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May 24, 2010 6:09 AM   Subscribe

In his book The Unspoken Alliance, writer and academic Sasha Polakow-Suransky references documents released by the South African government, indicating that Shimon Peres offered nuclear warheads to PW Botha's apartheid regime. Israel strongly denies the claims.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth (79 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Why would SA even want or need such things? This smells fishy to me.
posted by caddis at 6:31 AM on May 24, 2010


Why would any country need "such things"?
posted by blucevalo at 6:37 AM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why would SA even want or need such things? This smells fishy to me.

From the Guardian article:
South African documents show that the apartheid-era military wanted the missiles as a deterrent and for potential strikes against neighbouring states.

And from this article:
"South Africa's leaders yearned for a nuclear deterrent – which they believed would force the west to intervene on their behalf if Pretoria were ever seriously threatened – and the Israeli proposition put that goal within reach," Polakow-Suransky says in the book.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:44 AM on May 24, 2010


Why would SA even want or need such things?

"Because they were motherfuckers" would seem a perfectly acceptable explanation.

Not that Israel was alone in backing them (and all of the countries that backed Apartied era SA now back Israel).
posted by Artw at 6:47 AM on May 24, 2010


"South Africa wants two, that's right!/One for the black and one for the white/Who's next?" - Tom Lehrer, prescient yet again.
posted by griphus at 6:52 AM on May 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


South Africa had the ability to build nukes since the mid-70s.
posted by PenDevil at 6:59 AM on May 24, 2010


That's aces, EndofInvention. I follow it.
posted by susanharper at 7:05 AM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why would SA even want or need such things? This smells fishy to me.

Fishy? It smells like the Saddam Hussein giving WMDs to terrorists.
posted by three blind mice at 7:10 AM on May 24, 2010


In other news: Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu jailed for violating the terms of his release in 2004.
posted by adamvasco at 7:13 AM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Israel also never admitted to having nuclear weapons in the first place. So, strong denial of anything nuclear-related doesn't count for much.
posted by adipocere at 7:14 AM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not surprising to me.
posted by Xurando at 7:19 AM on May 24, 2010


Nukes are also very effective at granting a perverse kind of legitimacy to any regime. "Got nukes, do you? Well, now we have to pay attention to you." The prestige, if you can call it that, of having nuclear weapons goes well beyond any "obvious" military applications.
posted by a small part of the world at 7:34 AM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


In other news: Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu jailed for violating the terms of his release in 2004.

To be clear, he was sentenced to six months' community service, which he refused. Said he would be in danger, because someone might assault him. So the court gave him 3 months in jail (I assume,) as an alternate punishment.

Further details on the circumstances of his parole agreement violation.
posted by zarq at 7:40 AM on May 24, 2010


So SA rejected the offer? Israel decided against it? What was SA offering, just money?
posted by rosswald at 7:46 AM on May 24, 2010


These documents seem really ambiguous to me. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Israel had entered into an agreement to sell / trade SA nuclear weapons, but these documents don't seem like much of a smoking gun. I'll wait to read Mr. Polakow-Suransky's book to see if additional evidence is forthcoming before passing judgement, though.

It's not discussed in any detail in these articles, but it's worth noting that a possible, very strong reason why Israel might want to enter into such an agreement is to obtain uranium with which they could manufacture additional bombs. South Africa is of course, able to mine uranium domestically and the Uranium Enrichment Corporation of South Africa (UCOR) designed their own inefficient aerodynamic nozzle separation enrichment process.
posted by zarq at 7:58 AM on May 24, 2010


....hit "post" instead of preview....

The enrichment process produces weapons-grade material.
posted by zarq at 7:59 AM on May 24, 2010


http://www.economist.com/culture/displaystory.cfm?story_id=16160755
posted by Postroad at 8:22 AM on May 24, 2010


Fishy? It smells like the Saddam Hussein giving WMDs to terrorists.
tOt smells like Rumsfeld giving Saddam the WMDs in the first place.
posted by Artw at 8:36 AM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]




What was SA offering, just money?

Uranium from mines in occupied Namibia, I think.
posted by carter at 8:53 AM on May 24, 2010


It's possible. Israel did provide a lot of military support for South Africa.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:17 AM on May 24, 2010


South Africa was under UN sanctions at the time. They were also banned from exporting uranium, especially form Namibia, which they occupied. The British mining company Rio Tinto Zinc (RTZ) had uranium mines in occupied Namibia, basically under slave labour conditions. RTZ also had human rights abuses in other parts of the world. Also other countries were also buying uranium from South Africa. So it wasn't an exclusive Israel-South Africa deal. But it did benefit both parties quite a bit.

I think there was also quite a lot of trade in military/police 'technology' form Israel to South Africa, again in contradiction of sanctions. See here (Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress). Israel opposed sanctions against SA for a while and ignored them after saying they were in favour of them.
posted by carter at 9:33 AM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why would SA even want or need such things?

It was widely understood that the white government of South Africa feared being overrun by black communists in a continental alliance. Most of their regional policy at the time consisted of interference in the political affairs of various neighbors to keep them destabilized, and maintaining buffer zones such as Namibia against any land approach. Given historical perspective that proliferation essentially stalled in the 1970s, it may be difficult to see how plausible the strategic calculus for SA was versus being the second African nuclear power.

I'm a bit taken aback by the surprise here overall. It's well known that both Israel and South Africa were strategically aligned, as they had a common interest in being pariah states. (Israel did not at this time have as strong a political lobby in the US including broad support of white evangelicals.)
posted by dhartung at 9:49 AM on May 24, 2010 [12 favorites]


People do realize that South Africa factually admitted to having had nuclear weapons (after standing the capability down), right? Up until that point, and to a lesser extent even thereafter, there had been fears that a dead-ender apartheid regime might choose armageddon in the event of a black uprising. The peaceful transfer of power to Mandela was, in this context, miraculous.
posted by dhartung at 9:58 AM on May 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


In other Israel news...
posted by Thorzdad at 9:58 AM on May 24, 2010


In other Israel news...

