February 5, 2009

Israeli propaganda tried (and failed) to use Mandela

Filed under: opinion article — newritings @ 3:43 pm

Yesterday, I learned from the newspaper Público, in Spain, of the Israeli propaganda machine formalizing its programme of using volunteers from Israel and jewish people generally worldwide to populate the internet and the blogsgosphere more generally. The article said that volunteers speaking a range of languages including Chinese have responded. Todate more than 700 Isrealis and jewish people have responded. The paper quotes llan Schutman, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and thus makes official what many of us have suspected for a while: that the Israeli strategy of communication is based on mis-information and propaganda, and not on speaking the truth.

Let me give you one example from a more traditional media source: the radio, albeit accessed by me via the internet (by the way, I am one of those who believe, with some evidence in a number of studies, that those who surf the net are increasingly listening to radio or music as well). It was the 31st of December of 2008 and the war on Gaza was intense, and the BBC World Service programme Have Your Say featured Mark Regev, “who speaks on behalf of the Israeli prime minister, answers your questions.” A number of callers put tough and honest questions to Regev, and I remember one who called from Jerusalem, contradicting Regev on his assertion that Israel had left the Gaza, etc. In a nutshell, the caller pointed out that the border control as well as airspace for example where not under the control of Palestinians (Hamas).



Another caller from Saudi Arabia called in making reference to the Israeli Bantustan policies which he said was similar to Apartheid South Africa. This caller, my namesake I think, really struck at the heart of the  matter and it was calmly and effectively made.

What seems to really upset Israeli citizens and government alike – and not to talk  of its  propagandists – is the assertion that Israel is an Apartheid state,  and the resultant call that a that  full scale boycott (cultural, trade, academic, etc) must be initiated, similar to that used by global civil society, against white  rule in Apartheid South Africa,. This, as we know it today, eventually forced the  racist rulers  to sit down and negotiate with the genuine leaders of the majority of South Africans. Needless to say Regev rejected the  Apartheid analogy and then as is his and his fellow travellers  trademark –  counter-attack – believing as he does the best form of defence is attack!  Regev tried… using his last trick: bring in Mandela on the side of the Israelis and, more specificially, the Zionists. It was a clever trick and suggests of things to come when our beloved Mandela is no more. Regev said the Apartheid analogy was not factual, and it went something like this: “I read the autobiography… as he was struggling in the underground, Mandela read the book of the early Zionists. It is a good book and everyone should read it…” This was a strategy of co-opting Nelson Mandela for the cause of Israel at the height of its repression, as it was executing the war in Gaza, which was killing hundreds of people. The strategy was cheap as it was effective. Used a book that many have not read, and took Madiba as your own. Not long ago, Zionists could be heard calling Madiba a Black Nazi, Jewish hater, terrorist, etc.

It erked me so that we took to looking up the reference in Mandela, NR, Long Walk to Freedom, and on page 326, (Abacus , Great Britain , 1995,) it reads: “I began in the only way I knew how, by reading and talking to experts. What I wanted to find out were the fundamental principles of starting a revolution. … Any and every source was of interest to me. I read the report of Blas Roca, the secretary general of the communist party of Cuba, about their years as an illegal organisation during the Batista regime. In Commando by Denys Reitz, I read of the unconventional guerrilla tactics of the Boer generals during the Anglo-Boer War, I read works by and about Che Guevara, Mao Tse-tung, Fidel Castro… I read The Revolt by Menachem Begin and was encouraged by the fact that the Israeli leader had led a guerrilla force in a country with neither mountains nor forests, a situation similar to our own.”  So this was not an endorsement of Israel’s aggression – far from it.

In addition, Mandela and the ANC are on record supporting those who stood by the South African anti apartheid struggle whether they are liked by some countries or not. A letter of Mandela written in response to Israeli ideologue and NEW YORK TIMES columnist, Thomas L Friedman. Friedman (stand in for Bush) was writing a highly insulting memo to the late Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat in March 2001 which ended with these words: “Yasir, I’m not abandoning Mideast diplomacy. But I’m not going to indulge you the way Clinton did. If you want to reverse the outcome of the 1967 war, and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, we will help you. If you want to reverse the outcome of the 1948 war, we will not help you. If you want to reverse the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which first supported a modern Jewish homeland in Palestine, we will oppose you. When you figure out what you’re about, give me a call.”

In reply, the Mandela Memo (March 28, 2001) ends with in similar vein: ” Thomas, I’m not abandoning Mideast diplomacy. But I’m ¨not going to indulge you the way your supporters do. If you want peace and democracy, I will support you. If you want formal apartheid, we will not support you. If you want to support racial discrimination and ethnic cleansing, we will oppose you. When you figure out what you’re about, give me a call.”

