A tribute to #AllisterSparks

2016-09-20 08:02

I am deeply saddened by the passing of veteran journalist, analyst, and truth-seeker (and my own mentor) Allister Sparks. Throughout his career, Allister has consistently spoken truth to power, fighting Apartheid in South Africa, and later on in Israel.

Allister was one of the few journalists who have met and personally interviewed Palestinian resistance leaders, travelling to Lebanon in 2002-2003 to interview Hamas. Israeli legislation – like Apartheid South Africa - made it a crime to quote any statement by leaders of any liberation movement. Allister was then denied entry and banned from Israel, when he tried to interview Israeli government officials. He has consistently written about the need for Israelis to engage Palestinian resistance movements in the same way that the Nationalist Party met with ANC officials in the late 1980s.

Sparks argued that Western governments and media have ignored Palestinian liberation movements in much the same way that the exiled ANC was ignored by the South African Apartheid government and mainstream media.

While many South Africans are mourning his passing, the Zionist lobby in this country will be celebrating. In his regular column with The Star newspaper, Allister pointed out the hypocrisy of pro-Israel South African apologists who were quick to dismiss any comparisons between the armed struggle waged by the ANC in Apartheid South Africa and Palestinian resistance.

He laughed (literally!) at the South African Zionist lobby’s depiction of the ANC as paragons in the post-1994 South Africa, when they had previously agreed with the Apartheid government that the ANC was a terrorist group, bent on the destruction of the white population of South Africa! It’s not surprising then that Allister’s column was heavily monitored and censored by the newspaper’s then-management who were very cosy with the Zionist lobby in this country. The column soon disappeared, but Allister did collate all his columns into a book called First Drafts: South African History in the Making (Jonathan Ball, 2009).

I remember how in August 2006, Sparks addressed an international investment conference hosted by local financial services provider, STANLIB. His topic was ‘Is it a threat? Global Politics – Best and Worst Case Scenarios for South Africa’ – a justifiable topic for an international investment conference as events in the Middle East have strong ramifications for investors in South Africa. His presentation was described as racist and one-sided. Zionist blogger Michael Kransdorff claimed that Sparks presented ‘questionable maps’, sourced from the Palestinian Mapping Centre. The maps were in fact obtained from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and were accurate representations.

Following pressure from the pro-Israel lobby in South Africa, STANLIB circulated a letter distancing themselves from interpretations of their having any ‘ideological prejudice with regard to the conflict in the Middle East in general or the Jewish community’.

While many South Africans are mourning his passing, the Zionist lobby in this country will be celebrating. Thank you for all your guidance, Uncle Allister. We will continue the fight! Rest in power.

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