Senior ANC MP Pallo Jordan in a recent article questioned the application of double standards when it came to the victims of the Holocaust and colonial rule.
In a refreshing perspective on the legacies of Hitler and Rhodes, Jordan raised a number of poignant issues surrounding land reform in Zimbabwe. Some critical factors absent in the current debate on Mugabe and the controversy fuelled by his extreme measures, are visited by Jordan in his attempt to unpack the distinction between looting and plunder perpetrated by German Nazis and by English colonialists.
Blatant lack of consistency on the part of the English is portrayed by Jordan in the following words: "Hitler’s actions in Europe sparked the Second World War. An alliance led by Britain, the Soviet Union and the US crushed Hitler’s regime. At the end of that war the British government seized even more fertile land from the indigenous Africans in its colony, Rhodesia."
Hence Jordan finds it odd that people who readily recognise the victimisation of those persecuted and robbed by the Nazis, have great difficulty in applying the same standard when addressing the land issue in Zimbabwe.
But what does this peek into the history of a wealthy Englishman by the name of Cecil John Rhodes who financed a column of European invaders which crossed the Limpopo and took possession of the unconquered territories north of it, have to do with Israel?
A great deal if a recent column in the Sunday Times reflects the ideas of people symptomatic of the paradox referred by Jordan. Joel Pollak and Milton Shain in their piece "Israelis and Palestinians need to be kept separate" [Sunday Times, January 25] display all the symptoms of people who refuse to recognise the inevitability of the collapse of all colonial conquests.
As has been the case in Zimbabwe, reclaiming land is at the core of the struggle for liberation in Palestine. The dispossession and displacement of people by foreign empire builders is intolerable, inexcusable and downright immoral. It is irrelevant whether the looters are English, Italian, French or Jews. And the natural consequence of such abuse is manifest in long, painful struggles to reclaim land, homes and personal possessions.
The striking parallels in the way Nazi Germany dismembered its Jewish population and the ethnic-cleansing of indigenous Palestinians pursued by successive Israeli regimes, does hardly allow for any distinction. Therefore, as Jordan emphasised the lack of any real difference in the legacies of Hitler and Rhodes, the same question arises: why are the two cases handled differently?
What is good for the goose must be good for the gander!
This however is not the case in the fraught arguments advanced by Shain and Pollak. They dismiss calls for a single state solution in Palestine as "utopian". Though they proffer reasons for doing so, these at best are excuses to retain the bulk of Palestinian land under Israeli sovereignty. It is all the more incredulous to be told by them that a two-state solution – read Bantustan – provides a "moral foundation".
The irony of quoting Edward Said as a prop for the continued existence of Israel, is not lost either. Pollak and Shain fail to comprehend that Said’s vision of a just peace and a reconciliation of both peoples with equal rights, was underpinned by his life-long campaign for the right-of-return of Palestinian refugees.
Ilan Pappe, a senior Israeli academic and close friend of Said, recalled his last discussion with him a few weeks before he succumbed to leukemia. Said beseeched him not to give up the struggle for relocating the Palestinians’ refugee issue at the heart of the public and global agenda.
Unlike a few years ago, when it was considered treasonous for Jews to advocate the dismantlement of Israel, today new hope has arisen that the continuity of an ethno-religious project surplanted over the ruins of its native population, banished and legally pronounced as "Absent-Present", cannot be sustained any longer.
Apart from moral imperatives to resist colonisation and to confront those wielding it, it is in the case of Israel, necessary to end the nightmare unleashed by Zionism.
South Africa’s freedom struggle was able to deal with the demon of apartheid by refusing to allow its racist ideology to persist in the form of Bantustans. One single country with equality, dignity and freedom for all its people ensured that the division of races and ethnic tribes into glorified "homelands" did not succeed.
This has to be the same for Palestine. One country. One citizenship. One constitution. One man/woman, one vote.