Barack Obama was one of the world leaders who paid their glowing tribute to South Africa’s anti-apartheid legend.
“We’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with,” the US President said. “He no longer belongs to us, he belongs to the ages … His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to.”
Nevertheless, it was not until 2008 that the US government removed Mandela’s name from its terrorism watch list.
Following the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, when forces of South Africa’s apartheid regime shot 69 people dead in protests in the township of Sharpeville, Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) was banned.
The apartheid regime designated the ANC as a terrorist organization because it fought against the regime’s apartheid system which legalized racial discrimination from 1948 to 1994.
The apartheid system banned the black people from voting, traveling without permission, or even possessing land.
In 1987, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also described Mandela’s ANC as a “typical terrorist organization.”
The US State Department under the presidency of Ronald Reagan also deemed Mandela’s ANC a terrorist organization and Reagan vetoed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 passed by US Congress. Reagan’s veto was later overridden by Congress.
Centuries of oppression have made black people particularly susceptible to the tempting siren song which comes with the image of black success. It is harmless to want a black person to win some coveted acclaim like a Pulitzer prize or even an Oscar, but quite another to be rendered stupid by the sight. Our history teaches us that we must be wary lest we be carried away by emotion that is without substance.
Barack Obama is the most obvious example of this phenomenon and its pernicious influence. A black man being elected as president of the United States was long hoped for but seemingly impossible. The realization of what had long been imagined and the often racist attacks against this dream create common cause with Obama and intense personal happiness on his behalf. Yet what seems inspirational is in fact anything but. The feelings of affection for Obama have been a negative force which impede rational thought and political common sense. The people who most epitomized the American search for true democracy have given it up completely because they love seeing a black man wearing a POTUS jacket and get angry when white people don’t like seeing it.
That history of struggle and the group identity it creates have not been limited to the American experience. The decades long fight against the racist apartheid system in South Africa was supported by millions of people in this country too. Jim Crow was America’s own apartheid. It is only logical that the sight of black people being treated cruelly in the name of white supremacy would elicit feelings of affinity in this country and around the world.
Nelson Mandela’s release from 27 years of imprisonment and his subsequent election as president created a surge of pride and joy among black people everywhere. Unfortunately we did not truly understand what we were witnessing. These events came about as a result of forces unacknowledged in America and they also came with a very high price.
The name of the Angolan town Cuito Cuanavale means little to all but a handful of Americans but it lies at the heart of the story of apartheid’s end. At Cuito Cuanavale in 1988 Cuban troops defeated the South African army and in so doing sealed apartheid’s fate.
It is important to know how apartheid ended, lest useless stories about a miraculously changed system and a peaceful grandfatherly figure confuse us and warp our consciousness. Mandela was freed because of armed struggle and not out of benevolence. He was also freed because the African National Congress miscalculated and made concessions which have since resulted in terrible poverty and powerlessness for black people in South Africa. By their own admission, some of his comrades concede that they were unprepared for the determination of the white majority to hold the purse strings even as they gave up political power.
Now the masses of black South Africans are as poor as they were during the time of political terror. The Sharpeville massacre of 1960 which galvanized the world against South Africa was repeated in 2012 when 34 striking miners were killed by police at Marikana. The Marikana massacre made a mockery of the hope which millions of people had for the ANC and its political success.
Obama’s recent visit to South Africa when the 94 year old Mandela was hospitalized created a golden opportunity for analysis and a questioning of long held assumptions about both men but the irrefutable fact is this. The personal triumphs of these two individuals have not translated into success for black people in either of their countries.
The victory of international finance capital wreaks havoc on both sides of the Atlantic ocean. In the U.S. black people have reached their political and economic low point during the Obama years. The gains won 50 years ago have been reversed while unemployment, mass incarceration, and Obama supported austerity measures have all conspired to undo the progress which was so dearly paid for.
Obama’s visit to Africa as Mandela lay critically ill brought very sincere but very deeply misled people to remember all of the wrong things. It isn’t true that black people benefit from the political success of certain individuals. It isn’t true that role models undo systemic cruelty or that racism ends because of their presence or that white people see or treat the masses of black people any differently when one black person reaches a high office.
The maudlin sentiment was all built on lies. Mandela fought the good fight for many years and is worthy of respect for that reason alone. But his passing should be a moment to reflect on his mistakes and on how they can be avoided by people struggling to break free from injustice. Obama’s career is a story of ambition and high cynicism which met opportunity. There is little to learn from his story except how to spot the next evil doer following in his footsteps.
