By Linn Washington, Jr.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Jan Smuts, a former prime minister of South Africa are politicians from two different eras who share two things in common.
Actions by Trump and Smuts, while separated by several decades, prompt many people in America and South Africa respectively to use the same word to describe each leader: racist.
And, Trump, like Smuts, has acted decisively on behalf of Israel.
Trump has created a “racially hostile climate” the President of America’s oldest civil rights organization, the NAACP, noted recently.
The actions of Smuts and other white supremacist leaders in South Africa over a century ago triggered the creation of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1912, three years after the formation of the NAACP in America. A long-time leader of the ANC was Nelson Mandela, the legendary activist/statesman.
Recently President Trump smashed decades of American policy with his declaration that recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In the early 20th Century Jan Smuts played a pivotal role in laying the foundation for the creation of Israel.
Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem received applause in Israel by top governmental officials and citizens alike. Trump received Israeli accolades despite the fact that a few months ago Trump publicly praised Israel hating Neo-Nazis after that rampage by racists in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Trump proclaimed his declaration was “the right thing to do” irrespective of the fact that it flouts international law that has opposed Israeli occupation of Jerusalem since 1967. Trump said his declaration was simply a “recognition of reality.” Trump critics point out the ‘reality’ of Israel’s control of Jerusalem is tied to decades of the U.S. providing Israel with military aid, financial support and diplomatic backing that strengthened Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem and the West Bank.
America’s European allies, America’s Arab world allies plus adversaries Russia and China sharply condemned Trump’s declaration. World leaders, including the Pope, see Trump’s declaration as a huge barrier to a settlement of the festering Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Under the long discussed “Two State Solution” Palestinians sought Jerusalem as the capital of their independent nation.
The hands of South African Jan Smuts, were behind the Balfour Declaration, the November 1917 document issued by the British government that cemented British backing for the creation of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.
Israel was formally established in 1948, two years before the death of Smuts. Israel was established on land referenced in the Balfour Declaration as Palestine. British governments never fully enforced a provision of the Balfour Declaration that stated, “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine…”
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