Could be worse.
posted by zarq at 10:08 AM on May 24, 2010


If being caught drunk in bondage gear is worse than falsifying passports for an assassination plot, I'm afraid that your perspective could use some recalibration.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 10:16 AM on May 24, 2010


It was a joke. *sigh*
posted by zarq at 10:25 AM on May 24, 2010




Did Israel play a role in 1979 South Africa nuclear test?

From the article:
The committee defined the nuclear facility tested as compact and, in an impressive way, especially clean, emitting little radioactive fallout.
But was any nuclear fallout at all ever detected after the incident? The Vela satellite had bhangmeters* to detect light flashes, but also had additional sensors for radiation. My understanding has always been that other sensors detected nothing, and that specific lack of evidence as well as the satellite's history of mechanical breakdown brought the entire existence of a test into doubt. Am I wrong?


* I must admit I've always been amused by the fact that the sensors in the Vela satellite were nicknamed "bhangmeters" by one of the guys who invented them, after the Hindi, Bengali and Pubjabi word "bhang," for cannabis. The inference is that someone would have to be smoking the stuff to think a bhangmeter would be able to properly detect anything.
posted by zarq at 11:14 AM on May 24, 2010


The Wikipedia page on the Vela incident is quite extensive and interesting.

Regarding radioactive fallout (to answer my own question):
Several U.S. Air Force WC-135B surveillance aircraft flew 25 sorties over that area of the Indian Ocean soon after the "double flash" was reported, but they failed to detect any sign of nuclear radiation. However the WC-135 aircraft never entered the low-pressure air mass that had been over the suspicious area at the time of the light flashes. Low levels of iodine-131 (a short-half-life product of nuclear fission) were reportedly detected in the thyroid glands of sheep in the South Eastern Australian States of Victoria and Tasmania soon after the "detection" of the light flashes. Studies of wind patterns confirmed that fall-out from an explosion in the southern Indian Ocean could have been carried from there to southwestern Australia.
Also:
Also, although the brightness of the flash was explainable only if the flash had occurred in a cloud-free area, the lack of any nuclear debris found by 25 Air Force WC-135 flights through the area could be explained if the detonation had occurred at a heavily-overcast site.
And:
A test in Western Australia conducted a few months later found some increased nuclear radiation levels. However, a detailed study done by New Zealand's National Radiation Laboratory found no such evidence of excess radioactivity, and neither did a U.S. Government-funded nuclear laboratory

posted by zarq at 11:26 AM on May 24, 2010


Israel's complicity in apartheid crimes undermines its attack on Goldstone: To rubbish the former judge's report on Gaza, Israel has dredged up his record in South Africa – while forgetting its own

Thank you for that, homunculus.

I think this paragraph from that article sums up the very essence of Israel's politics in the modern day:

Finally, there is the insidious role that Israel has attempted to play as ideological gatekeeper for acceptable political behaviour among Jews. The attempt to tarnish any criticism of Israel, regardless of its merits, as unjust is untenable; to castigate them as un-Jewish is deplorable. "What saddens me today is that any Jew who speaks out with an independent voice, especially with the conduct of the state of Israel, is regarded as a self-hating Jew," says retired South African constitutional court justice Albie Sachs, who is also Jewish. "Why should someone be made to choose between being a Jew and having a conscience?"

Israel may well be a Jewish state (and one of the few true theocracies left on Earth, with only Jews allowed complete citizenship), but that doesn't mean all Jews must agree with their politics at all times. Of course the Jews are more than just a religious group, they're also an ethnic one, but since when does the state of Israel dictate the beliefs of all Jews? Since when is it un-Jewish to disagree with a country's politics? What's worse is that by making every bit of its conflicts seem like a religious matter, Israel inadvertently (or perhaps deliberately) enforces the idea that all Muslims are terrorists, when it is clear to anyone who cares to educate themselves on the subject that the Israel/Palestine conflict is purely political. No matter who you happen to agree with, that fact will not change. Palestinians don't hate Jews – there were plenty of Jews in Palestine before Israel came along, and they lived quite peacefully there – they hate Israelis, and those two things are not synonymous.

Bit off topic that, but I felt the need to say it.

Now, as for the original article, I wasn't the least bit surprised when I first read it two days ago. Israel have been working on their own apartheid regime for a long time. I see no reason why they wouldn't have supported another.

Oh, and for those of you who believe that the conflict in Gaza only affects "Muslim Terrorists", it might interest you to know that on Holy Thursday this year, two buses full of Palestinian Christians on their way to Jerusalem (some of the estimated 2000-3000 Palestinian Christians who were given permits to enter the city at all) were ambushed by Israeli settlers throwing rocks and fruit.
posted by MaiaMadness at 1:28 PM on May 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


and one of the few true theocracies left on Earth, with only Jews allowed complete citizenship

Maybe you mean cultural citizenship - that only Jews are true Israelis - but it's certainly the case that Arabs can be and are legal citizens of the state of Israel. In fact, they make up 20% of the population.
posted by dd42 at 2:15 PM on May 24, 2010


Maybe you mean cultural citizenship - that only Jews are true Israelis - but it's certainly the case that Arabs can be and are legal citizens of the state of Israel. In fact, they make up 20% of the population.

This I know, but there are many rights they are not afforded, such as military service, with the exception of the Druze (technically, they're allowed to join if they wish, I think, but they are not drafted), nor are they sufficiently represented politically (though they represent 20% of the overall population, only 10% of the parliament is Arab). They're effectively second class citizens, and they are treated as such by police (many Arab protesters have been killed during demonstrations or badly injured by police violence, vs. no Jews since 1948) and the population as a whole.
posted by MaiaMadness at 2:35 PM on May 24, 2010


Do they still have the racist marriage laws?
posted by Artw at 2:43 PM on May 24, 2010


In case any one is interested, I posted links to and information about the Orr Report findings regarding Israeli Arabs in one of the previous I/P threads.

