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Take the Quiz! Israel: Perception & Reality

Part 2: Israel and Comparisons to Apartheid South Africa

Background note to this section of the quiz

Under the white supremacist apartheid system, in effect in South Africa from 1948 to 1994, millions of South African people were driven out of their communities, deprived of citizenship, and violently herded into so-called “homelands” called bantustans. Education, medical care, and other services were rigidly segregated and abominable for black South Africans. Protests and uprisings were violently suppressed. The apartheid regime carried out proxy wars on behalf of the United States in opposition to Soviet-sponsored forces in Southern Africa during the “cold war.” In 1994, in response to international outrage, resistance in South Africa, and in the context of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the “cold war,” formal apartheid was ended.

1) Until the early 1990s, the apartheid government of South Africa was isolated by a UN embargo on trade. During that period, Israel’s commercial relationship with South Africa consisted of…

a) Trade limited to the export of oranges and other food.

b) Trade limited to the export of eyeglasses and medical supplies.

c) Trade centered on large scale, strategic military assistance including material and training to help the apartheid regime massacre protesters and assistance in developing a nuclear weapons program.

d) All of the above.

e) None of the above—Israel was one of the few countries in the world to strictly observe the boycott of trade with South Africa.


Answer: C

The Israel-South Africa alliance began in earnest in April 1975 when then-Defense Minister Shimon Peres signed a secret security pact with his South African counterpart, P.W. Botha. Within months, the two countries were doing a brisk trade, closing arms deals totaling almost $200 million; Peres even offered to sell Pretoria nuclear-capable Jericho missiles. By 1979, South Africa had become the Israeli defense industry's single largest customer, accounting for 35 percent of military exports and dwarfing other clients such as Argentina, Chile, Singapore, and Zaire. There was nuclear cooperation, too: South Africa provided Israel with yellowcake uranium while dozens of Israelis came to South Africa in 1984 with code names and cover stories to work on Pretoria's nuclear missile program at South Africa's secret Overberg testing range. Foreign Policy, May 10, 2010; Rose M. Byrnes, ed., South Africa: A Country Study: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1996.


2) When South African prime minister John Vorster—who had been jailed for his membership in a fascist organization in South Africa that sided with Hitler in World War 2—made a state visit to Israel in 1976…

a) Israel allowed Vorster to visit, but in a close parallel to Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s reception at Columbia University in New York in 2007, Vorster’s speech at Tel Aviv University was introduced by Prof. Joseph Klafter (currently the university’s president) with scathing denunciation of Vorster’s “unacceptable past positions,” and “abhorrent current policies towards [South Africa’s] black population.”

b) Israel allowed Vorster to visit, but Israeli authorities boycotted his visit.

c) Israel’s Prime Minister at the time, Yitzhak Rabin, praised “the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence” and declared both countries were threatened by “foreign-inspired instability and recklessness.”

d) Vorster was detained at the Tel Aviv Airport and not allowed to enter Israel.


Answer: C.

In 1976, Israel invited the South African prime minister, John Vorster—a former Nazi sympathizer and a commander of the fascist Ossewabrandwag that sided with Hitler—to make a state visit….Leaving unmentioned Vorster's wartime internment for supporting Germany, Israel's prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, hailed the South African premier as a force for freedom and made no mention of Vorster's past as he toured the Jerusalem memorial to the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. At a state banquet, Rabin toasted "the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence". Both countries, he said, faced "foreign-inspired instability and recklessness.” Chris McGreal, The Guardian, Tuesday 7 February 2006; The Jerusalem Fund, July 11, 2010, “Apartheid South Africa’s Secret Relationship with Israel”, Dr. Sasha Polansky.


3) In apartheid South Africa, after the indigenous African people’s land was taken by force, they were declared illegal inhabitants of their own land. In Israel, the status of Palestinian people who own houses in Jerusalem, land seized by Israel in the 1967 war, has been addressed in the following way:

a) Jerusalem has always been almost exclusively inhabited by European immigrants, and there is no issue of dispossessed Palestinian homeowners.

b) Israeli court rulings protect Palestinians who own homes in Jerusalem.

c) Palestinian property holders in Jerusalem are considered “illegally present people” in their own homes, without legal rights to live in their own houses. Thousands of Palestinians living in the West Bank who own land or homes in Jerusalem lost all rights to their holdings.

d) None of the above.


Answer C

Palestinian residents of Jerusalem face especially acute discrimination in the provision of municipal services and access to land for residential building. Those residing in East Jerusalem, seized by Israel in 1967, have been required to prove that Jerusalem constitutes their "center of life" and risk the loss of residency rights there. The Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem characterized the set of pressures faced by native non-Jewish residents of Jerusalem as a form of "quiet deportation." Coupled with an aggressive campaign of Jewish settlement, Israeli policies amount to a form of 21st-century colonialism. Counterpunch, Intolerance at Jerusalem's Museum of Tolerance, George Bisharat; Asia!, Sheikh Jarrah: The Holy City's telling battle on two fronts (Part two), Dan-Chiyi Chuya, July 21, 2010. Baltimore IMC, September 13, 2010, East Jerusalem Palestinians Denied Basic Rights, Stephen Lendman.


