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South Africa and the Middle East.

At the beginning of the 1990s, just before the end of Apartheid, South Africa had diplomatic relations with no country in the Middle East except Israel, another country with limited ties to nations in its own region until the end of the Cold War. (1) Before its recognition of Israel in 1948, the same year that Apartheid became official government policy, South Africa had established diplomatic relations with Egypt. Formal relations with Lebanon and Iran came later. Ties with Egypt--which had become an important supporter of African liberation organizations following the establishment of the Arab nationalist regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1956--lasted until the early 1960s. In the case of Lebanon, they continued until the mid-1970s, when they were formally severed due to pressure from Arab League states. As for Iran, the Islamic Revolution brought an end to relations with the Apartheid government. Naturally, Jewish and Lebanese ethnic populations in South Africa have factored in relations with Israel and Lebanon. As for Egypt, it was the most important African country aside from South Africa and one of only a few independent African states until the late 1950s, the others being Ethiopia and Liberia. In addition, South Africans were militarily involved in Egypt during World War II as part of British Commonwealth forces fighting the Germans. Also during that war, Reza Shah Pahlavi, ruler of Iran from the 1920s, was sent into exile on Mauritius--but later moved to South Africa, where he died in 1944--by the British, who accused him of German sympathies; his son and successor, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, who faced a Soviet threat to his rule following World War II, viewed South Africa as a bulwark against the spread of communism and, like Israel, an important market for Iranian oil. The shah was a rival of Nasser, who looked toward the Soviet Union for military support during the mid-1950s, when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev began supporting Third World liberation movements. Diplomatic relations between South Africa and the Soviet Union were severed during his time.

This article will review and analyze South Africa's relations in the Middle East from World War II to the present. Today, South Africa has diplomatic relations with countries throughout the world, including some that gave support to the African National Congress in its opposition to Apartheid. It is a leader in the African Union and the Nonaligned Movement (whose membership includes all the states in the Arab world), as well as a member of the G-20 (an economic forum for "industrial and emerging-market countries"). (2) At the same time, Israel has diplomatic ties with most non-Arab countries in Asia and Africa. Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with the Jewish state in 1979, has been joined by Jordan and the Palestine Liberation Organization in recognizing Israel, while Israeli government officials have held public meetings with many of their Arab counterparts despite recent wars with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. While focusing primarily on South African-Israeli relations prior to 1994, this article will also deal with South Africa's expanding ties in the Middle East since then.

Naturally, the area of primary foreign-policy interest for both Apartheid-era and current South Africa leadership has been Southern Africa. While the former became especially concerned with developments in the rest of Africa during the era of decolonization, it was largely due to Cold War politics and the fear of Soviet influence and communism, whether real or perceived. Interest in the Middle East was based on that concern and on the energy resources of the area, though from the 1950s onward, indigenous supplies of coal, the primary source of energy for South Africa, would be converted into petroleum products. (3) Since the end of Apartheid, South Africa's relations with the rest of Africa (as well as the Middle East) are based on common political and/or economic interests as well as South Africa's desire to either prevent armed conflict or facilitate peaceful resolutions of regional disputes. At the same time, the South African government has approved arms sales to countries in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere, including some repressive regimes.

By the mid-twentieth century, many South Africans became somewhat familiar with the Middle East and its periphery, albeit through the lens of conflict. South Africans were deeply divided on the issue of their country's involvement in World War II. The United Party, which had been in power in South Africa since 1934, forced its leader, J.B.M. Hertzog, to resign after a vote in Parliament (80 to 67) to declare war on Germany on September 4, 1939, one day after Britain had done so. Hertzog, who favored maintaining neutrality, was succeeded as prime minister by Jan Smuts, who held that position until 1948 and subsequently became a member of the British Imperial War Cabinet, a post he had held during World War I. Smuts was also appointed a field marshal of Allied Forces. (4) All South Africans who served in the war--some 218,000 total, 148,000 of them whites, including those who fought in the liberation of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa (1940-41) and in the North African campaign (1941-42)--were volunteers. Among them were coloureds (people of mixed race), Asians (mostly Indian) and blacks, who were forbidden from bearing arms and used exclusively as laborers and transport drivers. Nevertheless, of the nearly 9,000 South Africans killed in action, these men comprised more than 25 percent. (5)

While being racially paternalistic and separatist regarding non-whites, (6) Smuts always opposed anti-Semitism and remained a strong supporter of Zionism from the formulation of the Balfour Declaration through the establishment of the state of Israel. (7) (Indeed, South Africa was one of 33 states that voted in favor of the UN partition plan for Palestine in the General Assembly on November 29, 1947.) Following World War II, Smuts played a leading role in the establishment of the United Nations, but right from the start South Africa faced opposition in that body for two reasons. The first was for its attempt to annex the former League of Nations Mandate of Southwest Africa (Namibia); instead, it was made a UN Trusteeship under South African authority, a status that the United Nations recognized until 1966, while South Africa refused to grant the territory independence until 1990. The second was for the discriminatory treatment of its Indian population. (8) The independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, as well as Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) the following year, and the beginnings of decolonization in Africa created problems for South Africa not only in the United Nations, but in the Commonwealth of Nations. This body, which technically replaced the British Commonwealth, was established in 1949 by Great Britain. It now has 54 members (originally only Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa), countries that became fully independent 18 years earlier, as well as the states of the Indian subcontinent. (9) South Africa withdrew in 1961 under pressure from other member states but rejoined in 1994.

Egypt, which Britain occupied in 1882 in part to protect its interest in the Suez Canal, and other states and territories in the Middle East that fell under British control or influence for varying periods of time during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries--Iraq, Jordan, Israel/Palestine, South Yemen (unified with the Yemen Arab Republic in 1990), and the Persian Gulf states of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman--never joined the Commonwealth. However, Great Britain retained the right to station troops in the Suez Canal--until it agreed to withdraw in 1954--and to intervene in defense of Egypt according to the treaty of independence in 1936, as it did during World War II. South Africa established a consulate in Cairo in 1942 that was raised to legation level in 1949, as was Egypt's representation in Pretoria. (10) On May 24, 1948, just two days before the parliamentary elections that brought D.F. Malan's National Party into power to implement Apartheid, the South African government conferred on Israel de facto recognition, which the new government extended de jure three days after Israel was admitted to the United Nations, on May 14, 1949. (11)

Writing in 1983, Naomi Chazan divided Israeli-South African relations into four stages: 1948-1961, when ties were "correct, albeit not overly cordial"; 1961-1967, when the Jewish state "opted unequivocally" to develop stronger relations with "Black Africa," while downgrading representation in Pretoria; 1967-1973, a period of transition, when Israel's "vigour with which it pursued anti-Apartheid measures waned"; and 1973 onward, when in reaction to the war and the Arab oil embargo, all but four African states severed diplomatic ties with Israel, and Israel developed an alliance with South Africa. (12) By 1992 --two years after Nelson Mandela was released from prison and two years prior to his becoming South Africa's president--Israel's newly appointed ambassador Alon Liel, a critic of the Jewish state's earlier policy, "was dealing almost exclusively with black leaders, much to the chagrin" of the government of F.W. de Klerk. However, since 1996, with the departure of Elazar Granot, Liel's "more overtly left-wing" successor, Israel-South Africa relations have been "civil, but cool." (13)

Although Israel "oscillated between East and West" in its foreign policy from 1948 to 1950, its orientation became decidedly Western, and during the early 1950s the Jewish state actively sought to be a part of Middle Eastern defense arrangements. In July 1950, just one month after Israel backed the United States in the United Nations regarding the conflict in Korea, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion informed the American ambassador in Tel Aviv, James MacDonald, that Israel was willing to "support the U.S. and Turkey in containing Soviet aggression." In July 1951, just four months after Iran nationalized its oil industry, (14) Britain informed Turkey of plans to create a military alliance known as the Middle East Command (MEC), whose membership would include, in addition to those two countries, the United States, France, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and, if possible, Egypt. (Israel and other countries in the Arab world might "associate themselves" with the organization, but what exactly that meant for Israel was never clarified.) (15) The Turks felt such an arrangement to be premature as they were holding out for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)--and were admitted in February 1952--but they did participate later in helping to organize the Baghdad Pact. (16) During the 1950s, Turkey's government was strongly anti-Communist, owing to Soviet territorial demands following World War II.

