“Mandela was an exemplary figure of our era, and he will be remembered as a first class moral leader. He was a liberation fighter who rejected violence…” By these words, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu not only reveals his very limited knowledge of South African history (to say the least), but has passed over on the other side of decency. In the unanimous worldwide expression of admiration for Mandela, the best that official representatives of the state of Israel can do is to shut their mouth with shame and humility.
Until today, no Israeli leader has asked Mandela and the South African people forgiveness for Israel’s active role in defending and maintaining the apartheid regime in Pretoria.
The alliance between Israel and racist South Africa was a strategic one: economic and military, but also ideological. Years after the majority of the international community launched boycott of the apartheid regime, Israel continued to keep excellent relations with Pretoria and even to help it to bypass international sanctions. According to the international media, Israel could not continue its nuclear program without the collaboration of apartheid South Africa. Such an alliance was based not only on joint interests, but also on a philosophy of both being white countries in a non-white, hostile environment, of a joint struggle against communism on the one hand and the rise of third world peoples on the other.
Several weeks ago I saw a fascinating report on Israeli television about a famous Israeli millionaire who was simultaneously a successful film producer and a Mossad agent. Among the many revelations (for me at least), the man told us about millions of dollars he received from the US administration and the South African regime to make films with one single objective: legitimizing the apartheid regime in Pretoria… including its pro-Nazi leaders. When asked if he has some regrets, he answered “yes, a little”; his eyes, however, revealed that his answer was fake.
When Mandela was finally released from prison and accepted throughout the world as a central leader of the new South Africa, the various Israeli governments continued to maintain a distance from the black communist/terrorist, and preferred the supposed moderate Desmond Tutu to the ANC leader.
Israel was definitely not the only country to support the apartheid regime, and the United States did use the Israeli state to do some of the dirty work on its behalf. However, the strength of the relationship between Tel Aviv and Pretoria was not made only of interests, but on a common vision of the world and common values. This is precisely the reason why Israel was the last country to cut its ties with the regime.
The “mourning” of Benjamin Netanyahu and the statement of Israeli President Shimon Peres are as fake as the answer of the Israeli film producer/Mossad agent. Let’s hope that the family, friends and millions of supporters of Nelson Mandela will not let these Israeli figures and their statements pollute the mourning events of one of the greater liberation fighters of the last century.