Friday, January 26, 2007


Brothers In Arms Redux

Ian Williams wonders why all those people who are loudly raking Jimmy Carter over the coals for using the A-word (apartheid) in connection with the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians, were and are silent over the fact that, as Chris McGreal noted last year, Israel was one of South Africa's best buddies during the apartheid days. Israel even gave Pretoria the Bomb. From McGreal's piece titled "Brothers in Arms":

Israel was openly critical of apartheid through the 1950s and 60s as it built alliances with post-colonial African governments. But most African states broke ties after the 1973 Yom Kippur war and the government in Jerusalem began to take a more benign view of the isolated regime in Pretoria. The relationship changed so profoundly that, in 1976, Israel invited the South African prime minister, John Vorster - a former Nazi sympathiser and a commander of the fascist Ossewabrandwag that sided with Hitler - to make a state visit. [...] Vorster's visit laid the ground for a collaboration that transformed the Israel-South Africa axis into a leading weapons developer and a force in the international arms trade. [Alon] Liel, who headed the Israeli foreign ministry's South Africa desk in the 80s, says that the Israeli security establishment came to believe that the Jewish state may not have survived without the relationship with the Afrikaners. "We created the South African arms industry," says Liel. "They assisted us to develop all kinds of technology because they had a lot of money. When we were developing things together we usually gave the know-how and they gave the money. After 1976, there was a love affair between the security establishments of the two countries and their armies. "We were involved in Angola as consultants to the [South African] army. You had Israeli officers there cooperating with the army. The link was very intimate." Alongside the state-owned factories turning out materiel for South Africa was Kibbutz Beit Alfa, which developed a profitable industry selling anti-riot vehicles for use against protesters in the black townships.
Pretty bad, eh? The next bit's even worse:
The biggest secret of all was the nuclear one. Israel provided expertise and technology that was central to South Africa's development of its nuclear bombs. Israel was embarrassed enough about its close association with a political movement rooted in racial ideology to keep the military collaboration hidden. "All that I'm telling you was completely secret," says Liel. "The knowledge of it was extremely limited to a small number of people outside the security establishment. But it so happened that many of our prime ministers were part of it, so if you take people such as [Shimon] Peres or Rabin, certainly they knew about it because they were part of the security establishment. "At the UN we kept saying: we are against apartheid, as Jewish people who suffered from the Holocaust this is intolerable. But our security establishment kept cooperating."
There's much, much more on this at the links above.

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