...and they are treated as such by police (many Arab protesters have been killed during demonstrations or badly injured by police violence, vs. no Jews since 1948) and the population as a whole.

MaiaMadness, could you please provide cites (links) for the incidents you're referring to? I'd be interested in reading about them.
posted by zarq at 2:53 PM on May 24, 2010


Do they still have the racist marriage laws?

Did you have a constructive opinion to contribute or are you simply here to threadshit?
posted by zarq at 2:53 PM on May 24, 2010


Do they still have the racist marriage laws?

Which ones do you mean? The Citizenship and Entry Laws denying citizenship to residents of Gaza and the West Bank, even if they marry Israeli citizens? Other than that, Wikipedia has this to say:

"Intermarriage is prohibited by Jewish law.[198] In the case of mixed Arab-Jewish marriages, emotions run especially high. A 2007 opinion survey found that more than half of Israeli Jews believed intermarriage was equivalent to “national treason”. A group of Jewish men in Pisgat Zeev have started patrolling the town to stop Jewish women from dating Arab men. The municipality of Petah Tikva has also announced an initiative to prevent interracial relationships, providing a telephone hotline for friends and family to report Jewish girls who date Arab men as well as psychologists to provide counselling. The town of Kiryat Gat launched a school programme in schools to warn Jewish girls against dating local Bedouin men.[199][200]

In February 2010 Maariv reported that the Tel Aviv municipality has instituted an official, government-sponsored counselling program to discourage Jewish-Arab dating. The anti-missionary group Yad L'Achim has also encouraged Jewish women to leave their non-Jewish husbands."


Dunno if that means it's actually illegal or just very frowned upon...
posted by MaiaMadness at 2:57 PM on May 24, 2010


MaiaMadness, could you please provide cites (links) for the incidents you're referring to? I'd be interested in reading about them.

This is a link to a PDF of an article by Ahmed Sa'adi who claims the only protesters to have been killed since 1948 have been Arabs. This is a summary of a report by the Mossawa centre regarding racism and discrimination in Israel. As for the incident I mentioned with regards to Palestinian Christians being attacked by Israeli settlers, I have looked for articles, but found none. I don't think that particular incident ever reached the media, but I know of it, because a friend of my mother's has family who were there.
posted by MaiaMadness at 3:06 PM on May 24, 2010


What's worse is that by making every bit of its conflicts seem like a religious matter, Israel inadvertently (or perhaps deliberately) enforces the idea that all Muslims are terrorists, when it is clear to anyone who cares to educate themselves on the subject that the Israel/Palestine conflict is purely political.

It is most certainly political. However, both the PA and Israel's far right wing have characterized the conflict as a religious one at various points. The Palestinians lay claim to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, just as right wing Israeli Jews speak about the settlements in Gaza as their religious birthright. The mosque and the Temple wall in Jerusalem are frequently cited as a primary reason why that city is so important to both groups.

One other thing.... Israel's far right wing characterize all Palestinians as terrorists. It is true that the Israeli government has at times been dominated by those extremists. However, it is not true that all government propaganda or even the Israeli media have always tried to portray all Arabs or Palestinians as terrorists.
posted by zarq at 3:12 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Israel's far right wing characterize all Palestinians as terrorists. It is true that the Israeli government has at times been dominated by those extremists. However, it is not true that all government propaganda or even the Israeli media have always tried to portray all Arabs or Palestinians as terrorists.

Well, no, it's just the unavoidable outcome of a lot of their actions, as evidenced by the outright hatred for Palestinians seen in so many Israelis. Whether it's deliberate or not is another matter entirely.

I do know that Palestine has its fair share of the blame for a lot of what's going on, and I won't deny that there are agents on both sides trying to turn this into a holy war; it is far easier to get people on your side if you use their religion as bait. However, to me personally, this will never change the fact that Israel has retaliated the actions of a few people throwing rocks in frustration at their homes being taken away from them with massive bombings, occupation and terror.

My mother's church had a visit from a Palestinian Christian woman who was born in Jerusalem before the war broke out. She said that she had revisited her childhood home and held a talk there, hoping to change some minds. She had told them about how they had had to flee, unable to bring a single one of their possessions, and one of the things they were most loathe to leave behind was her mother's piano. She had described it to great detail, and told them how much her mother missed that piano. So the then current owner of the house said, "But, that's our piano! You know, your mother could come visit and play it once if she likes." It's completely indescribable how insulting it must be to be told, "Why don't you come visit the house that used to be yours and borrow the piano that you used to own?"

A lot of people see this conflict as power-play, holy war, etc. I just see it for what I truly believe it to be: people who were forced to leave their lives behind to go live in shacks, who 60 years later continue to be persecuted and punished for crimes they never committed, or were forced to commit.
posted by MaiaMadness at 3:29 PM on May 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Do they still have the racist marriage laws?

Israel may or may not have racist marriage laws, but I struggle to see their relevance to a discussion of Israel supplying apartheid South Africa with nuclear weapons.

I'm a bit taken aback by the surprise here overall.

Most of the surprise is coming from people who, well, I'm not surprised their feigning surprise, you know?
posted by rodgerd at 3:39 PM on May 24, 2010


It's not surprising that two apartheid states based on racial superiority would work together and the historical record is quite clear that Israel and apartheid-era South Africa were close allies. The evidence in this case does not seem to be concrete, but it really should't surprise anyone.
posted by cell divide at 3:43 PM on May 24, 2010


Israel may or may not have racist marriage laws, but I struggle to see their relevance to a discussion of Israel supplying apartheid South Africa with nuclear weapons.

I sort of do; racist marriage laws aren't too far from apartheid, you know? Of course, I could be completely misunderstanding the poster's point in addressing the issue...
posted by MaiaMadness at 3:44 PM on May 24, 2010


Well, we were talking about how everyone's an equal citizen there. It’s a bit hard for Arabs to equal citizens if they’re forbidden to marry Jews, no?

