Category Archives: South Africa

Palestinian Courage Should Spur International Action

After 70 years, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is still unresolved. The conflict simmers for a few years, then erupts again with new massacres and violence. This article describes recent events, the failure of the “two state solution” and need for a different approach.

In the past couple months, Israeli Defence Force (IDF) soldiers have killed 118 Palestinian protesters and seriously wounded many thousands more. The protesters were unarmed and no threat to the soldiers. Gaza hospitals overflow with victims.

In the wake of this violence, human rights groups filed a legal petition to make it unlawful for Israeli soldiers to fire on unarmed protesters. Last week the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the petition.

Israeli violence is usually portrayed as a “response” to Palestinian violence, but the reality is the opposite. The sequence of recent events is as follows:

– From the end of March til May 25, Palestinians in Gaza protested against their oppression as close as they could get to the border fences. About 118 were killed and many thousands seriously injured by Israeli snipers. They were all shot inside Gaza.

– On May 27 – 28, the Israeli military launched tank mortars at Palestinian military outposts inside Gaza, killing four.

– Next day, on May 29, Palestinian militants launched unguided mortars into nearby Israel. Most of them fell harmlessly and there were no Israeli casualties.

– Next day, on May 30, Israeli jets and helicopters launched guided missiles and bombs on 65 different locations within Gaza.

Clearly, the violence started with Israelis killing protesters and then militants inside Gaza, but it’s not portrayed that way. Time magazine began its article with, “Palestinian militants bombarded southern Israel….”

Pro Israel advocates wish to prevent people from seeing what is really happening. They know the potential damage if people see video such as Israeli snipers celebrating the shooting of unarmed protesters. To prevent this, a proposed law will make it illegal to photograph or video record Israeli soldiers. Palestinian journalists have condemned this attempt to criminalize journalism.

The Reality of the Israeli Occupation

Israel calls itself the “Startup Nation” because of the economic and technological achievements. But in Gaza and the West Bank, Israeli policies and actions strangle the economies and worsen living conditions.

Palestinians in Gaza are kept separate from Palestinians in the West Bank. There is no trade, travel or inter-family visitation. This is in violation of international agreements including the Oslo Accords.

The claim that Israel “departed” Gaza is false. Israel controls the borders, sky and waters around Gaza, a coastal strip just 5 miles wide by 25 miles in length. Unemployment in Gaza is approaching 50%, the highest unemployment in the world. Fisherman are prevented from going out into deeper waters and shot at when they go beyond Israel’s imposed zone. Gazan farmers cannot export independently. Israel frequently blocks the import and export of crops and products. It is almost impossible to leave Gaza. Even outstanding students winning international scholarships may have their exit denied. The electrical and water treatment facilities have been bombed and destroyed by Israel. Nearly all the drinking water is contaminated. Israel restricts the amount of food permitted to enter Gaza so there is continual shortage leading to nutritional deprivation, stunted growth and anemia.

This situation is not new. Eighteen years ago, Israeli journalist Amira Hass described the history, the facts and statistics as well as her personal experience living in Gaza in the profound book Drinking the Seat at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land Under Siege. The situation was extremely grim then but keeps getting worse.

At the northern Gaza border, Israel is now building a sea barrier extending far out into the Mediterranean. It will be above and below the water line. A major reason for this expensive project is to block sewage and pollution from the waters in front of Gaza. Because of Israeli attacks on sewage treatment and electrical infrastructure, sewage flows into the sea. Last summer, Zikim Beach in southern Israel had to be closed due to the inflow of sewage from Gaza. The ‘sea barrier’ now in construction will block the sea currents. This will keep the Israeli beach clean and greatly compound the problem in Gaza.

The strangulation, impoverishment and oppression is not confined to Gaza. In the West Bank, Israeli settlements continue to expand. This increases the number of check points, restrictions and repression. Travel from Bethlehem to Jerusalem is impossible for most Palestinians. The majority of West Bank water from the aquifers is transferred to Israel or provided cheaply to settlers while Palestinians must buy water and store it in tanks on their rooftops. In the last few years, Israel has made it increasingly difficult or impossible for humanitarian groups to provide medical support including breast cancer screening. A compelling new book titled The Other Side of the Wall describes the daily struggle in the West Bank where Palestinians and international allies protest against the theft of land, abuses, random killings and imprisonments.

Defiant Courage

There seems to be a trend toward greater Palestinian unity and strategic agreement. The tens of thousands of Palestinians protesting in Gaza were unarmed and united behind the Palestinian flag rather than separate party or movement flags of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP, DFLP, etc..    

The Palestinian protesters in Gaza show remarkable courage. Beginning on Friday March 30, they have returned week after week despite seeing thousands of their fellows shot and wounded or killed.

In an article titled “The Gaza Fence that Separates the Brave from the Cowardly“, Amira Hass wrote:

The desperate courage demonstrated by tens of thousands of citizens of Gaza over the past few weeks in general and on Monday in particular hints at the energies, the talents, the dreams, the creativity and the vitality of the inhabitants of this strip of land – who have been subjected to a 27 year policy of closure and siege aimed at suffocating and crushing them.

