In late 1984 protests by South African blacks against high rents turned into a national uprising against Apartheid. The white South African government responded with brutal force, eventually declaring a state of emergency. This did not quell the protests, which continued for months and years. Thousands of blacks were killed, injured and imprisoned. All along, the South African government claimed it was engaged in a “reform” process which would have given blacks some autonomy under total white control. The program involved forcibly moving millions of blacks off their land and into “homelands.” Sound familiar? It did to me, and so do the quotes from South African officials back in 1984-85, when they are placed next to what we are hearing from Israel’s government today. I have organized them roughly by category.
INCITEMENT AND THE “CYNICAL USE OF CHILDREN”
*From South Africa… Senior [South African] police officers have complained recently that their efforts to deal with unrest are hampered by the rioters’ tactics, including the use of women and children as “human shields,” the absence of suspected leaders from the front lines of most protests and the increased attacks on police, particularly the township homes of black policemen.
–Los Angeles Times, June 3, 1985
“It’s tragic to have a child fall in this violence, but there’s no reason for the IDF to fire one shot if there’s no violence…All we’re trying to say is stop this incessant incitement to violence. We are dealing with a situation in which kids are cynically being used by being put on the front lines where they may be killed, maimed or injured…If a young boy falls, it gives the Palestinians a lot of propaganda points.”–Capt. Natan Golan, IDF Spokesman –St. Petersburg Times, October 18, 2000
*From South Africa… “Botha said he was ordering the move to combat “acts of violence and thuggery” that he said were “mainly directed at the property and person of law-abiding black people and take the form of incitement, intimidation, arson, inhuman forms of assault and even murder.” –President P.W. Botha explaining why he was imposing a state of emergency.
–The Washington Post, July 21, 1985
*From South Africa… “Law and order has to be restored with strong and singleminded action. The full power of the state has to be employed to this end.”
–Louis La Grange, Minister of Law and Order, commenting on the violence which had at the time claimed 660 black lives and 2,400 injured against 11 dead and 357 injured from the South African police and army.
–Financial Times, September 11, 1985
*From Israel… “If we do not see a change in the patterns of violence in the next two days, we will regard this as a cessation by Arafat of the peace process…and we will order the army and security forces to use all means at their disposal to halt the violence.”–Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak –Scotland on Sunday, October 8, 2000
*From South Africa… “If necessary, we can even take stronger steps than we have taken so far.” –President P.W. Botha, speaking the day after sixteen black protestors had been killed by South African forces.–The New York Times, August 9, 1985
“We are not trying to oppress people, but are doing this for their own benefit.”–Brig. Jan Coetzee, the Chief of Police in Soweto Township explaining why the township was under curfew. –The New York Times, August 24, 1985
“STONES AND BOTTLES ARE WEAPONS TOO”
*From South Africa… “A police spokesman said riot-squad patrols had been “confronted by particularly violent mobs” and were “bombarded with petrol bombs, half bricks and other objects.”
–South African response to criticism about disproportionate force used by police, after thirteen protestors had been killed in one day in Mamelodi Township. *The New York Times, November 23, 1985
“What happened in recent days was not just a protest demonstration, but rather a phenomenon of unprecedented degree…The problem is the character of the confrontation, the degree of confrontation between protesters and the police, who are entitled, if there is real danger to life, to shoot.”
–Israeli Internal Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami defending Israel’s use of lethal force against civilian protestors.
Los Angeles Times, October 5, 2000
THE RELENTLESS PURSUIT OF PEACE AND THE STRUGGLE AGAINST EXTREMISTS
*From South Africa…
“We shall not be stampeded into a situation of panic by irresponsible elements for opportunistic reasons…We shall continue with the process of peaceful deliberation and consultations to find solutions for our unsolved problems.”
–President P.W. Botha, touting his “reform” program which included the creation of separate parliaments and bantustans for blacks, the day after six black protestors were shot dead by South African forces.
“We will fight and defeat them with all the lawful means at our disposal.” –President P.W. Botha talking about “radical Communist forces” (i.e. the ANC) which he accused of inciting violence. The New York Times, August 24, 1985
“Israel is determined to defend itself. We have no hostile intention against anyone around us. We were ready to go further than any previous government in Israel, be it Netanyahu or Shamir or even Rabin and Peres, in contemplating ideas that will put an end to it. But if we won’t find a partner with the same determination and clarity of objective, we will fight to defend ourself and our right to live in freedom in this part of the world.” –Ehud Barak, CNN, October 12, 2000
*From South Africa…
“I am not prepared to lead white South Africans and other minority groups on a road to abdication and suicide.”–President P.W. Botha The San Diego Union-Tribune, August 16, 1985 *From Israel…
“You cannot let your neck be kind of cut as a good gesture for your neighbor, even if its a good neighbor.” –Ehud Barak, CNN, October 12, 2000
ON INTERNATIONAL INTERVENTION AND CRITICISM
*From South Africa…
“South Africa’s decisions will be made by South Africa’s leaders, and the leaders of South Africa will themselves decide what is in our interests,” Botha said in Pretoria, the capital. “Reform can only be retarded by outside attempts to interfere.”–President P.W. Botha Los Angeles Times, September 10, 1985
“Of course we say no [to a UN investigation]. We say that it should be an American source of authority, maybe with Israelis and Palestinians, of course, but not international body. And we believe that this is an understandable position bearing in mind our experience in this world in the last 52 years.” –Ehud Barak, CNN, October 12, 2000
ON THE FUTURE
“Apartheid”–President P.W. Botha
“Us over here, Them over there”–Prime Minister Ehud Barak
…And freedom too will come to Palestine.