Though to be more technically correct about it it’s more that all marriages for everyone have to be in faith, and it’s less that it’s forbidden and more that there’s no provision for it.
posted by Artw at 3:45 PM on May 24, 2010


Well, we were talking about how everyone's an equal citizen there. It’s a bit hard for Arabs to equal citizens if they’re forbidden to marry Jews, no?

Well, they can be separate, but equal, right?

Hey, why are you all looking at me like that? Did I say something wrong?
posted by Skeptic at 4:36 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


That the collaboration became so deep and long-lasting testifies to how realpolitik can mutate into Weltanschauung, the word the Nazis used for a “world view”.

Weltanschauung is, of course, a perfectly normal word that predates the Nazis by a couple of centuries or more. I suspect that the author's intent in offering the "explanation" (to borrow his or her scare-quotes) was more to imply an association than to inform the reader. This innuendo - and the fact that The Economist's editors thought the explanation to be necessary or appropriate for its readers - is further evidence of this magazine's sad decline.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:59 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


MaiaMadness wrote: Israel may well be a Jewish state (and one of the few true theocracies left on Earth, with only Jews allowed complete citizenship)

You're directly inverting the truth. Israel is not a theocracy; there is no religious test for citizenship; in fact every country in the Middle East with the exception of Israel and Lebanon is Islamic. Hardly any Jews remain in those countries, having been driven out by officially-sanctioned pogroms; many of them prohibit the residence or acquisition of citizenship by Jews.

since when does the state of Israel dictate the beliefs of all Jews?

It never has.

Since when is it un-Jewish to disagree with a country's politics?

Ditto.

What's worse is that by making every bit of its conflicts seem like a religious matter,

Another falsehood.

Israel inadvertently (or perhaps deliberately) enforces the idea that all Muslims are terrorists,

And another.

there were plenty of Jews in Palestine before Israel came along, and they lived quite peacefully there

They were subject to increasing violence and pogroms and, by the time of the formation of the State, had been driven out of many towns. I doubt that you have any interest in history, but your readers might read these articles and follow the links from there.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:20 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have a lot of trouble seeing why Israel - or any country - would expose itself to the potentially massive liability of giving nuclear weapons to a country or group it doesn't control. It's the basic problem with arguments that countries will deliberately proliferate to terrorists - given that nukes can be traced to their country of origin after use, why would any country risk the retaliation, or at the very least permanent pariah status, that would accompany another country's use of their weapons?

Then there's the issue of whether South Africa would trust Israel's nuclear weapons to work - i.e., not be deliberately sabotaged. Is this really the kind of weapon that you want to outsource? Anyway, South Africa built, and then gave up, its own nuclear weapons, becoming the only country ever to give up nukes it built itself (some former Soviet republics gave up their weapons, too).
posted by Dasein at 8:05 PM on May 24, 2010


Boy, Joe, you sure do have a lot to say about... nothing to do with the issue of whether Israel propped up the racist regime of South Africa with nuclear weapons. Care to share your view on that, or is a bit uncomfortable?

I have a lot of trouble seeing why Israel - or any country - would expose itself to the potentially massive liability of giving nuclear weapons to a country or group it doesn't control.

Well:
By 1976, the relationship had changed so profoundly that South Africa's prime minister, John Vorster, could not only make a visit to Jerusalem but accompany Israel's two most important leaders, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, to the city's Holocaust memorial to mourn the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis.

Neither Israeli appears to have been disturbed by the fact that Vorster had been an open supporter of Hitler, a member of South Africa's fascist and violently antisemitic Ossewabrandwag and that he was interned during the war as a Nazi sympathiser.[...]

Alon Liel, a former Israeli ambassador to Pretoria who headed his foreign ministry's South Africa desk in the 80s, once told the Guardian that gold-rich South Africa funded the joint military projects and Israel provided much of the technical knowledge.

"After 1976, there was a love affair between the security establishments of the two countries and their armies," he said. "We were involved in Angola as consultants to the [South African] army. You had Israeli officers there cooperating with the army. The link was very intimate."
Plenty weird, perhaps, but if the Guardian's reading of Apartheid-era officials and documentation is correct, the regimes were working together closely, with 'the South African government's yearbook described the two countries having one thing in common above all else: "They are both situated in a predominantly hostile world inhabited by dark peoples."'

No doubt the South African archives, the Guardian, and Israeli former officials are "a sad decline in standards", too.
posted by rodgerd at 11:19 PM on May 24, 2010


Boy, Joe, you sure do have a lot to say about... nothing to do with the issue of whether Israel propped up the racist regime of South Africa with nuclear weapons.

I was responding to other users' comments. Why is your ire directed against them and not me? Most of the comments in this thread, like other threads mentioning Israel, have nothing to do with the FPP.

Care to share your view on that, or is a bit uncomfortable?

Why should it be uncomfortable? Do you suppose that I was involved with it or something?

As it happens I do have a view on it. I can't see how nuclear weapons could possibly have propped up the South African regime. They were never aimed at the enemies of Apartheid, nor could they have been used that way. In the end South Africa itself decided that they were useless.

Incidentally, I think you're confusing Dasein and myself. But for what it's worth, the Guardian's standards have never been higher.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:42 AM on May 25, 2010


I have a lot of trouble seeing why Israel - or any country - would expose itself to the potentially massive liability of giving nuclear weapons to a country or group it doesn't control.

Well, Israel itself got plenty of its nuclear weapons know-how from France, as well as a turnkey ballistic missile -that same Jericho missile mentioned in these articles- to carry those nukes.

Why does North Korea proliferate all about the place? Why did Pakistan allow AQ Khan to sell nuclear hardware and know-how to plenty of countries which weren't particularly reliable allies? Why did the Soviets help out the Chinese with their program until 1959?

There are a lot of reasons: greed often figures prominently, as do stupidity and mischief. It's quite wrong to assume that nation states and their political leaderships are rational actors.
posted by Skeptic at 2:02 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I doubt that you have any interest in history

Given my extensive comments in this thread, that's a pretty thin line of reasoning you just followed. I doubt that you have any interest in an objective view point.