Steadfast and Persistent

Palestinian resistance continues despite Israeli violence and bloodshed. Seven years ago Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon held “March of Return” protests at the northern borders. Israeli soldiers killed 13 and wounded many more.

In recent days, Gazans have again challenged the Israeli port blockade which prevents ships from departing or arriving. International solidarity with the Palestinian cause is also persistent. Three ships (two Swedish and one Norwegian) recently departed Scandinavia heading for the Mediterranean Sea and Gaza. Named the 2018 Freedom Flotilla, the ships are carrying dozens of international citizens to again demand that Israel stop its blockade of Gaza.

Despite the huge imbalance today, time may be on the side of the Palestinian cause. Systemic apartheid in South Africa existed for a long time and seemed strong. But ultimately it collapsed quickly. The same may unfold in Israel/Palestine.

Today, South Africa is an important supporter of the Palestinian cause. South Africa was the first nation to recall its ambassador to protest the “indiscriminate and grave Israeli attack” in Gaza.

Israel has the military might but Palestinian resistance and courage persists. The Palestinian population is steadfast, persistent and growing. They have increasing number of allies who support their cause. Young American Jews are unlike their parents and increasingly critical of Israeli policies. Some courageous Israelis, such as Miko Peled, speak out unequivocally that Israeli apartheid must end and be replaced by one state with democracy and equality for all. A million registered Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon and Syria, patiently waiting. They have not forgotten their legal claim and right to return.

The recent bloodshed and massacres underscore the fact that there is no solution on the current path. It only leads to increasingly unlivable conditions in Gaza plus more illegal settlements and oppression in the West Bank. The so-called “two state solution” has been dead for many years and should be forgotten. As happened in South Africa, the international community can and should help. It is time to increase international pressure and expand BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) against Israel to help bring a peaceful end to this conflict with its constant oppression and recurring massacres.

The alternative is very grim. As described by Israeli journalist Gideon Levy:

The truth is that Israel is well prepared to massacre hundreds and thousands, and to expel tens of thousands. Nothing will stop it. This is the end of conscience, the show of morality is over. The last few days’ events have proved it decisively. The tracks have been laid, the infrastructure for the horror has been cast. Dozens of years of brainwashing, demonization and dehumanization have borne fruit. The alliance between the politicians and the media to suppress reality and deny it has succeeded. Israel is set to commit horrors. Nobody will stand in its way any longer. Not from within or from without.

Palestinian courage should spur international action.

Draft Dodger in Chief Dodges “Historic” Opening of US Embassy, Jerusalem

It was NBC’s Cal Parry who summed up the obscenity of Donald Trump’s ignorant and igniting decision to move the US Embassy to West Jerusalem, then to celebrate the inauguration on Monday, 14th May: “Well dressed American and Israeli officials on one side of the screen: desperation, death and fires on the other.”

In 1948, 700,000 Palestinians began their flight from the city and the region trying to escape the massacres by Jewish militias on that date, seventy years ago. Commemorated ever since as the day of “Nakba” — disaster, catastrophe, cataclysm — following them to this day as land is stolen, families expelled and “settlements” encroach, and Palestinian history is bulldozed.

‘ “When the massacre started the (paramilitaries) took a kid and strapped him on an army jeep and drove him around different neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, saying ‘the same will happen to you if you don’t leave,’ ” Abu Kaya said, retelling his grandfather’s story to Middle East Eye.’

…  not a single country currently has its embassy in Jerusalem because such a move is widely considered to violate international law.

Further:

Under United Nations Resolution 181, which in 1947 set out the conditions for the partition of Palestine into an “Arab State” and a “Jewish State”, Jerusalem was to be administered by the UN under a “special international regime.

The 1949 armistice agreement that formally ended the first Arab-Israeli war divided the city along the “Green Line” into Israeli-controlled western areas, and Jordanian-held East Jerusalem, which included the Old City.

Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war is widely recognised as illegal and violates further United Nations resolutions.

For Palestinians then, sovereignty over the city is not something for leaders of other countries to determine, as US President Donald Trump did when he announced the embassy move in December.

In the few minutes it took to jot down notes for this piece, the Palestinian death toll of those demonstrating rose from twenty-eight dead, shot by Israeli soldiers, to forty-three. The injured rose from 1,693 to “near two thousand.”

Fadi Abo Salah, 30, who lost both legs in a bombing by Israeli aircraft, was one who lost his life, in his wheel chair — targeted by an Israeli sniper — in front of his wife and three small children. (Palestine Live group.)

Israel, frequently declaring itself “the only democracy in the Middle East”, carried out a very democratic slaughter and target practice. Young, old, disabled, male, female, all were equally entitled to be shot, sniped at, tear gassed.

Tiny Laila al-Ghandour who died from tear gas inhalation was just eight months old.1

Journalist Sharif Kouddos recorded:

Wails of grief inside family home of Laila al-Ghandour, 8-month old who died of gas inhalation yesterday. Her aunt says the gas came from everywhere, including drones.

