Open Letter to Zackie Achmat

Dear Zackie Achmat

Need one remind you of the considerable sacrifice made by Neil Aggett, David Webster and others during the struggle against apartheid? Anti-Apartheid activists were brutalised, tortured, detained and murdered by the apartheid regime, in exactly the same way that Palestinian activists of all colours have been exposed to enormous suffering  for a cause that claims to share many of the same values.

As an anarchist opposed to the Israeli wall (I am on record in my opposition, see statement made 2004) as well as being against the nation-state in principle, I find both your reasoning and that of your guest speaker Johnathan Pollack to be flawed. To say ‘End the Occupation first and then we’ll debate the issues’, is to presume that the current occupation may only be resolved via the use of force.

The Palestinian-Israel question needs to be debated on its own terms. As you no doubt heard from my outburst at you recent University of Cape Town public address, I do not support any struggle that does not have a freedom charter as its basis for resistance. Both you and Johnathan Pollack claim to be on the side of freedom, but are unable to share a vision for any future settlement or the means by which negotiations may arrive at an outcome that guarantees fundamental human rights for all.

Like the Israeli fanatics who believe themselves exempt from the most basic human rights principles because of the tragedy of the Holocaust, Palestinian activists believe their ongoing oppression excuses the failures of the Free Palestine movement. Neither side has shown us how exactly any of the supposed Statist solutions would work, and the continuing push for a Siamese twin, unitary state solution has simply resulted in further bloodshed.

You may satisfy yourself of my political and sexual orientation, since I have already proposed a “three state solution” called Israelstine, however since I have been relegated to second-class citizenship by activists such as yourself, there is next to no chance of this proposal ever being debated in an open forum.

Sadly I have also at great expense been forced to defend my own rights as a progressive Jew in South Africa to enjoy unhindered access to the Jewish Sabbath, on my own terms and without restrictions. I have spent the last five years pitted against those who would rather see a strict and literal interpretation of the bible by Christians and Ultra-Orthodox Jews being imposed on all and sundry in a political and legal dispensation in which minority Jews such as myself are being steadily scapegoated and disenfranchised.

Instead of making pious calls to “not make this a Muslim vs Jew conflict” it would be in the interests of peace to examine some of the very real problems faced by anyone attempting to make headway out of a complex problem, (something which you have clearly failed to articulate.)

The Covenant of Hamas for instance is not the exemplory document that governs our own struggle for freedom. Rather it is a bigoted recipe for the return of land won during the Ottoman Empire. When Hamas call for the end of the Occupation, the party is not simply calling for the return to the borders of 1967, or even 1948 for that matter, but rather for the forced removal of the Israeli state and its replacement by an exclusive Islamic republic. Any anarchist worth his or her salt would quickly see that neither Zionism, nor Hamas-ism provides a solution.

Do these absurd borders even apply in a post-911 world? Isn’t globalism and internationalism — a free world comprising autonomous worker collectives and citizen cooperatives a far better way out?

Since there can be no security behind borders in an interconnected world,  both Zionism and Hamas-ism condemn us all to inter-generational suffering in which the maps are constantly being redrawn in order to reflect the changing fortunes of the political elite who no doubt fund such lectures.

One has only to look at the British Mandate of Palestine to see the historical tragedy in which 70% of the land was given over to Arabs in order to create the Kingdom of Jordan, while the remaining 30% was split up to create the two failed states of Israel and Palestine.

Both nations undoubtedly have a right to self-determination, there must be an end to the oppression, those without land must have access to land,  however I would have thought such statements would find better fluency within the canon of anarchism and autonomist libertarian thought, if only so that we are able to encourage open debate that does not simply rehash national identity, ethnicity and the outdated models of the 19th century nation-state.

Your guest unfortunately failed to provide us with any insight that could have assisted such a quest for truth, other than to give an admittedly incomplete and first-hand report on the ongoing oppression and brutality of a conflict that is unlikely to be resolved within our own lifetimes.

I therefore urge you and your organisation to apologise for your selfish revision of anti-apartheid history, lest you be accused of further promoting fascism and falsehood on either side.

Yours sincerely

David Robert Lewis

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