Turkey was disliked in much of the Arab world for its recognition of Israel in 1949, its Ottoman past and its very close ties to the Western powers. At the same time, its interest and involvement in Africa were limited almost exclusively to the northern part of the continent. (17) However, in June 1954, Turkish Prime Minister Adnan Menderes told the Iraqi ambassador in Ankara that "if Turkey collapsed, countries down to the Cape of Good Hope [i.e., including South Africa, with whom Turkey had no diplomatic relations] would collapse too." (18) In October, just two days after declaring the Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936 null and void, Egypt, then under the rule of King Farouk, rejected the MEC. The project failed to materialize, as did a subsequent plan for a Middle East Defense Organization (MEDO), which the new Egyptian military government led by Muhammad Naguib that had overthrown Farouk in July 1952 strongly opposed. The latter defense plan excluded both Israel--due to opposition in the Arab world--and South Africa.

Gamal Abdel Nasser, who replaced Naguib in February 1954, made clear his feelings for the Apartheid state and European imperialism in Africa--the so called "second circle"--in his book Egypt's Liberation. The Philosophy of the Revolution: "[W]e cannot, under any circumstances, ... remain aloof from the terrible and sanguinary conflict going on there [in Africa] today between five million whites and 200 million Africans." (19) Indeed, from the late 1950s onward, Cairo was home to the offices of more than a dozen African nationalist movements, including the multi-racial African National Congress (ANC), established in 1912, and the more militant Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), which broke away from the ANC in 1959; the two latter groups were outlawed by the South African government from 1960 to 1990. The Egyptian government provided their representatives with monthly stipends and travel expenses. (20) Egypt did not break relations with South Africa until May 1961, when momentum was gaining at the United Nations to isolate the Apartheid regime. (21)

While Prime Minister D.F. Malan's National Party government wanted to demonstrate independence from Britain, it "identified communism as its main threat both at home and abroad." This continued to be a very strong motivating factor for South Africa's Apartheid regime during the Cold War. Many nationalist governments throughout Africa and the Middle East as well as leading states in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), were seen in the same light as the South African Communist Party, which was declared illegal in 1950 and remained so for the next 40 years; other indigenous groups, such as the ANC and PAC; and any active opponents of South Africa's racial policies. Therefore, an Afrikaner politician like Malan, who had been distrustful of Britain and had had anti-Semitic tendencies in the past, was willing to cooperate with the British (and Israelis) in defense plans for the Middle East; he regarded the region as "the gateway to Africa" and, of course, it bordered the Soviet Union. In return, South Africa wanted a comparable Western-backed defense alliance for Africa. Great Britain, however, did not see it as a priority. (22) Meanwhile, the National Party continued a process of rapprochement with the Jews of South Africa.

The first Jewish communities in South Africa developed during the early nineteenth century under British rule, when religious freedom was implemented, although small numbers of Jews had settled there since the establishment of the Dutch East India Company's post at Cape Town in 1652. By 1948, the Jewish population of South Africa reached a zenith of approximately 118,000 (it is estimated to be just more than half that figure today). (23) While the Jewish community did not endorse the Apartheid system, with the exception of Communists and ardent left-wingers--some of whom were ANC members--Jews "by and large restricted their dissent to casting ballots for the opposition United Party, with its conservative but less rigid views on race. And though they shared with other middle-class English-speaking whites a distaste for Afrikaner nationalism," they enjoyed the privileges of the system. (24) The same could probably be said of the much smaller ethnic Lebanese Maronite (Eastern Catholic) community, which today numbers some 20,000. They were categorized as "Syrian" and "Asian," when they began migrating to South Africa in the late nineteenth century and won several legal battles during the early twentieth century to be classified as "white." (25) The South African government relaxed currency export laws, thus allowing Jews to send large numbers of donations to Israel, more money per capita than any other Jewish community in the world. (26) In 1953, one year before he left office, Prime Minister Malan became the first head of government--not "state" as South Africa was still part of the Commonwealth- to visit Israel. (27) In the words of Howard M. Sachar, a well-known historian of Jewish history: "For the Nationalists, approbation of Zionism was a cheap price to pay for Jewish silence on Apartheid." (28) Malan's successor as prime minister, Johannes Strijdom, and his foreign minister, Eric Louw, were left to deal with a very important event in modern Middle Eastern history, the Suez Crisis of 1956.

A day after Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal on July 26, 1956, Strijdom stated, "We are on friendly terms with the various States in that part of the world and cannot favour one at the expense of the other. It is best to keep our heads out of the beehive." It should be noted that, while South Africa and Egypt had legations in each other's capitals and Israel had similar representation in Pretoria, South Africa did not establish a consulate in Tel Aviv until 1972, preferring to let the British represent their interests in the Jewish state. (29) Four days after Egypt nationalized the canal, Louw noted that, unlike Great Britain and France, South Africa was not a shareholder in the canal and therefore was not directly affected. At the same time, while the nationalization was "a domestic affair of Egypt's in which South Africa would not presume to intervene, ... [it] was nevertheless concerned about the situation ... and trust[ed] that the different parties involved will explore all possible avenues which may lead to a satisfactory solution of present difficulties." (30) South Africa abided by Great Britain's decision to exclude Egypt from the "sterling area," meaning that transactions between South Africa and Egypt would not involve British pounds sterling currency, and Louw consulted with Egypt's minister in Pretoria on August 4, expressing his government's hope that Egypt would attend a conference in London of signatories of the 1888 Suez Convention (31) along with other countries that were significant users of the Suez Canal. Egypt was invited but did not attend. (32) South Africa was not.

The pro-British opposition United Party in South Africa's parliament took issue with the government's position of not attempting to participate in the conference and of being "blind ... to the intolerant extremism of Egypt's new nationalistic regime. It should be clear to South Africans that events in Egypt are connected with the expansionistic policies of the Communist States." (33) Why then, would the anti-Communist National Party politicians act as they did? They were afraid that any intervention in Egypt on the part of the Western powers to overthrow Nasser would set a precedent for other countries that opposed Apartheid to interfere in their "domestic affairs." At the same time, the closure of the Suez Canal following the October-November 1956 Suez War (involving Britain, France and Israel) benefitted South Africa economically with increased usage of its ports at Cape Town and Durban. The party also felt that the situation would help South Africa to develop a defense alliance linking it to the West. (34)

The African National Congress (ANC) issued the following statement in September 1956:
   The threats of war against Egypt, the
   mobilization of armies and the actual
   transportation of troops and the dispatching
   of battleships to the Mediterranean
   by the British Government,
   are a clear indication of the determination
   of these governments to maintain
   their decaying colonial systems
   in Africa, the Middle East [and] Asia,
   by brutal force and through military
   terrorism. We pledge our solidarity
   with the Egyptian people and are
   confident that the people of Africa
   will not allow themselves to be used
   against their fellow Africans in any
   predatory war. (35)

It was easy to understand the ANC's position. As early as September 1952, representatives of Egypt and a number of Asian countries, including India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Syria, sent a letter to the UN secretary general to place on the agenda of the General Assembly the Apartheid policies of South Africa. (36) What eventually resulted from discussions was the establishment of the UN Commission on the Racial Situation in South Africa (UNCORS) in December 1952. It lasted until 1955 and prepared three reports derived from public documents and the press. (37) The United States and other Western countries were able to scuttle the commission. However, African decolonization soon began, with Ghana in 1957, and the overreaction of South African police to a peaceful demonstration organized by the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) protesting the pass laws (that restricted movements of blacks around the country) at Sharpeville, near Johannesburg, in March 1960 invigorated worldwide efforts to challenge the policies of Apartheid. Some 29 African and Asian countries immediately requested a meeting of the UN Security Council, where Resolution 134 deploring South Africa's behavior was adopted, nine votes to none, with Britain and France abstaining.