It is high time that myths were called what they are. They are stories which may help explain our feelings but they are stories nonetheless and they do us no good.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. She can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.
- Obama Visits Mandela’s Old Cell, But Won’t Free His Own Political Prisoners (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Obama Falsely Asserts He Is Mandela Follower (alethonews.wordpress.com)
President Barack Obama, a man of infinite cynicism, made a great show of going on pilgrimage to Nelson Mandela’s old prison cell on Robben Island, where the future first Black president of South Africa spent 18 of his 27 years of incarceration. With his wife and daughters in tow, Obama said he was “humbled to stand where men of such courage faced down injustice and refused to yield…. No shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit,” said the chief executive of the unchallenged superpower of mass incarceration, a nation whose population comprises only 5 percent of humanity, but is home to fully one-quarter of the Earth’s prison inmates.
True sociopaths, like the commander-in-chief who updates his Kill List every Tuesday, have no sense of shame, much less irony. Obama feigns awe at Mandela’s suffering and sacrifice in the prisons of apartheid South Africa, yet presides over a regime that, on any given day, holds 80,000 inmates in the excruciating torture of solitary confinement. During Nelson Mandela’s nearly three decades of imprisonment by the white regime, he spent a total of only about one week in solitary confinement. The rest of the time, despite often harsh treatment, backbreaking labor, and unhealthy conditions, Mandela and other political prisoners at Robben Island and other South African jails were typically housed together. Indeed, Mandela and his incarcerated comrades called the prisons their “university,” where they taught each other to become the future authorities over their jailers.
Racist South Africa’s treatment of Mandela and his co-revolutionists was downright benign and enlightened, compared to fate of U.S. prisoners who are deemed a threat to the prevailing order. At U.S. high security facilities, the slightest evidence that an inmate is of a political bent of mind is cause for him to be condemned to a solitary existence for decades – a social death alien to the human species. At California’s Pelican Bay and the state prison at Corcoran, thousands of inmates are held in isolation, 80 of them for more than 20 years, the very definition of barbarism. Yet, Obama journeys across oceans and continents to stand for a photo op in the cell of a prisoner whose ordeal was nowhere near as horrific as the standard fare for political prisoners in his own country.
On his trip to South Africa, Obama proclaimed that “the world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island.” And, that’s certainly true, although it was a U.S. intelligence agent who lured Nelson Mandela into a trap in 1962 that ultimately led to his capture and imprisonment. Obama has no sympathy, however, for political prisoners of any race in his own country. Former Black Panther Herman Wallace is thought to be the longest-serving prisoner in solitary confinement in the United States, having spent 40 years alone in a cell in Louisiana’s notorious Angola Prison. Obama could free him at any time, but of course, he won’t. He could emancipate Black Panther captive Russell Maroon Shoatz, who has spent nearly 30 years in solitary, or Republic of New Africa political prisoner Mutulu Shakur or any and all of the scores of other aging political prisoners – people whose dedication to human freedom is no less than Mandela’s, yet have been subjected to far worse treatment at American hands. Instead, Obama has doubled the bounty on Shakur’s comrade and sister, Assata, in exile in Cuba. She might even be on Obama’s Kill List – which is the real and authentic legacy of this country’s First Black President.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
- Obama Falsely Asserts He Is Mandela Follower (alethonews.wordpress.com)
By Sherwood Ross | July 3, 2013
Just as President Obama disgracefully used Martin Luther King’s Bible at his Inauguration to tie himself to the great pacifist civil rights leader, so this totalitarian-minded, warmonger president claimed in South Africa Sunday to have been inspired by Nelson Mandela, whose legacy he said “we must all honor in our own lives.” Coming from an American president linked so intimately to the CIA as is Mr. Obama, this declaration is laughable. It was the CIA, after all, that fingered Mr. Mandela, then head of the African National Congress, to BOSS, the country’s secret police, who, acting on the CIA’s tip, arrested Mandela and clapped him in the notorious Robben Island prison for 18 years. Yes, that was the very same prison Mr. Obama toured with his family this week, his face reflecting a mournful aspect, as he allegedly contemplated the suffering Mr. Mandela endured to liberate his country from the white apartheid regime.