By Monday’s end he Tweeted:

Sharif Kouddous

@sharifkouddous

Casualty toll from today in Gaza now stands at 55 dead, including 6 minors. 2,770 wounded, including 225 children. Of the wounded over 1,350 were hit with live ammunition, according to Ministry of Health.

“It is unbearable to witness such a massive number of unarmed people being shot in such a short time,” stated Médecins Sans Frontières.

As the Embassy partied and visitors “clapped and cheered”, Gaza’s hospitals, already teetering on collapse resulting from restrictions on all coming in to the besieged Strip — including electricity, with water contaminated — had surgeons operating day and night, with the injured being treated in the hospital car parks even, due to the overwhelming influx of those targeted.

In another world, just sixty miles away: ‘Washington’s Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, stood on a stage painted with the US flag and said:

Today’s historic event is attributed to the vision, courage and moral clarity of one person to whom we owe an enormous and eternal debt of gratitude: President Donald J Trump.  The crowd cheered and gave a standing ovation.1

Deaths had risen to fifty nine.

Of the eighty six Ambassadors to Israel, only thirty two attended the ceremony, with fifty four boycotting and only four EU Member countries attending.

Moreover:

The Haaretz newspaper reported that most EU member States did not participate in the ceremony because they have a firm policy towards the transfer of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It said that the ambassadors of Russia, Egypt, India, Japan and Mexico also did not attend the celebration.

Fallout has been swift. French President Emmanuel Macron in a telephone call to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and to Jordan’s King Abdullah condemned the “violence of the Israeli armed forces …” and again criticized the moving of the Embassy.

King Abdullah, of course, has custodianship of all Jerusalem’s Holy Sites and: ‘has the right to exert all legal efforts to safeguard them, especially Al Aqsa Mosque, which is defined as “The Entirety of Al Haram Al Sharif.” ‘ As far as can be ascertained thus far, it seems that this important, indeed unique, historic custodianship was neither discussed with the King or his representatives, nor even a consideration of the Trump Administration as they bulldozed their way through diplomacy, history and all norms in their Jerusalem settlement.

NATO ally President Erdogan of Turkey has recalled his Ambassadors to Israel and the US.

South Africa recalled their Ambassador to Israel, with immediate effect, as the Embassy celebrations were ongoing.

Ireland has summoned Israel’s Ambassador to protest Israeli violence.

Kuwait moved for an emergency meeting of the UN, which was blocked by the US. A ‘draft statement included language expressing “outrage and sorrow at the killing of Palestinian civilians exercising their right to peaceful protest.” ‘

‘It also reaffirmed UN resolutions on the status of Jerusalem, saying that recent events had “no legal effect” under international law. The statement was withdrawn once the US indicate that it would block it, a UN diplomat said.’ (CNN, 15th May 2018.)

Qatar condemned “a massacre” and “savage killings.”

Germany, somewhat weakly, expressed concern at the massacre saying: “The right to peaceful protest must also apply in Gaza”, via a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman

In the UK, the Labour Party’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry in an unusually unequivocal statement said:

We condemn unreservedly the Israeli government for their brutal, lethal and utterly unjustified actions on the Gaza border, and our thoughts are with all those Palestinians in Gaza whose loved ones have been lied or injured as a result.

These actions are made all the worse because they come not as the result of a disproportionate over-reaction to one day’s protests, but as the culmination of six weeks of an apparently systemic and deliberate policy of killing and maiming unarmed protestors and bystanders who pose no threat to the forces at the Gaza border, many of them shot in the back, many of them shot hundreds of metres from the border, and many of them children.

Throughout that six-week period, the UN’s Secretary General has been calling for an independent investigation into these incidents, one that should urgently determine whether international law has been broken, and hold the Netanyahu government to account for their actions. The UK should lead calls for the UN Security Council to order such an investigation today.

These incidents must also be the catalyst for urgent and concerted international pressure on the Netanyahu government to lift the blockade on Gaza, and end Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories. No longer can Netanyahu act as a law unto himself, under the protection of the Trump administration, whose decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem today has further inflamed the situation.

Chile, with the largest population of Palestinians outside the Arab world, raised Palestinian flags outside the main entrance of the Presidential Palace of La Moneda.

Sacha Sergio Llorenty Soliz, Bolivia’s UN Ambassador, read the names of the Gaza massacre victims at the UN session, wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh.

The mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau has demanded an arms embargo on Israel, demanding backing of Amnesty International’s call for a global arms embargo on Israel. Amnesty has condemned: “ … an abhorrent violation of International Law and human rights. “

Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated: “Those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account.”

Writer, broadcaster and academic, Kenan Malik Tweeted:

@kenanmalik

Mark Regev, Israeli ambassador to the UK, considers the shooting dead of 58 Palestinians and the wounding of 2700 as “measured” and “surgical”. I’d hate to know what is his definition of “unmeasured” or “non-surgical.”

The death toll became sixty.

From the Trumposphere, Donald Trump input:

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

May 14

Big day for Israel. Congratulations!