In June 1960, the second Conference of Independent African States met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and adopted a resolution calling on all continental countries to (1) sever diplomatic relations with South Africa or refrain from establishing them; (2) close their ports to its vessels and prohibit their ships from entering its ports; (3) refuse landing and overflight privileges to its aircraft; and (4) boycott all its goods. (The conference also invited Arab countries to try to convince petroleum companies not to sell Arab oil to South Africa and to refuse concessions to companies that did so.) A similar resolution (1761) adopted in the UN General Assembly in November 1962 included "refraining from exporting goods, including arms and ammunition to South Africa." The vote was 67 to 16, with 23 abstentions; all Western states (including Japan) either opposed it or abstained. A government spokesperson from South Africa noted that those countries voting for the resolution accounted for less than one-sixth of South African foreign trade, while those opposed were responsible for nearly two-thirds. (38)

A year earlier, in November 1961, the UN General Assembly had adopted a milder resolution (1663) by a vote of 98 to 2 (Portugal and South Africa), censuring the Apartheid government for its policies but leaving states to consider their own separate actions. South African Foreign Minister Eric Louw, who had railed against "international Jewish Communism" in the 1930s, was incensed with Israel for that vote, as well as for another one a month earlier in the UN Political Committee that censured his remarks before that body. The following year, Israel reduced its representation in Pretoria to consular level, and Louw left office. However, the Jewish state's policies also irritated Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, another virulent anti-Semite during the 1930s who had used the newspaper Die Transvaler to attack alleged "Jewish domination in business." Verwoerd, who had taken office in 1958 and served in that post until his assassination in 1966, threatened to end the Jews' special privileges of being allowed to send donations to Israel. That was actually not done until 1971, when Israel offered a financial contribution of 10,000 [pounds sterling] to the Organization of African Unity's Liberation Committee. He was also upset with the Jewish community's support for the small opposition Progressive Party of Helen Suzman, which had broken away from the United Party. (39) While Israel continued to develop ties with the newly independent states of Sub-Saharan Africa, the African National Congress (ANC), which was banned in 1960, strengthened its relations with many of the same states, as well as with the Arab countries of North Africa.

Golda Meir in her memoirs (1975) makes no mention of South Africa. However, she relates the fact that, as Israel's foreign minister (1956-66), she refused to visit the larger part of Victoria Falls in then-Southern Rhodesia following Independence Day ceremonies in Zambia in 1964, as the white-ruled government would not allow African colleagues to join her. While acknowledging that one motive of Israel's developing relations with the African states was to gain political support at the United Nations, there was a true affinity between Israelis and Africans, as evinced by "what the thousands of Israeli experts in agriculture, hydrology, regional planning, public health, engineering, community services, medicine and scores of other fields actually did throughout Africa between the years 1958 and 1973 ... [as well as] the thousands of Africans who were trained in Israel during those years [and what they] took home with them." Moreover, Meir laments the demise of the "very special relationship" Israel had with Ethiopia under the rule of Emperor Haile Selassie, who was overthrown in 1974. (40) Interestingly, the monarch also gave strong support to the ANC. He did not like South Africa's Apartheid government, as during World War II, following the liberation of Ethiopia, the South African military "attempted to impose the colour bar" in that country. (41)

In January 1962, Nelson Mandela slipped out of South Africa across the then-Bechuanaland (now Botswana) border on his way to address the Pan-African Freedom Movement for East and Central Africa (PAFMECA) Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia--what would become the Organization of African Unity in 1963 and the African Union in 2002. At that meeting and thereafter, Mandela lobbied successfully, against some strong opposition, to have the Arab countries of North Africa admitted as members to this group. (Indeed, one delegate shouted at Mandela that "In North Africa you have Africans who are not Africans." Oliver Tambo, deputy president of the ANC and its representative abroad, passed a note to Mandela with the words "Shut up!" (42)) Mandela began his well-received speech about the "struggle ahead" by thanking the African states for enforcing economic sanctions against South Africa and for granting asylum to political refugees and freedom fighters. (The South African government outlawed the ANC in 1960, and by late 1961, Mandela and the ANC leadership decided to abandon nonviolence, but to limit their actions to sabotage of power plants, railroad lines and telephone communications. They wanted to hurt South Africa's economy, but not to do physical harm to whites. Mandela justified such actions because South Africa was currently "ruled by the gun. The government is increasing the size of its army, of its navy, of its air force.... All opportunities for peaceful agitation and struggle have been closed to us. Africans no longer have the freedom even to stay peacefully in their houses in protest against the oppressive policies of the government." (43))

During his stay abroad, Mandela also visited Great Britain, Tanganyika (now Tanzania) and countries in west Africa as well as the Arab states of Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco. In Morocco, he went to a training base for guerilla groups from the Portuguese colonies in Africa as well as the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN). While impressed with what he saw, Mandela realized at that time that "there was no point in trying to overthrow the apartheid regime; the ANC had to force them to the negotiating table." (44) He also received 5,000 [pounds sterling] for weapons from Tunisian leader Habib Bourguiba. The trip paid diplomatic dividends, too. The UN General Assembly constituted the Special Committee against Apartheid in February 1963 (established under Resolution 1761 of November 1962), an 11-member group (expanded later to 17). Its membership initially included Algeria and Somalia and, with the expansion, also Sudan and Syria. The Special Committee was disbanded in June 1994, a month after Mandela was inaugurated president of South Africa. He had praised the committee in person in June 1990, a few months after his release from prison, as "a very important instrument in our struggle." (45)

Mandela was sent to prison upon return from his 1962 trip. He was charged in August for inciting African workers to strike and for leaving the country without travel documents; following trial he was sentenced in November to a five-year term. In July the following year, Walter Sisulu, who had joined the ANC with Tambo and Mandela in 1943 and was out on bail pending appeal on a treason conviction, and other ANC leaders were arrested in Rivonia, a suburb of Johannesburg, at a house where Mandela had stayed when he was underground. Most of these men as well as some others, including Mandela, were charged at the so-called Rivonia Trial of 1963-64 with "recruiting persons for training in sabotage and guerrilla warfare for the purpose of violent revolution; conspiring to aid foreign military units when they invaded the Republic, thus furthering the aims of communism; [and] soliciting and receiving funds for these purposes [from abroad]." Mandela and Sisulu were given life sentences and sent to Robben Island, off the coast of Cape Town. (46)

Sending Mandela and other ANC leaders to prison only increased opposition to South African policies in the African Union, the Non-Aligned Movement and the United Nations, though the Western powers and South Africa's principal trading partners continued to oppose sanctions against the Apartheid regime. By the mid-1970s, that attitude would change. In 1974, the General Assembly rejected South Africa's credentials, and its president, the head of state of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, ruled that the South Africans could not participate in UN proceedings. Meanwhile, Israel was also feeling the effects of criticism from Africa and Asia concerning its continued occupation of Arab lands.

As a result of the Six-Day War, France, which had been Israel's major arms supplier, ended that relationship, and in the year prior to as well as during the Yom Kippur/Ramadan War and its immediate aftermath, almost every country in Africa severed diplomatic ties with the Jewish state. South Africa's economy had benefitted from the closure of the Suez Canal in the Six-Day War and during the mid-1970s from the rising prices of gold, uranium and coal. Trade with Israel was on the rise, especially in diamonds, figures for which South Africa always managed to keep secret. An Israeli-South African Friendship League was established in 1968 to encourage business between the two countries.

