Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

thescroll_header

Author Confirms S. Africa Nukes Report

Describes different Israeli responses to apartheid

Print Email
Sasha Polakow-Suransky.(Random House)

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]

Print Email

Just a salutary reminder, when terms like ‘apartheid’ are casually bruited about, that Israel airlifted thousands of Ethiopians to safety within its own borders during a time of crisis.

David Hersch says:

I know Benjy Pogrund and like him, but not necessarily always his views or politics. What he writes is summed up in the penultimate paragraph. He writes:
-

“The answer, at least for me, as a Jew and an Israeli, is that he is right to do so because the moral stain remains, and some who were involved still enjoy high office in Israel. Even more, what they did cannot be compartmentalized: Rotten behavior in one sphere carries over into other areas of society.”
-

Yet Benjy already acknowledges in the article that one cannot judge in hindsight the circumstances then prevalent. And is this simplistic assumption valid? Politics, real necessity and hard and Realpolitik make for strange bedfellows and circumstances dictate survival and so-called morality. He acknowledges that the whole of Africa, whom Israel had tried to assist in huge ways at a time when she herself was still a fledgling state, (I knew some of Israel’s “Peace Corps” at the time personally and still do) had completely rejected and abandoned Israel. Israel’s need for arms and to export arms to help finance her own military industry to make her independent as she could not rely on any country. In a way we have a repeat of history right now with the US and Obama. France after 1967, Israel’s major arms supplier until then because the US and Britain refused to help her, instantly ceased to supply Israel and it was as if France cut the vital water mains. The Holocaust survivor referred to by Benjy was correct and these arm-chair lefty liberals with their shallow sense of show-time morality, are conveniently clueless. In addition, he hints briefly at the USSR and what she was up to, but not enough. It was a very different and dangerous world and everything should be viewed in terms of the cold-war and all the strategic moves Russia and the West were making, including that the USSR saw the Middle East as the soft underbelly of Europe and acted accordingly.
-

To answer this shallow take on history during the Apartheid years and simplistic accusations, the US helped the SA Navy to crack the Morse coded positions of Russian Kresta craft around our coast at the time. Germany, current supplier of South Africa’s latest warships, supplied the Plath antennae and Direction Finding equipment used. Many officers in charge at the time were ex-Royal Navy who previously helped impose the British mandate in Palestine. The Hercules aircraft in the SAAF that flew personnel and equipment from Rooikop Airforce Base, SWA to Cape Town were supplied by the US. The French supplied the Mirage in the South African Air Force. Let’s get real Benjy and Polakow-Surnansky.
-

Apartheid South Africa was Israel’s only partner in a continent populated by pro-Soviet, pro-Arab, corrupt, dictatorial and sometimes downright crazy and evil regimes. The pro-Soviet ANC was denouncing Israel’s very right to exist sharing overseas offices with Arafat’s PLO, both clients of the USSR. So Israel had a pragmatic relationship with Pretoria. So what? It didn’t stop Israel from criticising South Africa’s Apartheid policies and voting against this country in the UN.
-

Progrund continues:
-

“That is evident in Israel’s crude policy and behavior on the West Bank and Gaza, where morality does not apply; in the abusive way in which some Israeli Jews treat Israeli Arabs; and in the spate of corruption scandals emerging from the innermost recesses of the Israeli establishment in business and government.”
-

Well, here we have a broad statement, which I completely reject, and is made without proof or specific example and is more opinion than necessarily fact. If you know Benjy’s politics and activities at the Yakar Centre, you will get a more insightful picture of where this last bit comes from. He talks about “the abusive way in which Israeli Jews treat Arabs”. Really?! The principle of one Swallow not making Summer applies here. Much, much more proof and example is required and this reeks of personally agendised sweeping statement and as such must be completely rejected. I know Benjy is a Zionist, but his lefty slip is showing and I have personal experience of Benjy saying one thing to a Jewish audience and another immediately thereafter, within half an hour, to a public or ANC audience where his agenda is to ingratiate himself to that audience. It was almost as if two different people were talking and Benjy criticises Peres and others? Bloody chutzpah! I could question the two-faced expediency and say it is akin to what he does.
-

Shallow is as shallow does. Yes, certain Afrikaners did support the Nazis. The government during WWII was lead by an Afrikaner, Jan Smuts, and a vast majority of them fought in the South African Forces during the war. One of the debates about this at the time was the still lingering hatred for the British amongst the Afrikaners because of the Boer War, which only ended thirty seven years before and lead to great Afrikaner suffering, death and poverty. Many of them may have been children in the Concentration Camps the British established in this country and many who had fought were still alive and, as a result, sided with the Nazis as they were against the British. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Do I have to remind you of Perfidious Albion in its similar treatment of the Jews during the Mandate and the biased support the British showed the Arabs? Yet in 1948, DF Malan, an Afrikaner Nationalist Prime Minister was the first head of government in the world to visit Israel. In 1973, The Yom Kippur War, South Africa, without hesitation, emptied her arms and ammunition supplies to assist Israel in a most critical time when the survival of Israel was touch and go. A far more nuanced, balanced and in-depth study would be in order. There was much the Israelis and Afrikaners found in common, including standing alone in a virulently aggressive and rejectionist world. One cannot discount their mutual belief in the Bible either.
-

Increasingly Israel is being judged in hindsight and to talk of a “moral stain” is to buy into the propaganda of Israel’s enemies whilst the truly evil countries, regimes and her enemies are let off scott-free. I wonder if people like Benjy ponder some of the words they use and write? We now know that sticks and stones may break our bones and more than anything, names and words do enormous harm. Use them more carefully Benjy. Words are precious and are also weapons.
-

Whilst applying Benjy and Polakow-Surnansky’s faulty, convenient and problematic 20/20 hindsight, none of us knows for sure whether Israel has atomic weapons or not. If it does have them, and these turn out to be either a deterrent or necessarily have to be used as a defense of last resort and are used, and this saves Israel and the Jewish people, where would Benjy and Polakow-Surnansky stand then? Unlike Polakow-Surnansky, Benjy lives in Jerusalem and would be directly saved by such circumstances. It is alleged that Israel may have the bomb thanks to South Africa and its co-operation with it at that time. So nu Benjy, what would you and Polakow-Surnansky write then?
-

I am afraid that I increasingly feel that Benjy is long past his sell-by date and how ever much he is rolled out with his “Struggle” credentials in front of the ruling ANC, it no longer holds water for them and means absolutely nothing. I will always admire his bravery during the Apartheid years and admire his Zionism and love for Israel, but that certainly doesn’t mean he can flash his laurels forever and that he is automatically right, oops, wrong word, lets settle for correct and wise.
-

DAVID HERSCH
Cape Town

It is in point of fact a nice and useful piece of info. I am satisfied that you shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Author Confirms S. Africa Nukes Report

Describes different Israeli responses to apartheid

More on Tablet:

Online and Unabashed: Orthodox Rabbis and Scholars Take to the Internet

By Shulem Deen — A universe of blogs has sprung up where issues of Jewish law and rabbinic authority are discussed in unprecedented ways