Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

Facts about Israel and the old apartheid South Africa

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About Maurice Ostroff

By Maurice Ostroff

Trade and Armaments

If a truly objective and unbiased investigation were to be conducted of countries, which supported and cooperated with the apartheid government, Israel would hardly earn mention. Moreover, Israel’s positive contribution in covertly training Black leaders during the apartheid period by organizations such as Mashav would earn wide recognition.

 

The common misconception that Israel was a major factor in supporting the apartheid regime in South Africa is due to ignorance or negligent research on the part of most journalists. There is also evidence of deliberate media bias in some instances.

 

The ANC’s resentment of countries that supplied arms to the apartheid government is understandable. But what is beyond understanding, is why the resentment is selectively applied only to Israel, which played a completely insignificant role, while the main suppliers of financial aid and weaponry, as will be decisively shown in this chapter, were France, Britain, Canada, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Taiwan and the United States.

 

Israel is widely accused of having been out of step with international trends by continuing to trade with South Africa in the eighties. Yet in 1986, while apartheid was suffering worldwide opprobrium, South Africa’s main trading partners were, U.S.A. - $3.4 billion, Japan - $2.9 billion, Germany- $2.8 billion, U.K. - $2.6 billion. In defending Britain’s position at the time, Sir Alec Douglas Home referred to Britain's heavy investment in South Africa and the strategic importance of naval facilities at Simonstown.


By comparison, Israel’s puny $200 million total trade with South Africa amounted to less than 1% of South Africa's total trade.

 

The apartheid regime could have been brought to its knees much earlier, had its oil supply been cut off. All of its $2 billion annual oil import came from Arab states, mainly Saudi Arabia. A $1 billion barter deal was concluded with Iran, exchanging weapons from South Africa’s own armaments producers in exchange for oil. A similar deal for $750 million was concluded with Iraq. Is it not irrational that none of these countries are judged by the same yardstick as being applied to Israel?

 

Foreign investment was a major source of support to the regime. Arab countries accounted for one third of the foreign investment in South Africa, totaling over 9 billion dollars. (Middle East Review, Summer 1985)

 

Odious Debts [1] and Reparations For Victims Of Apartheid

To obtain a picture of the real suppliers who kept the apartheid regime alive, it is informative to look at the claims being made for cancellation of “odious debts” and for reparations for victims of apartheid. The following example is given by the Alternative Information and Development Center In South Africa, which started a debate over the legitimacy of the debts incurred by the apartheid regime.

The phrase "odious debts" was first coined by Alexander Sack, a legal scholar, on the obligations of successor nations. His theory of the debts of successor nations has come down to be known as the "doctrine of odious debts".

 

Then Director of Finance and previous Reserve Bank Governor, Chris Stals confirmed that financial credit to the Apartheid government was critical in financing the system: He is reported to have said,

“If the world banking community should effectively exclude South Africa from international trade and payments systems, it would be a much more effective sanctions measure than trade sanctions applied by governments”.

 

Apartheid's four main credit lenders,[2] covering 90% of long-term loans, were the US, Germany, Switzerland and the UK.

 

German net capital export to South Africa between 1985 and 1993 amounted to $2.13 billion. In 1976, Barclays Bank bought 6 million worth of South African government defense bonds and three years later invested 11 million in South Africa's oil from coal company, SASOL.

The 1962 edition of "Who Owns Whom" listed 333 British companies with South African associates or subsidiaries, which had risen to over 500 by 1971.

 

In 1962 Britain's ICI and South Africa's De Beers each put 5 million into AECI (African Explosives and Chemicals Industries) to set up three new plants producing tear gas, ammunition for small arms, anti-tank and aircraft rockets.

 

British Leyland’s South African subsidiary supplied Land Rovers that were used by the South African police against students in the 1976 Soweto uprising.

 

Royal Dutch/Shell's subsidiary, Shell South Africa, was involved in extensive operations in the petroleum, mining and chemical industries of South Africa and Namibia, with an estimated turnover of more than US$2 billion in South Africa in 1989.

Reparation claims for victims of apartheid[3]

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In August 2002 Lawyers representing South African apartheid victims presented claims in New York,[4] seeking billions of dollars for "blood and misery" from German, Swiss and US firms. Figures of anywhere between $50 billion and $100 billion have been mentioned for the apartheid claims.

These claims are in addition to lawsuits filed in Manhattan on June 19, 2002 against Swiss banks UBS and Credit Suisse and US bank Citibank and on July 3 against US computer giant IBM, and Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Bank and Commerzbank, all of Germany.

 

They are under fire for providing money, technology and training to prop up the apartheid state between 1948 and 1993 despite apartheid being declared a crime against humanity, and international embargoes.

 

Other companies to be targeted include oil, electronics, weapons and pharmaceutical firms.

On November 12, 2002[5] the Khulumani Support Group[6] filed a suit in the New York Eastern District Court against 8 banks and 12 other companies for apartheid reparations.

