Though an op-ed by Desmond Tutu in the Guardian is framed to makes it seem that the focus is Israel’s reported nuclear weapon arsenal, as we read through it, we learn that the South African Anglican cleric had a different goal in mind: to peddle the lie the Israel is an apartheid state.
The piece (“Joe Biden should end the US pretence over Israel’s ‘secret’ nuclear weapons”, Dec. 31) evokes the Israel-South African comparison early, in arguing that Jerusalem offered to sell nuclear weapons to the apartheid government in Pretoria in the 1970s.
Israel in fact is a multiple nuclear weapons proliferator. There is overwhelming evidence that it offered to sell the apartheid regime in South Africa nuclear weapons in the 1970s…
However, this claim links to a 2010 Guardian piece by their former Jerusalem correspondent Chris McGreal – one of the most viscerally anti-Israel reporters we’ve come across – that we refuted at the time, and then again years later, when the issue arose. Not only did Shimon Peres, who was Israel’s Defence Minister at time of the alleged sale, emphatically refute the charge, but the BBC’s Middle East reporter at the time, Tim Franks, suggested that the evidence contained in the Guardian report was merely circumstantial.
Shortly after that claim, Tutu makes another allegation:
the US and Israeli governments pushed for the  invasion of Iraq based on lies about coming mushroom clouds.
This is completely false. In fact, multiple reports – both contemporaneous and years later – showed that Ariel Sharon, Israel’s prime minister at the time, clearly opposed the US invasion, and argued that Iran was the much bigger threat.
After devoting several paragraphs to criticising Israel’s intentional ambiguity over its purported nuclear weapons program, Tutu pivots to another distortion:
Israel’s per capita gross domestic product is comparable with that of Britain. Nevertheless, US taxpayer funds to Israel exceed that to any other country
First, as we’ve demonstrated previously, every penny of the $3.8 billion in US military assistance Israel receives annually has to be spent on US military contractors. So, each year $3.8 billion is, in effect, transferred from the US Treasury to American companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. Also, contrary to Tutu’s claim, US taxpayer funds to Israel does NOT “exceed that to any other country”. In fact, Afghanistan is the largest single foreign recipient of US taxpayer money.
Tutu then pivots to the apartheid charge:
Apartheid was horrible in South Africa and it’s horrible when Israel practises its own form of apartheid against the Palestinians, with checkpoints and a system of oppressive policies….
The apartheid charge against Israel is arguably the weakest within the anti-Zionist arsenal, as it doesn’t even minimally meet word’s internationally accepted meaning: “a system of racial segregation” designed to support the “domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group”. Whatever you say about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is quite clearly not one based on race.
Rather, it is a decades-long political and territorial conflict amongst two parties historically at war to varying degrees with one-another. Further, it’s telling that those who peddle the “apartheid” smear against Israel give Palestinian terror leaders – and their many supporters within the Palestinian territories – who openly call for the mass murder of Jews a moral pass on the question of racism.
Indeed, Tutu’s entire argument seems to rest upon the existence of checkpoints employed of course to protect Israeli citizens from Palestinian terrorists – strangely suggesting that any barrier to unlimited Palestinian entry into Israel is representative of “apartheid”.
It’s quite possible that one of the reasons that Israel’s version of apartheid has outlived South Africa’s is that Israel has managed to maintain its oppressive system using not just the guns of soldiers, but also by keeping this nuclear gun pointed at the heads of millions. The solution for this is not for Palestinians and other Arabs to try to attain such weapons. The solution is peace, justice and disarmament.
It’s not totally clear who Tutu is referring to when he speaks of “the heads of millions”, but he of course omits the most important historical context: Israel’s military strategy since 1948 – including their purported nuclear arsenal – was based the existential danger posed by the guns of millions of hostile Arab and Muslim states pointed at its head. Whilst the threat posed by neighboring Arab states has significantly receded, the Islamic Republic of Iran – whose nuclear weapons program Tutu conveniently ignores – and its regional proxies continue to threaten the Jewish state with annihilation.
Though Tutu naturally deserves credit for his activism during the fight against South African apartheid, he unfortunately doesn’t seem to possess a serious understanding of the unique dynamics that give rise to conflict and instability in the Middle East.
The noble cause of co-existence in the region certainly won’t be advanced by demonising the lone progressive democracy in the region based on intellectually unserious political analogies, nor, it should be added, by employing empty bromides about “peace, justice and disarmament”.