Dear Steven Friedman,
I understand you have become somewhat of an expert on Jewish identity?
Since the decision by the SCA overturning a decision by the Equality Court, you are now able to tell a Theist from a Non-Theist, and a Zionist from a Non-Zionist, simply by looking at the other person?
The SCA decision requires some decoding, since an earlier decision by the Equality Court is replete with captions from Bongani Masuku of trade federation COSATU regarding a supposed “Jewish race” (nations are not races) and both findings carry his exortions to ‘target every Zionist’ including their families, “to subject them to perpetual suffering until they withdraw from the land of others and stop their savage attacks on human dignity.”
The statements made at a 2009 Pro-Palestine rally, were found to be hate speech by the Equality Court, in contravention of section 16(2) of the Constitution, and also section 10 of the Equality Act, and are consistent with equally incendiary statements, made in 2014 by one Tony Erenreich calling for ‘retribution against all Jews’ and for a policy of an “eye for an eye”, which were also found to amount to hate speech by the SAHRC.
If anything, the 2014 statements by Erenreich, build upon and far exceed the position articulated by Masuku in 2009 and need to be seen in the context of emerging policy development within the union movement in South Africa, and all feeding into the ruling party’s own position, as well as that of various opposition groupings. (See Vavi’s position here).
It should be stated that Masuku appears to have toned down his race rhetoric somewhat, at first pleading that he did not single out the Jewish race (sic), ethnic gender, or religious group, and then by qualifying his statement further.
The SCA decision therefore records Masuku’s somewhat altered (and apparently acceptable) position, that “the only group that he made specific reference to is the Zionists and that Zionism is a political ideology which is inclusive of various religious groupings.”
As such, the SCA decision opines “his statements were directed at supporters of the State of Israel from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, rather than to Jewish students. He asserted that the religion and ethnicity of the supporters of the State of Israel were of no concern to him (and COSATU) and that his references to ‘Zionists’ connoted adherence to a political ideology rather than a religious or ethnic orientation.”
And therein lies the rub, since how does one aver a political ideology supposedly flowing from ones identification as a Jew (or love of Jews), but apparently devoid of religion, ethnic orientation, cultural predisposition or otherwise? As a cartoonist put it, ‘there may be something Jewish about the state of Israel’. And the result has been a veritable war of definitions — who gets to decide who is Jewish or not — and equally affecting those who are not Jewish per se but merely allies, friends, lovers, philosemites or what have you?
In Anti-Semite and Jew, the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre defined a Jew as ‘a person that others look at and say, “look, he/she is a Jew”. Just as a chair is a chair by virtue of our considering it a chair’.
Last year the SACP, a hot-bed of bureaucratic tinkering and economic flatulence, released an equally novel statement deploring, ‘crypto-Zionism’ and railing against undercover Zionists, or any people who may know other people who happen to be Zionists … and who may simply be Jews?
The Society for Secular Humanistic Judaism for instance, an organisation which eschews ‘supernatural authority’, defines a Jew as ‘anyone identifying with the past, present and future of the Jewish people’. A website by the SSHJ contains the following:
- Judaism is the historic culture of the Jewish people.
- Jewish history is a human saga, a testament to the significance of human power and responsibility.
- Jewish identity is best preserved in a free, pluralistic environment.
- Ethics and morality should serve human needs.
- The freedom and dignity of the Jewish people must go hand in hand with the freedom and dignity of every human being.
So far as you, Friedman are concerned, there is a convenient border (and brick wall) between Zionism on the one hand, and Jewish identity on the other, and for my part, (and speaking as somebody who has signed many statements distancing myself from both the SAJBD and Israel), and who for years has found it possible to be both a Non-Zionist and Non-Theist, (at least until one Halton Cheadle attempted to define my Jewish identity), without being tackled by hate-mongers on all sides, the issue is rather moot.
The SCA decision for instance, carries a definition of Zionism as ‘a political movement that had as its original aim the creation of a country for Jewish people, and that now supports the state of Israel.’
By this erudite definition, (and Masongu’s defense) anyone supporting the borders of 1948 and/or the armistice of 1967, as Nelson Mandela did, is a Zionist or worse.
Which brings one to the core problem of defining hate speech and anti-Semitism within a South African milieu and developing local jurisprudence, which if the SCA decision is anything to go by, suggests that attacks against Jews for simply having Jewish family (or odd members who may also be Zionists), is all fair game, acceptable discourse within the bounds of protected speech and righteous political action?
So let’s be frank about the problem.
