Dan Diker: The case against the Cape Town tribunal
Mon, 07 Nov 2011
World Jewish Congress Secretary-General Dan Diker writes in South Africa's 'Sunday Tribune' (6 November 2011 edition) about the Cape Town Tribunal alleging Israeli 'apartheid' crimes. Diker attended the annual convention of the South African Board of Jewish Deputies in Cape Town.
Walking along Beach Road in Cape Town last weekend, I felt very much at home, sharing the boardwalk with families of different backgrounds - white and black South Africans, Indians, Christians, Muslims and Jews - speaking various languages freely, including Afrikaans, English, Xhosa and the languages of tourists. We welcomed the sun, watched the waves crash and roll over the sand. Some jogged, others played ball and friends picnicked on the grass. There was enough room for everyone in this democratic South Africa.
As I passed Cape Town's Marine Road, I was reminded of a weekend my family and I spent walking along the Tel Aviv boardwalk. A lot of families were there too, Israelis of all types - Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Druze - also freely sharing the sun-drenched Tel Aviv beach, swimming in the sea, speaking Hebrew, Arabic, with some English too.
The common denominators of freedom and equality are compelling, but not surprising. South Africa and Israel share the common denominators of freedom and democracy as guaranteed by law.
Israel's declaration of independence of 1948 has long guaranteed "freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the holy places of all religions".
Similarly, the preamble of the South African constitution declares that the new republic will "heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights; lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law".
Tragically, the harmony of freedom and human rights that characterises both great nations has been shattered by various political agendas and others still infected with anti-semitic tendencies to assault the nation state of the Jewish people as the new apartheid South Africa.
The Russell Tribunal convened this weekend in Cape Town is the latest collective mouthpiece for this "Israel as apartheid" canard.
Unfortunately, the impressive initials that adorn the careers and professional reputations of some of the tribunal participants might attract public attention. But, make no mistake, this Stalinist tribunal that sees itself as the police, prosecutor and executioner of the Jewish people's nation state is no more than a well-camouflaged exercise to vilify the minuscule Jewish state with the intention of helping along its dissolution.
So-called anti-apartheid human rights organisations such as the Palestinian Solidarity Movement, which share the same agenda as the Russell Tribunal, do not advocate a Palestinian state next to Israel. They never speak of a solution of a Palestinian state living next to Israel as a Jewish state. Rather, they speak of one state, which means, in simple terms, the dissolution of the nation state of the Jewish people.
President Nelson Mandela openly and publicly supported a secure Israel as a Jewish state next to a Palestinian sovereign state.
South Africans who have visited Israel know that this "apartheid slander", as former South African Constitutional Court Justice Richard Goldstone labelled it in a recent New York Times article, should crumble upon the most cursory review of the facts.
Unfortunately, the Russell Tribunal will prohibit the facts from obstructing their view of Israel.
There tend to be two main lines of argument. First, Israel of any size, in any borders, is apartheid because the notion of a Jewish national liberation movement called Zionism is illegitimate.
It is probable that fair-minded readers will not be hoodwinked by this logic. The notion that a Jewish state with a large, legally protected minority is in any way comparable to a former system of institutionally sanctioned racial superiority is absurd. More than a million non-Jewish, Muslim and Christian Palestinian citizens of Israel - more than 20 percent of the total population - are represented by five major non-Jewish political parties and 14 members of parliament are also supreme court justices, deputy chairmen of the Israeli parliament, prominent doctors, lawyers, engineers and senior officers in Israel's police and security forces. Tel Aviv magistrate Justice George Kara, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was the judge who convicted former Israeli president Moshe Katzav of sexual offences and sent him to jail.
The second charge is that Israel's "occupation" and settlement activities in the disputed territories of the former West Bank of Jordan constitute apartheid. The facts speak for themselves. In 1993, Israel and the PLO, and subsequently in 1995 as the newly created Palestinian Authority, agreed to settle all mutual claims via a binding bilateral and internationally sanctioned agreement that was witnessed by the US, EU, UN, Jordan and Egypt.
That meant both Israel and the Palestinian leadership, whose new political rights the Israeli government agreed to uphold, recognised the rights and claims of the other, and agreed to find a compromise to this complex political conflict.
How can Israel be accused of apartheid in the former Jordanian West Bank - known as ancient Judea and Samaria, according to its Judeo-Christian biblical history - when the Jewish state has disavowed sovereignty over parts of it and has signed agreements with the Palestinian leadership to reach a negotiated political settlement?
The tragic truth of the Russell Tribunal goes well beyond Israel. Its exploiting the memory of apartheid in South Africa yanks the bloody memory of real apartheid out of the museum in Joburg where it belongs and under false pretences reinjects its poison into the minds and hearts of millions of fair-minded South Africans who have been trying to build an exemplary republic based on truth, justice and decency.
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