Related Stories By Editor Published: 20120514
The blood of lesser folk

Whenever Cassinga Day comes around in Namibia, I find myself drawing parallels with the Jews and the Nazis.

It is very hard to say anything negative concerning a Jewish person or the Jewish homeland without attracting a thoroughly numbing accusation of being anti-Semitic.

Everyone in the world, it seems, has an obligation to love the Jews and ignore whatever excesses they may display because some six million of them were slaughtered by Nazi Germany.

The attempt to wipe out Jews in World War II attracts more attention than the fact that Russia lost some 20 million people in that war. Who cares, after all – they were just communists, right? A few short months after the war had been won and lost, the world saw the Nuremberg trials, which in essence set the basis for international law as it is practised today within the context of gross human rights abuses, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Some 22 men were tried - one in absentia – for their roles in the Nazi atrocities: three were acquitted, the other 18 present were found guilty and 11 of these were sentenced to hang. The idea of the Nuremberg trials was not necessarily to publish offenders, but rather to put across the point that the Nazi’s actions were illegal and to have those complicit in them categorised as criminals under international law.

Since the end of that war, many others have been extradited from far-flung countries – as disparate as Argentina and Australia – to go and face justice in Europe.

It is often said that Mossad regularly dispatches assassins even up to today to take care of Nazis and Nazi collaborators in South America.

And let us not even start on the millions of dollars that have been paid out in reparations to the Jews by various governments for their part in that holocaust and Nazi-era looting.

But not only did the world agree to punish those who had tried to exterminate the Jews, they also facilitated the creation of a Jewish homeland as per the spirit and tone of the Balfour Declaration.

That is how precious Jewish blood is.

Let us look at the flipside.

On May 8, 1945 – the very day that the Nazi surrendered – is the day that the French started what is now known as the Sétif Massacre in Algeria.

Ironically, it started when around 5 000 Algerians took to the streets to celebrate what is called Victory in Europe Day but also contained elements of an anti-colonial protest.

French police seized banners attacking colonialism and in the ensuing melee, many protestors were shot.

For days on end the French military and police shot people dead in the streets of Sétif and the air force was called in to bomb villages so as to quell anti-colonial protests.

The official French figure for those dead in the Setif Massacre and its reprisals was 1 020, against the 45 000 reported by Radio Cairo at the time. Historian Alistair Horne puts the figure at 6 000 dead but his moderate colleagues concede that this is only an estimate.

France largely downplayed the massacre back home, but imagine the impact this had on those Algerians who had fought on the Allies’ side in World War II?

How did they feel as they saw the Nazis they had been fighting being punished for crimes against humanity while the French - on whose side they had stood - casually killed their countrymen, women and children and got away with it?

Would they have been wrong to think that perhaps their blood was of lesser value?

To date, all France has done is issue an “apology” in 2005 for the massacre. Nothing more.

And what shall we say about the events of November 23 to 25, 1977 in Chimoio, Mozambique?

In what was called Operation Dingo, Rhodesian security forces attacked a refugee camp housing Zimbabweans who had fled colonial oppression in their homeland. Thousands died that day.

There has been no equivalent of Nuremberg for those who committed these atrocities. In fact, Robert Mugabe was expected to live peacefully with these same people in independent Zimbabwe because – as we are often told – we should not “be mired in the past”. Surely, the survivors of Chimoio and the relatives of those murdered would be forgiven for thinking that their black blood just is not as precious as that of Jews.

Remember how on May 4 of 1978 apartheid South Africa launched an aerial raid on another refugee camp housing Namibians who had fled the horrors of South West Africa at a place called Cassinga in Angola?

The estimates of the defenceless people who died there ranges from between 600 and over 1 000.

What has been done to ensure justice is served for the Cassinga Massacre? Has there been even just one arrest to show that the blood of black Namibians is as important as that of European Jews?

Let us not even talk about the massacre of the Herero people of Namibia in the early 19th century by the Germans. That is a genocide in its own.

Does anyone remember My Lai? How on the morning of March 16, 1968, American soldiers descended on the small hamlet of My Lai in Vietnam and massacred hundreds of civilians? Or how native Americans have been erased from the face of North America? Or how Australia’s Aborigines and New Zealand’s Maoris were exterminated?

Does any of this blood mean anything to this animal called international law?