Living Outside of History

If we don't do all we can to prevent South Africa from taking place here, we will be forced in the end to set up a binational state. None of the inhabitants of the region will want it, but by then it will be too late.

On their return from a visit to South Africa, some two weeks ago, members of the Israeli-Palestinian delegation asked themselves a number of questions: How is that South Africa extricated itself from the cycle of hostilities, while we are still there? How did former South African president F.W. de Klerk, with whom the delegation met, go from being the leader of an extreme nationalist party, which was openly affiliated with the notions of Spanish fascism and Nazism, to being a leader who believes in the establishment of a civil and equal state? How did the negotiations manage to create a new political reality that is allowing South Africa to begin, albeit significantly late, to deal with its real problems - poverty, disease and ignorance?

The story of South Africa is the story of a country that tried to exist outside of history and found out that history had the upper hand. In 1948, the year the National Party took power, Burma, Sri Lanka and South Africa rid themselves of the yoke of British colonialism. The world after World War II began to demand self-rule for nations that colonialism had oppressed. The Boers in South Africa did not see themselves as a colonial offshoot, but rather as emissaries of God who had been sent to spread Christianity in the Promised Land.

"The holy mission," which was, in fact, an attempt to take control of a country rich in natural resources and disinherit its original inhabitants, tried to rest not only on messianic principles, but also on international ones. It was not by chance that de Klerk relied on Woodrow Wilson's 14 Points, which served as the basis for international recognition of the principle of national self-determination.

In South Africa, however, the self-determination of the Afrikaners did not give rise to liberty, but rather to the oppression of the black natives of the country, oppression that the National Party anchored in law. In the 19th century, it would have worked; but for the second half of the 20th century, it was a non-starter. Following the fall of Nazism and fascism, there was no going back. The Afrikaners refused to heed the spirit of the times.

So as to moderate the international pressure, South Africa tried to establish homelands, which were intended to restore to the blacks the political rights they had had taken from them. The map of these homelands - tiny, divided, lacking the ability to survive economically - reminds South Africans of the map of Areas A and B that the settlement-oriented right is trying to market as the permanent status map. The world didn't buy South Africa's solution.

In response, instead of affiliating itself with the world of American values, South Africa affiliated itself with America's paranoia - the fear of the spread of communism. In such a manner, the South African Communist Party and the struggle in Namibia became the final excuse against handing over power to the blacks. But then the Soviet Empire collapsed.

South Africa became the most hated and isolated country in the world. "I knew that every day saw the birth of a child who grew up to hate South Africa," de Klerk says. The hatred, the sanctions, the internal pressure from businessmen who saw the international markets closing in their faces, and the fear of a civil war like that of Rhodesia gave birth to the change. "We could have rehabilitated the country we love or we could have been dragged into a war that would have destroyed us all. We chose life."

The story of South Africa is, to a certain degree, our story. The State of Israel is not an apartheid state. The likeness stems from the way in which Israel is trying to swim against the historic tide and freeze time, while attempting to use global fears to delay the end. Just as South Africa held on to the anti-communist fear, so Israel is resting today on the fear for Islamic terror. Just as in the case of South Africa, so too in the case of Israel is there a basis for the fear, and therefore delaying the inevitable is possible; but the price is huge.

South Africa returned to the family of nations and began to rehabilitate itself decades late, and hence the rehabilitation is slow and costly. In Israel's case, the price could turn out to be even higher. The day fear of Islamic terror dissipates, and the powers that be in Israel reach the conclusion that there is no alternative but to give the Palestinians a state, a division will be impossible. The process that kept the Afrikaners from dividing South Africa, while keeping the majority of the natural resources for themselves, and obliged them to equally share with the peoples of the land not only the natural resources but the entire territory, establishing a single equal country, could happen here, too.

The Israelis and the Palestinians do not want a binational state, but time doesn't stand still. The intentional mixing of the populations that the settlers are striving for; the attempt to give the Palestinians a small and divided state; the economic dependency; the erosion of the Palestinian infrastructure; and, as a result, the destruction of their ability to establish a stable country could throw everything into disarray.

If we don't do all we can to prevent South Africa from taking place here, we will be forced in the end to set up a binational state. None of the inhabitants of the region will want it, but by then it will be too late.