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Israel an 'apartheid state', says South African Muslim MP they tried to woo

Around about the same time that Al-Jazeera started to publish the Spy Cables, another story about Israel broke in South Africa, and was covered a fair deal in that country's press.

Haaretz, the liberal Israeli newspaper reported that Israel's deputy ambassador in South Africa had written to security at Ben Gurion airport practically begging them not to racially profile or harass a special visitor from South Africa.

Yusuf Cassim, a Muslim member of the South African parliament for the opposition Democratic Alliance party was reportedly given a letter in Hebrew to allow him safe passage through the airport without being detained or harassed.

The security forces at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv are notorious for their racist treatment of Muslims, Arabs and other people of colour. Apparently, even the deputy ambassador knew this.

According to Haaretz, in the letter he wrote: "We implore you to treat Mr. Yusuf Cassim with generosity and respect during the security checks. Please pass it along to all security officials to check Mr. Yusuf Cassim in a way that will leave a good impression and preserve the good relations between the DA and Israel."

The report caused a minor scandal in South Africa. One chapter of the ANC Youth League said the report proved that the Democratic Alliance (its political opponent) was a "friend of Apartheid Israel."

One South African news site reported that Cassim was in the country as part of a DA delegation paid for by the South Africa-Israel Forum, a pro-Israel lobby group. It was "a study tour of Israel to learn and understand the conflict in the Middle East," said one shadow minister with the party.

Speaking to the South African press Cassim said it was a fact-finding trip to the country to help the party formulate and its policies on Palestine and the Israeli government.

What is pretty striking about the incident is how much it seems to have backfired for Israeli propaganda interests.

Cassim and the DA in general came under intense criticism in the country for the visit. And the young MP tried to downplay its significance.

Speaking to Radio Islam, he said that he would be willing to also go on trips organized by pro-Palestine groups: "I am in discussions to make sure that we can go with other pro-Palestinian organizations… And we've all agreed that we need to go on another tour before we can even sit down and have a policy."

Perhaps Cassim is being slightly disingenuous here. But there is no doubt that Israeli racists cannot help themselves: Israeli racism is intractable.

Even someone their officials perceive as a "good Muslim" like Cassim, is treated in a racist manner at the airport. This apparently happened to Cassim too.

"I believe I was targeted and it was clear racial profiling that was taking place, being stopped even before going into the airport and being interrogated and searched and having my bags turned inside and out," Cassim told Radio Islam.

The station asked him to state that his party is not a friend of Israel and that there are no good relations with the country. Cassim replied: "Yes I can do that … as an individual I believe that Israel is an apartheid state."

So much for the Israeli embassy's attempt to keep "good relations" with the opposition in South Africa.

This is a familiar story with Israel. Throughout the history of Zionism, the movement has attempted to recruit collaborators, spies, agents, interlocutors and allies from with Arab and Muslim countries, including from within Palestinian society itself. It achieved some success in this regard. But Zionist promises to these collaborators never come to pass.

The South Lebanon Army was Israel's brutal proxy force throughout the years of its occupation of the south of that country. When Hizballah drove Israel out in 2000, after a sustained and victorious campaign of guerilla warfare, the SLA fled to Israel with them. There they were promised a good life. But, years later, they and their families suffer from the affects of Israeli racism against them too: they are Arabs, after all, and Zionism always has been and always will be fundamentally racist.

Israel's attempts to recruit allies in South Africa are desperate and laughably incompetent, and fall foul of the state's own racism.

An associate editor with The Electronic Intifada, Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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