Monday, August 02, 2004
Interview with South Africa's ambassador to Israel
It is not unusual to see the Israel/Palestine situation compared to apartheid South Africa. The language has been coopted by pro-Palestinian voices (apartheid wall, bantustans in the West Bank) as have some of the tactics of pro-Palestinian activists (divestment campaigns). Given these trends, and the complex and changing relationship between Israel and apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa, the interview with Major General Fumanekile Gqiba in Ha'aretz today is a fascinating read.
The diminutive, straight-talking former commander in Umkhonto We Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), the armed wing of the African National Congress, is not fettered by the carefully constructed utterances of career diplomats cautious not to offend. He has been dispatched by his president to build a new relationship with Israel, but the government of Israel, he emphasizes, should not "question our relationship with the Palestinians" and must remember that Israel was once "part and parcel of the old regime [in South Africa]. They supported them until the last. So they cannot overnight expect us to be kissing their cheeks. We have to build the relationship. And it's a two-way thing. We are serious about building this relationship, which was damaged by them, not by us."And it goes on from there.