israeli connection

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1980s book on who Israel supplies weapons to.


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  • Copyright @) 1987 by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi

    All rights reserved under International and Pan-American CopyrightConventions. Published in the United States by Pantheon Books, a division ofRandom House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by RandomHouse of Canada Limited, Toronto.

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

    Beit-Hallahmi, Benjamin.The Israeli connection.

    Bibliography'p.Includes index.1. Israel-Military relations-Developing countries.

    2. Developing countries-Military relations-Israel.3. Munitions-Israel. 4. Israel-Military policy.I. Title.UA853.I8B385 1987 355',.O32'.095694 87-60154ISBN 0-394-55922-3

    Book design by The Sarabande Press

    First American Edition

    Manufactured in the United States of America









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  • Contents


    Prologue: Vorster in Jerusalemix

    IFighting Radicalization in the Middle East and Beyond3

    2A Dream of Asia22

    3In and Out of Africa38

    4The Friendly Hemisphere76

    JSouth Africa and Israel: An Alliance of Desperation108

  • 7Israel208


    6At War with the Third Worldt75

    as Pariah and as Model

    8Israelis and Natives








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  • Acknowledgments

    The completion of a book is customarily the occasion for a profusionof thanks and expressions of indebtedness to all those without whomthe book could not have been produced. In this particular case it isno exaggeration or protestation. Indeed, this book could not have beenwritten without the friendship, trust, support, and help-in many andvaried ways-that came from numerous individuals and institutions.

    The actual writing of this book took prace while I was in resi-dence at stony point center, in Stony poini, New york. The centerwas to me more than a home. It provided unlimited love and comfort,while making very few demands. In doing my research, I was fortu_nate to have access to the staff and collections of the University ofHaifa library, the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library at New york Univer-sity, and the Lehman Libra ry at corumbia university. A grant fromthe American Middle East peace Research Institute (AMEPRI) cov-ered expenses related to researching and writing the book.I would like to name below those individuals who not only sup-ported me and helped me in my work, but made the whole projectworthwhile. Many of them never rearized how much herp they pro-vided. The idea for the book, incidentally, carne from one of them:Mehdi Abhari, Florence Anson, Hanni Amit-Kochavi, Eqbal Ahmad,Yossi Amitai, Geoffrey Aronson, Margaret Brown, Deonne Barkley,Noam chomsky, Erik cohen, Margaret Flory, John s. Friedman,Angela Gelliam, Maxim Ghilan, Joseph c. Gerson, yerach Gover,Stanley B. Greenberg, Arie Grumet, Nubar Hovsepian, paul A. Hop-kins, Edward Huenemann, Edna H. Hunt, Bill Johnston, BenjaminJoseph, Alex Massis, Seymour Melman, Kathy Meyer, var Mogh-adam, James Palm, Louise parm, James peck, victor perera, DonPeretz, Roger Rosen, cheryr Rubenberg, Edward w. Said, Milton


  • Acknowledgments

    Schwebel, Paul Seto, Selma Seto, Talia Shay, Allan Salomonow,Stuart Schaar, Israel Shahak, Margaret O. Thomas' Madeleine Tress'Gordon Webster, Don Will, and Andrew Weir'

    while the friendship and support offered by these individuals hasbeen vital and indispensable to the completion of my work, I alone amresponsible for what I have written, and all remaining faults in thisbook are mine. Ij


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  • Prologue:hrster lnJerusalem, 1976

    he journeyJrffi:led me to the writing of this book startedmore than ten years ago, one night in April of 1976.I wassitting t ,o, apartment in Haifa, watching the eveningfiews on Israeli television. There were no particularly note-worthy events that day, and viewers were treated to a series

    of segments from here and there showin g a variety of fairry routinehappenings. I don't remember any of the others, but there was onesegment I immediately responded to, and that became, to me at least,an important event. In it Balthazar Johannes (John) vorster, theprime minister of the Republic of South Africa, was shown on the firstday of his official visit in Israel. And what Israeli television broadcastto its viewers that night were images of Mr. vorster as he visited yadVashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

