De Leeuw: Apartheid In South Africa, Palestine – OpEd
By Yousef M. Aljamal
The Center for Political Development Studies [CPDS], a Gaza based organization held a lecture on Sunday, February 12, 2012 on ‘The South Africa-anti Apartheid Movement and Palestine’, delivered by Lydia de Leeuw, an international officer working at the PCHR, specialized in criminology, who conducted her MA thesis on ‘The involvement of business in a continuum of state-corporate crime’, in which she investigated ‘the share companies had in facilitating the South African government in committing the state-corporate crime of apartheid’.
“Back then, the crime was still formulated and defined. People saw these policies, but it didn’t yet have a name. It was internationally recognized as a crime. Still it was hard to prosecute and create a political will to people to undertake steps to uphold the principles of the international law. SA had natural resources, so the white population, who have settled there few centuries before were very eager to exploit them, but they didn’t have man power. So, they designed a system in which people work in the mines and farms so that they could take gold from the mines and food from the farms”, said de Leeuw.
Discrimination based on origins, the same as it’s in Palestine nowadays, was used by white people against the indigenous people of South Africa. There were several categories of people divided according to their color. Black and colored people were discriminated against the most.
“Companies and mining industries came up with a plan to divide lands among people according to the color of their skin. White people made sure that blacks were forced to work in their mines. They would impose taxes on them. Since the black people lost their lands in policies of dispossession and had to pay taxes, they needed jobs, which the white people would ‘offer’ in our mines. Things were designed so that the population would be separated according to race with having cheap labor force,” she added.
It took South Africans a lot of time until their voice got heard, and people around the world stood in solidarity with them to end the apartheid regime they were subjected to. The global movement of anti-apartheid grew up in the 80s and ended up in the 90s, when Nelson Mandela, the first South African president was elected in a fully representative democratic election, who was an anti-apartheid activist before his presidency.
“The first institutionalized form of apartheid was in 1913. Black people were not allowed to move into areas designated for white people. They had to carry the identification card. You can see similarities in the West Bank where, if you are in the wrong area, you would be detained and prosecuted for it. Polaroid, a photographic company, designed system in which an instant photo would be made, put it on a card, and had a very quick design of cards of millions of people”.
Economy and companies were actively involved in Apartheid in South Africa. So they do in Palestine. The Ahava and the Soda Stream, built on Palestinians lands in the West Bank are clear examples.
“There were five corporate sectors which were extensively involved in upholding the policy of Apartheid. They were actively facilitating the practices of Apartheid. One of the industries was oil. SA didn’t have companies to produce oil, so they depended on other companies to produce it with high prices or import it from outside. Even though the apartheid started in 1948, when the Nationalist Party came into power, it took until 1980 to impose a voluntary oil embargo by the world community”.
“SA apartheid regime started producing armament system and even sold it abroad. The country needed international involvement to develop it. There were two ways to do so: the first was getting licences from companies for the develop and production of armaments. The second was buying ammunition and weapons’ particles from companies”, she clarified.
The Boipatong and Sharpeville massacres were examples of how the regime acted to silence the oppressed people. This brought the attention of the world community to what was going on, which led to global movement of boycott that ended centuries of injustice against the impoverished South Africans.
“The third industry was the banking industry. The government wanted to take loans to carry out their policies. People in Europe learned that their money would be used by a racist regime for carrying out racist policies. The British students in the UK started protesting this. The transportation industry never stopped and a huge number of vehicles were brought to South Africa. The fifth industry was technology. It’s the not as the same one we have in the Gaza strip in the West Bank. But people had to be registered according to the color of their skin. Discriminatory use of registration also exists in the West Bank and Jerusalem.”
The International community, at a later stage, started criminalizing the polices of Apartheid. Some governmental and international officials called upon citizen of the world to boycott them to bring them accountable.
“Some companies don’t step backward if they don’t make profits, because if they pull out, they know that they would lose the entire investments made. The same companies that were facilitating the Second World War, were active in South African and now we see them in Palestine. One of the examples is IBM. Now, it’s said they are running the systems in the Israeli jails too”.
CPDS tries to explore parallels of global struggles ended long time of injustice with the Palestinian people’s cause, which is turning global as time passes. Palestinians experience what South Africans have gone through, which makes it inevitable to learn from history of other nations, like the brave South Africans, who after centuries of inequality, won their cause and reached their end. Yet, the Palestinian ship is still sailing.
-Yousef M. Aljamal works with the Center for Political Development Studies [CPDS] , a Gaza based non-profit organization facilitating Palestinians representing themselves “in the tongues of its own people” to convey their own message to the world and enhance Palestine’s presence in world forums and international organizations. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.