By the early 1970s, diamonds, which were cut and polished in Israel, accounted for 40 percent of the country's nonagricultural exports, a figure that would decline with the expansion of the arms industry following the Yom Kippur/Ramadan War. (47) During the 1980s, diamonds were the second largest export earner, behind military sales, another industry that did not show up in trade figures in either country. What trade figures revealed in the early 1970s was that South Africa imported chemicals, textiles, rubber goods, pharmaceuticals, electronic equipment and specialized machinery from Israel, while exporting steel, cement, timber and sugar to the Jewish state. (48)

Writing in 1984, British journalist James Adams exposed this cover-up in his book The Unnatural Alliance, concluding that Israel was "maybe South Africa's biggest trading partner" taking into account diamonds and arms sales. This was the case despite the fact that, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), South Africa's trade with Israel represented approximately 0.6 percent of the former's total exports and 0.5 percent of its total imports, while Israel's trade with South Africa represented about 1 percent of the former's total exports and 2 percent of its imports. (49) Israel's economy was severely hurt by the war, and both South Africa and Israel felt under siege. (South Africa was losing the protection of "buffer states," and Portugal gave Mozambique and Angola independence in 1975, while white-ruled Rhodesia found it harder to defend itself against black guerrillas and five years later became Zimbabwe.) Israel saw arms sales to South Africa and elsewhere as a means to boost its economy. During the 1980s, Israel would be in a position to assist the Apartheid state when sanctions implemented worldwide started to take their toll. Israel was able to help circumvent the trade embargo by handling South Africa's diamond transactions. (50)

In April 1971, South Africa's Prime Minister B.J. Vorster, who, as mentioned previously, engaged in pro-Nazi activity during World War II, told then-New York Times columnist C.L. Sulzberger: "We view Israel's position and problems with understanding and sympathy. Like us, they have to deal with terrorist infiltration across the border; and, like us, they have enemies bent on their destruction." (51) Just five years later, he made an official visit to Israel, even making a stop at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, but the true nature of his business was shopping for weapons. It should be mentioned that Israel upgraded its representation in Pretoria to an embassy in 1974, while South Africa, which had established a consulate in Tel Aviv in 1972, took similar action in 1975. In September 1972, Israel abstained from a UN vote to grant the ANC observer status, just a few days after the Israeli foreign ministry had informed South African Consul-General Charles Fincham that their government would be more accommodating to his country at the United Nations. (52)

Another country strengthening relations with Apartheid South Africa was Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi's Iran, which in 1970 established a consulate in Pretoria. (53) The only time that Iran's ties with South Africa were not friendly was between 1951 and 1953, when Iranian nationalist Muhammad Mosaddeq was prime minister. Not only was the shah thankful that his father was able to move from Mauritius to South Africa during the forced exile imposed by the British during World War II, but he was concerned about "communism" in the neighboring continent--or at least "their allies," Arab nationalists like Egypt's Nasser. In his memoirs published in 1980, the recently deposed shah stated the following:
   Iran, which is only separated from the
   Africa by the Arabian peninsula, the
   Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean, was
   concerned to see communist penetration
   along three axes: The first going
   from Libya toward Chad, the Sudan,
   and Somalia...; the second aims to
   link the Mediterranean to the Atlantic
   by land [perhaps he is including Algeria];
   and the third cuts Africa in two
   from Angola to Mozambique.... This
   penetration is a vast strategic movement
   which threatens to destabilize
   the whole of Africa. (54)

South Africa's foreign ministry even points out on its website that relations with the shah's Iran were "good" and included the following fields: "trade, science and technology, defence, medicine, energy and mining." (55) Unfortunately, while there has been a decent amount of scholarly material written on South African-Israeli relations during Apartheid, there were no academic articles or books written on South African-Iranian relations during that time. Although Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 and ratified it two years later--South Africa would not do so until 1991--it owned a 15 percent share in the Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto uranium mine in Rossing, Namibia, and signed a $700 million contract to purchase uranium yellowcake from South Africa. (56) Also, during the late 1970s and until February 1979, when the Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile to establish the Islamic Republic, South Africa imported 90 percent of its oil from Iran. (57) The shah had abdicat ed and left the country a couple of weeks earlier. Such was the case, despite--or rather because of-- the fact that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) had imposed an oil embargo on South Africa in November 1973.

There was no love lost between Iran and the Arab oil producers. The shah still had not forgiven them for what he considered their taking "advantage of the stoppage of Iran's oil production during the nationalization crisis [1951-53] to increase their own exports." His government operated on the premise that "oil is business, not politics." (58) What is more, the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) had had a 17.5 percent share in the National Petroleum Refiners of South Africa (Natref) refinery in Sasolburg, Free State--a joint venture with South African Coal, Oil and Gas Corporation (SASOL)--since it was established in 1971. That state-of-the-art facility could refine heavy (high sulfur) crude, and NIOC was to provide 70 percent of the refinery's supply for 20 years. (59) After the revolution, NOIC's shares were taken over by SASOL. While Iran cut off oil dealings with the Apartheid regime, several Arab states did not, perhaps because South Africa had nearly run out of oil during 1979-80. (60)

During the 1980s, the leading suppliers of crude oil to South Africa were Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iran, amounting to about 80 percent of all South Africa's petroleum imports. These shipments were done either directly or through middlemen and were worth about $2 billion a year. (61) Apparently both the ANC and the Palestine Liberation Organization were aware of this but did not protest to those governments, at least publicly. (62) One Arab country dealt openly with South Africa even after the Arab League put pressure on it to apply diplomatic sanctions in 1974: Lebanon. According to the South African foreign ministry, while the Apartheid government had closed its consulate in Beirut that year, South Africa continued to operate an interest section there out of the embassy of Switzerland, while Lebanon did the same in Pretoria. The Lebanese interest section never ceased functioning until full diplomatic relations were reestablished in 1994. South Africa's representative was withdrawn from Beirut, however, in 1979, due to issues of safety during the civil war (1975-90), after which time a "locally recruited staff member" carried on operations until 1982, when they were "suspended." (63) It should be noted that Lebanon's ministry in charge of foreign relations is formally known as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants. Like Israel, which took into account the much larger Jewish population of South Africa, Lebanon considered the interests of the Christian Lebanese population residing there. Moreover, until the early 1990s, Maronite Christians held the most influence over the Lebanese government. Yet the current patriarch of the Maronite Church Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir, who began his term in 1986, did not visit South Africa until 1992, during the transition that led to multi-racial elections two years later. (64) Obviously, South Africa's relations with Israel were far more complex.

In late May 2010, with the publication of The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa, a writer from the Guardian newspaper of London, after viewing some of the documents the book's author, Sasha Polakow-Suransky, had received from the South African government, claimed that Israel offered to sell South Africa nuclear weapons, but that the latter refused the deal due to high costs. Polakow-Suransky discusses this issue in a little over two pages (65) in which he reports that senior defense officials from South Africa and Israel met between late March and early April 1975 to discuss a deal for Jericho missiles with nuclear warheads. The word "nuclear" was not mentioned at that meeting, but there was reference to "correct payload" and that it came in "three sizes." Polakow-Suransky does not elaborate on the latter reference, but the Guardian article states that it is "believed to refer to conventional, chemical and nuclear weapons." This assumption is based on its possible connection to a document acquired earlier and presented in full text at the end of Peter Liberman's 2004 article "Israel and the South African Bomb." It is a memo by Chief of Staff Lieutenant R.F. Armstrong of the South African Defence Force on the benefits of the Jericho missile if it were equipped with nuclear warheads. (66) Liberman asserts in another article, "The Rise and Fall of the South African Bomb," that Armaments Corporation of South Africa (Armscor), Apartheid South Africa's government-sponsored arms manufacturer, based its primary delivery system for nuclear weapons--of which it built six or seven during the 1970s and 1980s only to scrap the program in 1990-91--on Israeli designs gleaned from its joint rocket and reconnaissance satellite program. (67) However, in Liberman's estimation, it "remains much less clear whether Israeli nuclear technology was ever transferred to South Africa." (68) Over the years, there has been some lively debate on this issue.

