Letter: Seth Rogen: ‘I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel’ refers

Dear Ed,

Seth Rogen: ‘I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel’ refers

As an anti-war activist opposed to the abuse of the term ‘apartheid’ in the Middle East, I wish to respond to the latest binary correspondence on Israel and Palestine carried by The Guardian. In particular I wish to point out the tendency by either parties to the conflict to view the other in Manichean terms.

The resulting dualistic cosmology describing ‘a struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness’, has plagued the religious conflict over the final status of Jerusalem, for decades and is not helpful in arriving at a secular solution.

Like the actor Rogen, I too once believed that everything I had been told by my Jewish father was wrong. During the 80s I found the Rabbinical references to the biblical stories told of King David and the construction of the Temple inconsistent with the 1982 invasion of South Lebanon by the IDF under the government of Menachem Begin.

During my years as a student activist and member of the South African Union of Jewish Students, I drew parallels between the SADF invasion of Angola, and became an outspoken critic of Israel military aid to apartheid South Africa.

I was fed Fatah propaganda related to the Nakba and ended up believing that colonialist adventurism by European settlers was the cause of the problem, while Palestinians were the innocent victims. I even publically renounced my right to return as an Orthodox Jew after the construction of the separation barrier in 2000.

Several beatings by Jordanian-Palestinian immigrants and self-styled Palestinian activists set the stage for an end to my delusion. Nevertheless I still persisted in my Anti-Zionist views, attended various rallies, met with a group of Palestinian doctors and even appeared at a UCT seminar hosted by members of Fatah. There I was told the problems were the ‘Jews, Jews, Jews.’

The narrative provided by the PLO began to unravel shortly after I became the subject of a religious inquisition by a corrupt ANC official in 2009/2010, some of the details of which are available in my self-published Amazon book, ‘Life in a Time of Heretics’.

The final parting of company with the Palestinian version of reality coincided with my rediscovery of the missing narrative of Mizrahi Jews, the stories of dispossession and disenfranchisement suffered by oriental and North African Jews.

In particular my late father’s inability to talk about the Farhud Massacre, ‘the violent dispossession” carried out against the Jewish population of Baghdad, Iraq, on June 1–2, 1941, and followed by the expulsion and dispossession of property of Arab Jews following the events of 1948, put paid to the notion that this was a singular conflict between good and bad. Between 1920 and 1970, some 900,000 Jews were expelled from Arab and other Muslim countries.

Rogen’s revelations reported by Oliver Holmes in the Guardian, that “more than 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes or fled fighting in the 1948 war that led to Israel’s creation” is thus a one-sided tally given the magnitude of these expulsions and the enormity of the Holocaust.

The inescapable facts surrounding the complicity of Amin el Husseini, then Mufti of Jerusalem, and the resulting controversy also need to be weighed, as too the facts surrounding ‘Dhimmitude’, a permanent state of subjugation by either of the parties.

A 2015 Time magazine article addressing the question of whether or not Husseini was the source of the Final Solution certainly demonstrates the problem of focusing exclusively on the Nakba whilst denying the Holocaust. Not that one should make the cardinal error of assuming that all non-Jewish Palestinians are to blame, or thereby privilege one life more than the other.

To put this matter to rest, although Husseini attended the infamous Wansee Conference where Hitler’s Final Solution was formerly adopted, the decision to ‘exterminate all the Jews, and not simply the Zionist ones’ had already been taken, and thus, the ‘invitations had already been sent out’ when the Mufti arrived to argue his case against Jewish immigration to the Holy Land.

The real nail in the coffin of apartheid analogy however, is when one realises that Husseini’s position in history is much the same as the father of apartheid, DF Malan who introduced the racist Aliens Act in January 1937, restricting Jewish immigration to South Africa before the war. Both men are responsible for condemning hundreds of thousands of admittedly, European Jews, to euthanasia camps in Poland.

