South African BDS - or Just BS?
By Shoshana Bryen
The government of South Africa has defined the State of Israel as not including Beersheva, Yad Mordechai, Acco, Afula, and Nahariya. It creates an "Arab Enclave" in Jaffa not governed by Israel. It reduces the borders of Israel in two places to points on a map -- one in the Galilee and one in the Negev Desert -- and, for good measure, restores Jerusalem and certain of its suburbs to "corpus separatum." Yasser Arafat didn't have the nerve to define such borders.
South Africa has decided to label goods entering the country from certain places as "IOT" for "Israeli Occupied Territory." The outraged Israeli government called the decision "blatant discrimination based on national and political distinction. This kind of discrimination has not been imposed -- and rightly so -- in any other case of national, territorial or ethnic conflict[.] ... What is totally unacceptable is the use of tools which, by essence, discriminate and single out, fostering a general boycott."
It is worse than that.
The statement by the South African cabinet "approved that a notice ... be issued by the minister of Trade and Industry requiring the labeling of goods or products emanating from IOTs (Israel Occupied Territories) to prevent consumers being led to believe that such goods come from Israel. This is in line with South Africa's stance that recognizes the 1948 borders delineated by the United Nations and does not recognize occupied territories beyond these borders as being part of the State of Israel."
The South African Cabinet appears to insist on the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan as the parameters for an Israel with which it is morally comfortable. Aside from the historical oddity of choosing 1948 -- a year in which no borders for Israel were determined -- there is the question of how to react to the delicate moral sensibilities of a government that just shot and killed 34 of its own citizens and wounded more than 70 others for protesting over pay.
Sticking to history, there are three possible eastern boundary lines for the State of Israel1: the 1947 U.N. partition line, the 1949 Armistice Line (also and incorrectly known as the "pre-'67 borders"), and the Jordan River post-Six-Day War. None are recognized borders, and none were established in 1948.
If the South African government is referring to the U.N. Partition Plan of 1947, it is those lines in which the State of Israel declared itself independent in May 1948. However, none of the Arab states accepted Israel inside those lines, and they immediately went to war to eradicate the lines and thus eradicate Israel. Why the South African government would stake its position on the basis of borders rejected by every Arab government is unclear.
Israel acquired some additional territory during the fighting in 1948 and 1949. It is worth noting that the U.N., while pointing to the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" in U.N. Resolution 242 after the 1967 war, would have been referring to acquisition through offensive war. To cite the Jewish Virtual Library, "[i]f not, the resolution would provide an incentive for aggression. If one country attacks another, and the defender repels the attack and acquires territory in the process, the former interpretation would require the defender to return all the land it took. Thus, aggressors would have little to lose because they would be insured against the main consequence of defeat."
The same point applies to the 1948-49 war. The Arab states were clearly the aggressors in 1948, and the Armistice Commission led by Dr. Ralph Bunche did not insist that Israel vacate the additional territory. Quite the opposite: "[o]n 3 April, the agreement was signed, fixing the armistice line of the West Bank, transferring to Israel a number of Arab villages in the central part of the country [emphasis added] and providing for a mixed committee to work out arrangements in Jerusalem."
The Jordanian government did not protest the inclusion of those villages in Israel, but insisted that the 1949 Armistice Line not be called a border because it was temporary. The armistice was to be only a stopping point on the way to the next war, albeit a stopping point farther to the east than the prior one. It is this line that is incorrectly referred to by many, including President Obama, as the "1967 Border" after Israel successfully defended itself from the next Arab onslaught in June of that year and pushed the line to the Jordan River.
Is South Africa, then, suggesting that President Obama has planted Israel's "border" in the wrong place when he told an AIPAC audience that "[t]he borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states"?
Keeping the dates, lines and borders straight is important if, in fact, you want to understand the difficulties Israel has in achieving "secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force" as it was promised in Resolution 242. The South African Cabinet probably didn't know the difference because that's not the goal.
South Africa wants to mount a high horse and, after years of being rightly branded an outcast for its system of racial apartheid, be able to damn someone else for sins real or imagined. In opting for inclusion in the anti-Israel Non-Aligned Movement -- meeting in Tehran under the auspices of a government that threatens genocide against Israel and terrorism against the United States2 -- South Africa has shown that although it abandoned the legal segregation of its black citizens, it hasn't entered the family of civilized nations.
Shoshana Bryen is senior director of The Jewish Policy Center. She was previously senior director for security policy at JINSA and author of JINSA Reports from 1995-2011.
1At least until the Palestinians decide to seriously negotiate another -- then the possibilities become infinite.
2...and, if tradition holds, will become the next leader of the Movement.