However, on this day of diplomatic thuggery  — which the US State Department flagged as a “historic move” — the five times Draft Dodger in Chief it seems reverted to type. The man to whom limelight is seemingly indispensible, stayed in Washington and addressed the Embassy gathering by video, from a safe 5,897 miles away, dodging any potential conflict, demonstrations, dissent. Trump, of course, pulled out of a visit to London in February, to open the new US Embassy, which has also relocated, reportedly for fear of the massive protests planned at his stay.

The man who can menace Iran, threaten North Korea with: “ … fire and fury and frankly the power the likes of which like this world has never seen”, cowers from peaceful protesters with placards. No wonder he had no intention of showing up in Jerusalem, even as guest of honour, surrounded by steel rings of security, in a region destabilized by the US and “allies” for decades, with the unarmed, indigenous population simply demanding some justice sixty miles away.

Donald Trump, it seems, talks the talk but can’t walk the walk. Perhaps someone also told him Armageddon is in Israel (site now named Megiddo.)

  1. Guardian, 15th May 2018.

Winnie Mandela and Apartheid’s Hidden History

A new documentary on Winne Mandela – called simply Winnie – is fascinating both for what it reveals about the hidden history of South Africa’s transition away from apartheid and for its relevance to other, current struggles. I highly recommend that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn get his hands on a copy as soon as possible.

As someone who grew up vaguely aware of the apartheid story unfolding nightly on the UK news, I was shocked to see how different those events looked decades later, seen through more critical eyes. The new perspective is long overdue: Winnie Mandela died at the beginning of this month.

For those who bewail the “fake news” of the corporate media as if its mendacity was some kind of recent development, Winnie is a useful corrective, reminding us that the modern media’s primary role has always been to maintain a political, social and economic environment conducive to the accumulation of wealth by the rich and powerful.

Although the film briefly recounts the history of apartheid, its strength lies in its emphasis on Winnie Mandela as the embodiment of the liberation struggle after much of the ANC leadership, including her husband, had been locked away on Robben Island. She became the ANC’s centre of gravity and its spokeswoman, both locally and internationally, the flickering light that the apartheid regime dared not snuff out for fear of provoking a popular uprising. She became “the Mother of the Nation”.

The film’s focus is very much on the transition years, and the Mandelas’ increasingly strained relationship. The documentary leaves little doubt that long years of confinement had left Nelson Mandela a largely broken man. Interviews with apartheid’s security officials show that, sensing this, the South African government began a campaign to reshape Mandela’s worldview and prepare him for a release in which he would be repurposed to serve as the figurehead of a new South Africa. It would look more inclusive but change little in terms of the concentration of wealth and property in white hands. A new black elite based on the ANC leadership would legitimise the continuing economic oppression of the black majority.

Winnie was the fly in the ointment. She had helped to keep the revolutionary spirit of the ANC alive and relevant to South Africa’s disenfranchised black population, and she was not prepared to jettison class politics for a western-friendly identity politics.

From that moment on, the apartheid government was determined to create a personal, as well as ideological, rift between her and Nelson Mandela. They used smears to discredit her with the international community and accentuate divisions within South Africa’s black population. The vilification would reach its peak with efforts to tie her to the murder of a 14-year-old boy, Stompie Moeketsi.

Doubtless, if these events were current, rather than some 30 years old, those doubting the official narrative would be accused of spreading “fake news” and of being “conspiracy theorists”. But apartheid officials are clear in the documentary that they were prepared to go to great lengths to damage Winnie Mandela. In fact, while the official story persists that she ordered one of her bodyguards, Jerry Richardson, to kill Stompie because the boy was a police informer, Richardson later confessed that he killed Stompie after the boy found out that he was the informer.

There are two especially revealing moments in the documentary.

Vic McPherson, head of a smears unit in apartheid South Africa’s security services, admits that, as part of Operation Romulus, he had some 40 journalists working for him spreading disinformation in the South African media. He proudly declares that he could get government smears about Winnie Mandela on to the front page of South African papers as news, which was then relayed to international audiences through repetition by the foreign media.

He was also able to vilify Winnie Mandela with the help of the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which allowed him to make a documentary about her. Even though it was government propaganda made by South Africa’s version of Josef Goebbels, it was shown on 40 US channels and led to the US declaring her an international terrorist.

The other revealing moment is at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Most of us get moist-eyed about the inquiry, but its agenda was again hijacked by apartheid’s leaders as a way to further damage Winnie Mandela and prevent her from being appointed deputy president of the ANC.

In fact, she was the only ANC official brought before the commission. Criminal suspicions about Stompie’s murder were again raised against her as if proven. Desmond Tutu does not emerge from this episode well, using his platform there to publicly demand an apology from her, when there was no more than unreliable hearsay connecting her to the murder.

It is hard not to conclude, after watching this documentary, that Winnie, not Nelson, was the greater hero, the true conscience of the anti-apartheid struggle, and that the apartheid leadership and the western media conspired to ensure she would become little more than a sour footnote in history books about that era.

