In recent years Israel’s enemies have attempted to delegitimize the Jewish State using many of the same methods and language of the anti-apartheid movement of the mid-1980’s, a cause that led to the demise of white-dominated minority rule in South Africa. Sasha Polakow-Suransky’s controversial b ook will provide additional grist for Israel’s foes inasmuch as the book is an indictment of Israel’s more than 20 year covert relationship with the apartheid state. Although a work of history, Polakow-Suransky’s prose is often scolding and sarcastic, especially when he focuses on Shimon Peres, whom the author credits as being the architect of a duplicitous foreign policy with South Africa. The author writes, for example: Just twelve years earlier, after initiating a series of arms deals in Pretoria, the same man (Peres) had told his South African hosts that their alliance was based on ‘unshakable foundations of our common hatred of injustice and our refusal to submit to it.’
This, states Polakow-Suransky, is the same person who, in a visit to the Cameroons, stated that “A Jew who accepts apartheid ceases to be a Jew. A Jew and racism do not go together.” The author goes on to detail how Peres and others linked up with the apartheid régime in a major trading partnership, which included exports from Israel’s budding arms industry to the South African military, their cooperation on nuclear weaponry, the frequent visits of both militaries to one another’s countries in order to share military intelligence, and the view of Israeli leaders, such as Begin, Shamir, Rabin, Sharon, and Rafael Eitan, that both countries were fighting for survival against similar enemies. For Israel, the fight against the PLO was not unlike South Africa’s war against Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC). Eitan, for example, told a Tel Aviv University audience, that “blacks want to gain control over the white minority just like the Arabs here want to gain control over us. And we, too, like the white minority in South Africa must prevent them from taking us over.”
Both nations were virtually pariahs in the international community, and found in one another natural allies in a war for survival. Thus Israel eschewed its instinctive moral repugnance for apartheid, as was the case when Golda Meir was Israel’s prime minister, for a pragmatic relationship with a régime whose leadership included a number of those who were pro-Nazi during Word War II.
A senior editor at Foreign Affairs who holds a doctorate from Oxford University and a contributor to such publications as The New Republic and Newsweek, Polakow-Suransky researched documents from both Israel and South Africa and interviewed many of the key participants in both countries. Thus the author’s credentials cannot be ignored, nor can his argument, that in the name of defending itself against a hostile Middle East, Israel, following the Six-Day War, moved from a nation vocally opposed to apartheid, to one that abandoned its moral condemnation of racist South Africa in favor of a close and lucrative relationship with the apartheid régime.