THE argument that Israel represents the ‘Jews of South Africa’, often made by members of the SAJBD is as fallacious as the equal assertion that BDS and its leadership represent the diversity of Jewish history and culture, in particular the legacy of Jewish activists during the freedom struggle.
A letter by a US academic Judith Butler written to UCT and published by the Mail & Guardian, ironically refers readers to a committed Zionist and treason trialist, Arthur Goldreich, alongside a liberal supporter of Israel sovereignty, Helen Suzman. This in order to embroider upon an evolving work of fiction — the false analogy between the ongoing struggle of the Palestinians and our own country’s struggle against apartheid.
Butler maintains, that “BDS draws on longstanding traditions, some of which were importantly developed in the context of the struggle against apartheid”. While the two struggles may appear similar in mode at the surface, there are significant and important divergences, differences which we disregard at our peril.
For starters, the South African struggle was an epic battle against colonialism and white domination in support of democracy and secularism. Activists such as myself were pitted against a white regime which was theocratic, undemocratic and avowedly Christian in outlook.
Butler goes on to write: “Let us not forget the large numbers of Jews who have fought in social justice struggles, including the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa (Joe Slovo, Arthur Goldreich, Ruth First, Albie Sachs, Helen Suzman), who contest the radical inequalities that form the basis of Israel’s claim of Jewish sovereignty and its claim to maintain Jewish demographic advantage at all costs.”
The claims made with regard to Goldreich and Helen Suzman are instructive and bear greater consideration. A piece published by Benjamin Pogrund for the Helen Suzman Foundation states: “Use of the apartheid label and repeated references to “genocide” against Palestinians and denunciations of Zionism as “racism” are at best ignorant and naïve and at worst cynical and manipulative.”
Unlike the South African struggle where Jews enjoyed leadership roles, and where persons such as Joe Slovo were in many respects over-represented than other minority groups, both Fatah and Hamas have failed miserably to include Jews in top positions.
Palestinian claims about the alleged “Jewish race” share more in common with the racist objectives and malicious aims of the puritans of the Nationalist Party than the alleged non-racialism of the ANC. To reiterate, nations are not races.
Unlike the Palestinian struggle which lacks any meaningful document such as the Freedom Charter setting out winnable aims and objectives, civil rights for all, the South African situation is rather different, and thus the recipe for achieving a negotiated outcome and peace settlement in our own country was founded upon a winning constitutional formula.
BDS have failed time and again to canvas the opinion of persons either referred to as ‘Jews’ or self-defined as Jewish, in a skewed solidarity politics that ignores the problem of Jewish identity. Butler is only able to espouse her own views because other views and Jewish voices have been silenced by the BDS politburo.
Though Butler’s misguided rhetoric on anti-semitism is to be welcomed, let’s be forthright and stop beating around the bush, anti-semitism is open hostility towards secular Jewish identity.
Attempting to provide a non-violent and anti-racist veneer to a religious struggle in which both sides are informed by religious texts in a battle over the final status of Jerusalem, avoids the open inquiry and evidence-based empirical research that needs to occur if we are understand the many dimensions to the problem.
As a person whose Jewish identity has become the subject of a racist legal inquisition in South Africa at the behest of the perpetrators of apartheid, I therefore do take exception to the banning of opinion and obliteration of independent voices outside of these two diametrically opposed camps, injustice vs injustice.
The experience of BDS campaigns within South Africa itself has not been a pleasant one.
I can only commend UCT council for not caving into the zealots.
It is not too late, nor out of the bounds of reason, to embrace a secularist and non-partisan ‘third way’, that avoids scapegoating of those who disagree with leaders and pundits on either side, and which avoids sacrificing democratic freedoms, freedom of speech, while protecting constitutional rights in our own country.
NOTE: For the record, DRL a graduate of UCT Center for African Studies, is opposed to the separation barrier, is in favour of a limited arms embargo against the State of Israel, and does not support any cultural or academic boycott targeting persons of Jewish descent on the basis of our alleged history and identity.
SEE: Dear Steven Friedman
THE over-eager and misguided official who banned me from Wikimania Cape Town for allegedly ‘disrupting a pre-event on ‘Decolonising the Internet’ and also for ‘disrupting an event in Tunisia’, (both events which I never attended) is no longer at Wikimedia. According to users of website Wikipediocracy, which among other things, aims to “to inoculate the unsuspecting public against the torrent of misinformation, defamation, and general nonsense that issues forth from one of the world’s most frequently visited websites”, Alexander has left Wikimedia without so much as a farewell.