Nelson Mandela was preferred over Winnie Mandela because his conciliation with – even appeasement of – apartheid’s racists appealed to western consciences more than her demands for a reordering of society and for tangible, not symbolic, justice for the victims of apartheid.

This fight continues in many places beyond South Africa.

The struggles of our time are to reform western societies to stop the pillage of the Earth’s resources, to reverse climate breakdown, and to expose the self-destructive logic of western economies based on the myth of endless growth. Those leading these struggles will face implacable opposition, just as Winnie Mandela did. The vested interests that control our societies are deeply entrenched after more than a century in power. They have the politicians, the media, the courts on their side. And their fight will be as dirty as the one waged by the apartheid regime.

We must develop the critical intelligence to prevent ourselves being manipulated and set one against the other. Otherwise, those who seek to challenge the current order will either be tamed, like Nelson Mandela, or destroyed, like Winnie Mandela.

Indulgent Violence: The Legacy of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

There was nothing of the Siddhartha about her.  Modest and sombre middle ways are not the stuff of revolutionary ardour.  Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s mark on history was always going to render the violent normal, the blood stain a perceived, even psychopathic necessity.  If society itself was prone to sanguinary realisations, she would oblige and flourish within its confines.

Everyone has their take on the Madikizela-Mandela legacy, and a few are compiled in the publication The Penguin Dictionary of South African Quotations (1999).  These observations point to a terrifyingly colourful variety, a figure part saint and part gargoyle.  She was “a political figure of almost Shakespearean tragic proportions,” opined Judge Dennis Davis.  Her hands dripped with the blood of South Africa’s people, went a reflective Xoliswa Falati, who formerly knew her and claimed to have gone to prison for her.

As for those defenders of the apartheid state?  “Whenever her name was mentioned in security circles,” came that rueful assassin and former commander of the Vlakpaas counterinsurgency unit, Eugene de Kock, “a shudder went through the ranks.”

The problem with such assessments of ecstatic violence, if it be a problem, is its circular hopelessness. Is the circle ever broken to enable an escape to be forged for the peace makers?  To place her in dramatic pose and see her as Shakespearean leaves the mistaken sense that she is more dramatic than volitional, bound by destiny and text rather than consciousness and will.  It ignores another point she could be charged with: indulgence.

The biography by Anne Marie du Preez Bezdrob focuses on that staple view of “women’s ability to face difficulties and misfortune with grace, tenacity and humour, and still embrace life with delight”.  Du Preez Bezdrob engages in a tendency typical in one strand of Madikizela-Mandela hagiography.  Her politics are considered secondary, even if her status is not.  Her claim, made in 2003, was that “her community involvement was not an extension of her role as a politician, but a result of the fact that she still saw herself primarily as a social worker and mother.”  Winnie, suggests du Preez Bezdrob, can be counted among “the millions of nameless women who chose to confront oppression and injustice when it is safer to turn and look the other way.”

With her passing, various South African figures insisted that she be remembered as a monumental female role model.  Consider the words of South African Airways CEO Vuyani Jarana: “She would have loved to see young women being at the forefront of that struggle for development, building the country, building the economy.”

In the ethical spring cleaning and catharsis that was the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, Madikizela-Mandela did not fare well.  Members concluded in 1998 that she was “politically and morally responsible” for various “gross violations of human rights” committed by her fashioned weapons in the form of the Mandela United Football Club.  These youthful, often brutal supporters were not averse to inflicting appalling cruelties.  In the words of the TRC, she was “implicated directly in a range of incidents – including assaults, abduction and the murder and attempted murder of at least a dozen individuals.”

Activists and campaigners against the apartheid regime also found her methods hard to stomach.  Paul Trewhela, a veteran underground journalist, communist and former political prisoner in Pretoria and the Johannesburg Fort, acknowledged the crushing difficulties she faced, even as her husband of growing legend remained confined on Robben Island.

She worked with activists in Soweto prior to the school student uprising of June 16, 1976.  For eighteen months, she was a resident of Pretoria Central Prison, where she suffered spells of torture.  Then came those eight years of exile in the “little Siberia” of Brandfort. “There is no question,” he writes sympathetically, “that she provided inspiration across those decades under the apartheid regime.  All praise to Winnie Mandela for her outstanding, exceptional courage and daring, her unrelenting defiance.”

All that said, prison, confinement and surveillance transformed her.  In Trewhela’s words, courage and defiance are never enough – even those inclined to brutality can have them.  On her return to Soweto in 1985, she busied herself with terrorising “an already terrorised people. She returned as a psychopath.”

Her exploits came back to haunt her, though she proved dismissive of them.  The child figure of Stompie Moeketsi Seipei, kidnapped along with three other youths from the Soweto Methodist Manse, featured in all its gore in the Rand Supreme Court in 1991.

