Address by Deputy Minister Pahad to
the South African Zionist Conference, 10 March 2002
Mr Chairman, the Honourable Mr Abe Abrahamson,
Your Excellency Mr Sallai Meridor, Chairman of the Jewish
Your Excellency the Ambassador of Israel, Ms Tova Herzl
Mr Yechiel Lekhet, Chairman of the Jewish National Fund
Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Mr Cyril Harris
The Honourable Tony Leon MP, Leader of the Official
Ladies and Gentlemen
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to address
your 45th Conference today on the topic of South Africa's
relations with the State of Israel.
As we meet this afternoon, events are unfolding which
will have a profound effect on our international relations.
I refer here to the Inter Congolese Dialogue, events
in Angola after the death of Jonas Savimbi and the elections
Some seven years ago, South Africa's Foreign Minister
Alfred Nzo told a similar gathering to this one, that
Jews in South Africa should be able to practice their
Zionism, religion and culture without hindrance or questions
being raised about their patriotism and love for South
Africa. As Minister Nzo expressed it, Jews are free
to love South Africa, their homeland and also to love
Israel, the Jewish State, and to manifest freely their
support for the well-being of the peoples of South Africa
and the Jewish people of Israel.
Secondly, Minister Nzo recognised that there is a close
linkage existing between the state of relations between
South Africa and the State of Israel. Associated with
this, he acknowledged that good relations between both
states naturally provide an enhanced sense of well-being
to the Jewish community in South Africa.
He also made it clear that continuation of the conflict
between Israelis and Palestinians would threaten international
peace and indeed even South Africa's own domestic tranquility.
Therefore, it was vital for South Africa to support
those hopeful efforts started in Washington in September
1993. This, among other things, has compelled us to
build strong links with Israelis and Palestinians at
Governmental and non-governmental level.
I would like to take this opportunity today to once
again repeat that these central principles of policy
enunciated by the late Minister Nzo, are as applicable
today as they were at that time.
Let me give you the assurance today that South Africa's
policy, in respect of its relations with Israel and
its support for the achievement of a Palestinian State,
are predicated upon the fundamental principle of unequivocal
and unchanging support for the right of the State of
Israel to exist with defined borders, in full peace
and security with its neighbours.
This fundamental position has been the long-standing
policy of the ANC, both in exile and now in government.
It has not changed and it will not change in the future.
South Africa maintains full diplomatic relations with
the State of Israel. Both nations have ambassadors serving
in the respective countries and I want to say that the
extent of our diplomatic dialogue is not only substantial
and cordial, it is also good!
Despite our public differences over Israel's military
policies in respect of the Palestinians, the character
of our diplomatic exchange and the substance of relations
between the two countries, remains strong, extensive
and broad ranging and there has been no change in that
from 1994 until today.
In respect of the diplomatic dialogue and exchange
with the Government of Israel which I have just mentioned,
I want to assure you that this does not stop at extensive
contact between Ambassador Herzl in South Africa and
South African Ambassador Marx in Israel, with officials
of the respective Departments of Foreign Affairs, it
also consists of the highest possible levels of contacts
between both Governments.
There is ongoing exchange between President Mbeki
and President Katzav, Prime Minister Sharon and Deputy
Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres. The
last such personal contact being as recent as President
Mbeki's visit to New York last month.
The Government of South Africa cares deeply about the
need for peace and security for the Israeli and Palestinian
peoples. That is why the South African Government has
devoted considerable time, effort and resources to try
and keep the hope for peace alive for Israelis and Palestinians
in this terrible time of crisis.
It was precisely the commitment to this principle of
keeping the hope for peace alive between Israelis and
Palestinians which prompted President Mbeki to invite
Israeli and Palestinian leaders, who have shown an unswerving
commitment to an unconditional dialogue about peace
between both peoples to South Africa to attend the Spier
Peace Retreat at the beginning of January.