4) Speaking of the bantustans, remote, barren enclosures to which the indigenous African people of South Africa were confined, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema that…

a) The bantustan model was the most appropriate solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.

b) The bantustan model was appalling, and drew parallels to the forced resettlement of European Jews in ghettos.

c) The bantustan model was abandoned due to the struggle of the people of South Africa, and pressure from Israel.

d)  The bantustan model might have been appropriate for South Africa, but was not appropriate for Israel.


Answer A

Three years ago, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported the former Italian prime minister, Massimo D'Alema, as telling dinner guests at a Jerusalem hotel that, on a visit to Rome a few years earlier, Sharon had told him that the bantustan model was the most appropriate solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. When one of the guests suggested to D'Alema that he was interpreting, not repeating, Sharon's words, the former prime minister said not. "No, sir, that is not interpretation. That is a precise quotation of your prime minister," he said. With Sharon out of politics, his successor Ehud Olmert has pledged himself to carrying through the vision of carving out Israel's final borders deep inside the West Bank and retaining all of Jerusalem for the Jewish state. Chris McGreal, The Guardian, Tuesday 7 February 2006,, Sun, October 03, 2010 Tishrei 25, 5771, Akiva Elder.


5) The similarity between the Pass Laws under the South African apartheid regime and the identity cards carried by Palestinians in Israel is that …

a) Israeli soldiers routinely humiliate and harass Palestinians at checkpoints.

b) Israeli police stop people based on their apparent nationality and demand their identity cards as a matter of routine.

c) Walls, checkpoints, and repression create an environment in Israel where much of the Jewish public is shielded from, doesn’t see, and avoids confronting the conditions of the Palestinian people.

d) All of the above

e) None of the above.


Answer: D.  

The Report of the United Nations Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Population of the Occupied Territories, December 3, 1986, proposed that the UN General Assembly condemn a comprehensive collection of Israeli policies and practices. These included, among many oppressive Israeli actions, “Collective punishment, mass arrests, administrative detention and ill-treatment of the Arab population,” and “Interference with the freedom of movement of individuals within the Palestinian and other occupied Arab territories.” (United Nations, Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Population of the Occupied Territories, December 3, 1986)

The UN General Assembly voted to demand that Israel “cooperate with the Special Committee in implementing its mandate, and deplores those policies and practices of Israel that violate the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories.” (United Nations General Assembly Report, GA 1092, December 10, 2009)


6) Which of the following is a substantial difference between Israel and apartheid South Africa?

a) Ideologists of apartheid invoked religious dogma to justify white supremacy, whereas defenders of Zionism do not.

b) While these provisions are flawed in implementation, Israel’s Constitution guarantees equality to people of all races and religions, whereas no such protection existed in South Africa.

c) Israel maintains a world-class arsenal of nuclear weapons and has the technology, intelligence capacity and delivery systems to launch a devastating nuclear attack—while apartheid South Africa never achieved nuclear weapons capacity.

d) The South African regime provided military assistance, training, and materiel to pro-U.S. forces carrying out terrorist attacks, whereas Israel has not and is not involved in such actions.

e) None of the above.


Answer: C

Defenders of Zionism invoke religion; Israel has no Constitution and in any event does not promise formal equality to Palestinian citizens; Israel provided covert military assistance to the Nicaraguan “Contras” who carried out terrorist attacks on civilians, civilian property, and infrastructure as part of a campaign to overthrow the Sandinista government in the 1980s. Estimates of Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal range from 75 to 200.

The Federation of American Scientists states “Israel has not confirmed that it has nuclear weapons and officially maintains that it will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East. Yet the existence of Israeli nuclear weapons is a "public secret" by now due to the declassification of large numbers of formerly highly classified US government documents which show that the United States by 1975 was convinced that Israel had nuclear weapons.” (

“Most experts estimate that Israel has between 100 and 200 nuclear warheads, largely based on information leaked to the Sunday Times newspaper in the 1980s by Mordechai Vanunu, a former worker at the country's Dimona nuclear reactor.

“The U.S., a key ally of Israel, has in general followed the country's policy of "nuclear ambiguity", neither confirming or denying the existence of its assumed arsenal.

“However, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert included Israel among a list of nuclear states in comments in December 2006, a week after US Defense Secretary Robert Gates used a similar form of words during a Senate hearing.”

--BBC News, “Israel 'has 150 nuclear weapons'” May 26, 2008.


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