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Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Mideast mischief
The Guardian has two stories that shed some light on acting P.M. Ehud Olmert's plan to carry on Ariel "The Bulldozer" Sharon's legacy, and on some of what fuels global Arab and Muslim rage. The first story states that Olmert's plan to carry on the "disengagement" involves a stunning land grab that would create a fragmented, enfeebled Palestinian "state" carved into "Bantustans" surrounded on all sides by Israel:


Israel unveils plan to encircle Palestinian state

Wednesday February 8, 2006 - The acting Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said yesterday that he plans to annex the Jordan Valley and major Jewish settlement blocks to Israel in drawing new borders, according to a television station that recorded an interview with him yesterday.

In Mr Olmert's first policy statement since he succeeded Ariel Sharon last month, Channel 2 television said that he made clear he intends to carry through his predecessor's vision of creating an emasculated Palestinian state on Israel's terms.

If the Jewish state were to annex all of the Jordan Valley, which is dotted with small settlements, it would leave a future Palestinian state on the West Bank entirely surrounded by Israel and without a direct link to neighbouring countries.

The interview was to be broadcast late last night. Channel 2's political affairs reporter, Nissim Mishal, told Army radio that Mr Olmert, who is favourite to win next month's general election, also plans further unilateral withdrawals similar to the settler pullout from Gaza last summer.

"He talked about Israel having to maintain a Jewish majority in the state of Israel, meaning that we have to create a new border, what is called final borders. He knows that we can't negotiate with Hamas. So the only conclusion that can be derived from this is that, in order to reach final borders, Israel will have to carry out additional [unilateral] withdrawals," said Mishal.

Mr Olmert said he intends to annex the three main settlement blocks of Ariel, Gush Etzion and Maale Adumim as well as the Jordan Valley, the TV station said. The pressure group Peace Now estimates 185,000 of the 244,000 Israelis in the West Bank outside Jerusalem are resident in the settlements Mr Olmert wants to keep within Israel's border.

That would mean removing about 60,000 settlers, many more than were forced out of Gaza. On Monday the defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, said the government was considering unilaterally imposing the borders of a Palestinian state.

"If we won't be able to reach agreed-upon borders, we will operate in a different way, which it is not appropriate to detail now ... we don't need to wait for someone else to impose our fate," he said. "In the coming years, and I'm talking about a few years, the final borders of the state of Israel will be set down, and the future of most of the settlements in [the West Bank] and the Jordan Valley will be decided in these two years."

As for the second, how much do you know about Israel's longtime alliance with Apartheid-era South Africa? It's something that has always bugged me about the Jewish state, which continued to trade diamonds and arms with South Africa long after basically the rest of the world had turned its back on Pretoria (all through the 1980s in fact, during the time when then-Congressman Dick Cheney was calling Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and their African National Congress terrorists).

When I was in high school we had a South African man, who was in exile from the country then still under the boot of P.W. Botha, speak at my church. His accounts of that era in his country were chilling. Israel not only supported and worked with that regime, they adopted some of the nastier tactics of the white minority South Africans, including restrictive land and housing laws that determine where Arabs can and cannot live, forcing Arabs in Israel to walk with identity papers through numerous checkpoints to get to and from work, and of course, the constant and escalating expropriation of the most valuable land, and the water rights, right out from under the Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza (whom many Israelis and their adherents, including some Democrats, will say don't reallly exist...)

That is not to say that Israel doesn't face a very real threat from violent Palestinian individuals and nihilistic terrorist groups. And I'm no expert. But call me a bleeding heart liberal Euro-Arabist, but I just think there's something about the occupation and settlements that stinks to high heaven (no religious pun intended...) Worse, it's beneath the dignity of a state claiming the moral authority of the one true democracy in the Middle East (Turkey notwithstanding...) Anyway, a clip:

Brothers in arms - Israel's secret pact with Pretoria

... Israel was openly critical of apartheid through the 1950s and 60s as it built alliances with post-colonial African governments. But most African states broke ties after the 1973 Yom Kippur war and the government in Jerusalem began to take a more benign view of the isolated regime in Pretoria. The relationship changed so profoundly that, in 1976, Israel invited the South African prime minister, John Vorster - a former Nazi sympathiser and a commander of the fascist Ossewabrandwag that sided with Hitler - to make a state visit.

Leaving unmentioned Vorster's wartime internment for supporting Germany, Israel's prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, hailed the South African premier as a force for freedom and made no mention of Vorster's past as he toured the Jerusalem memorial to the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. At a state banquet, Rabin toasted "the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence". Both countries, he said, faced "foreign-inspired instability and recklessness".

Vorster, whose army was then overrunning Angola, told his hosts that South Africa and Israel were victims of the enemies of western civilisation. A few months later, the South African government's yearbook characterised the two countries as confronting a single problem: "Israel and South Africa have one thing above all else in common: they are both situated in a predominantly hostile world inhabited by dark peoples."