“Alexander came to the forefront for two issues during the 2018 Wikimania in South Africa” wrote a Wikipediocracy forum user “when, exercising his authority, he forbade one volunteer event helper to continue his work as reported in our August 2018 Special Report, and withdrew the registration of a South African newsman and anti-apartheid activist from the conference for reasons that were later confirmed to be partly incorrect as documented in YouTube (from 26:51) and had him ejected from the venue.”
and also this one on Wikipedia Sucks
In saying the reasons for my exclusion were partly incorrect, (and not true) the user fails to disclose the sequence of events which makes the entire episode Wikimedia’s own fault.
In my own response to the thread, I thus posted:
1. Responded to Douglas Scott of Wikimania
2. Documented the entire incident on video
‘Not only is Mr James Alexander dead wrong about Tunis, but he is 100% wrong about every other purported fact regarding the matter and the initial complaint made at Wikimania Cape Town.
Please read my initial complaint and watch the video.’
3. For the record, given the circumstances I can only welcome the apparent dismissal of Mr Alexander from Wikimania Foundation, and demand that the Foundation deal more adequitely with incidents of racism and exclusion on the basis of opposition to apartheid.
SOME TEN months ago, I published The End of the Anthropocene, my response to the H20 Day Zero crisis in Cape Town. Needless to say, it got people talking about climate change in a new way.
The resulting global debate around extinction has been simply phenomenal.
Not only did the IPCC released an alarming report in October, warning of the dangers of 2-3 degree climate change, in effect demanding drastic action, followed by a report by 13 federal agencies presenting ‘the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States itself’ but the naturalist Sir David Attenborough was moved last week to issue a statement that climate change is ‘humanity’s greatest threat in thousands of years’.
A number of science reports issued this week confirm the shift towards temperatures last seen during the Eocene, which was some 18 degrees hotter on average than today.
Future global warming may eventually be twice as warm as projected by climate models and sea levels may rise six metres or more even if the world meets the 2°C target, according to an international team of researchers from 17 countries.
Scientists described the quickening rate of carbon dioxide emissions in stark terms, comparing it to a “speeding freight train” and laying part of the blame on an unexpected surge in the appetite for oil around the world.
The BBC reported Attenborough’s statements at the opening ceremony of United Nations-sponsored climate talks
Climate Change, he said ‘could lead to the collapse of civilisations and the extinction of “much of the natural world”.
Thus we can only congratulate the rise of an allied environmental movement Extinction Rebellion, which also intends making waves around the world.
The movement advocates direct action and civil disobedience in defence of human habitat.
“We are facing an unprecedented global emergency. The government has failed to protect us. To survive, it’s going to take everything we’ve got” say Extinction Rebellion.
Meanwhile, our own inept and scandal plagued department of environmental affairs, released a half-hearted statement reiterating the national position on climate change and calling for a ‘just transition to renewables’ amidst ‘aggressive awareness campaigns.’ GHG emissions however grew at an accelerating pace this year.
I’m afraid this type of DEAT public relations hot air in the face of intransigence by our energy minister isn’t going to cut it, and rather a change of government is required.
Extinction rebellion demands:
- The Government must tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, reverse inconsistent policies and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens.
- The Government must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels.
- A national Citizen’s Assembly to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.
TWO YEARS ago we reported on Johann Rupert’s Magnus Gaffe in which he claimed variously to have been a key figure within the anti-apartheid movement whilst under the whip of Magnus Malan. This week, we can only watch aghast as the CEO of Remgro, Richement and Reinet (R as in Rands figure large in Johann’s inherited wealth and the media cartel his family owns routinely redact his directorships), went from berating millenials for being materialistic compared to his own generation (and denying any involvement in apartheid or the apartheid regime) to claiming intimate ties with the late Steve Biko.
Johann Rupert, also an heriditary academic at Stellenbosh University, appears to not have read his father’s biography, detailing the man’s illustrious business dealings with Nico Diederichs and Owen Horward, the titular State President and apartheid finance minister respectively.
Anton Rupert (Rupert snr), a kingpin in the financial system backing successive Nat governments, went from making cigarettes in his garage to a global financial market player and international tycoon in three easy steps.
First he setup Rembrandt and aquired a loan from Sanlam, Santam and Saambou to purchase Rothmans International in 1953. Then he bailed out the local banks when they came under pressure due to international sanctions during the 1980s. Next he turned these apartheid-era banks into Amalgamated Banks of South Africa (ABSA) with Rembrandt as major partner and set up a variety of special purpose vehicles for the luxury goods market, all this while sequestering apartheid billions in Switzerland.
