Fiction in Zion

2012-06-30 11:21

Influence is being peddled in the modern-day apartheid state

South Africa is “racist”, so claims apartheid Israel because the Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, has taken action against international trade fraud by Israeli companies and government.

Why fraud?

If you walk into retailers, from supermarkets to cosmetic stores, you can buy products labelled “Made in Israel”.

These labels are often inaccurate because many of these products originate from illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian lands.

Labels of origin must accurately portray where products are made in whole or in part. This is a requirement of international law as well as the Consumer Protection Act.

Responding to the news, the Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Dov Steinberg, said: “It is a very sudden step that we view as quite curious, because what we see now is a situation in which Israel is singled out completely.”

Despite the ambassador’s claims, he and the local Israeli occupation lobby have known for almost 18 months that Open Shuhada Street was campaigning for the enforcement of the labelling laws.

Their failure to convince the minister of the merits of their case constitutes a serious diplomatic failure.

The most serious failure belongs to the local Israeli occupation supporters such as the Jewish Board of Deputies and the South African Zionist Federation.

Ant Katz, a local occupation supporter and publisher, says the Zionist Federation’s leadership assured him in September 2010 that they would address the labelling issue with Minister Davies.

Writing in a Jewish newspaper, Dan Brotman, a local US-trained lobbyist for the Jewish Board of Deputies and the SA Zionist Federation, made a frank assessment of the state of the “pro-Israel lobby in South Africa”.

He says that South Africa does not “yet have a strong American-style ‘lobbying culture’, which is partially because our democracy is only 18 years old”.

Brotman attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference earlier this year as part of a South African delegation.

According to an article Brotman wrote in a US Jewish weekly, he learnt six lessons at AIPAC to apply locally: unifying the “pro-Israel lobby”; cultivating relationships with politicians and young leaders, for example by providing financial support for election campaigns; pursuing individual relationships with elected members of Parliament; “trips to Israel” that ensure “return on investment”; supporting young leaders by investing in their futures; and winning black, LGBTI and Christian support for apartheid Israel.

But Brotman ignores the real history of lobbying by his employers.

Israel’s “secret” relationship with apartheid South Africa is very well documented.

In Sasha Polakow-Suransky’s excellent book, The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa, he details this history of deceit, secret lobbying, public smears and influence peddling between two types of racial nationalists.

Polakow-Suransky documents the economic and ideological links Israel shared with the white-minority regime, especially after the 1967 occupation.

As early as the 1930s, a majority of the local Jewish community supported racist and extreme right-wing Zionists such as Menachem Begin, who wanted to take all Palestinian land and whom Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt exposed as fascist.

Israel has a long history of “American-style lobbying” in South Africa.

When its ally BJ Vorster was forced to resign because of the Information Scandal, Israel saved the political career of the bankrupt Minister of Mines, Fanie Botha.

Retired judge-president of the Cape, Justice Gerald Friedman, exposed this in a criminal trial in 1988.

Israel paid Fanie Botha a bribe of $480 000 to ensure a steady flow of uranium for its illegal nuclear arms industry.

So Brotman does not reveal that the “historical relationship” between the two apartheid states meant that billions of rands flowed into Israel, despite embargoes, in return for arms that killed people in Angola, Mozambique, Lesotho and our townships.

South Africa is both a representative and participatory democracy. The Constitutional Court frowns on an American-style lobbying culture because it affects accountability.

The strategies outlined by Brotman in relation to his AIPAC observations will be followed scrupulously by him and his fellow Israeli apartheid and occupation supporters.

Our case is simple and open. We want government to support a boycott of illegal Israeli settlement products.

» Achmat is an Open Shuhada Street committee member

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