Published in the SA Jewish Report
OPINION AND ANALYSIS
FORUM FOR DIVERSE VIEWS
Baruch’s view of Israeli security overly simplistic
The article in the SA Jewish Report of May 20 by former ambassador of Israel, Ilan Baruch, “South Africa has an urgent role to play” demands a reply.
Baruch’s assumption that the Israeli electorate votes for hawkish governments for fear of total isolation indicates a sad lack of understanding of Israelis whose primary concern is achieving peace with security, tempered by past experiences. Much as we wish to end control over Palestinians, we are wary of placing Ben Gurion airport within range of cheap shoulder launched missiles.
It was Einstein who said that insanity is doing the same things again and again expecting different results.
Mr. Baruch’s call to end occupation of all lands seized in 1967 is overly simplistic and irresponsible in ignoring vital factors like security, incitement and refugees among others. As he recommends following Rabin’s footsteps it’s relevant to recall that in his last speech, Rabin said we won’t return to 1967 lines, united Jerusalem will include Ma’ale Adumim and Givat Ze’ev, the security border will be in the Jordan Valley and Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar will be included. (Rabin’s complete speech may be viewed at http://www.2nd-thoughts.org/id308.html )
President Obama’s realistic approach highlights the shallowness of Baruch’s message. Obama acknowledged the new demographic realities, he called for mutually agreed land swaps and secure recognized borders, robust provisions to prevent a resurgence of terrorism and infiltration of weapons and a demilitarized Palestinian state in a border different than the one that existed in1967.
In Baruch’s reference to South African empathy with Palestinians it would have been relevant to draw attention to the fact that the hate-filled Hamas covenant bears no similarity to the ANC Charter. Unlike Mr. Baruch, Obama recognizes this problem, saying that Israel cannot negotiate with Palestinians who do not recognize its right to exist.
The ANC charter states “South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of international disputes by negotiation – not war”. By contrast, article 13 of the Hamas Charter states that peaceful solutions and international conferences contradict its principles since there is no solution to the Palestinian problem except jihad; “such conferences are used by the infidels to prevail over Muslim land”.
Hamas’ irrationality is illustrated by promises to obliterate freemasons, Rotary, Lions and similar organizations that they accuse of controlling world media, stirring the French and Communist Revolutions, World War I, World War II and replacement of the League of Nations with the UN.
However South Africa can contribute substantially to resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict by advocating a confidence-building measure that would immediately encourage negotiations towards peace. In view of the concern for human dignity inherent in the ANC Charter, it would be fitting if the Rainbow Nation would insist as a condition of its support, that Hamas end the savage torture of Gilad Shalit and his family; an unbearable torture that has continued 24/7 for five years in flagrant violation of human decency and international law.
I call merely for compliance with the Third Geneva Convention that provides for access to the Red Cross and freedom to send and receive monthly letters and cards. Even the Nazis respected this provision that Hamas continues to deny Shalit while holding him incommunicado.
By way of contrast, Palestinian prisoners in Israel enjoy visitation rights, conjugal visits, telephones, newspapers, television and radio broadcasts, lawyers’ visits and even academic studies at state expense.
The continued mental torture of Shalit’s family compounds the crime immeasurably. What greater torture can there be than tormenting parents with continuous anxiety for five years about whether their son is dead, or if alive, in what condition?
The Shalit family continues to live this horrendous nightmare, not knowing if Gilad is alive and fearing that he is possibly being tortured. To compound the heinous crime, Hamas held a public rally during which a boy dressed in IDF uniform masqueraded as Gilad telling the jeering crowd how he misses his parents. No human being with a conscience can refuse to protest this diabolical cruelty.
As mental torture is included in the UN ban on torture, the politicians dealing with Hamas cannot ignore the deliberate torture of Gilads family. Torture violates both International Human Rights Law and Humanitarian Law. Article 1 of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment defines torture as any act causing pain or suffering, whether physical or mental and a study by scientists published on March 6, 2007 in News in Science describes mental torture as bad as physical.
South Africa’s intervention in this humanitarian matter would be applauded by the entire civilized world and it would certainly contribute to an atmosphere of trust and goodwill, so essential to meaningful negotiations towards a peaceful settlement.
South Africa has an urgent role to play
AMBASSADOR (RET) ILAN BARUCH FORMER AMBASSADOR OF
ISRAEL TO SA
ISRAELI PRIME Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now preparing for his most important visit to Washington. In the course of his visit he will meet with President Barack Obama and speak to the American legislators and address the American Jewish leadership.
In all three events, and in numerous media briefings, Mr. Netanyahu will be expected to stand up to the challenges awaiting him in the up-andcoming United Nations General Assembly due in September, where a draft resolution, proposing recognition of the State of Palestine and its admission as a full member to the UN, will be discussed.
The UN is a theatre of perennial defeat for Israel. That is, however, the way Israelis perceive multilateralism, and not without reason. The Nonaligned Movement is a-priori siding with the Palestinians on every issue pertaining to the Middle East conflict.
Israelis, rightly, fear delegitimisation. Being accepted on equal grounds as a member of the family of nations is highly desirable, yet places us in a predicament when security concerns are to be addressed politically – essential in any solution pursued in our region.
It seems that the Israeli electorate votes for hawkish governments, for fear of being left exposed to the dangers of total isolation, a reminder of South Africa prior to its victory over apartheid.
South Africa, as one of the most prominent leaders of the Nonaligned Movement, holds a golden historic opportunity to save the Middle East from yet another unnecessary spiral into conflict. I propose in this regard that President Jacob Zuma write Mr Netanyahu a letter and suggest – all protocol observed – the following wording:
“Dear Mr. Netanyahu,
“As the President of both the ANC and the Republic of South Africa, I have been following the Middle East conflict with great care for years. It is not a secret that we, South Africans, side with the Palestinians in their endeavour to achieve freedom, as comrades who shared our trenches for decades, struggling for liberation. Multilateralism is our prioritised tool for conflict resolution. We believe in the ‘Two State’ solution based on the principles at the heart of all UN resolutions since
1967 regarding the Middle East conflict, namely, ‘territory for peace’.
“We regard Israel as a friend. However, we have difficulties expanding our friendship and bilateral relations, as long as the Middle East conflict is arrested in its impasse. We believe time has come to prepare for the establishment of the independent State of Palestine, side by side with Israel.
“Our conviction is that to transform Palestine into a viable state, Israel must relinquish its hold on territories it conquered in 1967. The border between Israel and Palestine and other pertaining issues, should be agreed by both and serve mutual security and prosperity requirements.
“You are preparing for your visit to Washington, the place of your choice to announce political plans towards the challenges in the near future. All members of the UN intending to vote in the anticipated UNGA will be listening to you.
“My message to you is as follows: In the wake of your predecessors Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, declare your explicit commitment to bring occupation of lands seized by Israel in 1967 to an end through a negotiated agreement.
“If this declaration is made, I commit myself to the task of leading a thrust to end the isolation of Israel in the UN and other multilateral forums.
“This will, no doubt, be a unique political asset for you and a victory that you could win gallantly. It will change Israel’s stand internationally and undermine any attempt to de-legitimise it or remove it from the family of nations.