Thus Federale Volksbellegings became Rupert Bellegings, as the family acquired much of the asset wealth of the National Party.
Far from being a ‘pragmatic critic of apartheid’, Rupert Snr was not only a sanctions buster, but a collaborator with the military junta under Magnus Malan and PW Botha. Correspondence between the politicians all demonstrate that the man had intimate though tempestuous ties with the National Party. Although somewhat of a dark horse, with Rupert Snr betting on both sides, he finally broke from the broederbond, later becaming involved in the settlement strategy under FW de Klerk.
All whilst promoting himself as a deal broker between the warring parties and effectively rewriting history. The latest round of apartheid revisionism, in which Rupert Jnr, seeks to associate himself with the late Steve Biko whilst casting aside his family’s obvious involvement with the apartheid regime is beneath contempt.
It is consistant with the public relations campaign to recast the entire Rupert family as instrumental in the collapse of apartheid, which undoubtedly they were, not as political activists, but rather as monied insiders orchestrating a shift in power via a well-executed palace coup that retained their grip on the economy in an end-game strategy that lead to the sunset clauses signed-off by the ANC.
The post-historical revision of this period, is similar to the story told by propoganda chief Cliff Saunders who maintains he was out of the country all along and played no major role in Botha’s ‘total onslaught’ strategy. Evidence given by Rupert jnr during the TRC is notable for the lack of corroborating evidence from Die Groot Krokodil, who avoided the commission, in no small part due to the actions of Naspers, a company in business with Remgro.
Think of Rudolf Hess, a nazi who flew solo to Scotland, apparently to negotiate peace, but more likely to escape Hitler’s death squads. Again, Mandela’s jailer James Gregory, who also ‘knew’ South Africa’s elder statesman, the founder of modern South Africa initimately, but was most obviously on a very different side of the fence and prison doors.
Whether being a late arrival at the conclusion to the tragic saga, the son of a major role player and beneficiary, qualifies one as a ‘pragmatic critic of apartheid’ is anyone’s guess.
READERS MAY be familiar with my correspondence with the previous UCT Vice Chancellor, Max Price, and the follow-up penned to his successor, Mamokgethi Phakeng, written after a seminar ‘Let’s Talk About the History of Racism in Science: Darwin’s Hunch and the Search for Human Origins’ by Christa Kuljian
It turns out that a PhD student at UCT with a thesis focus on “Museums and the Construction (of race identity)” tracing human remains in museums and universities, Wandile Kasibe was denied access to records and collections.
In an article on Vernac News, ‘UCT skeletons in the cupboard not a mistake, but evidence of a colonial crime against humanity Kasibe writes:
“In May 2017, I approached UCT Anatomy Department requesting to be granted access to records and human remains collections that were unethically collected for race ‘science’.
“I submitted a formal application to access information on 9 July 2017 and received a reply denying my request on 18 August 2017 from the curator of the collection, Dr Victoria Gibbon, as follows “The committee has taken a unanimous decision to deny your ‘Request to Access University of Cape Town’s Anatomy Department Collections and Records’”.
Kasibe adds that on 22 August 2017, he expressed his ‘disappointment that the committee had taken a decision to deny me access, thus creating an ethos of exclusion that is in direct contravention of the freedom of information at the University. ”
A motion before the annual UCT Convocation, calls for the institution to establish ‘a dedicated fund to support research into the troubled legacy of apartheid race science including;
1. The varied relationships between the University of Cape Town and the segregationist and racial ideologies of the Colonial and Apartheid eras.
2. The experiences documented, archived or oral – of previously disenfranchised students and staff members at the University of Cape Town since its establishment in 1916.
3. Acts of exclusion, those of commission and omission, including, but not limited to the University of Cape Town’s allocation of resources, access to facilities and curriculum design and content during the Colonial and Apartheid eras.’
As a person affected by academic exclusions, conducted during the apartheid-era state of emergency, the banning of lecturers and the several en masse bannings of campus organisations, I can only hope that the resolution is passed and that both campus administration and UCT student body are serious about addressing our past.
In a further development, Judith du Toit Director, Office of the Vice-Chancellor acknowledged receipt of the open letter, and states for the record “I have followed up on the matter of concern, namely that Emeritus Halton Cheadle serves on the University Senate, and established that he is not a member of Senate.”
To which I responded via email: “Am I to understand then, that Mr Cheadle is not a member of Senate but rather a member of convocation consisting of “c) those former professors and associate professors elected by the senate to be emeritus professors or emeritus associate professors” ?
