European and American politicians and bureaucrats refer frequently to “shared values” when they seek to justify their support for the state of Israel. This is usually taken to mean a shared commitment to democracy and other media-friendly facades. Don’t believe them.
Democratic values do not include institutionalised discrimination against citizens from minority groups. And yet Israel treats 20 per cent of its citizens who happen to be non-Jews in precisely this way. The Afrikaans word for this is “apartheid”, and it was driven out of South Africa almost 30 years ago. Earlier this year, Israel was accused by B’Tselem, one of its most respected human rights organisations, of implementing “apartheid”. The charge was repeated by Human Rights Watch in April.
Western governments infamously backed the apartheid regime in Pretoria until the last minute. Britain’s Margaret Thatcher and US President Ronald Reagan were among apartheid South Africa’s most ardent supporters. Both also backed Israel, as their successors do to this day.
Haaretz reported in September that “several hundred” Afrikaners have converted to Judaism and moved to Israel. “Like many Orthodox Jews, they also tend to be quite right-wing in their politics [and] many have ended up living in West Bank settlements,” said the Israeli newspaper.
This is not surprising. In 2006, Chris McGreal investigated for the Guardian the “clandestine alliance between Israel and the apartheid regime” in South Africa.” In 1976, said McGreal, South African Prime Minister John Vorster was “feted” in Jerusalem, the same man who was “interned as a Nazi sympathiser” during the Second World War. The far-right has a natural home in Israel.
In 1984, James Adams published The Unnatural Alliance about the links between Israel and South Africa. At any one time, he said, there were around 23,000 Israeli citizens working in apartheid South Africa, mainly in defence and related industries. Adams suggested that Pretoria helped Israel to test its nuclear weapons in the Indian Ocean.
This “unnatural” connection between Western states — of which apartheid South Africa was one — and Israel is, in reality, nothing of the kind. European history is full of settler-colonialism, genocide, and imperialism. Ask the people of the Congo what the Belgians did there; ask the people of Libya what the Italians did there; ask the people of Angola what the Portuguese did there. Ask the people of South Africa who support the Palestinians in their anti-apartheid struggle against Israel’s colonial occupation.
It is no coincidence that the US and Canada back Israel to the hilt. European settlers and their descendants massacred the indigenous people and took over a whole continent, leaving the original inhabitants to live on what Bill Bryson called “the meanest, most unproductive land” in his 1994 book Made in America. “Between 1830 and 1895…” wrote Bryson, “[T]he virtual extermination of the buffalo was not simply a matter of sloppy overkill… but the result of ‘a conscious policy connived at by the railways, the army, and the cattle ranchers as a means of subduing the Indians [sic] and keeping them on their reservations.” The US government, Bryson added, made 400 treaties with the indigenous people, “and broke every one of them”.The Palestinians will recognise this sort of treatment. They will be hard-pressed to find even a single example of Israel fulfilling its obligations towards the people living in the land that it occupies, despite the agreements it has signed. And we’d be equally hard pressed to give an example of any concession that Israel has made during the moribund “peace process”.
Israel’s intentions and objectives are, quite simply, the same as those of European colonialism in earlier times. The state was after all, sold to Western colonial states by the Zionists as “Europe’s bulwark against Asia… the vanguard of culture against barbarianism”; “white supremacist colonialism”. The fact that the self-declared “Jewish state” has never declared where its borders are, uniquely among UN member states, betrays the expansionist, colonial nature of the Zionist project.
The humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip is not the result of a natural disaster. It is the result of a conscious decision taken for political reasons to deprive fellow human beings of basic necessities. Media reports in 2012 revealed that Israel used a “calorie count” to allow just enough food into Gaza “to avoid malnutrition”, and conducted its siege accordingly.
These particular “shared values” are nothing to be proud of. European and US settler-colonialism is being replicated by Israel. The shrugging of European shoulders when Israel bombs Gaza, steals Palestinian land, and allows its “hilltop thugs” — illegal settlers — to attack Palestinians and their crops because the occupation state “shares our values” allows the Israelis to act with impunity. No amount of European and American donations to keep the corrupt Palestinian Authority afloat can ever compensate for that.
Remember this the next time you hear such “values” being mentioned. We are simply being reminded that Israel is “one of us” and is doing what the West can no longer do overtly, but — if the rise of far-right populism across Europe and the US is anything to go by — probably wishes it still could.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.