Jun 15, 2012
By Joel Moskowitz
Johannesburg – In late May the government of South Africa announced that it will require that merchants not mislabel products “made in the occupied Palestinian Territories,” as “made in Israel.” Israel summoned the South African ambassador to protest and a spokesman for the foreign ministry accused the government of South Africa of racism. Israel feels that she is being singled out from dozens of other countries with territorial conflicts. However, for years already in the European Union, Israel has had to accept that products made in Judea and Samaria do not get similar preferential tariffs as products made on the other side of the Green Line. Britain allows merchants to label food as made by Palestinians or by “settlers.” With this latest proposal by the government in Pretoria, the tide does not seem to be turning in Israel’s favor.
The hypocrisy of Europe in the postcolonial era has been known for years. The only reason the Brits, the French and others pick on Israel is because of the guilt they feel for their own colonial crimes and because of their failure to hold onto their empires. But the South Africans?
The history of South Africa is stained with oppression, Apartheid and racial laws that rivaled Nazi Germany. Until around 1990 it was illegal for a white and a black to have intimate relations. Yet when the history of the post Apartheid era is written it will show a newly freed people choosing reconciliation over revenge, how the formerly oppressed seek to improve their lot by opportunity, not by reallocation and redistribution of assets nor by vengeance.
South Africa it seems can get a pass for singling out Israel on this issue. It is understandable if you look at it from their perspective, a formerly oppressed people siding against the oppressors elsewhere. While a valid argument is made that Israel is not the aggressor, when push comes to shove — to the uninformed, Israel has the air force, army and big weapons; the Palestinians do not.
Because of the misperception of the uninformed it is easy to blame Israel’s problems on public relations and of course anti-Semitism. The reality is slightly more complicated than that. Most of the world cares little about the nuances of international political intrigue. They see a world that is progressively ridding itself of undemocratic regimes. While the successor states may need a lot of work in building truly egalitarian societies the first baby steps seem like a step in the right direction.
It’s time for Israel to realize that it’s no longer about who is wrong or right or who has more of a claim to the land. It is about the occupation of a people who have been shafted by everyone especially their own Arab brethren. Much as I’d love to wave a magic wand and make the Palestinian problem disappear for my beloved Israel, the truth is more complex. The world is watching and ultimately, if Israel wants to remain a member in good standing in the family of nations she will have to do more than improve her public relations. We can decry the hypocrisy of France or England but we can’t pull the same on countries like South Africa. And that should be a chilling wake up call to Israel and her supporters.
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