As for the rest of your comments, perhaps you ought to read the article I cited, linked to a bit further up. The state of Israel is blatantly trying to defame this man by calling him un-Jewish for disagreeing with Israel's politics. What more evidence do you need?
posted by MaiaMadness at 3:53 AM on May 25, 2010


Israel may well be a Jewish state (and one of the few true theocracies left on Earth, with only Jews allowed complete citizenship)

Technically, Israel is not a theocracy because (a) it isn't governed by religious clerics (in this way, Britain is more theocratic, having constitutionally reserved seats for Anglican bishops in the House of Lords), and (b) while it is a Jewish state, the test of Jewishness is ethnic rather than religious (basically, from what I understand, if you're Jewish enough for the Nazis to have killed you, you're Jewish enough to apply for an Israeli passport, even if you're an atheist or a Buddhist or whatever).
posted by acb at 4:03 AM on May 25, 2010


As for the rest of your comments, perhaps you ought to read the article I cited, linked to a bit further up. The state of Israel is blatantly trying to defame this man by calling him un-Jewish for disagreeing with Israel's politics.

Please learn to link to citations, so I don't need to read your comments more than once. Here is the correct citation. You want the last paragraph on the page, particularly this:
The attempt to tarnish any criticism of Israel, regardless of its merits, as unjust is untenable; to castigate them as un-Jewish is deplorable.

If you read the paragraph slowly you will see that:
1) This is an editorial observation. It is how the writer Gary Younge characterises the views of "retired South African constitutional court justice Albie Sachs";
2) Albie Sachs' quotation does not say anything like this. He said "[...] any Jew who speaks out with an independent voice, especially with the conduct of the state of Israel, is regarded as a self-hating Jew";
3) Albie Sachs is self-evidently not talking about the State of Israel, but about the view of Jews in general;
4) Even if he were to be talking about the state of Israel, it wouldn't support Gary Younge's observation;
5) Gary Younge is easily confused and cannot recall what the subject of his sentence is supposed to be; was it "attempts to tarnish any criticism of Israel" or "people who criticise Israel"?
6) The Guardian could really do with the services of an editor;
7) Perhaps you ought to read your source material more thoroughly;
8) And in any case refrain from making damfool observations that are not grounded in fact.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:59 AM on May 25, 2010


"Boy, Joe, you sure do have a lot to say about... nothing to do with the issue of whether Israel propped up the racist regime of South Africa with nuclear weapons." - posted by rodgerd at 2:19 AM on May 25 [+] [!]

It seemed like he was the only actually engaging instead of the usual pile-on BS. It seems like you are the on who is uncomfortable.

"Given my extensive comments in this thread, that's a pretty thin line of reasoning you just followed. I doubt that you have any interest in an objective view point." - posted by MaiaMadness at 6:53 AM on May 25 [+] [!]

Frankly Maia, your comments have been stupid, inflammatory, and worse. So far all you have done is make sweeping generalizations (theocracy, Israel engages in massive campaign to label every Muslim as an extremist etc.). You mention the acts of a small group of Israelis acting deplorably, but then manage to paint the entire country with the actions of a small group (ironic considering your other comment). YOU obviously have ZERO interest in anything even close to objective.
posted by rosswald at 7:03 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]




Well, no, it's just the unavoidable outcome of a lot of their actions, as evidenced by the outright hatred for Palestinians seen in so many Israelis. Whether it's deliberate or not is another matter entirely.

Actually, the question of deliberate intent has a lot to do with things. Extremists on both sides have quite deliberately vilified each other in an effort to claim some sort of moral high ground, and to paint their opponents as bloodthirsty murderers.

Neither side occupies a moral high ground -- it does not exist.

I do know that Palestine has its fair share of the blame for a lot of what's going on,

Yes, they do.

No one's hands are clean.

Both the Israelis and Palestinians are victims of the conflict, and of intense, ongoing manipulation by a variety of outside forces with interests in the region -- the British, the Egyptians, the French, Russia/Soviets, the Iranians, the Lebanese, the US, etc., etc., etc No one's hands are clean.

For every Palestinian suicide bomber that deliberately targeted Israeli civilians, including pregnant mothers, unarmed students, young children and babies, there is another disproportionate military response by Israel that we can point to that also killed similar unarmed Palestinian civilians. For the injustices of the illegal Israeli settlements and the Palestinians they displace, we can point to Palestinian terrorism in the form of rockets, smuggled into the Territories by Egypt and Iran, that rain down on civilians (not military targets!) in Israeli towns.

I think you miss the point. The holy war aspect of the conflict is a symptom of greater problems, not a primary motivator.

this will never change the fact that Israel has retaliated the actions of a few people throwing rocks in frustration at their homes being taken away from them with massive bombings, occupation and terror.

If this is the way you characterize the situation, then your perspective is deeply biased.

It's not "a few people throwing rocks in frustration." It's suicide bombers, mortars and rockets.

No one's hands are clean.
posted by zarq at 9:26 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


If this is the way you characterize the situation, then your perspective is deeply biased.

Maybe it is. Could be because I know several Palestinians, have friends and family who have traveled in the region, volunteered (my aunt is blacklisted by the Israeli government). Perhaps it's because I've heard first-hand accounts of people traveling to Palestine to help people who have been terrorised by soldiers at the airport. I dunno. We all use what we know. This is what I know.

That said, I apologise if my opinions have offended anyone, as they appear to have. I don't much like being called stupid, as other posters have, and appreciate that you haven't. My perspective may be biased, but my opinions are grounded in facts.

What may have been truly stupid of me was to think my opinions would be accepted by much anyone in the English speaking world, where most people are predominantly pro-Israel.

