Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

An open letter to Cosatu President, Willie Madisha

DEIR YASSIN - startling evidence
About Maurice Ostroff

An Open Letter to Cosatu President, Willie Madisha


Dear Mr. Madisha


It was with great sadness that I read the headline in the Mail and Guardian of July 10, reporting your speech to Cosatu  "Apartheid Israel worse than apartheid SA".

I am sad because I can fully appreciate that in the light of the information available to you from mainstream media, the situation appears as you described it. Yet from personal experience as a member of anti-apartheid movements when I lived in South Africa as well as from my experience in Israel, I know that the accusation that Israel is an apartheid state is completely baseless.


I hope sir that you will allow me to present some factual information, which, as a reasonable man, may lead you to reconsider your views.



As you well know, in South Africa, apartheid was entrenched in the law and strictly enforced. The law not only denied the vote to Black citizens, it legislated to force discrimination in almost every aspect of daily life. In stark contrast, Israel’s Declaration of Independence specifically ensures complete equality of social and political rights to all inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or gender. Israeli Muslims, Christians, Druse and other minority groups enjoy exactly the same civil and political rights as Jews. They serve in the Knesset and speak freely against the government. On the other hand, Israel's Arab neighbors strictly enforce gender and religious apartheid.


An unblinkered visit to any Israeli hospital will convince the most biased individual about the complete absence of any form of racial discrimination. Arab and Jewish doctors collaborate easily and in some hospitals Arabs outnumber Jewish patients. Especially noticeable after bombing incidents, which have become too common, is the equal treatment given to victims and perpetrators. An Israeli nurse has been quoted saying, "All patients are human beings, but sometimes when we experience these terrible deeds and see the mangled bodies of victims, we have to suppress our emotions when treating the perpetrators. It is so difficult to understand how they can do the inhuman things they do "


Of course Israel is not perfect. There are aspects that need improvement, but we are proud that human rights organizations work vigorously and freely here and that our law courts do not hesitate to rule against the government when necessary. But the defects in Israel are no worse than in most other democracies including the new South Africa. For example the COSATU Political Discussion Document for the September 2006 National Congress states that at a micro-enterprise level, the promise of democracy has been thwarted and that the apartheid world order and discipline have been re-imposed in many South African workplaces.


If you can spare a few moments from your busy schedule, please click on the following links to read more detailed information about apartheid in Israel,  the Israel-SA connection and the part played by Jews in the anti-apartheid movements.



The media and other opinion makers create the impression that there is a direct comparison between the captured Israeli soldier and the Palestinians in Israeli jails. They ignore an all-important difference. The families of Palestinian prisoners in Israel know where their loved ones are. They visit them and communicate by telephone. By contrast, the Palestinians deliberately keep the families of captives in a state of unbearable anxiety by holding their captives incommunicado; emulating the late Yassir Arafat. In an exquisite refinement of torture in 1993, Arafat acknowledged that he knew the fate of missing in action soldier Zachary Baumel and handed one half of Baumel's identity tag to Yitzchak Rabin, with a firm promise that more information about Baumel and other MIA's would be forthcoming. He never kept that promise.


Mr. Madisha, as a family man, I am sure you cannot condone this type of inhuman behavior.  May one hope that you will be moved to demand that, at the very least, the kidnappers allow the captured soldier to be visited by the Red Cross or other neutral persons and to telephone to his parents in their presence.


These same media and other opinion makers ignore the context in which events occur. They ignore, Israel's restrained reaction, until now, to the more than one thousand deadly missiles fired at Israeli towns during the past twelve months since Israel unilaterally left Gaza. They also ignore Palestinians diverting their resources to firing missiles instead of creating employment and trade opportunities in the hothouses left behind by the Israelis. It is difficult to understand their wanton destruction of these valuable assets, which could have done a great deal to improve the quality of life of Gazans.


