Document:Goliath's Revenge - Israel and Apartheid South Africa
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Goliath’s Revenge - Israel and Apartheid South Africa
The tragic war in Gaza has produced thousands of victims and it may be prudent to consider certain historical facts in the relationship between Israel and Apartheid South Africa. The Israeli government has vehemently denied any links but we might pause to consider the facts. During the Apartheid era Africans were regarded as second-class citizens and forcibly resettled in alleged ‘homelands’, so that they could not vote in South Africa. These areas were the most economically destitute with the result that poverty ruled the lives of these poor people. The forcible removal of Palestinians since 1948 and resettlement in Gaza and the West Bank, follows an identical pattern.
Any opposition in South Africa was ruthlessly suppressed with leaders either killed or tortured without any mercy being shown. For others their fate was to be imprisoned without charge for years on end. The use of detention without trial throughout Israel is reminiscent of Apartheid South Africa and should form no part in a modern democracy. Many boys are detained in Gaza and the Occupied West Bank, for throwing stones and we might muse that they have not enjoyed the success of David against Goliath. As things presently stand Goliath is making his hegemony known, far and wide, equipped as he is with all that his mentor and sponsor, the United States, can provide. The fact that Israel has a ‘sacred trust’ to care for non-Jews has been conveniently forgotten, as has the fact that that group should have all the same civil rights enjoyed by Jewish Israelis.
During the apartheid years I practised as a human rights lawyer and one of my colleagues defended a young boy, charged with assaulting a police officer. He had thrown a stone at the man, who was on board a tank-like military vehicle, but had arrogantly left his helmet off. The apartheid police had killed and injured many in the black townships and the lad in question was merely showing some courage in the midst of the carnage occurring in his community. A law in force with regard to firearms required a warning shot to be fired in certain circumstances. Perhaps the most amusing and, indeed, outrageous question ever asked by an exasperated prosecutor, who had failed to make any impression on the lad’s evidence, was then asked. ‘Why did you not throw a warning stone?’
The Holocaust was one of the most horrific genocidal episodes in our history. There seems to be a feeling amongst Europeans, especially Germans, based on some innate feelings of guilt, that to criticise any action by Israel, however heinous, is somehow anti-Semitic and shows a failure to understand what Jewish people suffered at the hands of mass-murderer Adolf Hitler.
My own experience doing business in Israel has been very disappointing. For many years I listened and wondered at the music of Richard Wagner. Once I had become infatuated with the music, I resolved to find out more about the composer of these remarkable works. The best biography I read at that time was that of Robert Gutman, who hinted at the reception German Chancellor Adolf Hitler had given the music of Wagner and how much of a disciple he became. There was even a suggestion in Gutman’s biography that the idea of exterminating the Jews had originated in Wagner. I learned more and more of Wagner’s anti-Semitism, culminating in his call for a ‘final solution to the Jewish Question.’ Readers will immediately find a resonance in that phrase in the programme of his most passionate admirer Adolf Hitler, some fifty years after the composer’s death in 1883.
I had just completed Gutman’s biography when I visited Wagner Opera Festival Bayreuth in 1991 with a friend Chris Albertyn. On the train back to Frankfurt I spoke of my intention to write a book about Hitler and Wagner and pursue any links I could find between them. I made rough notes and commenced researching what I could find about the two principal protagonists. Tired of hearing people mouth platitudes about Jewish stereotypes – the usual ones, dishonesty, sharp business practice and the like, I had determined to make one attempt to record one cause of the Holocaust, the music and polemical writings of the Bayreuth Maestro.
The music of Wagner is banned in Israel, as he is regarded as a precursor of the Nazi ideology. In my book I explored the anti-Semitic elements of Wagner’s polemical works and his music, and the immense influence this had on the man who was to become Germany’s Fuhrer. Biographers have often avoided delving into the uglier elements of both of the subjects’ personalities. Without seeking sensationalism, the book would not shrink from exploring their seedier side, including their sexual dalliances and perversions, in its quest to understand the full range of factors that led to Hitler’s pursuit of the Holocaust.