On September 22, 1979, an American surveillance satellite, VELA 6911, detected a mysterious double flash detected in the ocean off the coast of South Africa. The explosion was first linked to Israel and South Africa by CBS correspondent Dan Raviv in late February 1980. James Adams in his 1984 book The Unnatural Alliance concluded: "There seems little doubt that there was a nuclear explosion.... [I]t seems certain that Israel helped in the development of the bomb but was not represented when it exploded. South Africa has shared the results with them.... and both nations are now fully fledged members of the nuclear club." (69) Nevertheless, scientific tests proved inconclusive, and the "most recent account" of what really happened, according to Polakow-Suransky, is from Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman in Yediot Ahronot in May 2006: According to their account, it was an Israeli test with some South African observers, and the "obsessive secrecy" surrounding that event "stems in part" from the involvement of Yechiel Horev, head of the MALMAB, a department in the Israeli defense ministry dealing with nuclear secrets, until he resigned in 2007. (70) By the late 1970s and early 1980s, South Africa was becoming more enthusiastic about the nuclear option. The Apartheid government had been roiled by the Soweto uprising, which began in June 1976, when police reacted brutally to protests against learning in Afrikaans by black school children, resulting in the deaths of at least 575 people, overwhelmingly blacks. The ANC attacked the oil refinery at Sasolburg in June 1980, resulting in $85 million worth of damage. In 1977, South Africa secretly imported 30 grams of tritium from Israel while exporting to the Jewish state 600 tons of uranium oxide; the former is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen used for boosting the fission in a thermonuclear weapon, while the later is used as a nuclear fuel. (71) Israel finally imposed sanctions against South Africa in 1987, after many Western countries, including the United States, had done so. It did not include pre-existing military contacts, however, and the Israeli government had assured the South Africans that the new policy would amount to "window dressing" because a suspension of trade "would first and foremost injure Israel." (72) The close ties between Israel and Apartheid South Africa naturally helped create an awkward situation between the two countries when Nelson Mandela's ANC won the multi-racial elections in 1994 and he became president.

Mandela was disappointed by the fact, that when he was released from prison in 1990, "Almost every country in the world--except Israel"--had invited him to visit. The Israelis waited until 1994, and South Africa's first black president took five years--and four months after he left office--before visiting the Jewish state on a trip that also included Syria, Iran and Jordan. (It should be noted that, during his presidency, Mandela visited other Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and even Libya while it was under UN sanctions.) (73) While Mandela chided Israel for its cooperation with the Apartheid regime, he was also quite gracious. He lauded Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Barak--who had withdrawn Israeli troops from southern Lebanon and expressed a willingness to pursue peace with Syria and the Palestinians--as "a man of courage and vision." Mandela also visited Yad Vashem, praised the South African Jewish community's contribution to his country, and hugged South Africa's Chief Rabbi, saying: "Now I feel at home; my rabbi is here." (74) A little less than a year earlier, Mandela had told a journalist from Great Britain's Sunday Independent, "My foreign policy is determined by the past: The relations I have had with the country, the contributions they have made to our struggle." (75) Therefore, Taiwan, which had given the ANC $10 million in 1993--even though they had cooperated earlier with Apartheid South Africa--continued to be recognized until the end of 1997, prompting Tony Leon, a Jew and leader of the opposition Democratic Party (now Democratic Alliance), a successor to the Progressive Party, to complain that "our whole foreign policy is based on electoral debts to the ANC." (76) That party boycotted Cuban President Fidel Castro when he addressed South Africa's Parliament in September 1998, following the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Durban. With regard to both Castro and Muammar Qadhafi, Mandela stated emphatically to the United States on a number of occasions, "We will never renounce our friends." (77) The same held true for Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

South Africa established full diplomatic relations with Palestine in 1995, sending an ambassador to Ramallah. The Palestinian Authority reciprocated, and, in 1998, the South Africans established a satellite office in Gaza City. Arafat paid a state visit to South Africa in August 1998 as well as a few working visits subsequently; (78) his successor, Mahmud Abbas, paid a state visit in March 2006. (79) No sitting Israeli prime minister or president has visited Pretoria since 1994, but Ehud Olmert, when he was deputy prime minister, met with Mandela's successor, Thabo Mbeki, in October 2004. (80) Mbeki never visited Israel, but he did go to other Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Libya and Tunisia; (81) he also traveled to the Sudan in January 2010, after leaving office. These trips concerned both political and economic matters. Indeed, South African government officials have played prominent roles in a number of regional and world organizations on such issues as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran's nuclear development, and South African companies have been active in the Middle Eastern market both in technological ventures and arms sales.

Mbeki made known his position regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a speech at a forum organized by Al-Jazeera in Doha, Qatar, in May 2010:
   [When] the Soviet Union collapsed,
   [t]his deprived the [South African
   Apartheid] regime of the possibility to
   secure the support of the major Western
   governments on the basis that it
   was their ally in the struggle to defeat
   "Soviet domination" first of South Africa
   and of Africa as a whole.... [On
   the other hand,] Israel, itself a small
   state entity, enjoys major international
   support on the basis of a perspective
   it has elaborated and marketed in the
   rest of the world. This gives it the
   assurance that whatever it does, it will
   never face the danger of international
   isolation, especially by the major
   world powers, and will always ensure
   that regardless of the rhetoric, its
   interests and aspirations will always
   occupy the first place in the strategic
   considerations of the major world
   powers, with those of the Palestinians
   being dealt with as a peripheral
   irritation which, nevertheless, but
   within the context of an immutable
   strategic paradigm, cannot be ignored.
   Therefore, there will always be much
   publicized diplomatic activity targeted
   at resolving the Israeli-Palestine
   conflict, which would give hope to the
   Palestinians while putting the Israelis
   at ease because of the certainty that
   this activity would produce no result
   to which they are opposed, communicating
   the message that the activity is
   itself the result. (82)

In this speech, Mbeki also lamented the fact that the Palestinians were disunited and that Israel's construction of the "so-called security wall" into the West Bank and the settlements established on that territory gave the impression that the Jewish state, and especially the current government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, did not respect the 1967 borders and thus is undermining the idea of a "two-state solution." It is obvious that the presidents of South Africa since 1994 have preferred Labor and Kadima-led governments over those of Likud, the party that was most enthusiastic about the alliance with Apartheid South Africa and whose leaders never criticized that system. During Olmert's visit to Pretoria, South Africa's deputy foreign minister, Aziz Pahad, commented: "We are not mediators; we want to use our own experience to help them [the Israelis and Palestinians]. We will criticize actions, for instance of the Israeli defense forces occupying territories and at the same time criticize actions of the Palestinian groups, such as suicide bombing." Pahad also mentioned that South Africa "wanted to see a legitimate Palestinian state living side by side with Israel behind secure borders." (83) In November 2009, South Africa joined 114 other almost exclusively African, Asian and Latin American states in the UN General Assembly in approving the report of Richard Goldstone's fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict; Goldstone, a prominent South African Jewish jurist--of which there are many--and his committee concluded that both Israel and Hamas had committed possible war crimes. (84)


South Africa established diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1994. It has been less publicly critical of Iran than Israel and was initially opposed to sanctions when it joined the UN Security Council for a two-year term in January 2007. Iran was one of the ANC supporters when it was challenging the Apartheid government, a fact that is emphasized on the South African Foreign Ministry's website. Before the Security Council's most recent vote (June 9, 2010) on Resolution 1929, opposed by Turkey and Brazil with Lebanon abstaining, (85) there were three previous rounds of sanctions--Resolutions 1737 of December 2006, 1747 of March 2007, and 1803 of March 2008. South Africa voted for the last two. However, on 1747, South Africa, Indonesia and Qatar only accepted the sanctions after there was acknowledgment that signatories to the NPT had the right to use nuclear technology "for peaceful purposes" and a statement of support for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors' resolution (GOV/2006/14), which stated that a "solution to the Iranian nuclear issue would contribute to ... realizing the objective of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, including the means of delivery," an obvious reference to Israel. (86) Hussein Solomon, Director of the Centre for International Political Studies at the University of Pretoria, told the Jerusalem Post in an interview in March 2006 that the most important reason South Africa was cautious regarding Iran was that the Islamic Republic provided it with "cheap oil and we don't want to anger them." The professor also felt that South Africa's Muslim community of 1.5-1.7 percent of the population, although vocal on political issues, had no "impact on shaping Pretoria's policy toward Iran." (87)