It is only by the grace of the almighty that casualties have not been greater; certainly not due to lack of intent to kill and maim as many civilians as possible.  In making their hasty judgments, these opinion makers fail to take account of the  "intent and "malice aforethought" of the people who fire these rockets deliberately into populated areas. Surely, you will agree that such deliberate attempts to kill, even when they don’t achieve their objectives, are heinous offences, deserving severest condemnation


For example, at an intersection in Sderot, a town suffering multiple daily rocket attacks, a community center is located adjacent to elementary schools and preschools.  At this normally busy intersection, two craters bear testimony to tragedies narrowly averted through sheer luck or divine intervention.  One missile landed just 15 minutes after the intersection had been filled with children.


By contrast Israel aims its missiles at specific hostile targets, taking pains to minimize collateral damage and holds critical internal enquiries whenever uninvolved persons are hurt unintentionally.


Indeed the Palestinian people deserve a better life, but they have been unfortunate in lacking leadership of the caliber of Nelson Mandela. Who can doubt that, had Yasser Arafat possessed half of Mandela's qualities, he and Ehud Barak, would have achieved a satisfactory peace agreement at Camp David.


The ANC and Hamas

 As the first chairman of the ANC in the Zebediela area, you are no doubt justifiably proud of the Congress' lofty principles set out in the Freedom Charter. While the ANC's empathy with the Palestinians is a natural and understandable result of having been comrades in arms, the commonality unfortunately ends there.


A brief examination of the Hamas Charter, explains the intractability of the present conflict. While the ANC Charter states "South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation - not war" the Hamas Covenant makes it perfectly clear that there is absolutely no room for peaceful negotiation. Article 13 unambiguously declares, "Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."


I believe Sir, you will confirm that this type of irrational hate, had, and still has, no place in ANC thinking. Nor would the ANC tolerate the type of incitement to violence, which has been emanating for years from the mosques and PA controlled media and taught in schools from the earliest age.


Training Programmes for Blacks in Israel during the apartheid era

Not widely known was the unpublicized, ongoing program in Israel during the apartheid era, organized by the Histadrut and opposed by the South African government, to train Black South Africans in leadership agriculture and organization. The Center for International Cooperation ("MASHAV") of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has over the years carried out capacity-building and technology-transfer activities in 30 different African countries. Some of the courses were carried out at several teaching and training facilities in Israel. Others were conducted in the relevant countries, including long-term agricultural projects, The "He-atid" programme also continues to organize training sessions in Israel for Black middle managers.


I would very much appreciate your considered response




Maurice Ostroff

The original  Mail and Guardian article

'Apartheid Israel' worse than apartheid SA  Johannesburg, South Africa                                                  10 July 2006 05:48

The "apartheid Israel state" is worse than the apartheid that was conducted in South Africa, Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) president Willie Madisha said on Monday.

He said Palestinians were being attacked with heavy machinery and tanks used in war, which had never happened in South Africa.

Cosatu and other organisations supporting Palestine have called on government to end diplomatic relations with Israel and establish boycotts and sanctions such as those against apartheid South Africa.

Israel has launched several attacks on Gaza, bombing its main university and firing missiles that have killed Palestinian bystanders.

This follows the capture of an Israeli soldier by Palestinians.

"We see no justification for this attack," said Palestinian ambassador to South Africa Ali Hamileh.

He said while the whole world was talking about one Israeli soldier, more than 10 000 Palestinians were being kept in Israeli jails.

"My leadership made it clear ... the soldier can be released immediately if Israel responds to mediation. The demand for exchange of prisoners is justified by international law. We are not demanding something unacceptable," he said.

Professor of political science Virginia Tilley said South Africa was one of the only places where a vision had been brought forward to address collective punishment of perceived inferiority.

"I can't imagine a better beacon in that struggle than this country and it has stood back. If there is any moral authority in South Africa, it must come into play now," she said.

Madisha said Israel should be seen as an apartheid state and the same sanctions must be applied that were established against South Africa. -- Sapa

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