    A visit to yad vashem is the opening rituar of every state visitto Israel-usually the first stop en route from the airpori to a hoterin Jerusalem. The aim of this ritual is to express Israel,s relation tothe Holocaust, to present the country as the haven for survivors andas the answer to the insecurity of Jewish existence in the Diaspora. A


  • Prologue: Vorster in Jerusalem

    second aim is to induce the appropriate feelings of guilt in the visitor'

    So, when John Vorster was taken to the Yad Vashem memorial hall'

    hewasbeingtreatedjustlikeanyothervisitor.What struck me as I watched Vorster on television was the

    surreal nature of the scene. The tactlessness of the Israeli ForeignOffice, which had invited a known Nazi collaborator to a memorial

    to the victims of Nazism, and then subjected him to a lecture on theNazis, was astounding. It was obvious that Vorster could have givena better lecture himself, but his reaction was proper and diplomatic'

    He listened patiently and nodded in all the right places, and thensigned his name in the visitors' book'

    what was the purpose of showing this on television? why wasthat scene chosen to illustrate the first day of the Vorster visit? Why

    not something else? I started thinking, and I could not escape theconclusion that this bizarre incident was telling me something about

    Israel. It wasn't just its insensitivity. It was a wild sense of staging thatturned the stranie into the familiar. The scene was indeed strange, but

    its truth was haunting. And then I got the message: Vorster in theHolocaust memorial! what an image of Israel! Maybe it was the trueimage of Israel, staged for our benefit by a director of rare comicgenius. Here was an old Nazi sympathizer showing more tact than his

    hosts, and at the same time exposing them to ridicule and criticism'

    Even if the manifold meanings of this work of art were lost on mostof the viewers, no real film director searching for an anti-Israeli scene

    could have come up with a better one than this'For most Israelis, the vorster visit was just another state visit by

    a foreign leader. It did not draw much attention. Most Israelis did noteven remember his name, and did not see anything unusual, much less

    surreal, in the scene: Vorster was just another visiting dignitary beingtreated to the usual routine. He was described by most of the Israeli

    press as a deeply religious man on a personal pilgrimage to the Holy

    Land, as weli as a sincere friend of Israel. Both characterizationsmight have been true, but they hardly gave readers a well-roundedpicture of John Vorster as a political leader' It took a letter to theeditor of Haaretz, lsrael's New York Times, to inform the public that

    Vorster had been a Nazi collaborator who, according to Israeli law,

    should have been arrested and put on trial the minute he set foot on

    Israeli soil. Instead, he landed at the Tel-Aviv airport, the red carpet



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    Prologue: Vorster in Jerusalem

    was rolled out, and Israel's prime minister, yitzhak Rabin, greetedhim with a warm hug. There were plenty of welcoming articles in theIsraeli press. The only exceptions to the chorus were two of Israel,sdistinguished radical journalists, Yuri Avneri and Amnon Kapeliouk.

    As I watched the passing shadows on the television screen, I feltI had stumbled upon a deeply symbolic image expressive of the natureof the State of Israel. Some may find this an unjustified exaggerationor a groundless accusation: the scene by itself some would say, mighthave been mere coincidence. But was it, really? Was this surreal imageonly a fleeting cloud in the blue skies of Zionist history, or was it boneof its bone, flesh of its flesh? was it an aberration, a detour from themain road, or was it a symptom of something deeper and more signifi_cant?

    I decided I had to decipher the message hidden in this image, andI promised myself that I would get to the bottom of the Israel-SouthAfrica connection. I started reading up on it and collecting every bitof information I could get my hands on. In Decembe r of 1976, rsubmitted to New outlook, the Israeli peace-movement monthly, anarticle on the Israel-South Africa alliance, the first fruits of my work.The editors, representing the best in progressive Zionism, were notcompletely ready to accept my assessment of the situation and editedthe article, toning down its language. The article was then subjectedto military censorship, which eliminated all references to military andnuclear matters. It finally appeared in a much-muted form in theApril-May 1977 issue.

    As time passed, my files on the Israel-South Africa alliance keptgrowing, with press clippings and