At Just Journalism, former Tablet Magazine staffer Michael Weiss interviewed Sasha Polakow-Suransky, whose new book, Unspoken Alliance, was responsible for the recent report (vigorously denied by Israeli officials) that in the 1970s Israel offered to sell apartheid-era South Africa nuclear weapons. (In fact, the titular “unspoken alliance” is that between post-1967 Israel and the white South African regime. Benjamin Pogrund praised the book in Tablet Magazine last week.)
Polakow-Suransky stands by his research, though he says that certain other revelations in his book—for example, that Israel purchased uranium from South Africa in the ‘80s without safeguards—were perhaps more worthy of front-page treatment.
Most interestingly, to me at least, Polakow-Suransky lays out his typology for where Israeli politicians fell regarding the apartheid state. He sees three broad groups:
• The founding fathers, like David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir, who were morally opposed to apartheid and therefore had no desire for a South African partnership. “They represented the moral vision of Israeli policy,” Polakow-Suransky states.
• The Labour Party realists, like current President Shimon Peres. Their desires to strengthen Israel’s security trumped other moral considerations, and therefore they sought out the helpful alliance. “It was strict realpolitik,” he explains. “So Israel and South Africa got in bed together.”
• The Revisionist Zionists, like Ariel Sharon, who were hardcore anti-Communist and so approved of South African on that ground.
Polakow-Suransky explicitly denies that Israel currently has an apartheid system. However, it is nonetheless interesting to ponder how the three above categories might map on to present-day critics and supporters of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.
Interview with Sasha Polakow-Suransky, Source for Guardian Report on Israel and South Africa [Just Journalism]
Related: Binding Ties [Tablet Magazine]