February 20, 2008

Israel is a spitting image for the old South Africa

I've told many people about this clip from a UK television satire called Spitting Image over the years, I never thought I would see it again but I stumbled on it tonight. There are a few things about the programme you need to know if you weren't around when it was being shown. It was a satirical puppet show dealing with the issues of its day, the 1980s. In this sketch another UK programme, the quiz show, Mastermind is used to demonstrate the oppressive nature of the State of Israel back then when the comparison with South Africa in the death throes of apartheid was easier to make because the comparison was current then. So here it is, Spitting Image:

That was from UK television in the 1980s. I still can't believe it's available for viewing again. A word on context, South Africa was still under the apartheid regime then as Palestine is now.

It's terrible to think that that programme was made in the 1980s and yet Israel still kills an inordinately high number of children. The trouble now is that many people have forgotten comparable regimes so people who think that killing children is not nice are accused of singling Israel out. The fact is that Israel is uniquely despised because Israel is uniquely despicable. But it wasn't always. Let's just thank Spitting Image for reminding us that, pre-liberation, South Africa just like Israel only without the ethnic cleansing*.

UPDATE - I've now been correctly called on this by someone called MFB in the comments to this post. The comment says:
Um, Mark, we did have a lot of ethnic cleansing in South Africa. For instance, in the Orange Free State down to the 1980s it was illegal for a person with "Indian" in his identity document to spend the night.

You might have heard of the "pass laws", under which Africans were forbidden to live in urban areas without special permission. Millions of people were shipped off to the homelands (google "Surplus People's Project", or variants, and see what you find).

I mean, you don't think we whites took control of 87% of the land area of the country just because the blacks and the Khoi and the San somehow decided to wander off into little wastelands?
And here's my response:
You're right MFB. I was trying to say too much in one short line. There was even a musical in London about District 6 in Cape Town. I meant without the native majority.
That latter point has had David Aaronovitch arguing the toss over whether it's ok to call Israel an apartheid state. The crux for him isn't that Israel is a segregationist state that has ethno-religious discrimination enshrined in its laws:
Israel is not anything like South Africa, where a majority was denied all political and civic rights on the grounds of race.
But of course, the Palestinians are the majority but a majority of that majority are barred from the territory.

Meanwhile, I've found another Spitting Image sketch which shows just how much the media pulls its punches on Israel when compared to its treatment of the remarkably similar regime of South Africa.


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