Open letter to Farid Esack

Dear Farid Esack,

As one of many secular South Africans of Jewish descent who fought against apartheid, and who once believed you to be a comrade, I wish to respond to your latest opinion piece on the subject of the Middle East problem.

Your incoherent ramblings, in which you appear unable to distinguish between religious laws versus ‚Äčthe ‚Äčsecular laws of the Republic, speaks to the manner in which you and your associates seek to characterise any person in disagreement as a supporter of the Israeli regime and any person who is not a member of your faith, an infidel.

That both sides have engaged in the kind of venality best ascribed to fascism and dictatorship, and whose supporters are for the main, conservatives, zealots and extremists of various faiths, emboyed by the passions of the multitudes, have left little room for calm and appeals to civil rights‚Äč, ‚Äčliberties‚Äč and the rule of law‚Äč.

Your lack of engagement with those most affected by your campaign of hate over the years,  and your appropriation of the gender debate, is all part and parcel of the historical record of a conflict which can be best described as Injustice versus Injustice.

Far from being a binary conflict between black and white as was the struggle against apartheid, the struggle in the Middle East is unfortunately, an asymmetric, religious assault via proxy over the final status of Jerusalem.

Recent developments have compounded this view. One has merely to examine the embarrassment of the recent conference of Islamic States whose support for the partition of Jerusalem itself, provides a terrible counter-point to the equally embarrassing claim by Israel and the Trump administration to the whole of Jerusalem.

That the right-wing Likud is jumping for joy, while Hamas equivocates, having amended its political programme this year from a war against the Jews, to a war against the Zionists, is par for the course.

Sadly, you seem to forget an inconvenient truth, in Nelson Mandela’s bipartisanship and open support for a secular outcome: “We identify with the PLO because just like ourselves, they are fighting for the right of self-determination … the support for Yasser Arafat and his struggle does not mean that the ANC has ever doubted the right of Israel to exist as a state, legally. We have stood quite openly and firmly for the right of that state to exist within secure borders‚Äč.” (Nelson Mandela on Ted Koppel Show)‚Äč

Neither Israelis nor the Palestinians have the support of the United Nations insofar as the 1947 United Nations Plan for Palestine is concerned‚Äč.

According to this plan the city would have been placed under an international regime, conferring it a special status due to its shared religious importance. Instead, the dictat and aggression of the Arab League, (a bloc that is far from a having sterling record of support for gender rights), put paid to this position, as has the dic‚Äčtat ‚Äčand brinkmanship of the equally misogynistic Trump administration, to any hopes for a peaceful outcome along similar lines.

One can only hope that the reality of the final status issues, will galvanise peacebuilders and war resisters on the ground to provide alternatives to the conflict.‚Äč

A starting point would be to reject the propaganda emanating from religious scholars and theocrats such as yourself, and instead to embrace open dialogue and reconciliation amongst peoples of different faiths and backgrounds.‚Äč

‚ÄčNo to partition, yes to duel, non-binary status for Jerusalem.

Kind regards

David Robert Lewis

(letter unpublished by Cape Times)

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