A rising radical politician promises that he will bring the majority of his population out of poverty and depression by getting rid of an unpopular minority and redistributing their ill-gotten gains among the poor and downtrodden. He openly threatens ethnic cleansing to what he claims is the criminal race that has systematically oppressed his people for centuries.
The sitting national leader sees the rising popularity of this demagogue and adopts many of his arguments. If this sounds like Germany in 1933, it was — however, it is also South Africa in 2018.
In 1933, the target minority was Jews. Today, the intended victims in South Africa are white farmers. In both cases, the despised minority represented much of the nation’s prosperity. In both cases, the world has looked the other way.
The South African demagogue is Julius Malema, an avowed Marxist. He has stopped short of advocating outright genocide, but he wants to evict white farmers from their land and advocates violence against the white farmers that he characterizes as criminals because their ancestors settled the land centuries ago. He has stopped short of calling for the immediate outright genocide of white farmers, but he holds it out as a possibility.
South Africa’s new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, took up the cause as part of his campaign platform and is in the process of making the ethnic cleansing of whites by expropriating their land without compensation a national policy by changing the constitution to allow it. Hitler would not have approved of the reverse ethnic cleansing concept in the new African genocide, but he probably would have nodded in grudging admiration of the approach.
Australia is already taking action to give relief from this ethnic cleansing to its South African victims as has the Republic of Georgia. Even Russia appears to be willing to accept 15,000 South African refugees. One would think that the United Nations and the human rights community would take up the cause. This is not the case.
Instead, according to a July 12 Washington Post article, the U.N. and the rights activists are concentrating on an Israeli attempt to move 173 Bedouin villagers from their current illegal settlement to another location for security reasons. The Bedouins don’t have title to the property they occupy and the Israelis are trying to replace them on suitable land elsewhere.
I personally disagree with the Israeli treatment of Palestinians and other Arabs on the West Bank, but that situation differs from that of the white South Africans in several ways. First, Israel is observing the rule of law, not attempting to change its laws to suit the will of the majority as in the South African case. The Israeli Supreme Court is currently the main impediment to the West Bank evictions.
Secondly, no Israeli politician in his right mind would blatantly call for the killing of the Bedouins or any other Arabs in the process of evictions. That is not the case in South Africa, where some sitting legislators are advocating immediate extrajudicial violence, and where many white farmers have already been killed by vigilantes. Even Hitler had the decency to wait until he had legal authority to begin formal persecution of Jews, homosexuals, gypsies and other people he considered to be undesirable.
The silence of the United Nations, human rights groups and American progressives on the South African issue represents a stupendous wave of hypocrisy by even the shoddy moral standards that the U.N. has sunk to in recent years. What we are seeing in action is reverse racism of the worst kind, and racism in any form should be deplorable.
Human rights are most likely to be violated when any minority group is unpopular with a national majority. Resisting that should not just be true for people of color, Muslims in Myanmar, African-Americans, or Latinos.
A few decades ago, blacks in South Africa suffered under apartheid and the world rightly condemned the white majority. The whites eventually did the right thing and agreed to democratic rule. Truth and reconciliation processes were set up to form a truly constitutional democracy that would provide majority rule with protections for minorities — white and Asian.
Mr. Malema and his ilk want to scrap all that; he is brutally honest in admitting that this is all about revenge on the white population. There is a double standard at work here and in the world community. If human rights issues become a matter of racial profiling, we all lose.
• Gary Anderson lectures at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.
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