Again, if my opinions are so offensive to people, I'm sorry. Perhaps it would be better if I took them elsewhere.
posted by MaiaMadness at 1:47 PM on May 25, 2010


Imagine that every time you wanted to visit your mother in Albany, you had to submit to questioning by an 18-year-old flaunting a loaded automatic weapon and with the power to send you back home. Beyond Ignorance and Prejudice: Five Films Portraying Palestinian Lives: -
Encounter Point;
Checkpoint;
Bil’in My Love;
Jerusalem: East Side Story;
Slingshot HipHop.
posted by adamvasco at 2:25 PM on May 25, 2010


Please stay. Sincerely.

You haven't offended me. (That generally takes a monumental effort.) I won't call you stupid because... well, I wouldn't. You're obviously not stupid. I'm merely trying to balance your opinions a bit.

Let me explain:

My perspective may be biased, but my opinions are grounded in facts.

My perspective is also biased, but from the other direction. I don't object to or disagree with your facts when they're true. But what you're presenting is also not the full picture, and if progress is ever going to be made in this conflict both the Israelis and Palestinians need to take responsibility for their actions. Their supporters and detractors also need to be honest about the situation. Which is why I say that no one's hands are clean.

I'm pro-Israel, but have become very, very disillusioned and disappointed by their policies and actions towards the Palestinians over the last 3-5 years. So I try very hard to keep an open mind in threads about this subject, because I have come to realize that instinctive defensive reactions aren't constructive. Worse, by parroting propaganda, we lie to ourselves and others -- perpetuating injustice by trying to justify it. I've written about this in other I/P threads.

There are people here who are likely to agree with you and others who are likely to disagree. If you're only looking for the former and not the latter, then this probably won't be the place for you. But honestly, I suspect you're not just looking for people to agree with you.

If you search for "Israel" or "Palestinians" on Metafilter, you'll find many pro and con arguments that are pretty complex. Some folks here tend to dismiss biased, one-sided arguments about Israel and Palestine because they know the situation there isn't so easily summarized. Others do it because they disagree with you and want to push their point of view over yours.

If you do stay, you'll probably see a lot of bias. But you might even gain some insight, too. That's why I participate.
posted by zarq at 2:47 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


My perspective is also biased, but from the other direction. I don't object to or disagree with your facts when they're true. But what you're presenting is also not the full picture, and if progress is ever going to be made in this conflict both the Israelis and Palestinians need to take responsibility for their actions. Their supporters and detractors also need to be honest about the situation. Which is why I say that no one's hands are clean.

I do agree with this. I also realise that some of my remarks may have been a bit overly cynical. It's just that, with all the people I've met and spoken too, it's hard not to be. This is the one topic I have tried to avoid on most forums, message boards and blogs I've been to, because I know what opinions to expect, especially from Americans, but also Australians and a lot of Brits. I guess it's easy to jump straight to aggressive comments when this is what you expect, and here I am at fault.

There are people here who are likely to agree with you and others who are likely to disagree. If you're only looking for the former and not the latter, then this probably won't be the place for you. But honestly, I suspect you're not just looking for people to agree with you.

Absolutely not. The reason why I joined MeFi in the first place was that it seemed to me to be a place where one could actually get involved in an adult discussion, without having to fear personal attacks, while people keep an open enough mind to engage in such discussions with people they disagree with. (This is probably why I dared jump into this discussion after only a two-day membership in the first place.) If I want to pat myself on the back, I have plenty of people who agree with me right here, at home, in my circle of friends and my household.

If you search for "Israel" or "Palestinians" on Metafilter, you'll find many pro and con arguments that are pretty complex. Some folks here tend to dismiss biased, one-sided arguments about Israel and Palestine because they know the situation there isn't so easily summarized. Others do it because they disagree with you and want to push their point of view over yours.

This is a very sensitive topic, I know. Many people, especially from politically aware families, are raised to choose one side. The fewest of people manage to be particularly objective.

If you do stay, you'll probably see a lot of bias. But you might even gain some insight, too. That's why I participate.

Thank you for your kind comments. I'm looking forward to future discussion on this and other topics. :)
posted by MaiaMadness at 3:27 PM on May 25, 2010


Gaza aid flotilla to set sail for confrontation with Israel. The Israeli navy enforces a 20-nautical mile (23-mile) closure of the sea off Gaza.

zarq: thank you for your reasoned arguments and MaiaMadness thanks for entering the discussion. There are several people here who discuss and don't shout. Unfortunately there are also several who shout and don't discuss but they tend not to enter into discussions well underway, just shit in the opening postings. Being European I also share your viewpoint of the blinkeredness of much of US community as regards to Israel. It is very difficult to get an engagement with many of them about Israel and its strange sense of justice without Jewishness getting involved. which in this case is just a red herring. As you follow the IP threads which are frequently enlightening you will soon work out the shrill from the reasoned. Please stick around.
posted by adamvasco at 12:59 AM on May 26, 2010


Adamvasco, from the article you cited:
Mark Regev, the Israeli prime minister's spokesman, said: "It is strange that human rights activists are acting as apologists for a regime that is brutally repressing human rights. Hamas oppresses women, gays and Christians, has crushed independent media and destroyed all political opposition."
I can't see why any decent person would want to prop up Hamas, a regime most recently in the news for illegal executions and, in a surprising twist, demolishing Palestinian homes.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:40 AM on May 26, 2010


Well yes Joe I believe Mark Regev would say that as he is his governments spokesperson so no surprise there. What you omit is also interesting
John Ging, head of the main UN agency in Gaza, urged more ships carrying aid to be sent: "We believe that Israel would not stop these vessels because the sea is open, and many human rights organisations have been successful in previous similar steps, and proved that breaking the siege on Gaza is possible."

Earlier this week, a UN report said that three-quarters of the damage caused to Gaza's infrastructure during the three-week military conflict has not been repaired because of the blockade.

So as usual it's the innocent, young, old and poor who suffer while others get twisted about politics. Israel illegally executes people as well and also demolishes Palestinians housing so what is the difference between these two democratically elected governments? One seems as bad as the other.
posted by adamvasco at 5:00 AM on May 26, 2010


Imagine that every time you wanted to visit your mother in Albany, you had to submit to questioning by an 18-year-old flaunting a loaded automatic weapon and with the power to send you back home.