At the same time, South Africa's UN ambassador, Dumisani Kumalo, opposed actions by the Western countries in the Security Council to challenge human-rights abuses in countries such as Sudan, Zimbabwe and Burma--the latter move upsetting even Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Kumalo felt that the more appropriate forum was the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, whose membership has included some very authoritarian countries since it was established in 2006. (88)

South Africa's technological ventures have benefitted certain countries in the Middle East, and its peacekeeping operations for the United Nations in such places as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, and recently Darfur in Sudan have been good for Africa. However, its arms sales to some repressive regimes in the developing world have raised questions from the opposition Democratic Alliance Party. In 2007, Sasol Synfuels International, in partnership with Qatar Petroleum, built in the Persian Gulf state the world's first commercial plant (Oryx GTL) for the conversion of natural gas into liquid petroleum products. The following year, Arya Sasol Polymers started operating a joint venture of with Pars Petrochemical Company that produces polyethylene, a plastic, and ethylene, which has numerous applications. In 2009, South Africa's Tubular Track and Saudi Arabia's Central Mining Company Investment established a joint venture to improve the desert kingdom's rail infrastructure. (89) There was a report in the Tripoli Post of Libya in October 2009 that the North African country was seeking farmland in South Africa--as well as in Congo, Turkey, Israel, China, France and Italy. (90)

All this trade as well as tourism and the Muslim pilgrimage traffic have motivated South African Airways (SAA) to establish code-share partnerships with Saudi Arabian Airlines, Emirates Airlines and El Al of Israel on flights from Jeddah, Dubai and Tel Aviv, respectively, to South Africa. At the same time, SAA is in the Star Alliance with Egypt Air and Turkish Airlines, which fly from Cairo and Istanbul to Johannesburg. The only other Middle East airline serving the later airport is Afriqiyah Airways of Libya from Tripoli. (91)

As for arms sales, South Africa has been somewhat secretive. Indeed, in September 2009, its justice minister presented the South African parliament's defense committee with a report for 2008 from the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), the first time such information was made public in four years, showing that the total value of arms-export contracts signed that year was R20 billion (or about $2.5 billion); that figure rose to 82 billion Rand ($10.5 billion) in 2009. The NCACC is supposed to abide by the rule "that arms should not be sold to countries where they could contribute to internal repression or violate human rights." However, among the buyers acknowledged in the 2008 report were Sudan and Libya, while the 2009 report showed that the government authorized the sale of radar equipment for submarines to North Korea. There were arms sales to other Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan and Algeria for both years, while the South African government refused to allow the sale of sniper rifles to Syria. (92)

South Africa's relations with the countries of the Middle East during the years of Apartheid were affected by domestic affairs in South Africa and developments throughout Africa and the Middle East as well as, to a lesser degree, Europe and South and East Asia. By the 1960s, as the process of decolonization on the African continent accelerated, political dissent grew among South Africa's non-whites. Although such actions were most often peaceful, the Apartheid regime reacted brutally. During the next decade, South Africa was virtually barred from the United Nations while its military forces were engaged in combat in neighboring Angola, a campaign that had a degree of Western support. However, by the 1980s, South Africa faced trade embargoes implemented worldwide. Meanwhile, Israel lost a great deal of the goodwill that it had previously built up in Africa following the Six-Day War of 1967. Its occupation of African and Arab territories--primarily, the Sinai peninsula and secondarily, the West Bank and Gaza Strip--complicated its foreign relations, and by the time of the Yom Kippur/ Ramadan War in 1973, only a few African countries had their ties with the Jewish state. The Arab countries used the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to equate the Palestinian issue with the problems of white-ruled South Africa and Rhodesia and even acquired observer status in the OAU for the Palestine Liberation Organization. (93) Meanwhile, Israel not only dropped its vocal opposition to the policies of South Africa, but cooperated economically and militarily with the Apartheid government and later on, during the late 1980s, ignored its own sanctions. At the same time, some Arab Gulf states continued to supply oil to South Africa, either directly or through middle men, despite acceptance of embargoes by both OPEC and the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) in 1973 and the UN General Assembly in 1979.

In 1991, in the waning days of Apartheid, South Africa signed the NPT, and since 1994, it has restructured its military and engaged in UN peacekeeping operations in Africa. South Africa's foreign-affairs ministry, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, has diplomatic relations with over 180 countries, including both Koreas. South Africa is a leader in the Non-Aligned Movement, an organization that has been very critical of Israel's policies, and political relations with the Jewish state are more distant than with other countries in the Middle East. Economic ties have done well, however, and trade has usually prevailed over political differences. In 2009, Israel continued to be the second-largest export market for South Africa in the Middle East, after the United Arab Emirates, and the sixth-largest regional supplier of imports to South Africa. (94) While South Africa's 10 largest export markets in 2009 were China, the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the Netherlands, India, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, in that order, it imported the most from China, Germany, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Iran, the UK, France, Nigeria and India, in that order. Among its top 50 export markets, moreover, the UAE, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Algeria and Egypt were ranked 23, 24, 34, 38, 41 and 48, respectively, while among sources for imports, the UAE, Turkey, Yemen and Israel were placed 30, 35, 36, and 40, respectively. (95) The Middle East continues to be an important region politically for South Africa, though not for the same reasons as during the era of Apartheid, while economic ties have expanded.

(1) It should be noted, however, that Israel had great success in developing relations with independent African states beginning with the decolonization of Ghana in 1957, but due to expanding Arab influence in Africa, especially around the time of the Yom Kippur/Ramadan War of 1973, Israel was drawn closer to white-ruled South Africa, another so-called Pariah state; these ties also included controversial military cooperation.

(2) Those are the words used to describe the organization on its website: aspx (Accessed on 27 May 2010). Turkey and Saudi Arabia are also members.

(3) As of March 2010, 72.1% of South Africa's energy supply came from coal or peat, while 12.8% came from oil, 10.2% from combustible renewable and waste, 2.8% from natural gas, and 2.2% from nuclear energy. These figures come from the United States Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, South Africa Country Analysis Brief, available at (accessed June 1, 2010).

(4) Martin Meredith, In the Name of Apartheid: South Africa in Postwar Era (New York: Harper & Row, 1988), pp. 29-31; and Brian Lapping, Apartheid." A History (New York: George Braziller, 1987), pp. 73-76. The Afrikaner pro-Nazi Ossewabrandwag [OB] or Ox-Wagon Sentinel--which claimed a membership of at least 200,000 by 1941--established a military wing, called the Stormjaers, or Stormtroopers, that engaged in a campaign of sabotage and violence against Jews and soldiers. By 1943, Allied victories and the detention of several hundred activists in the OB, including future prime minister and state president B.J. Vorster, deflated the movement. Yet anti-Semitism and Nazi racial ideas appealed to Afrikaner politicians in the opposition National Party led by Smuts' successor as prime minister, D.F. Malan, who instituted Apartheid.

(5) T.R.H. Davenport, South Africa: A Modern History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987), pp. 329-331; and Leonard Thompson, A History of South Africa (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000), p. 177. Unlike other sources, Thompson claims that 5,500 South African soldiers were killed during the Second World War and that blacks were more than a quarter of this figure.

(6) For Smuts' ideas concerning segregation and the differences between segregation and Apartheid, see Saul Dubow, Racial Segregation and the Origins of Apartheid, 1919-1936 (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989), pp. 14-15, 35-36, 44, 172 and 177-180.

(7) Richard Mendelsohn and Milton Shain, The Jews in South Africa (Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2008), pp. 97, 119-124 and 126. On May 16, 1948, two days after David Ben-Gurion declared the state of Israel, the government-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation presented full radio coverage of a special Sunday service to commemorate the aforementioned event at the Wolmarans Street Synagogue in Johannesburg.

(8) James Barber and John Barratt, South Africa "s Foreign Policy: The Search for Status and Security, 1945-1988 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 21-25.

(9) See the Commonwealth website at

(10) Republic of South Africa, Department of Foreign Affairs, Egypt (Arab Republic of) at (accessed on April 29, 2010).