The South African Government does not share the view
of Israel's Prime Minister, Mr Ariel Sharon, that "only
after (the Palestinians) are beaten will we be able
to hold talks."
The South African Government has never believed that
an army can defeat by military might, the striving of
a people for freedom. This is the fundamental point
of difference in approach between the Government of
South Africa and the Government of Israel on the extent
to which the use of armed force can be deployed to try
and restore peace and security against the wishes of
dogged people committed to their own liberation.
Equally, the South African Government does not believe
that the Palestinian people will achieve their dream
of liberation and the dignity of statehood, through
brutal and horrendous acts of terrorism committed against
the citizens of Israel in their streets, suburbs and
South Africa has been as unequivocal in its condemnation
of the military policies of the Government of Israel,
as it has been of Palestinian terrorist attacks against
the citizens of Israel.
We have not been alone in adopting this position.
For example, the United States, Israel's staunchest
ally, has had repeated cause to express its deepest
concern to the Government of Israel about the desperate
consequences of its ongoing escalation in the use of
massive military force against Palestinian institutions.
Most recently, Secretary of State, Colin Powell commented
that "Prime Minister Sharon has to take a hard
look at his policies and see whether they will work.
If you declare war on the Palestinians and think that
you can solve the problem, by seeing how many Palestinians
can be killed - I don't know that, that leads us anywhere."
This view is also widely shared as the position of the
European Union, major Western powers and in the United
The South African Government believes that peace cannot
be achieved in this type of conflict through the application
of overwhelming military force nor can it be achieved
under prevailing conditions, through demands that negotiations
and dialogue about peace can only commence in the absence
of hostilities and violence. Too many people on both
sides of this conflict are dead and maimed to hold on
to this unrealistic and unachievable principle.
In this regard, it cannot be forgotten that our nation
faced a similar challenge and we dealt with it differently
and successfully. In the period between the release
of former President Nelson Mandela, at the beginning
of February 1990, until the first democratic elections
in April 1994, more than 10,000 South Africans died
in politically motivated violence in this country. Where
would this nation have been today, if that requirement
had been set as a basis for the political dialogue that
enabled this country's leaders to achieve a negotiated
and peaceful settlement to our problems?
A policy which demands a total end to all violence
before negotiations can begin, is ultimately a policy
which places in the hands of the men of violence, the
right to veto any discussion and engagement on an agenda
It is for this reason that we are pleased to note Prime
Minister Sharon's commitment to commence discussions
with the Palestinians without a continued insistence
on seven days of calm. We are also heartened by the
American decision to return General Zinni to the region
and the EU response to try and move discussions forward
once again. We are equally supportive of efforts to
enhance the prospects for the Saudi Arabian proposal.
The reasons for this are obvious. The South African
Government does not believe that the conflict between
Israel and its Palestinian neighbour and peace partner,
is either intractable nor inevitable. It had a beginning
and, with goodwill on both sides, it will have an end!
While we can argue whether this approach is right or
not, we cannot accept that a willingness on the part
of the Government of South Africa, to express publicly
its criticism of Israeli's military approach to defeat
Palestinian aspirations with military might, is either
anti-Israeli or anti-Zionist or indeed, anti-Semitic.
We do however, recognise that such a view is held and
was given greater impetus after the disgraceful events
surrounding the non-governmental organisation conference
which was held on the fringes of the United Nations
World Conference against Racism in Durban, during August
I wish to make it unequivocally clear that the South
African Government recognises that part of that component
was hi-jacked and used by some with an anti-Israeli
agenda to turn it into an anti-Semitic event. Recognition
of this, however, was precisely the reason for the refusal
of the world's governments at that Conference to accept
the final statement of NGO proceedings into the final
document of the Conference.
Additionally, the South African Government as Chair,
worked hard to ensure an acceptable and honourable outcome
of the final document which avoided singling out Israel
for exclusive criticism in regard to the current crisis
in the Middle East.
