Resist temptation to negate policy of non-alignment

SOUTH AFRICA has a long and celebrated history of non-alignment when it comes to the numerous wars between the great powers.

During the cold war, the ANC received funding from members of the Eastern bloc and Warsaw Pact, but the party developed its own policies in regard to the apartheid regime.

Remarkable here are the historic ties with non-aligned Nordic countries, who also funded and supported the campaign against apartheid, so too, the significant role played by the African unity movement (and African Union) in developing a cohesive platform of independence and non-alignment.

Lately there are disturbing signs that our country is once again being drawn into a partisan global conflict, effectively taking sides in the Middle East War and the war in Syria. It would be foolhardy to ignore the recent hosting of Hamas leader Khaled Mashal by the ruling party and what appears to be pro-Assad, pro-Iran policies slowly developing in relation to Syria, and of consequence, the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Early this year, South Africans were stunned to hear that a family of Syrian refugees in Cape Town have been told by a Home Affairs official that their asylum application was “unfounded”. The department declared their home country “stable” and rejected claims they feared for their lives if they returned to the war-torn country.

“Humanitarian aid was, therefore, not warranted,” the department’s finding is reported to have said. This is in line with the fiction created by Russia and other nations, that the diminished Assad regime is the only legitimate role player, and since it is officially not at war, and the conflict is ironically merely a “civil war” at best, the 450 000 people who have died in the region never existed.

Nelson Mandela shortly after his release and whilst on the Ted Koppel Show explained his principled position on the Middle East, in particular the Israel and Palestine conflict:

“I explained to Mr Sigmund, that we identify with the PLO because just like ourselves, they are fighting for the right of self-determination. I went further however to say, that 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, but of course, as I said to Mr Sigmund in Geneva in August, that we carefully define what we mean by secure borders, we do not mean that Israel has the right to retain the territories they conquered from the Arab world, like the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the West Bank.”

“We don’t agree with that, those territories should be returned to the Arab People.”

While Mandela’s position may no longer be considered relevant to the ruling party, any political pundit worth his or her salt would be abrogating responsibility in failing to consider the following facts, which present significant obstacles so far as the BDS version of history is concerned:

Firstly, the Assad regime has been at war with Israel since October 1973, when it attacked the country on the holiest day in the Jewish calender, Yom Kippur. Any support for the regime may thus have unintended consequences, that of deteriorating further into a religious war.

Secondly, the flag of Assad’s Ba’ath Party is the exact same Pan-Arab flag waved around at Pro-Palestine rallies. BDS supporters may thus justifiably be accused of supporting the deaths of civilians in Syria in the name of Empire.

The influx of Arabs into Israel from Arab States, following the 1948 war, is well documented. Many of these Arabs were also Jews and Christians. Thus the problem in the region is not between black or white, but between right and wrong.

The position of Mandela continues to enjoy resounding support amongst South African Jews, the position of BDS on the other hand, in its evolving campaign, most recently articulated by the Media Review Network and others — namely that Israel has no right to exist, and consequently should be replaced by an Islamic State — has absolutely no support within this community, and where it does, such support should not be misconstrued as support on behalf of any one of the major religions.

Ideologically, those Jews, such as myself, who happen to be non-Zionist (and thus also non-Theist per se), have provided solidarity with the Palestinian cause over the years.

There was a time when such solidarity provided by the left was one of unconditional support. After so much death and destruction in the region, doing so without conditions is nothing but irresponsible madness. One has merely to point to the problem of 13 million Syrian-Palestinian refugees, many of whom are now in refugee camps in Jordan. That South Africa has a role to play in a negotiated peace, is clear. Our country also has a humanitarian role in assisting these Palestinians in relocating to our fine country.

I therefore wish to affirm here, that we are all hostages of the crisis, and thus hostages of the war, irrespective of our religious affiliation or otherwise, and that a secular solution — a negotiated settlement between the parties — is one that involves all parties, and thus both points of view. Such a solution, necessitates that we avoid taking sides as a nation, in what appears to be nothing more than a sectarian conflict, a partisan religious conflict as is the one over the Jerusalem-West Bank, which mirrors the neighbouring wars involving religion cascading around the Middle East.

Medialternatives makes top 100 South African blogs

Medialternatives has made the top 100 list of South African blogs according to myScoop. Entering the list of the countries most active blogs at 94 according to stats collated by Alexa and ranked by the South African blog community. Not surprisingly, Medialternatives is also ranked first in its category. Great to be here. Thanks to myScoop for providing an excellent service to local online media. It’s good to be number 1.

Crazy 2009 in review

As 2009 draws to an end, let’s see if we can remember any of the weird moments that made 2009 a crazy year. Here are my top ten news stories that flashed past my monitor screen.

1. Swine Flu Fever

Like Mad Cow Disease and Bird Flu, this story made news headlines by scaring everyone into thinking we were all about to die from the common cold. The killer pandemic, like earlier sensationalised reports,  turned out to be nothing more than a bunch of frightened liberals, scare-mongering all and sundry with scientifically unsound conjecture.

2. Twitter

Updating ones status took on an entirely new meaning with the microblogging platform coming of age. Twitter invoked a media frenzy about the death of the media as we all began following each other and tweeting. Needless to say, now even Yahoo has status updates — you can microblog from nearly any platform including your refrigerator. A case of the media caught up in a collective conversation that for once wasn’t of its own making?

3.  Susan Boyle

The sad and tragic tale  of Britain’s Got Talent contestant who rose to fame and then quietly disappeared after a nervous breakdown, grabbed entertainment columns everywhere as a new form of global culture was ushered in with Facebook, Youtube, DSTV and broadband connections. Needless to say, one wonders if pathos in the face of disability is the new black, or whether just plain butt ugly is the new shape of beauty in the world of tomorrow?