Winnie’s vicious charges certainly loved their work, though some would suggest that part of their dedication was inspired by raw fear.  Stompie was murdered; Katiza Cebukhulu, another victim of abduction, was scalded by boiling water and rendered to Zambia three days prior to the trial and held for two years in Lusaka.  Cebukhulu suggested that Stompie was finished “off with a sharp, tiny object”, the coup de grace administered by Madikizela-Mandela herself.  Jerry Richardson, the “coach” of the Mandela United Football Club, supplied a different account, claiming in 1997 before the TRC that he had “slaughtered [Seipei] like a goat” under the instructions of “Mami” with shears.

Her reading of post-apartheid South Africa was a repudiation of Nelson Mandela’s softly-softly approach.  Much of this was evident in her London Evening Standard interview in 2010.  The Truth and Reconciliation Committee, designed to neutralise vengefulness in the post-apartheid trauma, was a “charade”; Mandela erred in going to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 with his “jailer” De Klerk. “He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks. Economically, we are still on the outside.  The economy is very much ‘white’.”

To remember Madikizela-Mandela, then, is to remember the blight of cruelty in South Africa, the hideous distortions of a system marked by race, the barbarism of an order that feeds trauma rather than abates it.  It is also to note those jottings of courage and defiance.  It will be a difficult reckoning, for with her came a vision less of reconciliation than revenge, the spirit of which still persists with tenacity.

Racial Preferences: Peter Dutton and White South African Farmers

It has been the great misfit Australian policy since the 1990s: a refugee and immigration policy that shows itself to be scrupulously fair, calculable and clean.  Nothing shall be permitted to sully this presumption.  Even as refugees and asylum seekers gather dampness, decay and depression in Pacific camps, the Australian immigration policy shall remain, like Caesar’s wife, above reproach.

The comments of Australia’s Peter Dutton who resembles, with each passing day, a plumed and emboldened commissar, have given political figures pause for thought.  Openly, and without reservation, the Home Affairs Minister decided to bank for a particular racial group in the immigration stakes, namely those poor oppressed white farmers of South Africa.

This goes against the policy of ethnic caution and racial neutrality, albeit ensconced behind the customary prejudices typical of all stances on immigration.  Here was the most direct expression of race and culture as twin categories.

Dutton preferred the language of “special attention” for specifically white South African farmers suffering what he deemed to be “horrific circumstances”.  He spoke of damning footage and lurid stories.  They, he explained, needed protection from a “civilised country”.  South African farmers would be a good fit in Australia, integrating (note the stab against certain refugees) and avoiding the welfare rolls.  Perversely enough, the mantle of guardianship – that of Afrikaners overseeing the civilising mission in South Africa – seemed to have moved to the confused Dutton.

As a key proponent of apartheid, the South African prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd, would enunciate in February 1960, it was the white men who were “the people… who brought civilisation here, who made possible the present development of black nationalisation by bringing the natives education, by showing them the Western way of life, by bringing Africa industry and development, by inspiring them with the ideals which Western civilisation has developed for itself.”

Dutton’s remarks fell on the ears of the furious.  Ian Rijsdijk of the University of Cape Town’s Media Studies Centre found the remarks “incredibly retrograde.”  “The majority African population regard a reference to civilisation,” piped South African advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, “as an insult.”

Spokesman for South Africa’s Foreign Ministry, Ndivhuwo Mabaya, claimed in a statement that, “There was no reason for any Government anywhere in the world to suspect that any South African is in danger from their own democratically elected Government.  That threat simply does not exist.”

In fairness, the minister’s intervention had already been forecast by party machinations at the state level some months prior.  The West Australian Liberal Party had chewed over the issue of those colonial hangovers in South Africa and Zimbabwe in discussions in 2017.  A resolution at the party’s state council meeting last year called upon the federal government to “resettle persecuted European minorities” from those benighted states.

Not far from such considerations was the influence of South African expatriates in various seats, making their defenders sound much like advertisers pushing a flawed product.  Ian Goodenough, a WA Liberal representing the federal seat of Moore, opined to the ABC that, “Violence and suffering affects all people universally.” (This affected nonsense only extends to particular communities in such racial politics – violence is universal, but politics is particular.)  “Given our close connections to the South African community, consideration should be given to providing a quota of places.”

On March 15, the MP tweeted that “favourable consideration” be granted to “South Africans fleeing persecution who share our values and will integrate into Australian society.”  This was humanitarianism, washed marble and cultural white, with a handy number of additions to Australia’s conservative voting bloc.

Other conservatives decided to vent their fury at reports about violence against white farmers, sometimes careful to avoid racial tags and labels.  The sense behind such anger was undeniably strategic: the Coalition government is stuttering in the polls, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is looking for easy fodder.  To that end, Andrew Hastie expressed “outrage” and pressed Alan Tudge, Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, to visit his own seat of Canning.

The reasoning there, like that of a calculating Goodenough, was placating, keeping and even gathering, more conservative South African votes, a hoovering exercise of a local member thinking of the next election and whether he will survive the voter’s chop.  Dutton, claimed Hastie, was “going to hear from concerned citizens and expats about what is happening in South Africa.”