So successful were our efforts in this regard, that
our President was personally thanked for South Africa's
role in ensuring that outcome by the Deputy Prime Minister
and Foreign Minister of Israel, Shimon Peres. Mr Peres
went further and also expressed himself publicly in
I know from considerable exchanges I have had with
the leadership of the South African Jewish community,
since that event, that Jewish civil society organisations
from around the world who experienced the shocking manifestations
of anti-Semitism we all saw on CNN, etc have another
It must be understood however, that the South African
Government cannot be held responsible for atrocious
behaviour by some extremists, who abused the constitutional
right to freedom of speech afforded to all persons in
South Africa. It is important to recall that many of
these people were self-invited, mandated by no one other
than themselves and funded by generous government grants
from the Western democracies. We also have to take account
of the fact that the media often see in such extremist
behaviour, the story of the day and resultantly give
such people publicity they do not deserve. There does
thus need to be a greater focus on media responsibility
in publicising and over emphasising such extremism.
The South African Government, as a host to such events,
has certainly learned lessons from this bad experience.
This said however, the South African Government cannot
accept the proposition that, the inability of UN structures
to control the behaviour of anti-Semitic extremists
at a fringe event of the Conference, automatically defines
the outcome of the inter-Governmental proceedings -
the main event of the Conference - as a failure, or
This does not mean however, that note has not been
taken of the deep concerns expressed by South African
Jewish leaders about the unacceptable manifestations
of anti-Semitism which were present during these fringe
of Conference proceedings. In fact, as a Government
that is committed to an unmitigated countering of any
racist agenda, we are well aware that anti-Semitism
very often rears its ugly head as among the first types
of racism that appear in modern societies. It is, therefore,
the first form of racism which has to be countered,
whenever and wherever it emerges.
The President's invitation to the Israeli peace camp
to join him and the Palestinian peace camp in a three
day retreat, focussing on how to advance the agenda
for peace between Israel and Palestine, speaks volumes
about the commitment of this Government to ensuring
that Israelis may live side-by-side in peace and security
with their Palestinian neighbours.
This retreat afforded those not inconsiderable elements
in Israeli society which, despite the present crisis,
have taken the opportunity to put, what most South Africans
perceive to be, Israel's best foot forward - the search
for a political solution to the ongoing suffering on
both sides in the present conflict.
This government and this nation believe in the power
of peace makers to make a difference. We believe in
peace makers' ability to change conflict into conciliation
and mutual recognition of each side's inherent dignity.
We do not believe in bombardment, whether by helicopter
gunships, tanks, Kalashnikov rifles or human bombs.
The South African Government, for this reason, unequivocally
supports those in Israel who pursue an unconditional
agenda for peace. This is not a narrow commitment to
an Israeli political party, it is a commitment of support
to all elements in Israeli society who believe that
peace can be won back from the ruins and tragedy of
present events. This is our hope and vision for Israel
In this regard, I have to mention before ending, that
the South African Government's diplomatic dialogue and
exchange with the Government of Israel and the Palestinian
National Authority, is unequivocally predicated upon
conveying this message over and over again.
In all our public statements, South Africa has never
taken a step backwards from the sanctity of the policy
statement which I commenced this address with. Namely,
the right of the State of Israel to exist within defined
borders, in peace and security with its neighbours.
Equally, we have never sought to justify or "water
down" our utter condemnation of any terrorist outrage
committed against the civilian population of Israel.
These are immutable pillars of our policy.
This does not mean however, that we do not hear and
do not see, increasing voices of dissent in Israeli
society about the consequences of Israeli occupation
of Palestinian territories or the futility of attempts
to achieve military solutions.
No nation's security can be predicated upon the occupation
and suppression of another nation.
