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.
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.”
THE ERSTWHILE editor of the Weekly Mail, one Anton Harber is suing a local political party. Alongside SABC journalist Thandeka Gqubule, both are fingered by Winnie Mandela in a documentary carrying allegations of Stratcom activity in apartheid-era newsrooms, the same claims repeated by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party.
Gqubule claims to have gained access to ‘declassified records’ held by the state allegedly ‘proving her innocence’. Instead of being a spy for Stratcom, she alleges she was rather the ‘object of an intelligence gathering exercise’ and thus seeks to have her day in court where the records will no doubt be examined to determine which version is true.
The EFF have been given one week to provide evidence supporting their own allegations. Like South Press, Grassroots and New Nation, I have no doubt that the former Weekly Mail was the target of a dirty tricks campaign. The gory details are not the subject of this piece, but rather, the opportunity to examine the failure of Harber to uphold any of the values he purports to serve.
Hence the criticism below that what comes around, goes around. Harber himself has used similar smear tactics. The Mail & Guardian, the successor to the parochial Weekly Mail resoundingly failed to defend the historical record of struggle journos and has gone so far as censoring my own writing (see here). One has therefore got to challenge Harber’s tacit claim to being the sole representative of the struggle press in South Africa.
Like Max du Preez, whose position as former publisher of the Afrikaans duel-medium Vrye Weekblad, who then turned himself into a monument made from apartheid-era granite at News24.com, ( a racist rag if ever there was one), Harber moved on from publishing out of Houghton, and the nascent white counter-culture of Johannesburg, to rooting for Remgro, Big Capital and ENCA.
If one reads Harber, these days you could easily make the mistake of thinking the old Weekly Mail was the only periodical of its time. The trouble with having unchallenged opinion and editorial conceit writ large by the likes of Harber and du Preez, is that the truth and reality are rather different.
The all-white newsrooms of the ‘white alternative press’ though allies of the struggle, only operated because they enjoyed privileges gained from decades of race segregation, and separate development. Harber et al, were nowhere close to the coalface of activism as the black press on the frontlines and barricades. Black periodicals such as Grassroots which bore the brunt of Stratcom dirty tricks were closed down, without the funds needed to secure any legacy defense.
Significantly, Harber was never detained as such, nor imprisoned for his views, on the contrary, this treatment was regularly meted out by the Bureau for State Security (BOSS) upon editors who dared to defy the Botha government whilst being black, and guilty of insurrection.
Time for a radical re-assessment of the period.