It certainly is a thang when it comes to Cheadle and Erenreich
Other definitions abound, such as one by the European Union, for example, “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour.” or “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.”
In September the UK Labour Party adopted in full an international definition of anti-Semitism, after months of similar controversy.
It incorporates all the 11 examples of anti-Semitism cited by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance into its code of conduct.
Time for South Africans to arrive at an acceptable and internationally binding definition, one that does not eviscerate legitimate criticism of the State of Israel.
DO YOU remember when the internet still spread hope? After its invention in the‘80s, we had access to a mass of information, sites such as Napster allowed us to share so-called “private property” easily and, most importantly, we could publish what we had to say ourselves – and people actually listened. It was participatory in nature, without much visible regulation from above. Nowadays, with net neutrality being at risk, mass surveillance and the threat of clamping down on copyright infringements as an excuse for censorship, the web often induces more fear than encouragement.
Narcolepsy sufferer Aaron Bale – mentored by “the internet’s own boy”, Aaron Swartz, and inspired by the success of the SOPA blackout in 2012, when 20 million people effectively stopped an anti-piracy bill – has come up with an idea to return some power to internet users: BitVote. He hopes his project will let us have some say again, without being completely overrun by the powers-that-be.
What is BitVote?
As a decentralised app operating on a BitCoin-like blockchain technology with a KeyValuePair store of data strings everyone can access, BitVote will add value to ideas without a human authority having to oversee the process. The coding will be completely transparent, so everyone can improve, build and analyse the tool as they wish. In the interest of, “I don’t agree with your opinion but I’ll fight for your right to speak it,” it’ll be completely neutral and compatible with all current systems as well as third-party add-ons.
How do I vote?
Votes will be measured in units we can all relate to: minutes, hours and days of our life. You’ll be able to choose a link (or create your own) to something you feel strongly about – say it’s the fight against Monsanto’s food monopoly. After pasting it into BitVote, you can dedicate an appropriate amount of token time to it. If you have 24 vote hours, you could use all 24 hours towards Stop Monsanto. But you could also, if you don’t care about the GMO giants as much, only use four hours (or one, two, five etc.) and save the rest for a different cause. Your vote will be recorded and your available hours will drop accordingly. The time-units are easy for everyone to grasp, yet they’ll provide multiple factors for analysis. What, for instance, is more important – many people spending small vote units on a cause or a few people spending large vote units on a cause?
Bale and BitVote coder Jasper den Ouden haven’t agreed whether all voters will accumulate vote hours from the day BitVote launches or from the day you were born, but the consensus is that the assigning of “vote currency” needs to be equal for all. Importantly, although vote hours will increase every 60 minutes of your life, they’ll gain value through scarcity. This means that those who don’t use the internet so often – the elderly, people living in rural areas or just generally less tech-savvy people – will actually have a stronger impact when things get heavy. Say something drastic happens and a president decides to go to war. The above-mentioned demographic might be motivated to vote and have more hours to spend than enthusiastic internet users who vote everyday.
You might be thinking, how is this different to slacktivism? It’s just a bunch of symbolic hours after all; spent in a virtual system, via a click from your armchair. Bale realises that the vote hours won’t do anything as such. But what they will do, is show what people care about. If you’re fighting for a cause, you might feel more confident addressing it in the real world if you know 80% of BitVoters feel the same way as you. Ultimately – although BitVote can be used for a vast variety of reasons, from market research to activism – the system’s strength is perhaps that it could offer evidence of betrayal. If the Film and Publications Board South Africa says pre-publication censorship on the internet is what the majority wants, citizens could take to BitVote to prove the opposite. Whether a bunch of votes will actually stop officials from executing their plans is hard to imagine, yet – if the system really is widely used by technophiles and technophobes alike – it might be more powerful than a Twitter storm or liking causes on Facebook.
What about mob-votes?
A concern is that a mob of people, who might be very uneducated on the subject they’re voting on, could get together to cast a potentially dangerous vote. Imagine this was, “kill all homosexuals”. Bale tries to explain this problem with what he calls “The Zombie Example”. “If there’s a zombie apocalypse on the rise and 99.9% want to legalise cannibalism, authorities have the option not to act on this, and the population will thank them later. You can use common sense.” Moreover, it’s an alarm bell. If a large number of voters plan to kill homosexuals, he would try to physically intervene. He believes it probably won’t come to tyranny-of-the-majority votes though because of the way people interact online. “Not in close physical proximity, and anonymously. There’s trolling, but there’s not a lot of abuse of authority. The internet doesn’t kill people.”
