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Xolisa: The South Africa/Israel Comparison - Where Is It Now?

Xolisa in Xhosa means "bring about peace."  Xhosa is the native language of Nelson Mandela, and is one of the 11 official languages of South Africa.  During the 1970's, South Africa was the pariah of the world, because of its official policy of "apartheid."  Apartheid in Afrikaans means "apartness," and was established as official government policy in 1948.  It consisted of South Africans of non-European descent not being allowed to vote, and to be separated from South Africans of European descent, often through forced removal.  Because of this policy, South Africa was expelled from virtually all international organizations, and had stringent laws placed against it in regards to trade and investment.  Also, in the 1970's was the Yom Kippur War and the Arab oil embargo.  The two were to merged, to try to place Israel in the position of pariah of the world.  This commenced in 1975, when the United Nations' General Assembly passed Resolution 3379, which declared Zionism as a form of racism.  From 1973 to 1975, sub-Saharan African countries was pressured to break off diplomatic relations with Israel, and to vote to pass this resolution.  But the two did not cohere together.  South Africa and Israel just were not thrown into the same pot together.  In 1991, the United Nations' General Assembly passed Resolution 4686, which revoked Resolution 3379, and sub-Saharan African nations re-established diplomatic relations with Israel.  So there was some marked differences, but what were they?

1.  South Africa under apartheid, wanted to place Bantu people, like the Xhosa, in "Bantustans."  Where South Africa recognized them, but no any other nation in the world did.  The apartheid pillar of separateness.

2.  The international community now wants a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.  Many Israeli politicians, like Israeli President Shimon Peres, wants this as well.  Many Israeli political parties and non-government organizations in Israel also wants them.  But the current ruling government in Israel, wants oneness, not the South African apartheid model of separateness.

3.  Israel is not isolated from the international community like apartheid South Africa was.  There has been efforts to boycott and disinvest from the West Bank settlements.  But this is difficult due to identifying products produced there, and they only make up a tiny fraction of what Israel produces.  Which lends weight to the West Bank settlements are not economically important to Israel.

One thing that never happened in South Africa after the fall of apartheid in 1994, was a flight of South Africans of European descent, nor a massacre of South Africans of European descent.  It is just that South Africans of non-European descent were allowed to vote for the first time, serve public office, and live where they wished.  But it did not change landownership.  In South Africa now 86% of the land is owned by South Africans of European descent.  Which means they still have possession of two key sectors of the South African economy:  agricultural and South Africa's vast mineral wealth.  The biggest fear in South Africa before the 1994 general election, was that apartheid was going to lift and tribalism were going to set in.  The Inkatha Freedom Party is ran by the Zulu royal family.  They were threatening to not participate in the elections, and break Natal off into a separate Zulu kingdom.  But they were encourage to stay in the general elections, and keep Natal a part of South Africa.

What is the Palestinian equivalent to this scenario?

Mahmoud Abbas is a smoker and he is 77 years old.  He has been ruling by emergency decree since 2009, when the Palestinian Constitution allowed him 1 year of extended emergency rule.  Palestinian elections were schedule in May 2011, but were never held.  Under the Palestinian Constitution, the Speaker of the Palestinian National Assembly is next in line to become President.  This could happen if Abbas dies while in office, or it could be the start of an armed struggle.

So the two problems which need to be addressed are:

1.  The West Bank settlements are not economically important to Israel.  In the current polls, Benyamin Netanyahu leading the Likud Party is in the lead.  So what is the international leverage that can be used on Israel, to realize that the settlements are more of a liability?

2.  Addressing the Palestinian political situation.  Can the Fatah Party stay viable without the absoluteness of Mahmoud Abbas?  The Palestinians need a strong leader, and with Abbas' passing will it open the way to armed struggle between the Palestinian political factions?

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Talking to the Enemy: the South African Experience. by President Thabo Mbeki May 24, 2010

...the path to the negotiations became possible once the dominant ruling power in our country realised that it could not achieve its objectives by any other means, including by continuing resort to the considerable means of repression it had at its disposal.

...the political leadership [understood] that:

· the national economy had entered into decline and was getting into the position that it could not generate the resources the regime needed to maintain itself in power;

... with the loss of the support of the major Western powers, its international isolation would be complete, whereas its enemy, our liberation movement, would gain universal acceptance and support:

· it needed to engage in negotiations before it was defeated - while it remained the governing authority - to secure as much power for itself as possible, taking into account the changed balance of forces.

... because of the absence of any external mediator, the negotiating parties could focus on the real issues that would bring their constituencies into the settlement, without having to proceed in a manner that would have to take into account whatever might have been the views and interests of international interlocutors acting as mediators: this also meant that the negotiating parties had to take full ownership of the outcomes of the negotiations, with no possibility to renege on the basis that external mediators had obliged them to accept propositions with which they were not comfortable.

... the Soviet Union had collapsed. This deprived the regime of the possibility to secure the support of the major Western governments on the basis that it was their ally in the struggle to defeat 'Soviet domination' first of South Africa and of Africa as a whole.

It was Thabo Mbeki's economic policies, while his two terms as president, that was strongly against land reform. Which kept the majority of land under ownership of South Africans of European descent.  So this Xhosa president, like Nelson Mandela, saw not changing landownership could still maintain South Africa's economic supremacy.  Would that also apply to Mahmoud Abbas if he kept the Israeli settlers in Palestine, with the high tax revenues they would be providing the Palestinian Authority?

The situation in Palestine is quite different, because every Palestinian knows exactly what plot of land he owns. 

Mahmoud Abbas is not an elected leader, so his authority will not be recognized by Palestinians if he does not make decisions that they find pleasing.

If you are referring to the present, Mahmoud Abbas is not an elected leader.  But what he is deemed as, he is currently now President of the Palestinian Authority.  The big question is:  are the Palestinians going to have new elections, where he will be re-elected, or who the successor will be?  Because under the Palestinian Constitution, the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council is next in line.  If Abbas dies while in office, or will the speaker be elected to be the new President.  But post-apartheid South Africa is an excellent example of reconciliation and forgiveness, which is a requirement for Israeli-Palestinian peace.  In post-apartheid South Africa it was reconciliation and forgiveness between the Bantus, which kept the Inkatha Freedom Party from breaking off Natal into a separate Zulu kingdom.  It brought the Coloureds -- a mixture of Khoikhoi and Dutch, into supporting the African National Congress, and most important of all, no mass exodus of South Africans of European descent out of the country, or their mass slaughter by Bantus.  Because a great deal of the internal economic policies of apartheid South Africa were kept in place.  As oppose to the disastrous land expropriations that we performed in neighboring Zimbabwe, which destroyed the country as an agricultural exporter and fueled the highest inflation rate in the world.

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