Queensland Liberal MP Andrew Laming has also gotten on the electoral stage to claim that he “called out South African politicians for their do-nothing approach to vicious attacks on farmers”. He suggested that Dutton was merely asking his department “to monitor and consider our offshore humanitarian program”.

This is not to suggest that the world of South Africa, in its post-apartheid torment, is not afflicted.  Crime and land redistribution remain enduring social headaches, though the new South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has told Parliament that “land grabs” would be intolerable, instancing moments of “anarchy”.  That said, the ownership of agricultural land in South Africa – with white South Africans having 72 percent of the portion despite making up some 8 percent of the country’s population, is an invidious formula.

The country’s politics is troubled, best exemplified by the presidential strife of the now departed Jacob Zuma.  But the hot-and-bothered gamesmanship of Dutton also ignores the role played by invigorated democratic health in South Africa itself – the movement against Zuma being evidence of it.  A civil society collective of investigative journalists, judicial officers, even police, were vital in showing that the Republic of South Africa, far being sworn enemies of civilisation, are its vigilant defenders.

Dutton’s ploy is preferential, cultural and obvious, an embrace of colonial, property-owning elites who have fallen on hard times.  His idea of civilisation, quite literally coloured, is inimical to democracy.  His adoration for the South African farmer has also had a confessional effect: behind the veneer of decent immigration policies will always be indecent preferences.

Academics Who Serve as Israel’s Useful Idiots

How is that highly schooled people, those who have risen to positions of authority and influence within the west’s higher education systems, so often behave as if the bit of their brain governing rational thought has turned to mush whenever the issue of Israel is raised?

Let’s take the case of Richard Carver, a senior lecturer in human rights and governance at Oxford Brookes University. He has just published a letter in the London Review of Books in which he seeks to discredit support for BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – as evidence of what he (like Israel’s supporters) terms “the new anti-semitism”.

In short, he presents the BDS campaign’s positive support for Palestinian rights as if it were intended to be a negative campaign to harm Jews. The illogic of that ought to be obvious to all.

But let’s dig deeper. Here’s Carver in the LRB:

I would be more inclined to respect the bona fides of the BDS movement if it were equally exercised about China, Morocco, Turkey or any other country engaged in long-term illegal occupations – or, for that matter, war in Syria, torture in Egypt or suppression of dissent in Iran. But the Jewish state is judged by a different standard, which is precisely the phenomenon described by the concept of the ‘new anti-Semitism’.

How derisively would we have treated an academic – an expert in human rights, no less – who argued back in the 1980s that those who supported a boycott of apartheid South Africa must have been secretly anti-white or anti-Christian because they did not equally prioritise a boycott of Israel?

Carver can get away with his intellectually risible logic – and get his letter published in the LRB – only because the combination of words “Israel” and “anti-semitism” make otherwise sensible people become gibbering idiots.

In fact, if we apply some proper logic to Carver’s position, we find that even my counter-proposition above is too kind to him.

Apartheid South Africa was, and Israel still is, a product of western political, diplomatic and economic patronage. Grassroots campaigns like boycott movements can make, and have made, a difference to the viability of these European-originated settler colonial regimes. South Africa was, and Israel is, vulnerable to sanctions from western allies.

Much harder to make the same case for western activism against China, Iran and Syria, for example, which are official “enemies” of the west.

After all, grassroots action in the west is designed to discomfit not just Israel, or before it apartheid South Africa, but the western elites who prop up these regimes. Activism in the west was/is targeted chiefly against the complicity of western elites in these colonial offshoots.

None of that is true of China, Syria or Iran. Western governments are only too ready to harm these states – and the civilians in them – if they think they can get away with it. They don’t need our encouragement. Any grassroots activism directed against Syria or Iran is, at best, doomed to be wasted energy and, at worst, likely to be exploited to justify intensifying the west’s hostile manoeuvres against official enemies.

Those are deductions a schoolchild could make. And yet, for some reason, they elude our esteemed professor of human rights.

Peter Tosh’s Resistance against Racism, Apartheid and Settler-Colonialism

March 21 was the 57th anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre that was carried out by the South African apartheid regime against protesting Africans in 1960. This protest was organized by the liberation organization, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). It targeted the pass law of the settler-colonial regime that regulated the movement and residential pattern of the indigenous Africans. International opinion was so outraged by the murderous behaviour of the apartheid system that the United Nations’ General Assembly was inspired to declare March 21 the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (IDERD).

Whenever we commemorate the Sharpeville Massacre and the IDERD, we are politically obligated to highlight the valiant effort of the late reggae singer, Pan-Africanist, Rastaman, revolutionary, and human rights champion Peter Tosh in creating greater public awareness of the crimes of South Africa’s apartheid system. Tosh was one of the original Wailers’ trio alongside Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer. He was a reggae superstar at the time of his assassination by lumpen elements in Jamaica on 11 September 1987. Tosh was known as a militant cultural worker and organic intellectual who did not mince words in condemning the powers-that-be like the Old Testament prophets.

