The Electronic Intifada / September 10, 2019
Benny Gantz, chief of the Israeli army during Israel’s 2014 massacre in Gaza, is borrowing apartheid South Africa’s talking points to boost his election campaign.
Gantz heads the allegedly center-left opposition coalition hoping to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel’s elections later this month. In a campaign attack on Israel’s prime minister, Monday, Gantz declared that, unlike Netanyahu, he would have allowed US congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to visit Israel and the occupied territories.
Had they visited, Gantz claimed, they would have seen “with their own eyes” that “the best place to be an Arab in the Middle East is in Israel … and the second best place to be an Arab in the Middle East is the West Bank.”
Gantz’s contention that Israeli military occupation and colonization is a blessing to Palestinians is a direct echo of South Africa’s apartheid rulers who insisted that their brutal white supremacist regime was good for Black people.
Writer Ben White pointed to a 1977 New York Times interview with John Vorster, who was then prime minister of South Africa’s racist regime. “The standard of living of the South African Black is two to five times higher than that of any Black country in Africa,” Vorster claimed. This assertion was a staple of South African propaganda as the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement gained strength during the 1980s.
It is not surprising, as colonialists always claim that their violent rule is a gift to the people they exploit and oppress. The echoes of apartheid South Africa’s propaganda in Israel’s current efforts are strong:
And similar to the South African racists who tried to fight the isolation of their regime, Gantz declared that “everybody who cooperates with BDS is operating against the state of Israel.”
The former army chief also claimed that BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights – is a “form of anti-Semitism.” It is in fact an anti-racist movement rooted in international law and universal rights.
Gantz’s statements show that despite efforts to whitewash him as an alternative, he represents nothing different from Netanyahu.
Gantz faces war crimes lawsuit
Israel’s re-do election falls on 17 September.
That same day there will be a court hearing in the Netherlands in Ismail Ziada’s lawsuit against Benny Gantz.
Ziada, a Palestinian-Dutch citizen, is suing Gantz and another Israeli commander for the 20 July 2014 attack on his family’s home in Gaza’s al-Bureij refugee camp. The Israeli bombing killed seven people – Ismail Ziada’s 70-year-old mother Muftia Ziada, three brothers, a sister-in-law, a 12-year-old nephew and a friend who was visiting.
Ismail Ziada is suing two Israeli generals for the deaths of six relatives during Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza. (via Facebook)
The 2014 assault on Gaza commanded by Gantz killed 2,200 Palestinians, including 550 children.
Far from being ashamed of his crimes, Gantz actually ran ads in Israel’s April election – which failed to produce a clear winner, thus precipitating this September’s poll – boasting about how many Palestinians he slaughtered in 2014.
EU “dialogue” with a war criminal
Gantz’s blood-soaked record and advocacy of colonialism also provide a yardstick by which to measure the European Union’s alleged support for human rights.
Instead of standing with Gantz’s victims and their campaign for justice, the EU is boosting the perpetrator. Just last month, Emanuele Giaufret, the EU ambassador in Tel Aviv, and his European colleagues met for a cozy chat with Gantz. “We look forward to continuing the dialogue,” Giaufret tweeted.
It goes to show that there is no level of racism and crime that an Israeli leader can commit against Palestinians that will disqualify them from the EU’s warm embrace.
Let’s hope Dutch judges have the sense of justice, decency and courage that most of Europe’s diplomats and politicians so abjectly lack.
Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books