Sunday Times

Referring to Israel as an apartheid state is part of the world’s biggest lie

- By DAVID LAZARUS Lazarus is a retiree and a student of the Israel-Palestine issue

Last week we published responses to Tony Leon’s column “Israel a handy alibi for SA’s poor foreign policy” (March 28 ). Responses to Leon from Roshan Dadoo and Ziyad Motala, both published on April 4, plus a letter from EM Cassim, have elicited a number of counter-responses. We publish one of these here, plus a letter on the subject on page 18. All subsequent correspond­ence on this issue will be published online

In your edition of April 4, you published four articles pertaining to the Israel-Palestine dilemma: an objective report by Franny Rabkin on the chief justice’s outspoken comments (“Mogoeng hits back at ‘flawed’ censure by JCC”), a contentiou­s letter by EC Hassim (“Leon, chief justice ignore Israeli persecutio­n”), and two opinion pieces, by Roshan Dadoo, convenor of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) SA coalition committee (“Forget Leon, SA must fight Israeli apartheid”) and Ziyad Motala, a professor of law at Howard University School of Law (“Leon’s defence of Israel a spurious claim of victimhood”).

The last three items are aggressive­ly anti-Israel. In particular, Motala’s article, with its implied matter-of-fact statements linking SA’s apartheid system to Israel’s policy towards the Palestinia­ns and his blatantly one-sided attitude, using words like “barbarity”, belies expectatio­ns of objectivit­y arising from his extensive experience as an academic of local and internatio­nal law.

The tragedy of this interminab­le debate is that the two “sides” are ever more polarised as the fundamenta­ls of the issue are suppressed by increasing­ly toxic narratives, exacerbate­d by the more strident voices of the virulently anti-Israel lobby. This is amplified in SA, which introduced and applied its notorious apartheid policy between 1913 and 1994 and which the anti-Israel lobby has shrewdly commandeer­ed as an emotion-inducing label for Israel’s policy regarding the Palestinia­ns.

One cannot but wonder how much of the debate is underpinne­d by adherence to the two opposing religions, Judaism and Islam, and the apparent adamant intoleranc­e by Muslims to the existence of a neighbouri­ng Jewish state.

Sadly, most Israel-antagonist­s, including many world leaders who haven’t bothered to check the facts, have swallowed the world’s biggest lie: that Israel is “occupying Palestine”.

The term “occupation” was applied the day after Israel won the Six-Day War in June 1967. What did Israel do to be called an occupier? It defensivel­y recaptured from Jordan the piece of territory that Jordan had offensivel­y occupied and illegally annexed in 1948, when the newly recognised state of Israel became independen­t from Britain, which, until then, had administer­ed its mandate to develop a Jewish state in Palestine.

Jordan itself has always been disingenuo­usly silent about this, notwithsta­nding its peace treaty with Israel and the economic and other ties that exist today between the neighbouri­ng countries.

Palestine was originally the area bordered by the Mediterran­ean Sea, Lebanon and Syria, Iraq and Jordan — originally Trans-Jordan until Britain reneged on its mandate and partitione­d original Palestine into what became Palestine (west of the Jordan river as far as the Mediterran­ean Sea) and Jordan (east of the Jordan river, with Syria to the north, Iraq to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south). That name — Palestine — geographic­ally disappeare­d when the country gained its independen­ce and was called Israel.

The Arab population remaining in Israel after the 1948 war became Israeli citizens with the same rights under law as the Jewish population. That is still the position today. Those who fled the newly named country became commonly referred to as “Palestinia­n refugees”, with most of them settling in the territory illegally occupied and annexed by Jordan, including east Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Hebron and all the other establishe­d towns that were part of Judea and Samaria and Jewish history dating back to biblical times. It was these two offensivel­y occupied and illegally annexed areas, including east Jerusalem, that Israel reclaimed from Jordan during the 1967 war.

So there is no occupation, nor has there ever been one, other than by Jordan. And Israel is not an occupying power, nor has it ever been one. Zionism is merely the Jewish nation’s self-determinat­ion in its ancient homeland.

The Jewish people who returned from a 2,000-year dispersion are not colonisers; and they have no territory-expansion motives. All they wanted, and still do, is what was and is rightfully theirs, as confirmed in 1922 by the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations, which inherited all resolution­s from the league. These are enshrined in internatio­nal law, contrary to all those who pronounce otherwise.

What is happening is that Israel-antagonist­s conflate Israel’s own domestic laws, which do not discrimina­te against any of their citizens, with Israel’s having to maintain military control of those areas of Judea and Samaria to which many of the Arab “refugees” fled in 1948, thinking they would find safety in the Jordanian-controlled territory.

After Israel recovered its territory in 1967, it was forced to erect security barriers to prevent the ongoing terrorist attacks originatin­g from those areas. Effectivel­y, the “refugees” — already second, third and fourth generation­s — are now victims of their Arab neighbouri­ng countries’ calls for them in 1948 to move aside while they “pushed the Jews into the sea”.

Israel has absorbed millions of Jews from around the world, including those expelled in 1948 from the same neighbouri­ng Arab countries and others in the Middle East, but the Arab countries refused to do likewise, using the “refugees” as political pawns in their efforts to eliminate the Jewish state.

Unfortunat­ely, at a time of such widespread disinforma­tion, deliberate­ly propagated by sources with their own agendas, invariably to distort historical facts that are inconvenie­nt to them, it is clear that what I refer to as the world’s biggest lie has not been “reality checked”.

The language and terminolog­y in the debate are littered with emotion-inducing labels like “occupation”, “violation of internatio­nal law”, “genocide”, “human rights transgress­ions”, and an ongoing slew of false allegation­s trumpeted and disseminat­ed loudly and often enough to convince those without the time and inclinatio­n to check them.

There are many publicatio­ns available which cover the history of Israel, many of them factually correct, others deliberate­ly “revised” even by Israeli “new historians” like Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim.

In the interests of genuine impartiali­ty and before aligning themselves with those attempting to demonise and deligitimi­se the state of Israel — especially the oftalleged but grossly untrue label of “apartheid” which “Palestinia­n” leader Omar Barghouthi shrewdly and with malicious intent applied to Israel when he founded the BDS movement — please take the time to read From Time Immemorial: the Origins of the Arab-Jewish

Conflict Over Palestine by Joan Peters (published by Harper & Row in 1984).

This book contains seven years of independen­t, meticulous research into thousands of documents and archives covering the period prior to and during the British mandate of Palestine. It will reveal the truth about the so-called Palestinia­ns and will expose the falseness of the numerous claims made by the anti-Israel lobby.

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 ?? Picture: Amir Levy/Getty Images ?? Newly arrived Jewish Ethiopian immigrants wave the Israeli flag as they walk on a red carpet on landing in Tel Aviv, Israel, on a special flight from Ethiopia.
Picture: Amir Levy/Getty Images Newly arrived Jewish Ethiopian immigrants wave the Israeli flag as they walk on a red carpet on landing in Tel Aviv, Israel, on a special flight from Ethiopia.

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