According to Tosh’s former manager Herbie Miller in the book Remembering Peter Tosh, Tosh loved to read about international affairs and politics in general, biographies of noted Pan-Africanists as well as “literature about the origins of the apartheid system.” Tosh’s 1977 album Equal Rights was an anthem against racial and economic oppression and Miller said that “it was this era of legal segregation and political unrest that inspired Peter’s recording of the album.”

On this album Tosh demonstrates his function as an organic intellectual of the international African labouring classes with the anti-apartheid song Apartheid that exposed the economic motivation and action of the apartheid regimes in South Africa and Namibia. The first four lines in the song bear witness to the natural resources extraction activities of the white supremacist, capitalist, settler-colonial regime in Southern Africa:

Inna me land, quite illegal
You inna me land, dig out me gold, yes
Inna me land, diggin’ out me pearl
Inna me land, dig out me diamond

Tosh is not distracted by the ideological structure of white supremacy that was used in a vain attempt to mask the economic and financial imperatives behind the system of apartheid. It is not accidental and is quite instructive that this Rastafari prophetic voice went straight at the foundation of the system of apartheid in this song – the theft and occupation of Africans’ land and exploitation of the natural resources.

This militant reggae icon exposes and indicts before the court of international public opinion the vicious and murderous apartheid system for its neglect of the social needs of the oppressed. Since the apartheid regime lacks legitimacy in the eyes of the people, it was forced to invest heavily in the coercive arm of the state (the police, army, courts and prisons) in order to keep in check the people’s struggle for freedom:

You inna me land, you no build no schools for black children
You inna me land, no hospital for black people
You inna me land, you built your prison
You inna me land, you built your camp

Peter was quite aware of the threat of the apartheid regime in South Africa and Namibia to international peace and regional stability in southern Africa. The settler-colonial apartheid regime did not confine its vile and brutal actions inside the territories under its control. It went after the liberation movements from Namibia and South Africa. South African apartheid brought death and destruction to the people of the frontline states that gave shelter to the freedom fighters and anti-colonial forces:

You cross the border, you shoot off the children
Cross the border, shoot down women
Cross the border, you take your might
Cross the border to beat the right

Tosh told the apartheid regime that it must expect a fight from the victimized Africans. He knows that the language of force is the one in which the forces of white supremacy and Babylon were most fluent. The downpressed had no option but to fight:

Now we have to fight, fight, fight
Fight ‘gainst apartheid
Black man got to fight, fight, fight
Fight ‘gainst apartheid

Come on and you fight, fight, fight
Fight ‘gainst apartheid
We got to fight, fight, fight
Fight ‘gainst apartheid

If the call to arms against the forces of exploitation and the disastrous consequences for them are not clear enough, Tosh outlines the desperate situation in which the downpressors will find themselves in the decisive and final moments of the triumph of the downpressed. In the song Downpressor Man from the Equal Rights album, he informs the exploiter of his fate:

Downpressor man
Where you gonna run to
Downpressor man
Where you gonna run to
Downpressor man
Where you gonna run to
All along that day

You gonna run to the sea
But the sea will be boiling
When you run to the sea
The sea will be boiling
The sea will be boiling
All along that day

You gonna run to the rocks
The rocks will be melting
When you run to the rocks
The rocks will be melting
The rocks will be melting
All that day

Long before activists coined and popularized the slogan “No Justice, No Peace,” Tosh captures that sentiment of the people and immortalized it in the song Equal Rights. This Rastafari cultural worker knew that the foundation of peace is justice and equity. The absence of peace and equal rights would ensure the continuation of predatory warfare by the downpressor and the necessity of revolutionary violence or armed self-defense by the downpressed:

Everyone is crying out for peace, yes
None is crying out for justice
Everyone is crying out for peace, yes
None is crying out for justice

I don’t want no peace
I need equal rights and justice
I need equal rights and justice
I need equal rights and justice
Got to get it, equal rights and justice

Tosh was an internationalist and he links the fight of Africans against racism, settler-colonialism and apartheid in Southern Africa with the struggle of the Palestinians against Zionism and Israeli apartheid. In the song Equal Rights, he proclaims that “Palestinians are fighting for equal rights and justice.” This reggae and Rastafari revolutionary took the opportunity at the 1977 No Nukes concert in Madison Square Garden, New York, to demonstrate his solidarity with Palestinians and other Arabs against Israeli colonial and military aggression.

Herbie Miller says that Tosh purchased and performed in the traditional clothing and headgear of the Gulf State Arab men. According to Miller, “He intentionally did this at the No Nukes concert because he knew that there were certain countries with nuclear armaments and the concert date also fell close to one of the Jewish holidays. He made this political statement fully aware of the ongoing conflicts between the Arab and Jewish states in the Middle East.”

Tosh expression of internationalist solidarity with the cause of Palestinians and others in the Middle East might have caused the withdrawal of his invitation to address the relevant United Nations’ committee on apartheid. He would have been the first reggae cultural worker to do so.

We should share Tosh’s legacy of principled resistance and solidarity against apartheid, racism and economic exploitation with young people. Tosh used his art to turn the people on to the struggle for justice, equal rights and world peace.