Ilana Mercer -- the WorldNetDaily columnist who has a sweet spot for the apartheid era in her native South Africa -- insists in her Sept. 6 column that she "opposed apartheid" and concludes it by stating, "This is an historical account of how the Afrikaner intelligentsia viewed a policy against which the writer and her family fought. A writer need not agree with it to chronicle and analyze it."
The problem is that the rest of her column sure reads like a defense of apartheid.
Mercer declares her thesis at the outset:
Monomaniacal Westerners – they have one thing on their minds: it begins with an “R” – have come to think and speak of apartheid as a theory of white supremacy.
It was not.
The South African policy of “separate development,” as it was admittedly euphemized, was not a theory of racial supremacy, but a strategy for survival.
Mercer goes on to cite Hermann Giliomee, "author of the grand historical synthesis, 'The Afrikaners: Biography of a People,'" to boost her view that the genesis of apartheid was "overwhelming existential, rather than racial."She added: "Giliomee, a liberal historian who opposed apartheid (like this writer), contends that 'apartheid was not uniquely abhorrent and had much in common with Western colonialism and American segregation.' Another of the historian’s apparent heresies has it that 'attempts to depict the nationalist leaders as proto-fascists showed a poor understanding of both the Nazi and the Afrikaner nationalist movement.'"
Mercer similarly played whataboutism with Western racism in an earlier column.
Mercer doesn't mention there is a faction of Afrikaner nationalism that is very much Nazi-esque. When Mercer wrote about the 2010 murder of the leader of this faction, Eugene Terrblanche, she hid his history of extremism.
She went on to declare that "The Cape Town-Stellenbosch axis of the nationalist intelligentsia, which was the most influential lobby in Malan’s National Party (NP), almost without exception defended apartheid not as an expression of white superiority but on the grounds of its assumed capacity to reduce conflict by curtailing points of interracial contact." But South African news organization Independent Media published a 2003 review of Giliomee's book, stating that apartheid was accepted in most Afrikaner quarters as a racist policy:
But apartheid was giving the Nationalist rank and file what they wanted: white supremacy, segregated residential areas, train coaches, public toilets, post office counters, and beaches. And so it went on until the whole rotten edifice collapsed.
Giliomee acknowledges the devastating effects of apartheid legislation - the pass laws, race classification, group areas etc - on the lives of Africans, Indians and coloured people.
Yet he does not explain how a kindly, civilised, church-going community such as the Afrikaners could contemplate with equanimity the appalling human suffering inflicted by these policies.
Afrikaner public opinion, as a whole, remained unmoved, their response one of callous indifference. Of course the same can be said of much of the English-speaking section who voted happily for the Nationalists at successive elections.
Mercer also writes: "In retrospect, it is easy for me to see the merits of Giliomee’s argument for 'the essential moderation of Afrikaner nationalism.' Anybody who lived, as I had lived, among Afrikaners during the apartheid era can testify that crime and communism were foremost on their minds."
But being able to make an intellectual case for apartheid in a "historical account" that ignores its inherent racism doesn't make apartheid any less racist. That makes Mercer's protestations that she actually fought apartheid at the time questionable at best.