Event #1134 John Vorster makes State Visit to Israel Start Date: Friday, 9 Apr 1976 End Date: Monday, 12 Apr 1976
When the South African prime minister John Vorster made a state visit to Israel in April 1976, it began with a tour of Yad Vashem, Israel's major Holocaust memorial, where the late Yitzhak Rabin invited the onetime Nazi collaborator, unabashed racist and white supremacist to pay homage to Jews murdered in the Holocaust.
Compared, say, to routine outcries from organized Jewry over often even mild whiffs of Holocaust controversy, no less remarkable was the bland equanimity both Israeli and diaspora Jews also displayed toward the Vorster visit.
Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi recalls [The Israeli Connection, Random House: Toronto, 1987, p.x]:
"For most Israelis, the Vorster visit was just another state visit by a foreign leader. It did not draw much attention. Most Israelis did not even remember his name, and did not see anything unusual, much less surreal in the scene [an old Nazi diehard invited to 'mourn' the victims at a Holocaust memorial]: Vorster was just another visiting dignitary being treated to the usual routine."
The old Nazi collaborator was graciously welcomed by his hosts.
The South African leader left Israel four days later -- after signing a number of friendship treaties between the Jewish state and South Africa's racist, apartheid regime. A denouement Leslie and Andrew Cockburn describe in Dangerous Liaison [Stoddart Publishing: Toronto, 1991, pp. 299 - 300]:
"The old Nazi sympathizer came away with bilateral agreements for commercial, military, and nuclear cooperation that would become the basis for future relations between the two countries."
Leaving unmentioned Vorster's wartime internment for supporting Germany, Israel's prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, hailed the South African premier as a force for freedom and made no mention of Vorster's past as he toured the Jerusalem memorial to the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. At a state banquet, Rabin toasted "the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence". Both countries, he said, faced "foreign-inspired instability and recklessness".
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