In his book about the CIA, “Legacy of Ashes”, former New York Times man Tim Weiner writes, “The African National Congress leader, Nelson Mandela, had been arrested and imprisoned in 1962, thanks in part to the CIA.” Weiner pointed out the CIA “worked in the closest harmony” with South Africa’s BOSS. Weiner quotes Gerry Gossens, a CIA station chief in four nations during the administrations of Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter, stating that CIA officers stood “side-by-side with the security police in South Africa. The word was that they had fingered Mandela himself.”
And has Mr. Obama done anything on his watch to reform the CIA? No way! Not only does he not prosecute those CIA agents guilty of torture and murder but by his own admission he personally directs the CIA thugs who kidnap and/or assassinate suspects with no due process of law. As of now, the Pakistan government reports at least 400 civilians have been killed in the attacks, the most recent horror being 17 killed on July 3 in a Pakistan drone strike.
A Grand Canyon-sized chasm looms between the principles of Mandela and Obama. When Mandela assumed power he created a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate crimes committed by the former apartheid government. Just the opposite, President Obama says he will not investigate the CIA torturers who plied their grisly trade under President George W. Bush. No Grand Dragon in America’s Klans ever left the wide swath of murder and mayhem that Mr. Obama is creating in the Middle East and Africa while he poses as an admirer of Rev. King and Mandela. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Obama’s drone attacks alone have killed more than 3,500. Since none had the opportunity of a trial, the presumption must be all were innocent.
As for civil rights, when Mandela held office he pressed for an American style Bill of Rights for South Africa as opposed to Mr. Obama, who has been actively shredding that venerable document. An army of NSA snoops has been spying on Americans by the millions as well as on the conversations of the Associated Press, a blatant attack on freedom of the press. Obama has also signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law which allows the president to order the military to arrest any person on suspicion and jail them indefinitely without even a trial. Again, that’s the opposite of the Mandela approach to individual freedom. Speaking of freedom, even as Mr. Obama brays he is “deeply honored” to visit Mandela’s cell on Robben Island, he operates a Gulag today of cells stretching from Guantanamo to Afghanistan and beyond. Having spent weeks with MLK in the civil rights movement in the South, this reporter can say without fear of contradiction that the thug in the White House is no Martin Luther King. On the contrary—with his sneaky, secret, extra-judicial attacks and murders—President Obama today carries on the traditions associated with the Ku Klux Klan.
Sherwood Ross spent most of the Sixties active in the civil rights movement or activities related to civil rights. Reach him at email@example.com
Lawyers will continue to pursue the case against Obama in the courts
Johannesburg, South Africa – The Muslim Lawyers Association (MLA) brought an application to court on Tuesday, 25 June 2013, to charge US President Barack Obama with a number of crimes, before he enters South Africa on Friday, 28 June 2013.
The North Gauteng High Court today found that the merits of the matter could not be heard as it was not deemed to be sufficiently ‘urgent’. This is despite the imminent arrival of Obama in South Africa this week. However, the (MLA) will continue to pursue the matter through the ordinary course of the courts.
Given the sheer magnitude, gravity, extent and degree of these crimes, as well as the unrelenting vigour with which the Obama Administration continues to commit them, the MLA intends to pursue the review application in accordance with the normal court time periods applicable.
“It is regrettable for the court not to have adjudicated on the merits of the ‘Obama Docket’ at an expedient time when Obama’s visit to the Republic is imminent”, states MLA spokesperson, Attorney Yousha Tayob.
The Obama Docket contains:
- evidence of indiscriminate killing of civilians by the use of USA military drones
- a public acknowledgment by Obama that he authorised the extra judicial assassinations of US citizens and that civilians have been killed by drone attacks authorised by him
- evidence of the continued incarceration without trial of persons detained at Guantanamo Bay and other US detention facilities, and
- evidence that the United States has engaged in rendition programmes contrary
to the prescripts of the norms and standards of International Law.
“South Africa has adopted and ratified the Rome Statute into our law and is therefore obliged to fulfil both its domestic and international responsibilities”, adds Tayob.
The MLA remains undeterred in its resolve to pursue all legal avenues to expose the past and ongoing War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity and Genocide committed by Obama and his administration and is committed to have him brought before a South African court of law or the International Criminal Court to answer the allegations contained in the ‘Obama Docket’.
For more information on the Obama Docket and its contents, or for interviews with an MLA representative, call Attorney Yousha Tayob, + 27 82 926 5408 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the MLA website at http:// http://www.mlajhb.com
- Obama faces protests in South Africa (alethonews.wordpress.com)