In February 2011 I visited South Africa. I travelled there with a delegation of journalists from around the world, who were invited to see the health, education and agricultural-training programs run there by automaker BMW. It was quite impressive.
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On the bus that took us from place to place there was also a guide. A South African. A white fellow. About 40 years old. As an adult he had experienced apartheid and its demise. In other words, we had something to talk about
He was very witty and sarcastic, and we hit it off. During the long hours on the bus, we chatted about this and that. For example, about the exaggerated religious myths that Afrikaners invented to justify their racial superiority over the native-born black people. Yes, yes, just so. The Afrikaans school system had an “Afrikaner identity administration” that marshaled the one who dwells upon high and his writings to suit its racial purposes. I couldn’t resist asking the guide a question that greatly intrigued me.
“Tell me,” I asked. “What was it that really broke you? What made you give up, do away with apartheid, support the parties of Frederik De Klerk and Nelson Mandela, and accomplish this unbelievable shift from a white tyranny to a full democracy?”
“The boycott,” he replied without a moment’s hesitation. “The boycott set us free.”
“The shortage of fuel? Of weapons? The lack of investment?” I asked, seeking clarification.
“No, that wasn’t the problem,” he answered. “We could always find ‘good people’ to sell us fuel and arms and whatever we wanted. I don’t have to tell you who I’m talking about,” he added, tongue firmly in cheek. He knew where I came from.
“It was the second boycott that did it,” he said.
“‘Second boycott’? What was the second boycott?”
“The cultural boycott,” he told me. “Sports, tourism, artistic, academic. The countries that suddenly demanded visas. The universities that suddenly closed their gates. The artists that didn’t come to perform. The sports competitions that were closed to our athletes. The Olympics from which we were thrown out. That’s what made us bend – or opened our eyes, depending on whom you’re talking to. Basically, we got tired of being lepers. We got tired of being an international curse word. And people were sick of being the world’s evil villain. We wanted to be normal. De Klerk and Mandela offered us a path, and we agreed to take it.”
We went on chatting a lot more, but it’s this bit of conversation that I wish to bring to the attention of Propaganda Minister Gilad Erdan. His official title may be public security minister (and also includes something involving “strategic affairs”), but one look at the activity of his ministry is enough to see that Propaganda Ministry is a much more apt name for it.
So, our propaganda minister should know the sad truth, which can often be a happy truth as well: Boycotts work. Boycotts are effective. Boycotts bring results. And boycotts are sometimes the last hope of a desperate people. The hope of getting the hump off their back, of regaining one’s senses, of being freed from subjugation of another person. And also the hope of liberation from addictive servitude to some kind of baseless, heavenly “redemption.”
And a boycott worthy of the name – one that is economic, cultural and sports-related, and also applies to tourism – is also the most legitimate, human and philo-Semitic way in the enlightened world to try to save Israel from its own clutches and to extract it from the deep hole it is digging for itself.
Is it any wonder that the propaganda minister gets hysterical upon hearing the word “boycott”? The last thing he needs is to be deprived of the joys of the occupation and of sowing propaganda!