Unpublished letter on Hamas sent to Cape Times


Dear Ed,

There is a biblical saying “two wrongs don’t make a right”.

The ethics of reciprocity, popularly referred to as the “golden rule,” is any form of the dictum: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

This concept appears in some formulation in nearly all religions and ethical systems. It has its ​roots in the canonical source texts of the ​​Jewish​ religion, Christianity and ​Islam.

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn,” was outlined by Hillel and recorded in the Mishnah, which forms part of the canon of Jewish thought which emanates from the Holy Land as well as the Diaspora and which has been bequeathed to all of humanity.

It is found in later Christian texts in particular John verse 18, Mathew 5:38 and Luke 6:27-28 and is strongly alluded to​ by​ related ethical concepts in Islam​

The Qurʾān exhorts believers to be merciful (Q 90:17), to forgive others (Q 24:22), to give charity (Q 2:254), and to seek justice even at the expense of self-interest (Q4:135). It warns believers that hatred leads to injustice (Q 5:8).

According to scholars: “​The heavy emphasis on good works as a general Qurʾānic theme can be considered the logical results of the ethics of reciprocity in action.”

Similarly, when South Africans are asked to reciprocate in their open support and solidarity with the people of Palestine, we need to remember that unlike our secular struggle for freedom and democracy which was based upon a tangible civil rights document known as the Freedom Charter, no similar document exists as such when it comes to the Middle East.

Where moral authority for the people of South Africa was drawn from natural rights arising from a democratic struggle for justice in our own country, the ‘ moral authority​’ alluded to by Hamas, Fatah and also by extension Tel Aviv, all arise​ from a ​particular ​historicist reading​, one​ placing each others struggle at the centre of world​ events ​and ​ each depending upon ​each other’s relative ​ time-frame.

This is not the purpose of this piece to examine the relative merits of each sides claim to the holy land, other than to note the injustice of the call to solidarity expressed by ​a member of the politburo of Hamas ​in the daily press, which I decline for the following reason:

There is no attempt by Hamas to provide for secularism and human rights for all affected people in its revised political programme, amended earlier this year to bring it in line with the Fatah movement’s acceptance of the borders of 1967​ as a starting point of negotiation. Far from plugging this more moderate line, the spokesperson goes so far as to narrate and reiterate the prior case for the complete removal of his opponent, and thus a standpoint which would be unacceptable, even to those who would need to be included in any negotiation process.

As a longstanding anti-apartheid activist, and war resister, and thus a hostage to both sides in the conflict, I can only caution, that the resolution of our own conflict at home, came about not merely due to acts of international solidarity, but rather because of the genuine acceptance by each party of the need to listen to each other’s respective points of view, and thus the need for reciprocity and dialogue.

It is only via reciprocity and dialogue with all parties affected, that any resolution to the conflict can ever come about.

I therefore bid you peace and well-being over the New Year festive season.
Sincerely yours
David Robert Lewis
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