Two wrongs do not make a right. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. Banning points of view, with which one disagrees, and as Rogen and Holmes motivate by implication, is never a solution. Rather it is my considered opinion that the conflict in the Middle East represents a tragic case of injustice vs injustice, or as the writer Amos Oz has put it, a sad case of competing juridical systems.

Like Peter Beinart in the New York Times, I too no longer believe in the Middle East, but can imagine a Jewish home in an equal state.

Whether the result is a binational or plurinational solution is anyone’s guess.

Kind regards

David Robert Lewis

Janice Gassam’s ‘How Communities Of Color Perpetuate Anti-Blackness’

Dear Ed,

Janice Gassam’s ‘How Communities Of Color Perpetuate Anti-Blackness’ Jul 19, 2020, refers.

I live in a country that for many has come to symbolise both institutional racism, and a remarkable transformation from the segregation of apartheid to the non-racialism of our democratic constitution. With many of the Mandela-era promises remaining unfulfilled, and in the light of the recent controversial address on global inequality by UN secretary general Guterres , I wish to remind your readers that our nation’s project of reconciliation and non-racialism remains a current work-in-progress.

Your correspondent Janice Gassam valiantly attempts to ‘deconstruct and dismantle anti-Blackness’ by proposing ‘there must be a normalization of Blackness’. Unfortunately, the context of race in today’s society is anything but normal. Aiming to normalise distinctions made according to race, a tired fiction at best, merely rehashes the logic of the black consciousness movement of the seventies, whose chief proponent, the late Steven Biko, sought to address slogans such as ‘black is beautiful’ at the same time that he maintained “Being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude.”

Gassam says: “There is a commonly held belief that white people are the only perpetuators of racism and anti-Black bias and that as a person of color (POC), you do (sic) cannot hold racist views. Adopting this mindset will make deconstructing anti-Blackness much more challenging.”

She then asserts, “One phenomenon that is rarely discussed is the idea of white adjacency. While the term hasn’t been fully defined in a lot of detail, it can be thought of as the benefits received by a POC because of their proximity to whiteness.”

The link provided for the term ‘white adjacency’ is to a student news organisation, and the article is merely an opinion piece without any academic citations nor context. If context were provided, it would immediately become clear that this phrase is positioned within critical theory, and the field of subaltern studies, a field of research which examines colonialism, post-colonialism and the problem of elitism and elites.

Suggesting that all persons of colour who collaborate with their white colleagues, are simply compradors, or ‘agents of whiteness’ is a regressive political position that begs the question of who is white and who is black?

In this myopic worldview, a ‘white student’ standing in solidarity with ‘black students’ on an apartheid campus, cannot be hurt by gunfire. In the same way that it is claimed by some, that Neil Aggett was not tortured by the apartheid special branch, and Ahmed Timol, the subject of a recent inquest, wasn’t murdered.

Furthermore, identity politic of the type advocated by Gassam is bound up with a multiracial view of the world, one which instead of tackling elites by promoting equal opportunity and non-racialism, treats society rather as a binary battle between two competing groups, ‘the blacks’ and ‘the whites’. Both are racial terms which have been shot down by the broader scientific community and have absolutely no merit in academic discourse, save for reminding us that scientists once believed in distinct and separate race groups and thus a multiregionalist theory of evolution.

An identity war between the races may sound appealing, especially if it leads to more sales of Nike products, or a political counter to the Trump administration, I however fear that nothing good can come from such polarisation. Assuming that every act of collaboration with the other, is an act of assimilation, denies human rights and human agency. One may equally claim, that such acts are cultural appropriation and outright theft.

Even worse than denying universal and democratic values, positing blackness or whiteness as a new norm, risks removing any defense a person may have in law against racism. I have only to point out my own unhappy experience being classified by the apartheid state, to demonstrate why such categories are legally and philosophically problematic.