Vorster's visit laid the ground for a collaboration that transformed the Israel-South Africa axis into a leading weapons developer and a force in the international arms trade. Liel, who headed the Israeli foreign ministry's South Africa desk in the 80s, says that the Israeli security establishment came to believe that the Jewish state may not have survived without the relationship with the Afrikaners.

"We created the South African arms industry," says Liel. "They assisted us to develop all kinds of technology because they had a lot of money. When we were developing things together we usually gave the know-how and they gave the money. After 1976, there was a love affair between the security establishments of the two countries and their armies. ...

...The biggest secret of all was the nuclear one. Israel provided expertise and technology that was central to South Africa's development of its nuclear bombs. Israel was embarrassed enough about its close association with a political movement rooted in racial ideology to keep the military collaboration hidden. ...

...By the 1980s, Israel and South Africa echoed each other in justifying the domination of other peoples. Both said that their own peoples faced annihilation from external forces - in South Africa by black African governments and communism; in Israel, by Arab states and Islam. But each eventually faced popular uprisings - Soweto in 1976, the Palestinian intifada in 1987 - that were internal, spontaneous and radically altered the nature of the conflicts.

Read the whole thing, as well as part one (also linked in the article.)

And of course, this is the point of it all:



More than 200 South African Jews signed a petition that Kasrils co-authored with another Jewish veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle, Max Ozinsky, denouncing Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and drawing a parallel with apartheid. The document, called A Declaration of Conscience, prompted a furious debate within the community. Arthur Goldreich - one of Mandela's early comrades-in-arms who also fought for Israel's independence - was among those who signed but he attached an addendum recognising the impact of the suicide bombings on how Israelis view the Palestinians.

Kasrils acknowledges the effect of the bombers but says that Israel's "apartheid strategy" was under way long before the suicide attacks began. He notes the resemblance of the occupied territories to South Africa's patchwork of homelands - the bantustans - that were intended to divest the country of much of its black population while keeping the best of their land.

Today, about six million Israelis live on 85% of the area that was Palestine under the British mandate. Nearly 3.5 million Palestinians are confined to the remaining 15%, with their towns and cities penned between Israel's ever-expanding settlement blocks and behind a network of segregated roads, security barriers and military installations.

You might say that Israel and the old South Africa were caught out by history. The world of 1948 into which the Jewish state was born and the Afrikaners came to power cared little about the "dark peoples" who stood in the way of grand visions. Neither government was doing very much that others - including British colonists - had not done before them.

And if Israel was fighting for its life and forcing Arabs out of their homes at the same time, who in the west was going to judge the Jews after what they had endured?

But colonialism crumbled in Africa and Israel grew strong, and the world became less accepting of the justifications in Pretoria and Jerusalem. South Africa's white leadership eventually accepted another way. Israel now stands at a critical moment in its history.

With Ariel Sharon in a coma, it is unlikely that we will ever know how far he intended to carry his "unilateral disengagement" strategy after the withdrawal from Gaza and a part of the West Bank. Like FW de Klerk, who initiated the dismantling of apartheid, Sharon might have found he had set in motion forces he could not contain - forces that would have led to a deal acceptable to the Palestinians.

But to the Palestinians, Sharon appeared intent on carrying through a modified version of his longstanding plan to rid Israel of responsibility for as many Arabs as possible while keeping as much of their land as he could.

While Tony Blair was praising the Israeli prime minister for his political "courage" in leaving Gaza in August last year, Sharon was expropriating more land in the West Bank than Israel surrendered in Gaza, building thousands of new homes in Jewish settlements, and accelerating construction of the 400-plus miles of concrete and barbed wire barrier that few doubt is intended as a border.

Palestinians said that whatever emasculated "state" emerged - granted only "aspects of sovereignty" with limited control over its borders, finances and foreign policy - would be disturbingly reminiscent of South Africa's defunct bantustans. ...

...Three years ago, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported the former Italian prime minister, Massimo D'Alema, as telling dinner guests at a Jerusalem hotel that, on a visit to Rome a few years earlier, Sharon had told him that the bantustan model was the most appropriate solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. When one of the guests suggested to D'Alema that he was interpreting, not repeating, Sharon's words, the former prime minister said not. "No, sir, that is not interpretation. That is a precise quotation of your prime minister," he said. With Sharon out of politics, his successor Ehud Olmert has pledged himself to carrying through the vision of carving out Israel's final borders deep inside the West Bank and retaining all of Jerusalem for the Jewish state.
And therein lies a key basis for pan-Arab and Muslim rage.

Also interesting, the letters generated to the Guardian by part one of the piece...

Oh, and guess who the conservative mag Insight is saying got burned, big time, by the failure to predict that Hamas would win big in the recent elections? Hint: It starts with C ...

Tags: , Palestine, Politics, Middle East, Terrorism
posted by JReid @ 10:33 PM  
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