So, I wrote a book - "Richard and Adolf: Did Richard Wagner incite Adolf Hitler to commit the Holocaust?". I entered an agreement with Gefen Publishers and paid $24,000 as part of the joint venture to publish the book. Gefen would pay royalties of 10% and the agreement provided that at the end of January each year Gefen would send me an account of how many books had been sold and then a cheque thereafter.
The critics were fulsome in their praise. ‘This is Nicholson’s MASTERPIECE … an outstanding piece of work’ said Gillian van der Heijden of the Department of Classical Civilizations at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. David Saks senior researcher at the Jewish Board of Deputies in Johannesburg said ‘It is a most scholarly, lucidly written account, capturing very starkly and eruditely the awful ambiguity of Wagner - one of the greatest creative geniuses who ever lived and at the same time a thoroughly vile human being whose poisonous prejudices unquestioningly provided Hitler with a lasting source of inspiration…’
So, I waited for my royalties to pour in. The first account was sent on 23 January 2008, saying that I was owed $503 and stating that the cheque was attached. Needless to say, it was not. Since then, I have begged, cajoled and sought payment with no success. I had been told an old story about the dangers of doing business in [[Israel]. The hackneyed tale asked how to make a small fortune in Israel. Take a big fortune there, ran the punch line. But this could not be true I told myself. I even told Gefen that I was going to Buckingham Palace in London as that was the only chance, I had of seeing royalties…
Nothing worked. I do not know if Gefen does not pay any authors of whether I was being singled out because I live far away. It was very disappointing. There were legal implications for me as well. I had undertaken to the tax authorities in South Africa that I would repatriate my royalties. I wrote to Advocate Simon Seitz in Jerusalem on 2 November 2009 and asked him to institute a civil claim against Gefen. I had to pay $250 US to have him write a letter on my behalf. He was successful in recovering my royalties for that particular year but, after bank charges were deducted, I received little of the $500 odd I was supposed to receive.
At the time of the launch of my book I travelled at my own cost to Israel and I met Ilan Greenfield, the son of Gefen's founders. He has a very magnetic personality and I immediately fell for his good looks and charm. He has a gorgeous wife and wonderful family. I shared a generous meal with them and his parents. His father was a hero of the Second World War and his mother a most fortunate survivor of one of the worst Nazi concentration camps. She bears the fatal number tattooed on her arm and wrote a powerful book of her experiences. Ilan rides a powerful motor bike and has played centre three-quarter for Israel’s rugby team. He told me of the awful thrashing his team received at the hands of South African provincial Northern Transvaal rugby team, when it toured many years ago. I even playfully threatened to send the rugby squad to collect my meagre royalties - to no avail. Gefen Publishers is the largest English language publisher in Israel, with offices in Jerusalem and New York. The beautiful offices, set on a low hill in upmarket Jerusalem, are crowded with beautiful girls, the Ava Gardner-look-a-like, and pretty version of Charlize Theron, being the most prominent.
The image was one of the muscular, virile new Israel that is asserting its rights in a world threatened by Muslim states. The Jewish people have suffered so much tragedy over the centuries, the notion of justice and tolerance must be etched into their genes. How could a people that faced gas chambers rather than renounce their religion now treat a sympathetic writer so badly? The great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said the main message of the Old Testament – the history of the Jewish people – was Justice and the New Testament – Love.
And, inevitably, we must move on to the last two months in the history of Israel. The attacks by Hamas on innocent Israelis on 7 October 2023 were reprehensible, even in the light of decades of oppression since 1948. That said, we have to try and evaluate the proportionality of the Israeli response, which at the time of writing, amounted to well over 22,000 deaths, most of which were civilians, including a very substantial number of women and children. We also cannot lose sight of the thousands wounded and possibly millions displaced with their homes destroyed, in the relentless bombing raids since early October. What has appalled the Global South and, certain very limited enlightened groups in the northern hemisphere, has been the relentless carnage from land, sea and air from the Israeli Defence Force, backed by the United States and other European powers, including Great Britain.