I'd say trust has to be earned.

When a group of people shows a propensity towards strapping shrapnel bombs to their chests and boarding buses, walking into pizza restaurants and universities where they blow themselves up and murder as many civilians as possible, then yes, a certain visible show of security becomes mandatory. Considering that the Palestinians have also used children as suicide bombers, creating a potential terrorist profile is difficult. So everyone needs to be checked.

The bombers have consistently targeted civilians, rather than military targets. If a bomber is stopped at a checkpoint and blows themselves up and that keeps the destruction away from the civilian population, then that's an improvement.

The wall/fence/barrier cut suicide bombings nearly to zero. I don't like the damned thing, but it serves its purpose. I had hoped that once it was erected, Israel would take the political opportunity afforded by fewer civilian attacks by the Palestinians to push for peaceful coexistence. Instead, they seem to only give a damn about keeping their two populations separate, and to hell with the inconvenience and potential human rights violations.
posted by zarq at 5:21 AM on May 26, 2010


Well yes Joe I believe Mark Regev would say that as he is his governments spokesperson so no surprise there.

I have never cared for the "Well, he would say that, wouldn't he" style of argument. Surely it is an objective fact that Hamas is a brutal and theocratic regime that displays the utmost contempt for human rights. I think you recognise this, because your best rebuttal is "Nyah, nyah, Israel does it too."

So as usual it's the innocent, young, old and poor who suffer while others get twisted about politics.

Politics is about polity - the form of government, the techniques used and so forth. This has nothing to do with politics.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:26 AM on May 26, 2010


I do agree with this. I also realise that some of my remarks may have been a bit overly cynical. It's just that, with all the people I've met and spoken too, it's hard not to be.

Understandable. I have the same problem.

This is the one topic I have tried to avoid on most forums, message boards and blogs I've been to, because I know what opinions to expect, especially from Americans, but also Australians and a lot of Brits. I guess it's easy to jump straight to aggressive comments when this is what you expect, and here I am at fault.

Well, some people here weren't exactly polite to you, either. :(

The reason why I joined MeFi in the first place was that it seemed to me to be a place where one could actually get involved in an adult discussion, without having to fear personal attacks, while people keep an open enough mind to engage in such discussions with people they disagree with.

Not sure if you lurked a bit before joining. If not:

I try not to get my hopes up that the subject will be discussed politely around here. Israel/Palestine threads often don't go well on MeFi -- this has been discussed extensively over in MetaTalk. We actually have a shorthand term for them: I/P.

What this means on a practical level is posts about Israel and Palestine tend to devolve into huge arguments, and then are either deleted by the mods if they were too biased or the argument moves into MetaTalk, a section of the site where people can speak more freely without totally derailing a post on the front page of Metafilter.

That said, I've learned a heck of a lot in many of the threads that did survive. When the moderates contribute, the conversations can be very interesting. (Which reminds me, I still need to reply to Joe over there....)

(This is probably why I dared jump into this discussion after only a two-day membership in the first place.) If I want to pat myself on the back, I have plenty of people who agree with me right here, at home, in my circle of friends and my household.

Same here.

Thank you for your kind comments.

No worries. It's nice to meet you. :)

I'm looking forward to future discussion on this and other topics. :)

Me too!
posted by zarq at 8:30 AM on May 26, 2010


Crap. Meant to link to the entire post in that "moderates contributes" link and not my comment in the post. Apologies.
posted by zarq at 8:32 AM on May 26, 2010


zarq: thank you for your reasoned arguments

You're welcome.
posted by zarq at 9:28 AM on May 26, 2010


So there we have it reasoned and ....
posted by adamvasco at 3:36 PM on May 26, 2010


So as usual it's the innocent, young, old and poor who suffer while others get twisted about politics. Israel illegally executes people as well and also demolishes Palestinians housing so what is the difference between these two democratically elected governments? One seems as bad as the other.

The big difference is truly that Hamas wasn't actually elected by the majority. Loads of Palestinians didn't vote, because they didn't want Hamas or Fatah, and they weren't used to thinking strategically when it comes to politics, the way we do here in the west (where we often choose to vote for the lesser of two or several evils). The irony of it all is that we all say, "okay, here you go, a democratic election, western style", and when they don't elect the party we want them to, we say, "Fine, we just won't recognise your government." (Or, you did; Norway is one of the few countries who recognise the Palestinian government, for the simple reason that it was democratically elected). My mother's Palestinian friends all tried to convince their relatives back home to vote Fatah, just please vote Fatah, but they didn't understand why they should vote when they weren't happy with either party. So, we throw an election at an unprepared people, expect them to pick who'd we pick, and then we moan about it when they don't.

Hamas may not be ideal, and I don't like them either, but they were democratically elected, even if many people didn't vote.

They say that the difference between an act of war and an act of terrorism is that governments perform acts of war. Well, Hamas is a government, so why are their actions terrorism and Israel's self-defense?
posted by MaiaMadness at 2:45 AM on May 27, 2010


zarq: Thank you for being so friendly to a n00b like me; your ability to be so kind to and patient with someone you disagree with on many points is inspirational. Thank you! And thank you for all the links, I'm gonna read them and educate myself. :)
posted by MaiaMadness at 2:50 AM on May 27, 2010


MaiaMadness, that's very kind of you to say. Thank you, and you're very welcome. :)

Some of the Metafilter posts that spawned those Metatalk discussions also make for interesting reading. Like this one, which in my opinion, barely escaped turning into an all-out flamewar.

Enjoy your reading. :)
posted by zarq at 9:57 AM on May 27, 2010


Imagine that every time you wanted to visit your mother in Albany, you had to submit to questioning by an 18-year-old flaunting a loaded automatic weapon and with the power to send you back home.

I keep turning this over and over in my head, because of an incident that happened to me in October 2001.