In this regard, I want to quote from an article entitled
"The War's Seventh Day" which appeared in
Israel's daily Haaretz newspaper, a week ago. These
are not the ravings of a far-left wing "peacenik"
but the views of a highly respected Israeli jurist,
Mr Michael Ben-Yair, a former Attorney-General of the
State of Israel, who served during the prime ministership
of the late and great, Yitzchak Rabin.
"The Zionist dream's realisation and the Jewish
people's national rebirth
were not achieved
tanks, planes or other aggressive
means. The State of Israel was born because the Zionist
movement realised it must find a solution to Jewish
persecution and because the enlightened world recognised
the need for that solution.
"The Six Day War was forced upon us; however,
the war's seventh day which began on June 12, 1967,
has continued to this day. It is the product of our
"The Six Day War's seventh day has transformed
us from a moral society sure of the justice of Israel's
creation, into a society that oppresses another people,
preventing it from realising its legitimate national
We cannot ignore the fact that the so-called "Four
Mother's Movement" which was established on the
4th March 1997 which played a key-role in bringing about
Israel's withdrawal from its futile 18-year war in Southern
Lebanon, has now reconstituted itself as a movement
called "The Seventh Day" - the day that will
follow and complete the Six Day War, 35 years after
We cannot ignore the daily growing conscientious objectors
movement in Israel, now more than 300 soldiers, leaders
of elite battalions who question the morality of the
Defence Forces of a democratic nation oppressing the
people of another society.
We cannot ignore the public response of the Council
for Peace and Security, a group of over 1,000 top-level
reserve generals and colonels from the IDF, from the
Shin-Bet and Mossad, who have committed themselves to
mount a public campaign for an Israeli withdrawal from
all of Gaza and most of the West Bank "whether
there is a cease-fire or not."
We cannot ignore the fact that recent rallies in favour
of peace, called by the peace camp in Israel, have been
attended by up to 15,000 people. A far cry from the
half a million people who demonstrated against the War
in Lebanon in the 1980's, but a creditable and meaningful
beginning at a time when Israeli civilians are being
brutally killed in ever growing numbers on the streets
of their cities.
We cannot ignore the fact that Israelis are living
in a state of siege and growing insecurity. We are,
however, greatly encouraged that there are growing numbers
of Israelis who are saying there is another way. From
this we see that the hope for peace is growing in Israeli
society even in the midst of the current terrible cycle
of violence. When an editorial writer can write "that
a gruesome equation of blood is being created, an equation
that is spinning into an escalation neither side can
halt. A murderous Palestinian terrorist attack produces
an escalating Israeli response, which, in turn, produces
another horrible act of vengeance and the whole bloody,
vicious cycle goes on and on," this shows that
Israelis increasingly understand that the cycle of violence,
terrorism and bombardment bring no security and that
there is another alternative.
This growing movement towards support once again for
negotiations about peace, will also give strength and
encouragement to Palestinian leaders who desire a peaceful
solution and help to isolate the extremist men of violence.
Chairman, we have no peace plan for Israelis and Palestinians.
But South Africa has an abiding faith and commitment
to assist both societies to draw on their deepest resources
of common humanity and re-build a renewed hope for peace.
This vision cannot be achieved through an exclusive
support for one side of a conflict. It can only be based
upon a commitment to the dignity and right of both Israel
and Palestine to exist in peace and security, side by
side. This hope and commitment is as mutually dependant
for success or failure on the response of one society
as it is on that of the other. After all is said and
done, the similar sentiments of Yitzchak Rabin and Nelson
Mandela are as true today as when they were uttered
nearly a decade ago. "You make peace with your
enemies not with your friends. Peace makes enemies into
For the sake of Israeli and Palestinian children, we
must intensity our efforts to ensure that negotiations
based on the Tenet Proposals and Mitchell Plan can start
without further delay.
The pre-requisite for a prosperous State of Israel
living within defined and secure borders and in peace
with its neighbours, is an independent Palestinian State
committed to its own peace and prosperity side by side
with its neighbour Israel.
I thank you.