What has happened to sensibility, decency and humanity that we can allow such to continue unabated? I do not intend to look at the modern laws of war, which clearly outlaw the killing of civilians and their property, but cast a glance at earlier times and opinions. In his master work "The Social Contract" Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in 1762 that ‘War, then, is not a relation of man to man, but of State to State, in which individuals are enemies only accidentally, and not as men, nor even as citizens, but as soldiers; not as members of their country, but as its defenders’.
Much the same was articulated in a letter dated 20 November 1806 from Prince de Talleyrand, Foreign Minister to Napoleon Bonaparte when he said that ‘Three centuries of civilisation have given Europe a law of nations for which … human nature cannot be sufficiently grateful… The law of nations does not permit that the right of war, and of conquest thence derived, should be applied to peaceable, unarmed citizens, to private property and dwellings, to the merchandise of commerce, to the magazines which contain it, to the vehicles which transport it, to unarmed ships which carry it on streams and seas, in a one word, to the person and goods of private individuals. The law of war, born of civilisation, has favoured its progress. It is to this that Europe must ascribe the maintenance and increase of her prosperity, in the midst of the frequent wars that have divided her.’
Similar sentiments, surprisingly enough, fell from the lips of the belligerent King of Prussia in 1871, the year in which he invaded France, when he said ‘I am fighting French soldiers, not the French people.’
One of the first written codes on the conduct of war was written by Francis Lieber of the Columbia Law School and became known as General Orders no 100. It provided 157 articles on the conduct of war and dealt with the rights of prisoners, non-combatants, partisans and spies. It also prohibited particular means of warfare including poisons.
The Hague Convention of 1899 in addition outlawed dum-dum bullets, projectiles with deleterious gases and launching projectiles and explosives [bombs] from balloons or by other methods of a similar nature. It was signed by the US, Japan, and twenty-two other nations.
The outlawing of bombs was soon breached, when Italian dictator Benito Mussolini bombed helpless tribes in his African imperialist orgy of conquest. This was roundly condemned by the other European nations, but soon replicated when Hitler bombed anti-fascist groups in Spain. Few Londoners will ever forget Goering’s blitz in the early nineteen forties, and no German can erase the fate of Dresden and other German cities, from his memory.
Mention has been made of the Biblical account of David and Goliath. It is instructive to note how far we have come from those days. My recall of that encounter was that champions were called for from the opposing sides, to decide the battle, so that the lives of the soldiers could be spared!
Over the centuries the proportions of civilians killed in wars has increased exponentially. No regard is had for the rules of war and the feeblest of excuses are bandied out, from the civilians being used as ‘human shields’, to the general defence articulated by the US war mandarin Donald Rumsfeld that these are part of ‘collateral damage’.
Mention has been made of the similarities between the racist laws of Israel and Apartheid South Africa. The detention of Palestinians follows the path of similar legislation in those dark days of the Nationalist rule. For decades every anti-Apartheid resolution from the United Nations was blocked by the United States and Israel.
I recently discovered another sinister link between the two regimes. In October 2004 the frightening idea that rogue scientists could develop bioweapons, designed to target certain ethnic groups, based on their genetic differences, was ventilated in a report by the British Medical Association (BMA). The report, "Biotechnology, Weapons and Humanity II", did not mince matters, saying that construction of genetic weapons ‘is now approaching reality’. It continued that such ‘genetic bombs’ could contain anthrax or bubonic plague, designed specially to activate only when genes indicated the infected person was from a particular group. The science is there, says the report, ‘as the combination of human genome studies, the development of vectors capable of introducing harmful material to cells and new ways to disrupt genes should raise concerns about potential misuse.’
