Anyone who was in any way involved in the campaign against the apartheid system in South Africa must be experiencing a sense of deja vu. Once again, as well as combating an apartheid system — this time in Israel/Palestine — we are having to contend with all those earnest souls in the West who would have us believe the system is set in stone.
As I reflect on the mid-1970s, I remember how these people would call for a “realistic” approach to the problem of apartheid. As there was no possibility of the white minority in South Africa sharing power with the black majority, the most we could hope for was an easing of the apartheid system. Hence all that talk about the importance of “building bridges” to the white regime — by playing rugby with all-white teams, and by exchanging cultural and commercial visits with white performers and businessmen.
While we maintained these sporting and other contacts with the white supremacists, the reasoning went, we would slowly be able to show them that there was a more satisfactory way of running a society in which there were two peoples. And of course, no country was better placed than New Zealand, where Maori and Pakeha got along swimmingly, to deliver this message. (Yes, the exercise was suffused by a good measure of Kiwi self-congratulation.)
It was all nonsense. The South African apartheid system was not set in stone, although it was certainly strong enough to withstand anything short of total ostracism. If we had followed the path of “building bridges”, it would still be with us today. The answer to a thoroughly rotten system is not to finesse the system — to lessen the stringency of its discriminatory regulations — but to scrap it.
The easing of the blockade of Gaza, announced today, is being reflexively described as “a step in the right direction”. But although it will make life a little less hellish for the people of Gaza for a while, it’s unlikely to lead anywhere. The ultimate objective of political Zionism, which is to ethnically cleanse the land between the Jordan River and the sea, remains unchanged.
In this column by Karl du Fresne, from the Manawatu Standard of January 20, 2010, a voice from the Muldoon* imperium, which blighted New Zealand in the late 1970s and early 1980s, is raised again to rail against all those who would do more than politely demur at repressive policies of apartheid in other parts of the world. Even du Fresne’s use of the term “stirrer” is straight from the Muldoon lexicon.
Heaven forbid that anyone with “grudges against the system” (the apartheid system?) should do anything to interfere with anyone’ else’s right to “lawfully play tennis” or pursue any other “lawful business” – including, one assumes, all the sporting, commercial and cultural business we once did with the white South African regime.
It goes without saying that if everyone, both here and overseas, had adopted du Fresne’s position in the 1970s and 1980s, we would still be engaged in those fatuous “bridge-building” exercises, those “lessons by example”, that were to lead, at some time in the distant future, to a softening of the oppression in South Africa (but never, of course, to a radical change in the apartheid system, which was supposedly set in stone).
Incidentally, before we start to feel too sorry for “lone Israeli tennis player” Shahar Peer, we should not forget that she happily served in the IDF – Israel’s vicious instrument of conquest and oppression in the Middle East.
*Robert “Piggy” Muldoon was prime minister of New Zealand between 1975 and 1984.