As the noose of resistance begins to tighten around the neck of Israel’s apartheid regime, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bewilderment must not be construed as an expression of ignorance. Equally, the display of shock and anger by his entire cabinet must be viewed as a mask of hypocrisy adopted for the benefit of fellow Israelis and their western allies.
The truth is captured eloquently by prominent Palestinian author and journalist Ramzy Baroud: Palestinian youth are protesting because they experience daily humiliation and endure the unrelenting violence of the Israeli occupation. In short, Israel’s suffocating policies of apartheid, administered ruthlessly by Netanyahu’s racist right-wing coalition, is responsible for the current wave of protests and violence.
Many analysts assert correctly that the present generation of Palestinian youth, many of whom may have been born after the 2000 Al-Aqsa Intifada, are restless and anxious to have their human rights without further delay. “This generation grew up oppressed, confined and unfree at complete odds with the misleading ‘Peace Process’ lexicon that has prolonged a strange paradox between fantasy and reality,” says Baroud.
Strangely, while these protests are intensifying and shaping a new form of resistance, Israel remains adamant about showcasing its settler-colonial project as civilised, tolerant and democratic. Nothing could be further from the truth, as scathing reports about Israel’s savagery hit world capitals. Social media ensures that there is no hiding place for Israel’s crimes against humanity.
Johannesburg in South Africa is no exception, yet it has emerged that Israel’s hasbara (propaganda) campaign is looking for candidates from amongst the country’s traditional leaders, African Churches and other faith groups to undertake a mission of “peace” to the Holy Land. What’s forgotten in the excitement of such free trips, is that the notion of “peace” is expected to transform into solidarity with the brutal aggressor and contempt for its victims. This is the objective of hasbara and on no account will participants in any such “peace” mission to Israel be allowed to deviate from the set agenda.
Many South Africans will still be familiar with similar campaigns by the erstwhile National Party-led apartheid government. Much is known today of huge secret budgets and elaborate PR campaigns to present apartheid as normal and those opposed to it as barbarians, uncivilised and communist-linked terrorists.
Normalising the abnormal. This is what Israel’s hasbara is all about. Deception is its modus operandi. Dishonesty is par for the course. Discrediting the Palestinian freedom struggle is its bottom line.
A huge amount of money is being spent to use hasbara-riders in clandestine efforts to neutralise and discredit South Africa’s Palestine solidarity activists. Thus far, the Israelis have failed to line up credible and principled pro-Palestine activists in photo opportunities with baby killers such as Netanyahu, but that doesn’t mean that pro-Israel South African lobbyists have given up.
It is ironic that during its own apartheid era South Africa hatched elaborate plans to win the hearts and minds of black Americans to boost its standing in the world, while today apartheid Israel is targeting black South Africans to improve its tawdry image. And as Ron Nixon records in his book dealing with South Africa’s global propaganda war, “Selling Apartheid”, lobbying enjoyed a strong relationship between government and business.
He cites the role of Anglo American Corporation’s Harry Oppenheimer, who set up the South Africa Foundation, which played a prominent role in helping to block international economic sanctions against apartheid. “Leaders of the foundation added that its function was ‘imbued with the ideal of presenting South Africa’s case at home and overseas’ by countering outside ‘pressures’ and ‘misunderstandings’.”
As it was back then, Israel’s apartheid regime and its business allies in South Africa are armed with unlimited financial resources to wage propaganda warfare. While Israel is fighting to maintain its brutal military occupation, fearless Israeli journalist Amira Hass has pointed out during her current speaking tour of South Africa, the Palestinians are fighting for their freedom.
Hasbara may hoodwink some people willing to turn a blind eye to the constant humiliation and human suffering imposed on the Palestinians by the state of Israel. However, as sure as night follows day, most South Africans know in their hearts that Israeli apartheid is doomed.
The writer is an Executive Member of South Africa’s Media Review Network
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.