The professor behind the report, Malcolm Dando, at Bradford University, said ‘The problem is that the same technology being developed to create new vaccines and find cures for Alzheimer's and other debilitating diseases could also be used for malign purposes.’
The BMA relied on the work of a German group called the 'Sunshine Project', which investigated how mutations in our genome called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) differ between specific ethnic groups. It determined that ‘Genome data in public databases revealed that hundreds, possibly thousands, of target sequences for ethnic specific weapons do exist. It appears that ethnic specific biological weapons may indeed become possible in the near future.’ The 'Sunshine Project' cautioned that weapons based on RNA interference could shut down vital genes. If the sequence of the target gene varies between two different populations the technique could be used to interrupt key body functions in one population and not the other. The origins of some of the research were revealed in a two-part story in the Washington Post on April 20 and 21, 2003. The revelations showed conclusively that biological agents developed by the Apartheid South African government, have fallen into private hands. We should not be surprised to read that unique, race-specific strains of biotoxins were available on the world market — for the right price or the right ideology.
‘Dr Death’, Wouter Basson, told federal officials about ‘global shopping sprees for pathogens and equipment, of plans for epidemics to be sown in black communities and of cigarettes and letters that were laced with anthrax.’ The Post said Basson ‘revealed the development of a novel anthrax strain unknown to the US officials, a kind of stealth anthrax that Basson claimed could fool tests used to detect the disease.’
The overseas press summarised the links. ‘The top-secret program that Basson directed was called Project Coast, and it lasted from 1981 to 1993. The South African National Defence Force created it at a time when the white-minority regime was under increasing threat by indigenous black South Africans. Daan Goosen, the former director of Project Coast’s biological research division, told the Post he was ordered by Basson to develop ways “to suppress population growth among blacks” and to “search for a ‘black bomb,’ a biological weapon that would select targets based on skin colour.”’
The Washington Post showed its concern, ‘Goosen says many scientists kept copies of organisms and documents in order to continue work on dual-use projects with commercial as well as military applications.’ Other prestigious newspapers also confirmed the horrifying research. In May 2002 a story on Project Coast in the Wall Street Journal reported that Goosen said he has been ‘visited by scores of people looking for stuff to kill the blacks.’ One article ranted that ‘Race-specific weapons naturally are in hot demand among racists, so it’s no surprise that South Africa’s race-specific research is highly coveted.’
In 1998 a story in the London Sunday Times alleged that Israel already had developed a genetically specific weapon. ‘Unnamed South African sources [say] Israeli scientists have used some of the South African research in trying to develop an ethnic bullet against Arabs.’ Mention was also made of the anthrax incidents of 2001, in which five people died and 13 were sickened, which were said to have a South African connection. The Post noted that officials found evidence in a Frederick, Maryland, pond that explain how the perpetrators of the deadly attacks used water to handle the lethal toxin without infecting themselves or losing the anthrax spores.
There are more South African connections. The Post said the water theory, according to the FBI, implicated Steven J. Hatfill, a medical doctor and bioterrorism expert, who was formerly employed by the US Army, and has South African diplomas in diving and underwater medicine on his résumé. Hatfill’s roots go deep into racist territory. In June 2002 an article appeared in the Hartford Courant that Hatfill also worked with a guerrilla unit of the white-supremacist Rhodesian army from 1978 to 1980. No prizes for what eventuated – ‘an anthrax outbreak killed hundreds and sickened thousands of villagers.’ After the fall of Rhodesia he went south and lived in South Africa, ‘where he completed various military-medical assignments.’
It all makes sense when we recall that in his book "The Poisoners", Imraan Coovadia describes how, in the late 1970s, the whites of Rhodesia waged a war against blacks using biological and chemical weapons, and how the South African regime actively helped them to do so. Later, when the Salisbury regime fell, many veterans of the Rhodesian war were integrated into the South African armed forces.