About a month after 9/11, the anthrax scare was in full swing. Letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to several news media offices and two Democratic U.S. Senators, killing five people and infecting 17 others.

So, it's the beginning of October and I was commuting to work. The night before, I'd learned that someone I was friends with in high school had (unbeknownst to me) become a firefighter after he graduated, and had been killed when the towers fell. I was sad and upset. Depressed. Late for work. At Penn Station, I walked from my commuter rail train to the subway, where the police were once again checking passengers' bags. In the days after 9/11, they would stop large groups and examine what they were carrying, before letting them enter the subway. If you refused to be searched, they could bar you from entry.

I was one of several people asked to step aside by a cop. Standing behind him was a man in army fatigues casually holding an AR-15 gun. When it was my turn to be searched, I put my briefcase on the table and opened it.

I'm a publicist. My industry has become a lot more technologically advanced since 2001. But back then, most of our databases came in books. The industry bible at the time was a directory from a company called Bacon's. I had one in my bag: New York Publicity Outlets. A massive tome that was about the size of a couple of reams of paper, the directory listed every media outlet in New York City, and their staff. Journalists, producers, on-air anchors, editors, etc., etc. And of course, since I used it every day, my well-worn copy was a few months old, covered in post-it notes and my illegible handwritten notes on practically every page. Annotations like "Send her a package on Monday!" to "Asshole. Do not target."

I often traveled with the book in my bag. It was something for me to study on the train. I used it to find new outlets I could pitch for my clients.

So I open my bag and the cop pulls this thing out. Flips it open and gives me a quick glance, then gestures to Mr. AR-15 behind him to take a look. At that point, I started to think, "Oh shit. OHSHIT! What does that look like to them?"

I should probably mention that I'm pretty introverted. Also, I'm a big guy - 6'3". Dark curly hair.

Uh... I don't look Middle Eastern, do I? Oh shit oh shit oh shit.

The man with the gun comes around the table, holding the book and says, "Please step to the side with me a moment, sir."

I froze. My throat closed up. All I could do was stare at that big submachine gun he was holding. Then he grabbed my arm and basically dragged me aside for questioning.

I look back and the contents of my briefcase are now slowly being emptied onto a table by three cops who are examining them carefully.

He started to ask me questions. I couldn't speak. I'm not prone to panic attacks, and am usually pretty calm and cool in a crisis. But I was stressed and already upset and just staring at the guy. I opened my mouth and I couldn't say anything. Nothing would come out. So when he asked me my name for a third time, I reached for my wallet to show him my identification and a business card, and he quickly, physically blocked me from grabbing it with an arm across my chest, and pushed me back against the wall.

I finally found my voice. Choked out my name. Told him what I did for a living. Why I had that directory. What it meant. Then, after I stopped hyperventilating, I was escorted to the police station in Penn Station where I told my story all over again, two different times. An incident report was filed. They called my office to confirm I worked there. Eventually got my bag back and was released.

So.... Palestinian Checkpoints.

This incident is on my mind not because I think I was treated unfairly. I wasn't. What I am trying to convey in a very roundabout way, is that I do recognize that there is a serious potential for abuse of power, when a military (or militarized) police force is made responsible for security. From personal experience I know just how easy it is to (stupidly,) inadvertently look dangerous. I panicked, and that incident could have gone very badly for me under different circumstances.

I do think the Palestinian checkpoints are necessary. They are a relatively reasonable Israeli response to try and curtail acts of terrorism. (As opposed to disproportionate military responses.) But in a way, they are also powderkegs which encourage an untenable situation. Palestinian terrorism against Israel did not develop in a vacuum. They believe they have been and continue to be treated unfairly. And now, they need to pass inspection before being allowed to move freely. The cycle perpetuates.

Where does it end?
posted by zarq at 11:13 AM on May 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hamas may not be ideal, and I don't like them either, but they were democratically elected, even if many people didn't vote.

Hamas won the election, yes. That gave them the mandate to govern constitutionally. It didn't give them a right to, e.g., replace the Palestinian police their own militia and murder their enemies by throwing them from tall buildings. In any event their mandate expired earlier this year and they have stymied efforts to hold fresh elections.

They say that the difference between an act of war and an act of terrorism is that governments perform acts of war.

Anyone who says that is being sarcastic, stupid, or both. An act of terrorism is one intended to terrorise. Hamas is frankly at war with Israel and their actions in pursuit of that war are not necessarily terrorism. I would not call an act terrorism if it is primarily aimed at exerting control over an area, or preventing enemy control, or denying military resources to an enemy. If Hamas confined itself to military tactics it would not be a terrorist organisation.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:15 AM on May 30, 2010


They say that the difference between an act of war and an act of terrorism is that governments perform acts of war. Well, Hamas is a government, so why are their actions terrorism and Israel's self-defense?

Good question. The problems that arise from this argument are plentiful.

The American and European stance is that state-sponsored terrorism against another state is an act of war. In fact, that argument was used by quite a few American Jews during the Shalit kidnapping, who felt that Israel would have totally been within their rights to raze Gaza to the ground over the incident. If you recall, Hamas accepted responsibility, making the kidnapping an act of state-sponsored terrorism.

When seen in that perspective, one could potentially argue that the Gaza conflict that followed was actually a show of restraint by the Israelis. I wouldn't characterize it that way, but hey, if Hamas is a legitimate government and they're committing acts of terrorism against another country, then they're inviting an aggressive response to their acts of war.
posted by zarq at 9:33 PM on May 30, 2010


Anyone who says that is being sarcastic, stupid, or both.

Joe, would you please stop calling other people stupid? If your own points are incapable of standing on their own merit without you disparaging your opponents personally, then perhaps you should consider whether they're worth expressing at all.
posted by zarq at 9:36 PM on May 30, 2010


I wasn't the one who called MaiaMadness stupid. Go look. But I'll try to tone down my rage against the people justifying neo-colonial persecution.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:57 PM on May 30, 2010


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