Middle East Messiahs

Master of the Grand Narrative

THE parade of would-be Middle East Messiah’s is relentless and never-ending. First there was Stephen Hawking, the Higgs-Boson denialist whose decidedly 20th century view of the cosmos is crumbling under the weight of the new physics. Then MIT luminary, philosophical heavyweight and God of structural linguistics Noam Chomsky whose monotonous drone since attaining enlightenment during the Vietnam war means he is able to deliver sermons on diverse topics far outside his field of study. Then Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, whose only problem seems to be that he is not the guitar genius of David Gilmour, and finally Ahmed Kathrada, former South African Treason Trialist whose version of Islam is steadily gaining ground as Mandela’s Messiah status as a non-sectarian slowly dwindles with his prescient age and frailty.

What links all these personalities currently engaging in the art of the grand gesture in their avowed opposition to what is perceived by many to be a new form of apartheid in the state of Israel? Is it their identification with an increasingly popular struggle on the world’s campuses as the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanction’s (BDS)  campaign against Israel ratchets up its solidarity programme?  Is it the need to remain relevant in a time of accelerated cultural change in which the must feted death of distance brought about by the immediacy of Internet and satellite television has brought the horror of the 65-year conflict into our living rooms?

Whatever the underlying reasons for engaging in the moral solipsism trumpeted by religious prophets ever since Ezekial tripped out on some fairy dust and had a vision of flying chariots, the theological problems remain. For starters there are the competing claims made by various offshoots of the Abrahamic faith to the Holy Land. Judaism is essentially based upon an epic story taken from a Book of Real Estate called the Bible, in which Hashem, the God of Isaac and Jacob promises the Hebrews all the land known as Canaan, geographically speaking, everything in the Levant, West of the Jordan river, and including the West Bank.

While the Roman Empire succeeded in destroying the resulting family business known as the Kingdom of Israel, Christianity gained the upper hand in the ensuing mortgage and title-deed bureaucracy as capitalism made its appearance in the form of colonialism. Islam, not to be outdone, promoted the work of a prophet whose singular mission appears to have been to lay claim to the entire promised land on behalf of his descendants in an endless rivalry and revision of textual narrative which places Jerusalem as well as Dar el Islam at the centre of the galaxy.

It is therefore not surprising that the post-modern world would seek to shift the history of the world around a bit. So instead of apartheid being a particular set of laws originating in South Africa following WWII in which institutionalized racism was backed up by a theologically perverse justification for the subjugation of Africans by the Afrikaner settlers, (who inspired by the works of Martin Luther and Calvin sought to create a racially-exclusive ethnic state), the reverse is true. The Bible is now a work of apartheid in which the Promised Land is the source of all our troubles, while Zionism is equated with colonialism and worse, Jewish ethnicity.

Instead of blaming the Afrikaner and Christianity for South Africa’s problems, we blame the Jews and Judaism (1). It is incredibly convenient to blame a minority religion since there only 12 million or so Jews left in the world, and they number less than 1% in my own country — the result of the inquisitions, pogroms and the Nazi genocide.  Painting the Jews as the enemy while Christianity and Islam squares off in a Holy war may seem like Hollywood legend, but it is turning into the bitter reality — a tragic consequence of the apartheid revisionism articulated on our nation’s campuses. Like original sin, Christianity has yet to apologise or take any responsibility for apartheid. I remain the subject of a law case in which my rights as a Progressive Jew have been denied, while the TRC report has been rubbished.

As for its latest iteration, the popular claims about Israel apartheid are not sustained by the evidence, the blank assertions made by people like Chomsky and Desmond Tutu lack detail. Instead what we have is a convenient teleology, a philosophical end-point in which those making these assertions are really hoping that we will not question the data, and be too enthralled by the possibility of the arrival of the Messiah, to notice the lack of a Freedom Charter guaranteeing human rights for all. Yet, without this foundation document there really is no point to the freedom struggle. The philosophical impasse is palpable.

If the South African armed struggle achieved its goal through boycotts and sanctions, then the Intifada should achieve its completion through boycotts and sanctions. If Molotov cocktails and bombing civilians worked in my own country, then this should work in solving all the problems in Palestine. The strange logic of the Charter-less Intifada, far from resolving the conflict, is simply eating away at campus politics — intellectual freedom suffers as academic boycotts and cultural barriers go up without any debate on the consequences — critics are steadily silenced into apologising for Israeli aggression instead of questioning the legitimacy of both the Palestinian and Jewish claim to the Holy Land.

Really, why should the Jews have any greater claim to the Holy Land currently called Israel than any other group on this planet? Why should Islam prevail in its quest to create a single Islamic republic in the Middle East while destroying the civil rights we take for granted? Why should Christianity triumph in its effort to crucify Muslims in the interests of realpolitik? As I write this a British soldier has had his head hacked off by a machete wielding zealot while a lesbian couple from Pakistan, forced into exile, have become the first Muslim lesbian couple to marry in a civil ceremony. Yet every week there are propaganda attempts to paint Israel as an apartheid society though the issues are very different to what we experienced during the anti-apartheid struggle.

Take the problem of marginalised African Jews from Ethiopia and Chinese Jews from Kaifeng. Unlike black South Africans under apartheid, and contrary to media fabrication, they enjoy equal rights and legal status alongside Arab Jews and what is left of European Jewry. Instead of focusing on the work which needs to occur in order to create a genuine reconciliation process in South Africa and a truly non-racial Jewish State in Israel, (why should we have to embrace a state, if at all?),  the world harps on about the scourge of the white Jewish elite, as a new form of apartheid emerges, one which has all the racial overtones of Nazi Germany —  the pseudo-science of eugenics is merely reiterated in terms of the Intifada.

Jews are therefore settlers not refugees fleeing Antisemitism in Europe and the Arab states. We are the perpetrators of nameless crimes against humanity caused by Israeli statehood, not the victims of successive attempts to extinguish our history in the name of race purity and doctrinal hygene —  the subordination of Jewishness under Islam and Christianity. Frankly, blaming the Jews for apartheid in a secular world should be a crime against humanity. It is an all too easy cop out. A revision of history which negates the constitutional rights we fought for during the anti-apartheid struggle. Worse still, doing so obliterates the memory of the victims and survivors of the apartheid system. The results are plain to see in the South Africa of today.

(1) See Max Ozinsky attack against Helen Suzman in which he has sought to shift the blame for apartheid from the Afrikaner, NGK and National Party to the liberal opposition.

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