As recently as August 2019 The Telegraph contained further material on the subject. A report by the University of Cambridge, warned that scientific advances allowed a host of new threats and biological weapons which could be built to target individuals in a specific ethnic group based on their DNA. Researchers at Cambridge’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) accused the government of failing to prepare for ‘human-driven catastrophic risks’ that could lead to mass deaths and societal collapse.
Advances in genetic engineering, and artificial intelligence (AI) had made this possible. ‘More nefarious hands could (as they have before) develop pathogens and toxins to spread through air, food and water sources. And the technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated at ever cheaper prices, democratising the ability to harm more quickly and lethally. In a particularly bad case, a bio-weapon could be built to target a specific ethnic group based on its genomic profile.’
The report on Israel developing a biological weapon that would harm Arabs while leaving Jews unaffected, in London's Sunday Times in 1998, cited Israeli military and western intelligence sources. Scientists were trying to identify distinctive genes carried by Arabs to create a genetically modified bacterium or virus. What was termed an ‘ethno-bomb’ was Israel's response to the threat that Iraq might be developing biological weapons. The program is based at Israel's Nes Tziyona research facility where scientists are trying to alter DNA inside living cells and attack only those cells bearing Arabic genes. The research was in the ignominious footsteps of apartheid-era research into the ‘ethnic bullet.’
The press reported further that the apartheid regime also had an advanced chemical weapons program, which it developed in co-operation with the US, Britain, Canada, Japan and Germany and worked closely with Israel in various military and defence areas. The US and Israel worked closely together, as evidenced by an El-Al cargo aircraft, which crashed in Amsterdam in October 1992, while carrying ingredients for chemical weapons, being sent from Solkatronic Chemicals Inc, a Morrisville, Pennsylvania company in the US to the Nes Tziyona research centre. The ingredient, Dimethyl methylphosphonate, is used in making the deadly poison gas, Sarin.
The Israeli work breaches numerous international laws and agreements, but has not even been raised in the United Nations or any other international forum. Israel’s secret use of biological weapons and poison against Palestinians dates back to the 1947/48 ethnic cleansing campaign, as revealed by historians Benny Morris and Benjamin Kedar.
Their article "Cast Thy Bread: Israeli Biological Warfare during the 1948 War" was published by Middle Eastern Studies. It is based on original documents stored in the Israel State Archive, as well as other archives. The Scientific Corps, together with battlefield units, was involved in a systematic campaign to poison water wells and spread typhoid bacteria in Arab villages and cities as well as among the invading armies of Egypt and Jordan. The objective was to frighten the Arab-Palestinian population, to force them to leave and to weaken the Arab armies. It was approved by the founder of the Israeli state and its first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion.
The use of biological weapons has been illegal since the 1925 Geneva Protocol. Although Israel, Egypt, Somalia, Eritrea and Comoros have refused to commit to the protocol, 183 other states have done so. Israel always denies using chemical weapons but was caught out with the botched attempt to assassinate Palestinian political leader Khaled Meshaal in Amman, on 25 September, 1997. A six-member Mossad team arrived in Amman a week before the assassination using false Canadian passports. Two of the Mossad agents administered the toxin, as planned, but were captured by Meshaal’s bodyguard, while trying to escape. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried every diplomatic trick, to defuse the situation and, following pressure from the US, the Israelis delivered the antidote. Meshaal was saved from a very painful death with just hours to spare.
A more recent instance of chemical warfare emerged, when a suitcase, that belonged to Yasser Arafat, was revealed at a press conference on November 7, 2013 in Lausanne. This was the evidence relied on by Swiss scientists to conclude that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat probably died from polonium poisoning.
