In South Africa, there’s a conspiracy theory that has spread among the white population since the fall of Apartheid. It goes by many names: Uhuru, Operation Vula, Operation White Clean-up, and – in a nod to Nazi Germany - Night of the Long Knives (in Afrikaans, Die Nag van die Lang Messe). Â What it says is that, upon Nelson Mandela’s death, the nation’s blacks will take to the streets and brutally murder their white countrymen. Â (Never mind that South Africa’s leaders for the past fifteen years have been black, most of South Africa’s crime is within black and coloured communities, and popular anger of late has been focused largely on other black African immigrants. Â Just disregard all that.)
Sarcasm aside, there’s a scary undercurrent in the country, perhaps best exemplified here and here. Â Furthermore, I remember speaking to two white families–FAMILIES–whose patriarchs introduced me to the finer points of Operation Vula as their elementary school-aged children looked on silently: the nameless black leader’s alleged threatening statements, the master plan to block off Johannesburg’s city centre, even the weapons to be used (machetes, mainly). Â Worse still, their beliefs were echoed by students at my own university, people I saw as intelligent and well-educated.
It’s true: there’s nothing like a good conspiracy theory. Â And given the ANC’s continued reign in South Africa, with their menacing (though long stale) protest songs of ‘Kill the Boer’ and ‘Give Me My Machine Gun’ coupled with the recent murder of white supremacist Eugene Terreblanche, one can understand–in part, anyway–how people can believe such nonsense, especially when it concerns their own demise.
Which brings us to Israel, Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), and the objectionable–daresay despicable–exploitation of it by the country’s leadership.
In a presentation to our group, Gil Hoffman of the Jerusalem Post remarked that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees himself as the protector of Israel against Iran and–for all intents and purposes–the guardian of all of Judaism against a second Shoah. Â This explains his comments last night at Yad Vashem, which, instead of offering a suitable tribute to the people who endured the horrors of Auschwitz or Buchenwald, focused on the pseudothreat of a nuclear Iran and its raving lunatic of a leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Netanyahu’s speech, besides giving a drastic overestimation of Iran’s genocidal capabilities, was an affront to the memories of the six million dead Jews and a slap in the face to their peers who did come out of the camps alive. Â What should have been a heartfelt eulogy became little more than a hawkish policy speech aimed specifically at exploiting the sad hearts and minds of contemporary Jewry.
In Israel, through the government’s masterful manipulation of the media, Iran has become the Ultimate Threat. Â So much so that, despite the myriad of problems Iran has faced in enriching uranium (via clandestine sabotage, insufficient supplies, etc.), the country remains a possible, even probable, target of an Israeli air attack–perhaps as soon as this year.
Though Iran is no doubt a more credible threat than Operation Vula, in the end, both achieve the same purpose: irrational terror in the minds of the populace. Â In South Africa, it leads to racism; in Israel, to war. Â And with Iran as Bogeyman, all other concerns lie on the back burner and Netanyahu gets his way. Â Palestinians are marginalized even more, their holdings dwindle, and Israelis look past it all, to a song-and-dance man thousands of miles away and his empty threats of annihilation.
So this year, as Israel further subjugates its Palestinian neighbors,while preparing for an unnecessary war with Iran, Netanyahu smiles. Â And as for the Holocaust victims, the ones he so flippantly disrespected Sunday evening: they, my friends, roll over in their graves.
Sam Melamed is a Masa particpant, participating in Career Israel, one of Masa Israel‘s 160 programs.