OPINION: For Mandela’s sake, progressive world must expel Israeli envoys over apartheid against Palestine

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The right wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should urgently seek wise counsel from South Africa’s last President to preside over an apartheid administration, FW De Klerk.

After decades of self-delusion, De Klerk and his former white supremacists in the then Nationalist Party elected to come to terms with the inevitable eventuality – one man, one vote democratic order.

Just as almost 80% of the Palestinian land is occupied by apartheid-practicing Israel, South Africa occupied the entire Namibia and banished majority Black citizens (some 85%) to various pockets of Bantustans according to their ethnic groups.

The Nats – De Klerk et al would attest, possessed enormous military power and unparalleled intelligence services. Their police were as militaristic and powerful as their army. Like the Palestinians, we Blacks couldn’t travel freely to where we chose, or live where we liked in the land of our birth.

Like the Palestinians under the yoke of Israeli oppression, discrimination against us was institutionalised. Any white person was an authority over any black person, just as is the case in occupied Palestine.

At every strategic location there are Israeli checkpoints – barriers erected by Israeli security forces to control the free movement of Palestinians in their own land.

There were times during the many decades of our protracted Struggle for emancipation from the shackles of apartheid during which our resolve would be cruelly tested, just as the Palestinians’ experience.

There are way too many similarities between our Struggle for freedom and the Palestinian people’s Struggle for emancipation.

At various intervals of history events were desperately unkind to us. From the 1960 Sharpeville massacre to the June 1976 Soweto uprisings, SA’s oppressed people sought freedom. Just as the Palestinians were declared sub-human during the May 14, 1948 declaration of the State of Israel, so were we when the Nats came to power in SA in the same year.

Although there have been mutterings of international calls for a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians, the past 14 years have been marked by some of the harshest blockade of movement particularly in the Hamas-led Gaza Strip.

The Israeli-induced hardships are marked by the present-day 70% of youth unemployment and gross social upheavals. The overall poverty levels are recorded to be around 56% among the Palestinians, although the figure is suspected to be much higher.

Infrastructural development has been at a standstill since Israel resolved to punish the Palestinians for voting for Hamas in their free democratic elections. Israel blames the death of women and children during their airstrikes on the current bombing of residential flats in Gaza Strip on the Palestinian victims, accusing them of voting for Hamas in the 2006 polls.

To put it bluntly, most Palestinians have never known any life other than to live under the thumb of Israeli brutality.

Yet the truth that Netanyahu and his cohorts must discover is – as De Klerk and his government eventually came to realise when they unbanned the ANC and PAC and released Mandela and other political prisoners from prison – the oppressor can never sleep peacefully as long as the oppressed are kicking and screaming for their freedom.

The unfolding tragedy in Palestine where men, women and children are being killed by Israeli air strikes and other possible barbaric ways can only spur on the oppressed people of Palestine to re-double their efforts as they battle for their liberation.

For far too long the Palestinian people have suffered under the deliberate silence of a world that has perfected the art of kow-towing to the whims of the Washington – Israel’s chief protector against any form of imaginable sanction against Tel Aviv’s well-documented human rights violations.

The four years of Donald Trump in the White House was nothing short of fuel of hatred that the Netanyahu administration craved and well-received. The Trump-Netanyahu supremacist agenda resulted in the aggressive erection of the illegal Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. What broke the camel’s back was the recent eviction of innocent Palestinians by the Netanyahu regime in order to make way for more illegal Jewish settlements, which the UN and the international community has lambasted as crime against humanity.

The ineptitude of the administration of President Joe Biden toward the Israeli-Palestinian poser has not assisted matters in the volatile Middle East. For as long as any sitting Israeli prime minister is assured of Washington’s unwavering support and protection against any wrong-doing, so will the tragic saga of the oppressed people of Palestine be guaranteed.

Within one week, the UN Security Council (UNSC) has met twice to discuss the massacre of the Palestinian people by a powerful, sophisticated Israeli military onslaught. In all the meetings, the UNSC could not even agree to come up with a statement to share their sentiments with the rest of the world after the US objected to the drafting and issuing of such.

Elsewhere in the world, cowardice regimes are equating the Hamas rockets fired from the Gaza Strip to the outskirts of Israel with a flurry of mass-destructive Israeli bombs that are raining on multi-story residential buildings in which the lives of scores of innocent women and children are sniffed out ostensibly because they reside in suspected Hamas-harbouring areas.

International relations really suck when one looks at our global world order through the prism of the annihilation of the largely innocent people of Palestine.

The ANC, at their recent meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) took a resolution condemning the Israeli excesses against the people of Palestine. However, I’d like to see more action than mere words. In my book, Pretoria needs to summon the Israeli ambassador to record SA’s objection to the wanton oppression of the Palestinians by Israel. In fact, Pretoria should send the Israeli ambassador back to Tel Aviv in a demonstration of clear, unadulterated solidarity with the people of Palestine. This is a kind of a lead SA government need to take, and encourage the AU and the progressive world to do likewise.

The ANC was in the trenches with Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) for many, many moons. Methinks now that the ANC is a lawful government with a high moral stature, the world should to be taking cue from the ANC-led government that eventually toppled apartheid – thankfully with the assistance of the international community that has regrettably since gone deaf and blind to the plight of the Palestinian people.

De Klerk is highly respected in the Jewish circles and indeed in Israel itself. Through his FW De Klerk Foundation, I implore him to advise the Israeli regime of Netanyahu that you can’t oppress people forever. Even much more, there can never be peaceful sleep for oppressors for as long as their victims are in a constant battle to free themselves from bondage.

For his efforts at ending apartheid in South Africa, De Klerk was in 1993 recognised with a joint Nobel Peace Prize together with Mandela for their role in a bloodless transition from apartheid to democracy.

Surely there are many lessons the Israelis could learn from the book of De Klerk. He knows how to carve out an all-inclusive peaceful future in which former sworn enemies can live side-by-side without fear and trepidation.

The worst feeling any human being can endure is that of being State-less. To be robbed of a country of your own. Or, let me paraphrase my argument: It has to be the worst feeling to be oppressed in the land of your birth, the land of your forebears. This is made excessively painful when the entire world turns away from your plight, clearly lacking the conscience to speak on your behalf against the powerful that turn your life into the most miserable on God’s Earth, and doing so with impunity.

The suffering of the Palestinians is well-documented. It is a scandal of our times. SA must lobby the African Union to adopt a united stance against apartheid Israel. After all, almost the entire continent comes from a history of Colonialism and apartheid. The world, or at least our African continent, dare not fail our fellow brothers and sisters who are languishing in a huge prison that is Palestine.