During the Israeli war on Gaza, there were reported instances of the use of white phosphorus falling over the Gaza City port and Lebanon, on October 11, 2023. Human Rights Watch said that white phosphorus, as a weapon has a significant incendiary effect that can severely burn people and set structures, fields, and other civilian objects in the vicinity on fire. The use of it in Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, magnifies the risk to civilians and violates international humanitarian law. It poses a high risk of excruciating burns and lifelong suffering, said a director at Human Rights Watch. White phosphorus ignites, when exposed to atmospheric oxygen and continues to burn until it is deprived of oxygen or exhausted. Its chemical reaction can create intense heat (about 815°C/1,500°F), light, and smoke. The report said further that ‘upon contact, white phosphorus can burn people, thermally and chemically, down to the bone as it is highly soluble in fat and therefore in human flesh.’
Human Rights Watch has documented the Israeli military’s use of white phosphorus in previous conflicts in Gaza, including in 2009. Attacks using air-delivered incendiary weapons in civilian areas are prohibited under Protocol lll of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). Palestine joined Protocol III on January 5, 2015, and Lebanon on April 5, 2017, while Israel has not ratified it.
There seemed to be such incongruities and contradictions in my experience with a publisher in that country and its response to those occupying the notional state of Palestine. A brave new State, alone in a sea of alleged hostile Muslim states, seeks to persuade the world it is worthy of acceptance. And then an invasion takes place in Gaza with an unleashing of the most horrific military might. And, at its back, and with its blessing, and provision of money and the most sophisticated arms, lurks the all-powerful, sole-remaining world power, the United States.
And it seems nobody can touch that Leviathan. Noam Chomsky in his book "Failed States" says that ‘One of the features of failed states is … their tendency to regard themselves as beyond the reach of domestic or international law and hence free to carry out aggression and violence.’ He goes on to say ‘[The] increasing threat of destruction caused by US state power, in violation of international law, [is] a topic of particular concern for citizens of the world dominant power…’
Nietzsche said in his last book "The Will to Power": ‘The right to punish (or the self-defence of society) is at bottom called a “right” owing to a misuse of the word. A right is acquired through treaties – but self-protection and self-defence do not rest on the basis of a treaty. At least a people might just as well designate as a right its need to conquer, its lust for power, whether by means of arms or by trade, commerce and colonisation.’
The most commonly articulated reason for all this aggression is that Israel never wants to be weak again, so that there cannot be a repeat of the Holocaust. Nietzsche identified this phenomenon and said ‘The maintenance of the military state is the last means of all of acquiring or maintaining the great tradition with regard to the supreme type of man, the strong type. And all concepts that perpetuate enmity and difference in rank between states (e.g. nationalism, protective tariffs) may appear sanctioned in this light.’
Is this wise at the price that is being demanded? Is there not a danger that the rest of the world will stand up and say that is unconscionable and we will not allow it. Are there states that are so mighty – and we must include Russia with the US - that nothing they do – however heinous – can ever be brought to book?
In his book "The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials" Telford Taylor provides the moral answer ‘The laws of war do not apply only to the suspected criminals of vanquished nations. There is no moral or legal basis for immunising victorious nations from scrutiny. The laws of war are not a one-way street.’
We have to face the facts squarely and honestly. How can we forget the memorable words of Boris Pasternak, in his book "Dr Zhivago": ‘What raises man above the beast is not the cudgel, but an inward music: the unarmed power of truth.’
- "Could you make a genetically targeted weapon?" By David Adam, The Guardian, 28 Oct 2004
- "Biowar and the Apartheid Legacy" by Salim Muwakkil May 28, 2003. He is a senior editor of In These Times.
- "World must prepare for biological weapons that target ethnic groups based on genetics, says Cambridge University" by Sarah Knapton, Science Editor, The Telegraph, 13 August 2019.
- "Israel's Ethnic Weapon?" Wired News Report, 16 November, 1998.
- "Israel’s diabolical genetic weapons target Arabs" by Iqbal Siddiqui, Muslimedia: December 1-15, 1998, Crescent International, a monthly Islamic magazine.
- "Historians reveal Israel’s use of poison against Palestinians" by Nasim Ahmed, Memo Middle East Monitor, October 11, 2022