Also, he explains, if a tyrant boss in an oppressive regime gets a 1000 of his employees to vote at gunpoint, these workers can cast a counter-vote anonymously to get “the asshole fired”. He adds that there are a lot of scams around and BitVote isn’t immune to them – but often people have ways to figure them out. An instant “vote bomb”, in this case a 1000 people voting for a dodgy cause at once, might spur some scepticism.
Although users will be completely anonymous by default, a positive aspect is perhaps that you’ll have the option to disclose your geographical location. Imagine the City of Cape Town decides to evict a group of people from their shacks, again claiming to have the interest of the people at heart. The majority, who are not being evicted from their homes, might vote for the eviction of the shack-dwellers because they don’t understand their conditions – thus providing the City with a plausible back-up to their statement. The affected community could, however, start a location-aware vote to show that everyone who lives in the area does not approve of the eviction. In other words, the people at the river should have more authority to decide whether it’s polluted or not. Bale also points out that, because anyone can build an add-on tool, it’s easy to create filters. This might be useful if BitVote gets flooded with porn.
As well-intentioned as BitVote may sound, if it wants be legitimate and effective, there can only be one user per real-world identity, which is difficult to prove without compromising anonymity. The geek word for this is Sybil security – a tricky problem many organisations are currently trying to solve. While none of them are perfect, the BitVote team members have some ideas. Options could involve “ID pools”, i.e. having users play a game simultaneously, or reputation systems. A lot of methods have loop holes and would be extremely costly though. According to Bale, so-called Sybil attacks, also called “sock puppeting”, are often of a “social nature”, meaning they don’t necessarily involve a lot of technical know-how. Therefore, Bale welcomes everyone to help solve this problem. If you’re a social orientated professional, such as a sociologist, political student, social-engineer hacker, activist, doctor, or just someone with a good idea, please contact him at email@example.com.
At this stage it’s unclear when BitVote will launch officially – funding still needs to be secured and Sybil security solved – but the team is working on getting a small scale system up and running soon. This will function as an invitation-only experiment for people whose identity has been verified in the real world.
Until then, we might not be sure of the project’s practical implications. But one thing Bale said might be valuable to keep in mind: “With BitVote the concept of authority is constantly changing. The ideas themselves will gain authority, not people.”
What do you think? Are you sceptical? How would you use BitVote?
Please post your ideas, critiques and praise in the comment section – it’s a project everyone is encouraged to participate in.
Text: Christine Hogg
South Africa is a country which despite having a remarkable constitution has shown scant regard for the human rights outlined by Chapter 2. The recent debacle around the Dalai Lama is unfortunately, just the tip of the iceberg. If you recall, Chapter 2 is the chapter of the constitution in which our Bill of Rights exists.
Is there any right that the SA government has not trampled on with its denial of a visa to one of the world’s great peace activists and religious leaders – His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama?
One can name a number of freedoms off the top of one’s head, supposedly guaranteed by this document, all flouted in the name of political expediency.
Three essential freedoms which have been trashed, (and which I find most troubling), are religious freedom, freedom of association and freedom of movement. The China First policy being advocated by Presidential candidate Jacob Zuma flies in the face of all that we hold dear as a nation — are we about to see on unfolding of racism and xenophobia in the form of South Africa for South Africans?
To think that influx control and the dompas or passbook was in use, within living memory and barely twenty years ago, is stupefying. What is more, the days of Christian National Education and separate development appear to have no meaning for the ANC leaders of today.
I recall attending a mass rally in the 80s held at the Cape Town City Hall, called by the Tibetan Friendship Society in which the Dalai Lama appeared, calling for the release of Nelson Mandela and the unbanning of political parties. No wonder FW de Klerk found it impossible to contain local and international pressure and assented to the inevitable, for which he was rewarded with a Nobel Peace Prize. The real story has not been told, surely now is the time to set the record straight?
Unfortunately, like so many ANC leaders, even Nelson Mandela has found it impossible to break away from the Mephistophelean dance involving the ANC and National Party. The Long Walk to Freedom might as well be a history of the NNP for all it exposes is the manner in which isolation created a parallel universe in which Mandela was literally brainwashed into identifying with his jailers.
The history of the freedom struggle is not a history solely comprised of political intrigues masterminded by politicians. It is easy to forget the role played by ordinary people and our religious leaders. It is convenient to let go of the ethical and moral debates that surrounded those who attempted, on the one hand to argue that apartheid was a crime against humanity, and on the other, those who wished to justify their actions along with segregation, as somehow informed by the Christian Bible.