(11) Walter Eytan, The First Ten Years. A Diplomatic History of Israel (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1958), pp, 13-14. (Eytan served as the first Director-General of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1948 to 1959.) In September 1948, Israel notified South Africa that it wanted to appoint a visa officer in Johannesburg. Four months later, South Africa agreed, but only on the understanding that "assent should not be construed as de jure recognition of Israel." A copy of the text of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 273 (111) of May 11, 1949 that admitted Israel as a member state may be found on the website of Israel's Ministry for Foreign Affairs at 1947-1974/Admission+of+Israel+to+the+United+Nations-+General.htm (accessed April 29, 2010). The vote was 37 in favor, 12 against with 9 abstentions.

(12) Naomi Chazan, "The Fallacies of Pragmatism: Israeli Foreign Policy towards South Africa," African Affairs, Vol. 82, No. 327, April 1983, pp. 172-174. By the end of 1973, besides South Africa, the four African states that recognized Israel were Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi and Mauritius. The last broke off relations with the Jewish state under pressure from Arab countries in June 1976. (See Arye Oded, Africa and the Middle East Conflict [Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1987], pp. 10 and 224.) Chazan is a professor emeritus of political science and African studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a former member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) from 1992-2003. She has been president of the New Israel Fund, a civil and human rights organization, since 2008; that group and she were accused by right-wingers in Israel of providing much of the information for South African jurist Richard Goldstone's Fact-Finding Mission report for the United Nations on the Gaza conflict of 2009 that was very critical of both Israel and Hamas.

(13) Sasha Polakow-Suransky, The Unspoken Alliance." Israel's Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa (New York: Pantheon Books, 2010), pp. 218-220 and 230-232.

(14) Prime Minister Muhammad Mosaddeq, who initiated the nationalization of the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, was overthrown in August 1953 in a coup, organized by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Great Britain's MI6, that restored Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi to power.

(15) Elie Podeh, "The Desire to Belong Syndrome: Israel and Middle-Eastern Defense, 1948-1954," Israel Studies, Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 1999, pp. 121 and 130.

(16) Michael B. Bishku, "Turkey and Its Middle Eastern Neighbors since 1945," Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 15, No. 3, Spring 1992, pp. 55-58. The Baghdad Pact was signed by Turkey and Iraq on February 24, 1955; Great Britain acceded to the agreement just over a month later, while Pakistan and Iran joined in September and October, respectively. The United States supported the alliance but did not join, not wanting to offend either Egypt, which vehemently opposed it, or Israel, which was unhappy about Iraq's membership. The Baghdad Pact insured Great Britain's continued control over strategic airbases in Iraq, but in July 1958, the pro-British Hashemite monarchy was overthrown by Arab nationalists of the Baath Party. France was not a member as it was engaged in a bloody war from 1954-1962 against Algerian nationalists seeking independence.

(17) See Michael B. Bishku, "Turkey's Maghreb Connection: Its Peculiar Relationship with Libya," The Maghreb Review, Vol. 34, Nos. 2-3, 2009, pp. 159-180. Turkey's relationship with Libya's King Idris, unlike most in the Arab world during the 1950s, was close, and later on under Muammar Qadhafi economic ties were quite extensive though the Libyan leader who overthrew Idris in 1969 did not like Turkey's membership in NATO, its relationship with Israel and its treatment of the Kurds.

(18) Quoted in Ara Sanjian, "The Transformation of the Baghdad Pact," Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 33, No. 2, April 1997, p. 235.

(19) Gamal Abdul Nasser, Egypt's Liberation: The Philosophy of the Revolution (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1955), p. 109. While Africa was the "second circle," the Arab world was the "first circle" and the Islamic world was the "third circle," or areas of interest and commitment for the Egyptian revolution.

(20) David Kimche, The Afro-Asian Movement: Ideology and Foreign Policy of the Third World (Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press, 1973), pp. 88-89; and Peter Mansfield, Nasser's Egypt (Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1965), p. 100.

(21) Enuga S. Reddy, "The United Nations and the Struggle for Liberation in South Africa," p. 54. Available at (accessed May 18, 2010).

(22) Barber and Barratt, South Africa's Foreign Policy, pp. 45, 47 and 55-60.

(23) Howard M. Sachar, Diaspora." An Inquiry into the Contemporary Jewish World(New York: Harper & Row, 1985), pp. 177-197; and Howard M. Sachar, A History of the Jews' in the Modern World (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), pp. 663-667. The Jewish Virtual library gives the figure of 72,000 as of the year 2006, making South Africa's Jewish population the twelfth largest in the world. See their link: (accessed May 29, 2010).

(24) Mendelsohn and Shain, Jews in South Africa, p. 135.

(25) Guita G. Hourani, "The Struggle of the Christian Lebanese for Land Ownership in South Africa." Avail able at (accessed May 22, 2010). In a 1913 lawsuit one legal argument used was that "Syrians" were Semitic just like Jews, to whom pass laws did not apply.

(26) Chazan, "Fallacies of Pragmatism," p. 175.

(27) In an article entitled "Myanmar-Israel 55 Years of Friendly Relations," found on the website of the Embassy of Israel in Yangon, Burma, available at (and accessed on May 25, 2010), it states that "U Nu of Burma was the first foreign Prime Minister to visit the newly independent state of Israel in 1955."

(28) Sachar, History of the Jews, p. 666.

(29) Republic of South Africa, Department of Foreign Affairs, Israel (State of) available at (accessed May 25, 2010); and Chazan, "Fallacies of Pragmatism," p. 172.

(30) Both quotations are from James Eayrs, ed., The Commonwealth and Suez: A Documentary Survey (Lon don: Oxford University Press, 1964), pp. 62-63.

(31) Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and the Ottoman Empire signed this agreement in October 1888, ensuring free navigation through that international waterway to all countries.

(32) There were some 22 countries that attended, including Great Britain, France, the United States, the Soviet Union, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Indonesia, Ethiopia, Australia and New Zealand.

(33) This quotation is derived from a statement made by the leader of the United Party, J.G.N. Strauss, on Au gust 9, 1956, in Eayrs, Commonwealth and Suez, p. 66.

(34) Ibid., pp. 16-17.

(35) Ibid., p. 66.

(36) Other countries in the group submitting the letter of 12 September were Afghanistan, Burma, the Philip pines and Yemen.

(37) Reddy, "United Nations and the Struggle for Liberation in South Africa," pp. 45-47.

(38) Ibid., pp. 51-54.

(39) Polakow-Suransky, Unspoken Alliance, pp. 29-32 and 251; Chazan, "Fallacies of Pragmatism," p. 172; Mendelsohn and Shain, Jews in South Africa, pp. 109-111 and 140; Olusola Oj o, Africa and Israel." Relations in Perspective (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1988), p. 121: and Joel Peters, Israel and Africa (London: British Academic Press, 1992), pp. 148-149.

(40) Golda Melt, My Life (New York: G.R Putnam's Sons, 1975), pp. 317-341; some of the same thoughts are expressed by Ehud Avriel, Israel's first ambassador to Ghana in 1957. See Ehud Avriel, "Israel's Beginnings in Africa," in Michael Curtis and Susan Aurelia Gitelson, eds, Israel in the Third World. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1976), pp. 69-74. Also see Michael B. Bishku, "Israel and Ethiopia: From a Special to a Pragmatic Relationship," Conflict Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 3, Spring 1994, pp. 39-62.

(41) Fatima Meer, Higher than Hope." The Authorized Biography of Nelson Mandela (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1990), pp. 176-177.

(42) Quoted in Anthony Sampson, Mandela: The Authorized Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), p. 163.

(43) Quoted in Mary Benson, Nelson Mandela: The Man and the Movement (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1986), p. 113; and Meer, Higher than Hope, p. 183.

(44) Sampson, Mandela, p. 165.

(45) Quoted in Reddy, "United Nations and the Struggle for Liberation in South Africa," p. 42.

(46) Benson, Nelson Mandela, p. 138. Sisulu was released from prison in 1989.