 

The complaint names eight banks and twelve oil, transport, communications technology, and armaments companies from Germany, Switzerland, Britain, the United States, Netherlands, and France. The defendants in alphabetical order were:

Barclays National Bank, British Petroleum P.L.C., Caltex Petroleum Corporation, Citigroup, Commerzbank, Credit Suisse, Daimler Chrysler, Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Bank, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Fluor Corporation, Ford Motor Company, Fujitsu ICL. (previously International Computers Limited), General Motors, International Business Machines (IBM), J.P. Morgan Chase (Chase Manhattan), Rheinmetall, Royal Dutch Shell, Total Fina-Elf, UBS.

 

The suit claims that corporations, which aided and abetted the apartheid regime, are responsible for the suffering of the apartheid victims. For example: IBM and ICL provided the computers that enabled South Africa to create the hated "pass book system" and to control the black South African population. Car manufacturers provided the armored vehicles that were used to patrol the townships. Arms manufacturers violated the embargoes on sales to South Africa, as did the oil companies. The banks provided the funding that enabled South Africa to expand its police and security apparatus.

Nuclear cooperation and armaments

With regard to nuclear cooperation, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA)[7], reports that the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists provides a detailed history of South Africa’s nuclear programs. South Africa’s nuclear program was launched in 1949 and supported by France, the United States and Germany until 1975. France supplied reactors.

 

The US supplied a research reactor in 1965 (SAFARI-1) and weapons grade Uranium until 1975. Germany provided technical training at the Nuclear Research Center in Karlsruhe and transferred critical enrichment technology to South Africa.

 

Although there has been much speculation over Israeli-South African collusion on developing a nuclear weapon, David Albright, who wrote an extensive article on South Africa’s atomic bomb development concluded that "available evidence argues against significant cooperation" with Israel. He concludes that ARMSCOR, the South African corporation that took over the bomb project in the late 1970s, "is unlikely to have used Israeli assistance in developing its nuclear devices." (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 1994).

 

The following is a sampling of the detailed list of arms supplies to South Africa provided by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI):

UK 14 Westland Wasp helicopters supplied in 1973 and 1974

France 38 Mirage fighter aircraft supplied in 1974 and 1975

Jordan 717 Tigercat missiles suppplied in 1974

Italy 80 military aircraft supplied in 1974

UK 41 Centurion tanks supplied in 1974

France 48 AS-12 air to surface missiles supplied in 1975

France 2 submarines supplied in 1975

France 2040 air to surface missiles supplied between 1976-1983

Italy 96 Impala counter insurgency equipment between 1976-1983

Spain 60 Centurion tanks supplied in 1979.

 

SIPRI’s yearbook describes Israel’s major contributions during that time period as limited to a dozen patrol boats.

 

The SIPRI Yearbook for 1985 reports that France, West Germany and UK were the only countries listed as supplying SA with military equipment in 1984. Between 1963 and 1975 the largest suppliers of arms to South Africa were: France, UK, USA, West Germany, in that order.

UNESCO and other sources have provided similar assessments.

An extensive South African report[8] discloses that by 1965, 120 licenses for the local manufacture of military equipment were negotiated with a wide range of foreign sources (Leonard, 1983: 140).

In 1963 the National Institute for Rocket Research was established, jointly financed by the South African and French governments, and the missiles were developed with the assistance of a French electrical engineering concern - Thomson CSF

 

The Ratel armored personnel carrier, was implied to be a copy of the French Berliet VXB, and the 127-mm truck-mounted multiple rocket-launcher, had remarkable similarities to the Taiwanese Working Bee 6 system.

 

Other examples are the much-vaunted G-5 and G-6 155-mm Howitzers. A close examination reveals that the Space Research Corporation of Canada and the United States supplied the technology required to develop the weapons in the form of shells, gun barrels, technicians and testing equipment.

Cementation Engineering, a South African subsidiary of Trafalgar House a large British conglomerate, produced the G-5.. Special lathes for producing the G-5 shells were imported from CIT Alcatel of France, and equipment for filling the shells from Rheinmetall of West Germany.

Sandrock Austral, manufactured French-licensed armored cars. This included a contract to supply the army with locally assembled Thomson-CSF radios from France (Jane's Defence Weekly, 4.9.1983: 830).

 

Marconi South Africa, was a major supplier of radar and communications equipment to the South African Defense Forces (SADF). A subsidiary of Marconi (UK) updated the S247 radars of the SA Air Force's northern air-defense sector in 1983. Reutech was one of the most important suppliers of military electronics in South Africa. It is made up of five companies, which operated primarily within the sphere of the South African armaments industry.

 

[1] www.odiousdebts.org

[2] Jubilee South Africa Apartheid Debt & Reparations Campaign, c/ o SACBC Justice & Peace Department, Khanya House.Pretoria. Web: www.aidc.org.za/j2000

[3] http://www.actsa.org/Debt/reparations.htm

[4] Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg) August 8/2002

[5] University Of Pennsylvania - African Studies Center

http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Urgent_Action/apic-111202.html

[6] Khulumani (meaning "Speak Out" in Zulu) is a national organization with headquarters in Johannesburg

[7] http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=69&x_article=1083

[8] The Politics and Economics of the Armaments Industry in South Africa http://www.wits.ac.za/csvr/papers/paparms.htm by Graeme Simpson In Cock, J. & Nathan, L. (eds), War and Society, pp. 217-231, Cape Town & Johannesburg: David Philip, 1989.

 

 

 

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