My own discrimination case against Media24 is yet another example of the denial of fundamental rights and freedoms in this day and age, in which a company comprised to a large extent of white, Christian males, is battling to assert its authority over the Jewish Sabbath. Media24, has yet to provide me with a bona fide contract recognizing my rights as a Secular Jew, and all that I am saying is – what I do on a Friday night is between me and my Friday night and has nothing to do with Media24.
In my mind there is no contradiction between Buddhism and Judaism and one might as well talk about Hashem and THE BUDDAH, along with every other prophet who gained enlightenment, since surely in the universe, all is one, there is only one G-d at the end of the day? Then there is the possibility that infinite intelligence produces multiplicity of possibility, each one as logically consistent as the next, in which case, G-d is every G-d that has ever existed. More on this subject in the following weeks to come.
DESPITE its promotion of a ‘peaceful Olympics’, China has intensified its crackdown on Tibet this week following the most significant uprising in nearly 50 years. The wave of mainly peaceful protests against the Chinese government that has swept across Tibet since March 10 is a result of more than half a century of Communist Party misrule, revealing the breakdown of Beijing’s Tibet policy at a time when China seeks to convey an image of pre-Olympics harmony.
In order to hide its repression in Tibet, China has virtually sealed off the entire plateau – despite promising increasing openness in the buildup to the Olympics – and imposed a news blackout. A new report published by the International Campaign for Tibet, ‘Tibet at a Turning Point: the Spring Uprising and China’s New Crackdown’ (http://www.savetibet.org/news/newsitem.php?id=1344) provides evidence gathered at great risk of:
DESPITE claims to promote online freedom, to represent the “public interest” on the internet “when our freedoms in the networked world come under attack,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation started by mavericks Mitch Kapor and John Perry Barlow is impotent when it comes to jurisdictions outside of the territory in which it is based.
A recent complaint about having an online post unilaterally deleted off this very blog, by a host based in South Africa got the following response from Gwen Hinze, EFF International Policy Director: “We are simply not able to provide legal advice outside of the country in which our lawyers are licensed.”
THE pretentious white-boy from Welkom who arrived on the Cape Town art scene during a millennial slump, had very little to show for himself except a big mouth. Young quickly made a name as an infamous rude-boy, whose method of operation was the hackneyed “art attack” involving one or more victims. (As one of his “victims” I believe I can report about such nefarious activities). Not content with sacrificing aesthetics and profit, Young took to bully boy stunts and conning the media into participating in what he called “conceptual art”. In reality Young disliked everything he saw. As columnist Suzy Bell who “bought” Bruce Gordon after being approached by Young in a scheme relates: “The problem with Ed is, he isn’t an artist. Not like Wayne Barker who was rude, had attitude but at the end of the day, produced the goods.”
With little to show for his visual arts degree purchased from Michaelis, Young was forced out of desperation into producing futile and sterile acts. Young even struck up a weird relationship with Ronald Suresh Roberts at the height of the scandal involving Robert’s defamation case against the Sunday Times. Whilst Roberts was being pilloried and depicted as a carpetbagger with his head up our second President’s behind, Ed chose to support Robert’s freedom to be unlikable.
WITH about as much clout as a ten-year bottle of whisky, Independent News and Media’s International “Advisory Board” is meeting in Cape Town to deflect growing criticism of the group as a whole. Pitted against mounting calls for a media tribunal that will address issues of public accountability, there are still unanswered questions raised by a damaging report tabled last year which labeled, chief executive O’Reilly nothing more than a crony capitalist.
“Sir Anthony O’Reilly” has become extraordinarily adept at lording it over the masses, driving content, interfering with editorials, pushing the Irish Model and feathering his own nest in the process. The man has staged rampant mergers and acquisitions that blur the line separating media from business, sport, entertainment, advertising and public relations with the resulting loss in respect for the press as a whole. Independent hacks in their slavish obedience to higher authority, failed to note criticism of the company, one actually praised the IAB for being an O’Reilly brainchild “formed 13 years ago to provide the group’s executives with intellectual soundings on the world scene.” Okay, so a 13-year bottle of Mulroney.
Eager to dip into the Canadian and Irish Whisky fortune behind the Irish Model was Sean Johnson, the class idiot who has created a masterful symbiosis between the Mandela legacy and the Rhodes club, with the usual problems associated with alcoholism. Board-members most likely to gain from group ventures into property and the petroleum industry are Ivor Roberts, career diplomat and former British Ambassador, to Ireland.