(47) Polakow-Suransky, Unspoken Alliance, pp. 65-66.

(48) James Adams, The Unnatural Alliance (London: Quartet Books, 1984), pp. 19-23.

(49) Ibid. p. 19.

(50) Polakow-Suransky, Unspoken Alliance, pp. 76-80 and 205.

(51) Quoted in ibid., p. 65.

(52) Ibid., p. 67.

(53) Shahram Chubin and Sepehr Zabih, The Foreign Relations of Iran: A Developing State in a Zone of Great Power Conflict (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), p. 304.

(54) Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Answer to History (Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Company, 1980), p. 135.

(55) Republic of South Africa, Department of Foreign Affairs, Iran (Islamic Republic of) available at (accessed May 25, 2010).

(56) Nuclear Threat Initiative, Iran Profile available at June 8, 2010).

(57) Joseph Hanlon, Beggar Your Neighbours: Apartheid Power in Southern Africa (London and Bloomington: Catholic Institute for International Relations and Indiana University Press, 1986), p. 74.

(58) Chubin and Zabih, Foreign Relations of Iran, pp. 274-275.

(59) Another investor in that project was the French company Elf Aquitaine (now Total), which currently owns a little more than 36 percent of that venture together with SASOL. See "Natref Refinery" on the Total website: 6558DB176585F1ABC1256F240055ADF8?OpenDocument (accessed on May 2, 2010).

(60) Hanlon, Beggar Your Neighbour, p. 17.

(61) See Arthur Jay Klinghoffer, Oiling the Wheels of Apartheid. Exposing South Africa's Secret Oil Trade (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1989). This trade is confirmed by the Amsterdam-based Shipping Research Bureau. A later work, Embargo." Apartheid's Oil Secrets Revealed, edited by Richard Hengeveld and Jaap Rodenburg (Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam, 1995) relies on those statistics.

(62) Polakow-Suransky, Unspoken Alliance, pp. 166-167.

(63) Republic of South Africa, Department of Foreign Affairs, Lebanon (Republic of) available at (accessed May 25, 2010).

(64) See Catholic Archdiocese of Johannesburg website at (accessed June 6, 2010); and for an article from July 2006 of a publication of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, N.Y. (accessed June 6, 2010).

(65) See Chris McGreal, "Revealed: How Israel Offered to Sell South Africa Nuclear Weapons," Guardian, May 24, 2010; and Polakow-Suransky, Unspoken Alliance, pp. 81-83.

(66) Peter Liberman, "Israel and the South African Bomb," Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 11, No. 2, Summer 2004, pp. 32-35.

(67) Peter Liberman, "The Rise and Fall of the South African Bomb," International Security, Vol. 26, No. 2, Fall 2001, pp. 45 and 54. For a brief history of Armscor, which was established in 1948 and split in 1992, when it became a procurement company and Denel was established to continue arms research and manufacturing, see its website: (accessed June 7, 2010). Also see Denel's website: (accessed June 7, 2010).

(68) Liberman, "Israel and the South African Bomb," p. 7.

(69) Adams, Unnatural Alliance, p. 196.

(70) Polakow-Suransky, Unspoken Alliance, p. 274, note 30. The article cited was published on May 19, 2006. Also, see Amir Oren, "The Secret Guard for Nuclear Ambiguity," Haaretz, July 8, 2007, for news of Horev's retirement and a brief history of MALMAB.

(71) Liberman, "Israel and the South African Bomb," p. 9. This fact only became known in a court case in 1994.

(72) Polakow-Suransky, Unspoken Alliance, p. 204.

(73) Mandela visited Libya, Egypt and Morocco in October 1997 and Saudi Arabia the following month; he at tended an OAU summit in Tunisia in 1994.

(74) Suzanne Belling, "Mandela Bears Message of Peace in First Visit to Israel,", October 22, 1999 available at: mandela-bears-message-of-peace-in-first-visit-to-Israel/. (accessed June 8, 2010); and Ron Kompeas, "Mandela Says Israel Must Give Up Arab Land--But Only for Peace," The Independent, October 19, 1999.

(75) Samson, Mandela, p. 548, quoting an interview with John Carlin, December 6, 1998.

(76) Quoted in ibid., p. 552.

(77) Ibid., pp. 554-555.

(78) Republic of South Africa, Department of Foreign Affairs, Palestine (The State of) available at (accessed on June 8, 2010).

(79) The meeting took place in Cape Town on March 31 2006. Toast remarks of Mbeki are available at (accessed June 8, 2010).

(80) "South African President Mbeki Meets with Deputy PM Olmert," Haaretz, October 22, 2004. Of the visit, South Africa's Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad stated: "It's not a question of warming up of relations; it's a continuation, so that we can extend out contacts with factions of the Israeli society."

(81) Mbeki visited Libya in 2002, Tunisia in 2004, and Saudi Arabia in 2007.

(82) This speech was posted on Foreign as "Lessons of the South Africa Experience: Thoughts on the Israel-Palestinian Conflict" and is available at lessons_of_the_south_africa_experience_thoughts_on_the_israel _palestinian_conflict (accessed June 10, 2010).

(83) Quoted in Haaretz, October 22, 2004.

(84) United Nations, General Assembly, Resolution GA/10883 available at (accessed June 8, 2010). Eighteen states voted against, including the United States, Israel, Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary, while 44 abstained, including Great Britain, France and most European countries as well as Russia and five African countries.

(85) Lebanon abstained as the Lebanese Cabinet was split 14-14 on the issue of sanctions against Iran. See article of June 9, 2010 entitled "U.N. Cuncil Hits Defiant Iran with New Sanctions" available at (accessed June 10, 2010).

(86) United Nations, Security Council, S/RES/1747 (2007) is available at OpenElement (Accessed June 10, 2010).

(87) Herb Keinon, "South Africa's Iran Stance Raises Concerns," Jerusalem Post, March 7, 2006.

(88) Colum Lynch, "South Africa's U.N. Votes Disappoint Some," The Washington Post, April 16, 2007. The UN Human Rights Council's membership currently includes such countries as China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia as well as the United States, Great Britain and France. South Africa was a member from 2007 to May 2010.

(89) See Sasol's website at Also see "Saudi Arabia, South Africa Establish Joint Venture in Railroad Technology," Zawya (Middle East Business and Investments News), June 23, 2009 (accessed October 8, 2009).

(90) "Libya Could Lease 35,000 Hectare Farmland in South Africa," Tripoli Post, October 2, 2009, available at (accessed October 8, 2009).

(91) Sawubona, in-flight magazine of South African Airways, January 2010. Emirates also flies to Cape Town.

(92) Information was derived from reports of August 2 and September 2, 2009 as well as April 9, 2010, from the South African news service News The articles were "DA: Govt Arming Dictators," "Radebe Miserly with Arms Details," and "Increase in SA Arms Sales "on those respective dates (accessed April 25, 2010).

(93) Oded, Africa and the Middle East Conflict, pp. 2-5.

(94) Republic of South Africa, Department of Trade and Industry, Trade Statistics by Country in the Middle East Region at (accessed May 29, 2010). The fourteen countries include Israel, Turkey, Iran and all the Arab Middle Eastern countries, except Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, which are part of North Africa. Israel continues to import rough diamonds, which are cut and polished in the Jewish state, while South Africa continues to import oil from the Gulf States. While South Africa has diplomatic relations with Palestine, there are no trade statistics available. Overall, South African trade with the North African countries was smaller than with those in the Middle East, even taking into account the number of states considered, especially with regard to South African imports. See the comparable document for Trade Statistics by Country in the North Africa region at (accessed May 29, 2010).

(95) Republic of South Africa, Department of Trade and Industry, South African Trade by Country at (accessed May 30, 2010).

Dr. Bishku is a professor of history at Augusta State University in Augusta, Georgia.
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Title Annotation:Bishku: South Africa and the Middle East
Author:Bishku, Michael B.
Publication:Middle East Policy
Geographic Code:70MID
Date:Sep 22, 2010
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