“In the event, the question remains, does UCT administration support the repugnant apartheid race science and multi-regionalist/multiracialist view of certain members of convocation?”
“I also note here for the record, the ‘ethos of exclusion’ pertaining to the legacy of apartheid race science at the institution, inter alia, the UCT anatomy department ‘skeleton collection’, and previously referred to in my letter.”
HE COULD have given a speech from constitutional hill, a lecture from an academic institution or a civil society NGO, instead Ronnie Kasrils, the self-appointed deacon of moral rectitude in the Middle East chose Claremont Main Road Mosque. Delivering a scathing rebuke of the treatment meted out to two pupils by Herzlia, a Jewish day school, following afternoon prayers.
The timing and location of the Friday address by our former ‘intelligence minister’ (surely an oxymoron?) brought into strong contrast the religious and binary nature of the 70-year-old conflict between Palestine and Israel.
Referring to a recent incident at the school ‘where two pupils were punished for kneeling during the singing of Hatikva, a Jewish poem written by Naphtali Herz Imber, and adopted as the Israeli national anthem.
Kasrils apparently ‘slammed the school’s attitude as bigoted’
Calling the pupil’s gesture in ‘taking the knee ‘a “perfectly peaceful expression of dissent popularised by American athletes” but failing to note that bending the knee within the context of religion, like doffing ones hat, or kneeling and praying, may have a very different motif to that taken within a civil context.
A popular television series about thrones also springs to mind.
Kasrils opined “the school authorities have demonstrated contempt for what Jewish culture has once been famous for: and that is open mindedness, tolerance, the encouragement of independent thinking and freedom of expression.”
“Secondly, they treat the student’s actions as shameful – yet the bending of the knee is totally passive and peaceful; a very dignified non-violent demonstration of dissent,” he said.”
Readers may remember a similar case in which an openly lesbian Methodist minister Ecclesia de Lange failed in her bid to have sanctions by the Methodist church overturned.
And the silence of Kasrils when it comes to the topic of secularism and religious pluralism.
In 2011 the country banned the Dalai Lama.
There has been quite a bit of debate online about the Herzlia incident. None of the authors of the various articles and documents, including a missive by Herzlia alumni, make any reference to religious pluralism, secularism and the prevailing law in South Africa, fraught as it is, by the legacy of theocracy during apartheid.
The constitutional values which Kasrils purports to defend, including the right to dissent, (values with which I wholeheartedly agree and support), are certainly not bolstered by pitting one religion against another, and Kasrils has been rather shy when it comes to defending secular identity in this respect.
The constant parade of photo-opportunities and news briefings attended by religious leaders, usually Christian or Muslim, is positively nauseating, as too the lack of any platform for representatives from mainstream Judaism, secular Judaism and civil society for that matter.
The ongoing theme of my recent writing on the subject, that of injustice versus injustice has therefore once again played itself out. Thus Kasrils’ religion vs religion is merely injustice versus injustice squared. And the binary position taken by the man is surely contrary to secular identity, especially when it comes to the complexity of the problem?
Imam Rashied Omar is thus reported to have ‘commended Kasrils for speaking out against injustices to the Muslim community in the Israel-Palestine conflict.’
No word on the injustices meted out to secular Jews because of their views, since as the Herzlia alumni are at pains to point out, we don’t count. Not every Jew in South Africa has attended a Jewish day school, nor has visited Israel on holiday camp, nor even intends to do so in the near future.
The comment by Iman Omar comes after Kasrils said “this makes BDS a powerful tool, as was the case during the Struggle against racist South Africa, to isolate Israel until change comes.”
Or until the Messiah arrives, you be the judge?
For readers wanting a better perspective, a BDS video on Youtube purporting to carry the views of the late Nelson Mandela on the subject of Palestine, redacts an interview with Ted Koppel, by removing any reference to Mandela’s equal support for Israel, and hence Jewish nationalism and self-determination.
Mandela’s bipartisan, nuanced and pragmatic position in regard to his support for the 1967 borders are thus turned into an open endorsement of the prevailing position within BDS on South African campuses, that of the complete and utter removal of the country from the face of the earth.
Not that one necessarily supports nation-statism, Global Jihad nor even Kasrilism, but if readers are going to get involved with BDS, at least know what it is that you are supporting.
For the record, as a person of Jewish descent, I support limited sanctions including an arms embargo, a pragmatic approach with achievable goals, not the extremes of the BDS platform bordering upon persecution, and one most certainly opposed to the role played by religious leaders in prosecuting the conflict.