President Thabo Mbeki and Deputy President Jacob Zuma must be commended for their courageous stance in standing up to the US/Israel’s threat and intimidation against the WCAR Conference. The US/ Israeli decision to send a low-level delegation to participate in the United Nations sponsored conference because of the allegedly “offensive” language that the meeting seeks to use against Israel, and its subsequent withdrawal, is a clear indication of the degree of influence that the Jewish lobby in the US commands over US public policies, just as it is illustrative of the intimate symbiotic relationship between the US and Israel.
That Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian and Arab population in Occupied Palestine and even of Arab Israelis in Israel itself, is outright racist is an irrefutable truth. From restrictions imposed upon their movements and the closure of their townships to the cutting off of water supply and the uprooting of their olive trees, it is obvious that the people in Occupied Palestine in particular are being targeted and suppressed because they are Palestinians and Arabs. This explains why Israeli discrimination against the Palestinians has been described as ethnocide (the deliberate attempt to exterminate an entire community and culture). It has to be emphasized at this point that Israel’s ruthless, barbaric suppression of the Palestinians has been researched by a number of scholars and activists, including some Jews.
Indeed, Israeli political and religious elites have even sought to justify their inhuman discrimination against the Palestinians and Arabs through distorted interpretations of the spiritual roots of Zionism and of Judaism. NGO activists participating in the Durban Conference and certain government delegations are therefore right in regarding the Israeli government that has manipulated Zionism to its advantage as a blatantly racist regime.
Then, there is a racial situation in the United States, with all its contradictions. On the one hand, the country has a black secretary of state Colin Powell. On the other hand poverty, drug abuse, crime, broken homes, unemployment, infant mortality and the disproportionate affliction by AIDS are a stubborn part of the Black condition in America. Approximately forty percent of prisoners on death row in the US are African- Americans. The jails, mortuaries, and police cells still bear anguished testimony to the continuing suffering of American Holocausts. There a re more male descendents of African slaves in US prisons than in College. American legislators would like to send even more to prison, as penalties are made more severe.
In December 1999, officials from Germany and the United States signed a historic agreement to pay five Billion Dollars in reparations to Nazi slave labors and their families. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called the deal the first serious attempt to compensate “those whose labor was stolen or coerced during a time of outrage and shame. It is critical to completing the unfinished business of the old century before entering the new.”
Unwittingly, Albright was making the perfect case for reparations to the descendents of African slaves in America.
Attorney Adjoa Aiyetoro for the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America said “much like our ancestors who fought for 250 years to end chattel slavery, we cannot refuse to demand reparations in every forum because it appears that the government is unlikely to give it to us or that we do not have agreement as to what form it will take.” America’s silence on Reparations smacks of hypocrisy.
Through active collaboration with such a racist Israeli regime, the US government has further tarnished its international image. It has once again thumbed its nose at international public opinion and International Law. Its action this time is no different from its stand on the law of the Seas Treaty in the eighties; the Landmines Agreement in the nineties; and the more recent Kyoto Accord. The US government thinks it is powerful enough to ignore the collective plea of humankind for justice — whether it is on a matter such as the rights of a suppressed people, or in ensuring peace and human security; or in preserving natural resources for future generations, or in protecting the physical environment. This is the mark of arrogance of a military superpower.
It is gratifying that the NGO dismissed Mary Robinson’s pleas to remove the text that Zionism is Racism. As secretary General of the Conference she exceeded her mandate to interfere in an open free dialogue of the NGO’s by describing the text as “harsh”, and is unfortunately more concerned with the “success” (whatever that means) of the Conference, even at the expense of truth. One hopes that the UN will not bend over backwards to accommodate the US and Israeli governments and dilute the resolutions that are expected to be adopted on the Palestinian question, and on other issues, including reparations for African states and other colonized peoples from governments that benefited from colonialism.
(Mr. Firoz Osman is Secretary of the Media Review Network, which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.)