Our Approach: Peace for the Middle East, Prosperity in Africa
By Ben Swartz, Chairman, SAZF
Shannon Ebrahim's sympathies to BDS “activism” and their political agenda are well known by most. So it may surprise her to realise that her solicitude for the plight of the Palestinians is shared by most Israelis and this is borne out by the myriad of Israelis who demonstrate their concern in the most practical way imaginable: care of the sick (especially children), the elderly and women."
This fact is not always realised by her when she targets Israel either by implication or overtly, and places that country in the cross-hairs of her ire. Strangely she chastises a democracy, which Israel is and her opponents are not. In her latest article, those that she champions as victims of “colonialism” in fact bear the trappings of colonial Middle Eastern oligarchies that hold their people hostage. Libya, Syria, and Saudi are brutal dictatorships, far more than even those of Egypt or Jordan. "Parliaments" in Iran, Morocco, and on the West Bank are not freely democratic. In all of them, candidates for office are either screened, preselected, or coerced. Daily television and newspapers are subject to restrictions and censorship; "elected" leaders are not open to public audit and censure. Death, not voters, brings changes of rule in the Middle East.
Ebrahim talks of Mandela: does she know he encouraged peace and went to Israel himself and that Ramaphosa is on record supporting dialogue? She mentions the “progressive nations” taking a stand, but does not name them. I am curious to know who they might be.
True freedom and democracy that the people of the Middle East deserve-indeed from which the entire world would benefit-demands cultural tolerance, widespread literacy, and free markets, something few of them have with the notable exception of Israel.
Only in secular Israel can one find free speech and liberality of custom and religion, much more so, than say, in Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Palestine. Coexistence is found in Israel, very rarely so in the Arab world.
We see in Israel spirited debate, home-grown criticism and differing advocacy from Left and Right. Israeli newspapers and television reflect a diversity of views, from rabid Zionism to almost suicidal pacifism. There are Arab-Israeli legislators and plenty of Jewish intellectuals who openly write and broadcast in opposition to the particular government of the day, a freedom not available in Palestine.
It is patently obvious from hateful rhetoric daily fed to compliant populations that wars in the Middle East are not fought to return the West Bank or Gaza, but to finish off what Hitler could not. Israel, its GNP, free society, and liberal press, is a wound to the psyche, not a physical threat to the Arab world. Israel did not murder the Kurds or Shiites. It does not butcher Islam's children in Syria. Yet both the victims and the perpetrators of those crimes against Muslims answer "Israel" when seeking responsibly.
Any honest assessment will show that the blame lies elsewhere. As has been demonstrated in many countries in Africa, Israel has the ability and a willingness to alleviate hunger, drought, disease and other social ills for the Palestinians and the people of Africa.
Instead of accepting the willingness of Israel to play a peaceful role in the region Ebrahim defines herself as the saviour of the Palestinians. She cries out that she is against racism, colonialism, ethnic cleansing, police states and anti-Semitism but she advocates for those who do.
But the goal of the current Palestinian leadership is the colonial conquest of another people’s country. That country is the State of Israel, the homeland of the Jews legally, historically and emotionally.
Mahmoud Abbas has explicitly rejected Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. The Palestinian Authority indoctrinates its children to terrorism. The insignia and maps show that the land they demand for a state includes the whole of Israel.
Therefore what the anti-racist, anti-colonialist, anti ethnic-cleansing, pro-democracy Ebrahim, the ANC, and the newspapers of the INL, players whose reputation rests on a proud record of balance and fairness, should condemn is this Palestinian agenda and not point fingers at the only constitutional democracy in the entire Middle East.
Palestinians should see in its policy toward Israel their future hope, rather than their present despair. Israel is based on true democracy that can evolve to the benefit of all those in the Middle East and bring deserved peace to everyone who lives there, rather than resort to race, religion or language that more often cannot. If the Palestinians really wished to become accepted as a participant in peace, then regular elections, a free press, an open and honest economy, and religious tolerance alone would do what suicide bombers and a duplicitous terror-supporting leader could not.