Ronnie Kasrils on South Africa parallels and the Palestinian liberation struggle

‘I support right of all oppressed people to resist, and to resist armed oppression with armed resistance,’ says former minister.

The right and duty of the Palestinian people to resist their oppressors is clear and internationally recognised. And increasing numbers of people around the world are now waking up to the terrible lies that have been told to them by imperialist and zionist media in the cause of protecting the settler-colonial project of Israel.

The following article, a reply to a scurrilous attack by western security-aligned commentator Greg Mills in South Africa’s Daily Maverick, is reproduced from Politics Web, with thanks. The author is a communist and was a founding commander of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC). He later served as a minister in the South African government from 1994-2008.


Greg Mills accuses me of having no “moral compass” because 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.

Mills, however, appears indifferent to the lives of Palestinians, and other muslims. He has been directly involved in imperialist oppression, and remains complicit with it. In 2006, he was a special advisor to the commander of the Nato forces occupying Afghanistan.

Today, the board of the Brenthurst Foundation that Mills directs includes Richard Myers, the former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff in the USA, and Nick Carter, the former chief of the defence staff in the United Kingdom. Myers and Carter both took leading roles in the destruction of Iraq following the invasion led by the USA in 2003.

The destruction of Iraq, at the price of over a million lives, is widely recognised as a war crime, and yet Mills happily consorts with perpetrators of the most horrific war crime in a generation. He does not show an ounce of the concern he lavishes on the lives of people in Israel and Ukraine for the lives of Iraqis and other Arabs. His racism is rank.

I oppose all forms of racism, support the right of all people living under military occupation to armed resistance, and opposed and regret all loss of civilian life. I hold these principles without regard to the race of the oppressor or the oppressed.

Mills does not engage with the situation in Gaza or the West Bank with any factual rigour, and the same is true of his attack on myself, where he wholly ignores the context of my remarks. For instance, he says that Hamas has an “ideology to eliminate Israel and Israelis” and uses this claim to compare Hamas to Nazis.

The 2017 Hamas charter, which remains current, clearly states that 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 any way, 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 that 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 ethnostate with a single inclusive state and clearly accepts a two-state solution with a Palestinian state contiguous with the 1967 borders.

In terms of his attack on myself, Mills takes a statement out of context – always a shortcut for those who decline to stay the course of critical thinking and journalistic integrity.

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 support 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 to 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 16 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 7 October raid penetrated the militarised 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 7 October. 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 causalities.

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?

The 7 October 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 centres. 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 15 December 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 that 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.

The purpose of the military attack on IDF installations and taking of captives certainly did not entail carrying fuel canisters, as per Mr Mills’s assumption that arson was on the to-do list. Allegations of depravities 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 as a result of the actions not only of different groups of resistance fighters but particularly those of the IDF, which 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 7 October.

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, coldblooded sniper fire and detention of individuals, hooded and stripped to their underwear, who are disappeared and subjected to torture.

The unprecedented global objection to the atrocities wrought against the Palestinians indicates that the tectonic plates of geopolitics are shifting. In the United States, most younger people, including very many younger jews, no longer support Israel. However, Mr Mills has not been able to wean himself from the imperialist interests of the west, over which the USA reigns supreme. Some might refer to him as a propagandist.

Moreover, his article is a diatribe, not only against me but the multitudes of previously oppressed South Africans who share my views.

It’s a sorry state of affairs that so much of his article comprises a derogatory ad hominem attack. Personal insult and a crudely intemperate tone typify a deficit of valid argument.

Mills has succumbed to the lure of what can only be described as malevolently hysterical zionist fabrication and hasn’t taken the trouble to study the 2017 Hamas charter, or the strong criticisms made of the recent conduct of the Israeli state and its military in the Israeli media.

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 behaviour.

Antisemitism is racism.
Zionism is racism.
The Israeli state is a structurally and viciously racist state.
Those who stand against racism, must simultaneously stand against antisemitism, zionism and the Israeli state.