Article - S016

How the ANC is failing its Palestinian comrades

Published on News24: 27 October 2017


The ANC's increasingly regressive political behaviour is inadvertently undermining Palestinian hope of realising freedom


In 1997, Nelson Mandela famously remarked: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”


Here we are 20 years later … and the Palestinians have yet to realise that freedom. Ironically though, the ANC itself could be one of the many reasons for this status quo.


Commentators often draw parallels between Israel and Apartheid South Africa, with some going further to propose that Israel follow in the footsteps of South Africa’s ‘single state’ transition to democracy.


No doubt the Israelis have been watching South Africa’s post-apartheid journey as a ‘rainbow nation’ with much interest, but if the ANC’s regressive political behaviour shown over the last decade is anything to go by, it would have done nothing but reinforce Israel’s hard-line policies.


Jewish and Afrikaner parallel histories


Looking back in time, the Jews and Afrikaners share some stark historical similarities:

  • Where Jews were portrayed as a devious minority group in Germany in the late 1930s, Afrikaners were seen as uncivilised farmers impeding British imperialism in the 1890s;
  • Where Jews were persecuted by the Germans in WW2, so too were Afrikaners by the British during the Second Anglo-Boer War;
  • Where Jews were marshalled into concentration camps by Hitler, so too were Boer women and children by Kitchener; and
  • Where Jews died in their millions in these concentration camps through murder, so too did Boer women and children die in their tens of thousands from disease. (Global Jewish population declined by 30% during WW2; Total Boer population declined by 15% during the Second Boer War.)


Both the Jewish and Afrikaner societies suffered horrendous victimisation, oppression, death and defeat at the hands of much stronger, dominant societies and thus, understandably, bear the deep-rooted scars of these horrific injustices.


Preservation of cultural identity


This might well explain the subsequent ‘cultural self-preservation strategies’ that both the Afrikaners and Jews adopted in their respective circumstances:

  • The Afrikaners gained control of South Africa in 1948, while the Jews declared sovereignty for the State of Israel – also in 1948;
  • The Afrikaans government segregated society in the interest of protecting its cultural identity, so too did the Israeli government;
  • The Afrikaners established close links with the United States to counter the spread of communism, so too did Israel to counter the perceived threat of Iranian influence over Middle Eastern affairs; and
  • The Afrikaans government built a formidable military equipped with nuclear weapons to fortify its autonomy, as did the Israeli government. All this to ensure their cultures would never again fall victim to the tyrannical domination of another majority and/or more powerful society.

This begs the question: ‘Why was the Afrikaans government prepared to negotiate the transition to democracy while the Israeli government has not?’


One possible reason is that the open wounds of the Second Anglo-Boer War had 90 years and three generations to heal in Afrikaans culture. But the gaping wounds of WW2, just 60 years and two generations away, are still too raw for the Israelis to consider anything that might compromise their society’s autonomy.


Of course, there are numerous other influential factors at play that have not been mentioned, but this ‘rawness factor’ should not be underestimated in Jewish psyche today.


But, credit must be given to the Afrikaans people for relinquishing power when they did, knowing full well that they would become, once again, a minority group open to potential victimisation at some point in the future.


Had it not been for the humanitarian Nelson Mandela and his unqualified assurances of a unified, non-racial nation under ANC-rule, then I doubt South Africa’s transition would have been realised – certainly not by peaceful means anyway.


Erosion of reconciliation


The unfortunate reality is though, that Mandela’s assurances given to minority groups pre-1994 have been consistently eroded by subsequent ANC administrations – to the extent that the Afrikaans culture is once again under threat.


This is exemplified by prejudiced statements made by various high-ranking ANC officials:

  • “These songs (‘kill the boer’) cannot be regarded as hate speech or unconstitutional.” – ANC Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe (March, 2010)
  • “We must take the land without paying. They (whites) took our land without paying. Once we agree they stole our land, we can agree they are criminals and must be treated as such.” – Former ANC Youth League President, Julius Malema (May, 2011)
  • “The source of poverty, inequality, unemployment is land ... which was taken, not bought: stolen.” – State President, Jacob Zuma (January, 2016)
  • “Bury them (white farmers) alive!” – ANC Member of Parliament, Duduzile Promise Manana (March, 2017)

Of greater concern than the comments themselves, however, is the conspicuous lack of disciplinary action or even stern reprimand by the ANC leadership.


Israeli interpretation of ANC’s behaviour


One can only imagine the Israelis asking themselves: ‘If we undergo a similar transition in good faith, will the Palestinians be saying the same about us in 20 years time?’


In truth, the Israelis would never risk exposing their Jewish society to this kind of vilification, especially since, in their experience, it constitutes a major step toward potential eviction and/or extermination.


If the Israelis were ever seriously contemplating a ‘single state solution’, then the ANC – with its discriminatory remarks/policies aimed at their fellow whites, increasing political patronage and rampant corruption – appears unfazed or even determined to convince the Israelis otherwise. 


Possibly the Palestinians should have a quiet word with their ANC compatriots and warn them that, despite the ANC’s well-intentioned ‘solidarity’, their political antics are inadvertently undermining all Palestinian effort and hope of one day attaining freedom and citizenship-parity with their Israeli counterparts.


South Africa as a role-model


Perhaps it’s time for the ANC leadership to self-reflect on whether they’ve stayed true to the spirit of reconciliation and also our nation’s non-racial constitution founded in 1994.


Have they lived up to the humanitarian expectations as envisaged in Nelson Mandela’s united ‘rainbow nation’? And importantly, yet rarely considered, has the ANC government set a credible example that both the Israelis and Palestinians would feel confident to follow?


The ANC underestimates South Africa’s role as a ‘beacon of transitional democracy’, and that their relapsing precedent will have far-reaching consequences for the many other marginalised societies striving for freedom across the world.  


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