The memo is vintage Mandela and must be read fully but for purposes of this article I want to go to the references of Apartheid that Mandela makes thus:

Mandela and Arafat

Mandela and Arafat

“The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not just an issue of military occupation and Israel is not a country that was established “normally” and happened to occupy another country in 1967. Palestinians are not struggling for a “state” but for freedom, liberation and equality, just like we were struggling for freedom in South Africa. In the last few years, and especially during the reign of the Labour Party, Israel showed that it was not even willing to return what it occupied in 1967; that settlements remain, Jerusalem would be under exclusive Israeli sovereignty, and Palestinians would not have an independent state, but would be under Israeli economic domination with Israeli control of borders, land, air, water and sea. Israel was not thinking of a “state” but of “separation”. The valua of separation is measured in terms of the ability of Israel to keep the Jewish state Jewish, and not to have a Palestinian minority that could have the opportunity to become a majority at some time in the future. If this takes place, it would force Israel to either become a secular democratic or bi-national state, or to turn into a state of apartheid not only de facto, but also de jure. Thomas, if you follow the polls in Israel for the last 30 or 40 years, you clearly find a vulgar racism that includes a third of the population who openly declare themselves to be racist. This racism is of the nature of “I hate Arabs” and “I wish Arabs would be dead”. If you also follow the judicial system in Israel you will see there is discrimination against Palestinians, and if you further consider the 1967 occupied territories you will find there are already two judicial systems in operation that represent two different approaches to human life: one for Palestinian life and the other for Jewish life. Additionally there are two different approaches to property and to land. Palestinian property is not recognised as private property because it can be confiscated. As to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, there is an additional factor. The so-called “Palestinian autonomous areas” are bantustans. These are restricted entities within the power structure of the Israeli apartheid system. The Palestinian state cannot be the by-product of the Jewish state, just in order to keep the Jewish purity of Israel. Israel’s racial discrimination is daily life of most Palestinians. Since Israel is a Jewish state, Israeli Jews are able to accrue special rights which non-Jews cannot do. Palestinian Arabs have no place in a “Jewish” state. Apartheid is a crime against humanity. Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality. It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians, contrary to the rules of international law. It has, in particular, waged a war against a civilian population, in particular children. The responses made by South Africa to human rights abuses emanating from the removal policies and apartheid policies respectively, shed light on what Israeli society must necessarily go through before one can speak of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East and an end to its apartheid policies.”

For the full letter click here.

To conclude, we have to be vigilant now more than ever. The formal notification that the disinformation will be shifted a gear upwards is cause for concern but not alarm. We have to work harder and smarter to unmask those who feed lies to the public and, as we have seen from the millions that marched against the violence unleashed on the Palestinians, the people are not easily duped. How do we fight? As Edgar Morin advises in another context not dissimilar to this one, we must fight “With words, intelligence and conscience. We know what principles we must respect: understanding others and recognizing their rights. There are periods, such as ours, in which very little dialogue is possible. I think we are entering a dark period.” And it starts but does not end with ethical and committed journalists like Jon Snow of Channel 4 as he showed in his interview with Mark Regev that all the old tactics of blaming others, associating with the so-called good guys (the Western nations) and blaming all the actions with the so-called bad nations, axis of evil, etc. do not work: watch this video “Mark Regev on the ropes” if you want any more proof. And again after the bombing of the UN food depot, etc. with Israeli government spokersperson Isaac Hetzog. The BBC interview with Mark Regev with Jeremy paxman on the UN school bombing too is worth seeing. He is again mixing up the memorized texts, and again found fumbling. Secondly, it is the role of every user of media to be critical and investigate sources, and read widely (internet, blogs, etc. books, newspapers, radio and television), and not be solely reliant on one media source and channel. Every activist for justice must be a media activist! Thirdly, this is a long and lonely struggle. Go On. Join with others who cherish the values of freedom, equality and solidarity. Meet and work with others, it’s not only easier but you may have fun along the way too. If Israeli propaganda controls the present, as Orwell would say, they will control the future. You can put a stop to that. It is remember that this struggle is not a one night  event but  a long arduos process and against an  adversary that whilst morally and ethically bankrupt is resourceful and resilient. Prepare for a long struggle…


  1. Excellent article.

    Comment by Manny — April 2, 2011 @ 12:22 pm | Reply

  2. The “letter from Mandela to Thomas Friedman” was not written by Mandela. It was written by Arjan El Fassed in 2001 in the satirical style then being employed by Thomas Friedman, of writing mock letters from one world leader to another. Although it carries El Fassed’s byline, it has been repeatedly mistaken for an actual letter from Mandela. It is not. It is a piece of satire.

    To quote Arjan El Fassed:
    “The main purpose of the Mandela-memo was to respond in a satirical way to Thomas Friedman using the exact same style and even phrases he uses in his columns. Obviously, the ‘mock memo’ had been forwarded to several e-mail lists containing the memo, which originally included the title “Mandela’s First Memo to Thomas Friedman” and a byline “by Arjan El Fassed”, but eventually was forwarded without my name and sometimes without title. …. In various posts I read, the subject title was changed for example, “Mandela supports…”, “must read”, etc. Perhaps it was wishful thinking. If Nelson Mandela would seriously have written to the New York Times, wouldn’t the New York Times just publish it? Moreover, I believe Nelson Mandela has better things to do then responding to columns written by Thomas Friedman.”

    Comment by Michael — July 24, 2013 @ 9:59 pm | Reply

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