A racist speech attributed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has caused outrage among South Africans. But what if the speech never existed? RA’EESA PATHER reports.
In Gaza, violence is escalating. But you’ve probably heard about that. Israel has partnered up with Egypt to announce a ceasefire, but they forgot to tell Hamas about it.
In the past few days, Palestinian and Israeli supporters have been buzzing across social media. Statistics, news articles and images of bloodied children have been widely shared. But how much of it is truthful?
Recently, a racist speech accredited to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has had South Africans spluttering with rage.
“The State of Israel that we know of today has not been created by wishful thinking… We do not pretend like other whites that we like the blacks. The fact that, blacks and Arabs look like human beings and act like human beings do not necessarily make them sensible human beings.”
– excerpt from a speech attributed to Netanyahu.
But what if that speech never existed?
The speech was sent around Facebook, WhatsApp and via email. The intention was to inform as many people as possible that this is the real Netanyahu – a racist leader who believes that as far human beings go, well, Arabs and blacks aren’t really all that. The message went viral in Muslim networks, and is said to have been shared by Affan Sosibo of the African National Congress Youth League.
It’s easy to understand why these words would have South Africans dizzy with fury. After all, we are still recovering from our own history. The speech paints Israelis as the superior race, while Arabs and blacks are slighted as the lowest of humans. Through its religious preaching that “a Jew is [an] honest, God fearing person, who has demonstrated practically the right way of being” it tugs at colonial justification as to why colonisation is necessary. It’s what God wanted, right?
But it was a hoax, and right now the online world is saying that this speech actually belongs to former South African apartheid president PW Botha.
“The Republic of South Africa that we know of today has not been created by wishful thinking… We do not pretend like other Whites that we like Blacks. The fact that, Blacks look like human beings and act like human beings do not necessarily make them sensible human beings”.
– excerpt from the speech which is now attributed to PW Botha.
Netanyahu’s and Botha’s speeches are almost identical. The difference, of course, is that Netanyahu’s speech refers to Arabs. In a remarkable play, it would seem the speech of a former apartheid leader has been manipulated into the words of a current apartheid leader. Almost disturbingly poetic.
Yet, if you dig into Botha’s speech and try to search for any conclusive evidence that he ever made it, you will find nothing. The speech is a hoax. It never existed. In fact, you could find the real version of the speech here.
The address is alleged to be a reprint that was published in the Sunday Times, but the Sunday Times has called the speech “utterly fictitious“.
There have been several instances where images have been re-appropriated from other contexts and used as fodder to mobilise Palestinian support. For example, a photograph of a child kneeling execution-style with guns circling his head, has been widely shared on Twitter. #PrayforGaza is the caption, but the correct caption is actually #PrayforSyria: this photo is not from Palestine, it was taken in Syria. It is unjustifiable to take the violence and persecution from one nation and use it to gather support for another.
But the digital world is full of mischief. Yes, search engines like Google and websites like Snopes make it easier to uncover hoaxes. But online users are humans, and humans can get it wrong. A simple share can be read by hundreds, creating a viral wave of misinformed people. As such, the resistance itself becomes manipulated and misinformed. So why are these hoaxes so easily believed? Are we too lazy to inform ourselves, simply clutching onto whatever information we see?
The Palestinian people have been living under oppression for more than 60 years. It is the longest-lasting colonial tyranny in the modern era. Yes, there is a need to encourage further resistance, to inform more people about the mounting atrocities. But by spreading falsehoods, we are doing the Palestinian people an injustice. We are fooling and manipulating people into believing the struggle is justified, and how does that make us better than the oppressors we denounce?
We owe the Palestinian people more than that. We owe them a true fight.