Ronnie Kasrils, veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle, and South Africa’s former Minister for Intelligence Services, activist and author, contributed the (slightly abridged) piece below to the 19 December edition of The Palestine Chronicle
I support the right of all oppressed people to resist, and to resist armed oppression with armed resistance.
My principles are universal, they apply in all situations. In the same way, I oppose all forms of racism. Naturally, this includes antisemitism, which is a form of racism.
I oppose all forms of racism, support the right of all people living under military occupation to armed resistance and oppose and regret all loss of civilian life. I hold these principles without regard to the race of the oppressor or the oppressed.
The 2017 Hamas Charter, which remains current, clearly states it is in conflict “with the Zionist project not with the Jews” and that it “rejects the persecution of any human being or the undermining of his or her rights on nationalist, religious or sectarian grounds.” It correctly describes the Zionist project as a “racist, aggressive, colonial and expansionist project based on seizing the properties of others” and correctly asserts the right of the victims of Zionism to take up arms against their oppressors but does not, in anyway, call for attacks on Jewish people because they are Jewish people.
The Hamas Charter reveals the Palestinian Struggle to be no different to the South African struggle which was waged against the abominations of the Apartheid system and colonial dispossession of land, not against Whites because they were White.
My personal view is that there should be a single secular democratic state with rights for all – along the lines of post-apartheid South Africa – in the territory of historical Palestine but the 2017 Hamas charter does not call for the replacement of the Israeli ethno-state with a single inclusive state and clearly accepts a two state solution with a Palestinian state contiguous with the 1967 borders.
Right to Resist
In an address at a private meeting of approximately 40 trade unionists and activists on 24 November, my words on the success of the military raid on the Israeli Gaza Division undertaken by Hamas on 7 October, were as follows:
“They swept on them and they killed them and damn good. I was so pleased and people who supported the resistance applauded, absolutely. If we had been able to spring a surprise on the Boers and knock down a hundred of them, the people would have been rejoicing on the rooftops. It’s the struggle, the armed struggle and in International Law, the occupied people are (justified). It’s accepted International Law that they have the right to that kind of resistance.”
In the context of my talk and discussion, I was referring to the Israeli military garrison, cruelly imprisoning the people of Gaza for over sixteen years, having tormented and killed thousands in that period – “mowing the lawn” as the IDF phrase describes massacre after massacre.
Palestinians have the same right to armed resistance as black South Africans had under apartheid, and as all oppressed people do. The October 7 raid penetrating the militarized Gaza border followed 16 years of the brutal Gaza siege and a history of oppression going back to 1967, and indeed all the way back to 1947-48. Supporters of the oppressed will always rejoice in their achievements against the oppressor.
At the same time, empathy for any civilian victim is felt. This is felt for civilians who died on October 7. Such rejoicing is no different to the way in which we celebrate military defeats against every oppressive state – from Nazi Germany to Apartheid South Africa – while regretting civilian casualties.
Those who wish to say that all celebration of military success is perverse are silent about the fact that the Zionists of what was deemed a Jewish Resistance Movement celebrated foul atrocities committed in the founding of a state on land soaked with the blood and tears of its indigenous Palestinian population.
They forget that the IDF and settler militias continuously celebrate their abhorrent undertakings growing more brutal by the day, as seen in the wild settler pogroms on the West Bank, in East Jerusalem as in the Gaza genocide. We may ask who has the true right to celebration, the oppressor or the oppressed?
October 7 Operation
The October 7 incursion by Hamas and other resistance groups comprised two elements: The legal and justifiable military operation against the IDF and the illegal taking of civilian captives. The latter admittedly a breach of international law but an action holding validity in terms of the intention to secure an exchange for detainees, including women and children, held in Israeli prisons without charge, with little chance of fair trial and under appalling conditions.
The offer of an exchange of captives was extended by Hamas within 48 hours of the event.
With regard to the tragedy of violent civilian deaths, completion of the initial phase of military attack was compromised by the music festival, an obstacle to access to command centers.
The ensuing carnage was exacerbated by the IDF’s chaotic arrival on the scene, which as the shooting of three Israeli hostages by Israeli soldiers on December 25 showed, is far from a model of military efficiency.
Increasing witness accounts and information from IDF and Intelligence personnel reveal a need for independent investigation in the interests of equitable apportionment of blame among the IDF, al-Qassam Brigades, other armed groups and the crowd which poured through the breached Gaza fence.
Unfortunately, much evidence has been lost or intentionally removed. But we do know that the Resistance fighters were armed with light arms, RPGs and grenades, weapons that could not destroy hundreds of vehicles or demolish buildings.
Allegations of depravity committed against women in particular likewise require a measure of explanation. Claims of mass rape and disembowelment, along with accounts of 40 beheaded babies, a baby cooked in an oven, chopping off of limbs and bodies bound together for burning alive have been authoritatively dismissed as simple propaganda.
Having suffered the humiliation of a serious military defeat during the initial phase of the incursion, Israel has elected to divert attention to the second phase during which the massacres occurred.
However, disclosures to Israeli media reveal the carnage to have ensued by the actions of not only different groups of resistance fighters but particularly those of the IDF, who applied the Hannibal Directive in indiscriminate usage of missiles and shells fired from attack helicopters and tanks.
It remains to be seen whether the self-proclaimed ‘most moral army in the world’ finds the modicum of courage required to admit to extensive culpability for the civilian deaths on October 7.
Israeli retaliation for the attack was inevitable. But the world has been left aghast at the disproportionate response, the ongoing genocide, ethnic cleansing, starvation, collective punishment, relentless bombing, obliteration of civilian infrastructure and residential areas, wilful destruction of hospitals overflowing with wounded who have to be treated under horrific conditions, extermination of healthcare workers and journalists, cold-blooded sniper fire and detention of individuals, hooded and stripped to their underwear, who become disappeared and subject to torture.
The unprecedented global objection to the atrocities wrought against the Palestinians indicates the tectonic plates of geopolitics are shifting. In the United States most younger people, including very many younger Jews, no longer support Israel.
The Palestinian Struggle is not waged against Zionism because Zionists are Jewish but against Zionism because it is the imposition of a monstrous dispensation, which Jews of conscience around the world oppose.
Israel’s claim to the right of an oppressor to defend itself perpetuates a singularly inhumane dispensation in the form of land seizures, military occupation, settlement expansion, vandalism, violence, expulsion, massacres, surveillance, arbitrary checkpoints, illegal detention, more than 65 discriminatory laws against Palestinians within the 1948 borders, the Apartheid Wall and constant harassment, intimidation and humiliation.
As a Jew who grew up in the 1940s, my blood chills at comparative images of Nazi behavior.
Anti-Semitism is racism.
Zionism is racism.
The Israeli state is a structurally and viciously racist state.
Those who stand against racism, must simultaneously stand against anti-Semitism, Zionism and the Israeli state.
Palestine Chronicle 19/12/2023