4. Iranian Revolution II

A story which mainstream newspapers in South Africa refused to carry in any detail rocked the online world as activists in the Islamic republic reported anti-government demonstrations and deaths at the hands of the Iranian secret police. Opposition leaders were arrested and the government went so far as to pull the plug on Facebook. Pity the O’Reilly and Murdoch media machine who continue to support the repression, torture and sentencing to death of pro-democracy dissidents.

5. 1989

One would think the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, or the 20th anniversary of the Cape Town Peace March, which ushered in the end of apartheid and the begining of democracy in our country would have been a big news story. Unfortunately the fascists at Newspaper House, SABC and eTV seem to be living in a coma of self-flagellating denial and censorship. The bad old days of apartheid were actually not that bad, at least we had an alternative press back then.

6. 2010, Fifa and the Soccer Stadium

Not even the suspicious death in January of a contractor veying for funding and the usual allotment of Euros from FIFA could distract us from the carnival of sleaze surrounding the World Cup soccer stadiums.  With the mink and manure set lavishing attention on South Africa’s “black diamonds” it seems the 2010 Football is all about making the rich richer, while the poor can  expect to see prices rise and rise as commercial interlopers take over. The Fifa franchise has asserted its intellectual property rights over your freedom and our municipal facilities.

7. Zuma and the Dalai Lama

Our president’s faux pas over Tibet seems to have been forgotten. What started out as an up yours to Freedom of Association, Freedom of Movement and Freedom of Religion, turned into a soul searching crusade as JZ joined a local charismatic church and found religion. Sadly it appears traditional African ancestral beliefs have lost out in the competition for votes.

8. Madiba Day

South Africa’s number one export, Nelson Mandela, lived up to his name by turning July 18 into an international public holiday. Madiba was given a concert in Central Park and deserves accolades for giving workers everywhere yet another excuse to lay off work.

9. Obama

While some might say the year began with the inauguration of America’s first black President, Obama quickly turned into just another white president by accepting the Nobel Peace Prize the very day after sending 30 000 soldiers into Afghanistan. That the prize was a booby trap meant to weigh The Man down, is certain, but at least have the decency to be the first person to decline the award, which many have criticised for being given too soon.

10. Mark Shuttleworth

Unbelievably, our local jingoistic press again failed to pick up on this one, as the brains behind Ubuntu took on the USA and won. The Linux-based OS is now up there alongside Windows 7 and OSX Snow Leopard. Then again, do we really need another Shuttleworth story? The boy genius however appears to have given us all the slip, after moving to London and joining Richard Branson in the competition for most youthful looking brand ambassador of our time.

Sunday Saloon: Hypocrisy as usual as whites barred

WHILE the outrage expressed by certain journalists of a paler complexion, at Friday’s re-launch of the Forum of Black Journalists (FBJ) is understandable (some white journalists were denied access while others were barred entry) – this blogger can only shake his head and remark at the hypocrisy of all concerned.

SANEF launched into a full scale uproar at Friday’s event, with a reaction which some called “rather stage-managed”, and yet the corporate editors forum continues to turn a blind eye to similar situations involving journalists in the lower ranks employed by its own affiliates.

SANEF have yet to comment on several allegations of discrimination against Media24 — a labour case has been lodged before the Labour Court in which it is alleged the company maintained and continues to maintain a system of racial profiling and racial segregation, particularly in one of its newspaper divisions, amongst other things.

As a struggle journalist who experienced the system of racial segregation first-hand, and having fought against racial prejudice, one would have thought the SANEF at least possessed the temerity to issue a letter of support. Not even a statement from the Freedom of Expression Institute has managed to galvanise these corporate sycophants into action.

Yes, the FBJ are being hypocritical in railing against the legacy of the apartheid system while at the same time, denying others the same right. No less than a show of solidarity amongst brothers will dispel this concern — If the FBJ is a product of the system, then surely it should not be prolonging the system any longer than is absolutely necessary?

Any structure based upon race is an obvious anomaly in the new South Africa, but is such a thing as the FBJ an incongruency out of step with the times? As many still argue, such structures are needed to address unique issues and special concerns raised by black journalists. To argue otherwise is to ignore the conditions under which black journalists have had to work, so the FBJ has my support.

SANEF on the other hand, are clearly nothing more than a gang of reactionary nincompoops driving around in expensive limo’s and as Polokwane has shown, increasingly out of step with the masses. SANEF has also been quick to criticize structures such as the FBJ — those which it perceives as a threat to the colonial legacy of baaskap under the current neo-conservative agenda while dragging heals on others.

What is good for the goose is surely good for the gander? Unfortunately SANEF does only what is necessary when it is convenient to do so and when its actions are unlikely to eat into the profits of its affiliates. Sheer hypocrisy of the highest order, amongst those who should know better.

Editorial: Media hypocrisy as the Intrigues of Ottawa rock South Africa

Whenever a black politician has been implicated in bribery and corruption in South Africa, the media have been quick to criticize. Not so when a Canadian politician like Brian Mulroney is implicated in a scandal involving kickbacks from Airbus and the arms industry. The story of abuse of authority by politicians is nothing new, but their relocation into the newsroom and media boardrooms has become an undeniable fact of life in the 21st century. Mulroney is a failed politician, and does not deserve a second chance in South Africa, while his comments regarding South Africa’s press freedom are welcome, surely his presence does more harm than good to the debate? The manner in which the Independent Group have failed its readers by neglecting to cover the Mulroney Scandal is a travesty all on its own and displays the hypocrisy of today’s corporate media. Could it be the fact that Mulroney sits on Independent’s Board, and is essentially its Chief Advisor that is preventing the South African press from covering the story? This blog urges the Independent Group to come clean before all faith in the press as a whole is finally lost.