Sincerely yours,

David Robert Lewis

NOTE: Unpublished letter sent to Forbes

A vaccine is just the beginning of the fight against Covid-19 …

THIS PAST week saw British scientists lauded for a successful phase 1 vaccine trial. A working vaccine may be available by the end of 2020. Unfortunately deploying a global immunisation programme may prove to be harder than producing the vaccine.

Although the United Nations is pushing all countries to join ‘an effort to make vaccines and drugs to fight Covid-19 cheap enough that the poorest populations in the world can be treated’, the sheer scale of such an endeavour looks daunting.

South Africa with a population of 58.8 million would require production of at least 160 000 doses per day for over a year to cover the entire country. Dispensing the vaccine would require 6712 jabs per hour to complete in 12 months, a Promethean task, more likely to occur over 5 to 10 years.

In other words, while the good news is that the world has a working vaccine, one of several vaccines capable of producing the right antibodies and killer T cells required to defend against the virus, the logistical problems of immunisation, make the pandemic likely to stay with us for the foreseeable future.

Technological innovation such as robotic application and drone delivery, novel production techniques and other medical advances, could bring this horizon closer — the day when everyone has immunity and countermeasures such as masks, social distancing and other measures are no longer required.

Bare in mind that as more people recover and gain natural immunity, the target population for an immunisation programme is lowered, thereby reducing the immediate task at hand. Although there is some debate as to whether or not, such immunity is short term and may fall off over time.

By that stage, those who would have died from the virus, will in most likely be dead. The risks of cluster outbreaks and casualty ward spikes will have diminished, and the burden on our health system will normalise along with the impact on the economy.

In effect, the virus and its grip on society, will have weakened, at least for now, but the risk of future flare-ups and other coronovirus clades remain.

Targeted immunisation programmes focusing on vulnerable groups and maximising scarce resources could also assist us in meeting our goal. But for now, we stuck with the ‘no longer novel’ coronovirus of 2019, which looks set to become as prevalent as the common cold, and a seasonal disease just like the flu.

Brew some coffee: here are top 5 Alternative Covid-19 Conspiracy Theories

A NUMBER of alternative theories are circulating about the origin of Covid-19. Though none demonstrate conclusive proof beyond what is already known, ( the virus is the result of zoonotic transmission, in all likelihood arising from contamination at a wet market in Wuhan), the resulting conspiracy theories are alarming to say the least. By no means definitive – take with a pinch of salt and remember, the burden of evidence, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

1. Different Origin

“In all the discussions of the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic,” write independent researchers Jonathan Latham, PhD and Allison Wilson, PhD “enormous scientific attention has been paid to the molecular character of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including its novel genome sequence in comparison with its near relatives. In stark contrast, virtually no attention has been paid to the physical provenance of those nearest genetic relatives, its presumptive ancestors, which are two viral sequences named BtCoV/4991 and RaTG13.”

The pair have proposed a new origin, based upon evidence garnered from a Chinese Master’s Thesis and collected from a mineshaft in Yunnan province, China, in 2012/2013 by researchers from the lab of Zheng-li Shi at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

They also write the Case Is Building That COVID-19 Had a Lab Origin’. “most of these ancestor-like bat coronaviruses cannot infect humans . In consequence, from its beginning, a key question hanging over the pandemic has been: How did a bat RNA virus evolve into a human pathogen that is both virulent and deadly?”

Probability: High

2. Engineered Doomsday

Did this virus come from a lab? Maybe not — but it exposes the threat of a biowarfare arms race” writes Sam Husseini in Salon. “There has been no scientific finding that the novel coronavirus was bioengineered, but its origins are not entirely clear.”

“Deadly pathogens discovered in the wild are sometimes studied in labs — and sometimes made more dangerous. That possibility, and other plausible scenarios, have been incorrectly dismissed in remarks by some scientists and  government officials, and in the coverage of most major media outlets.”

“Regardless of the source of this pandemic, there is considerable documentation that a global biological arms race going on outside of public view could produce even more deadly pandemics in the future.”

An editorial published in the New York Times as early as 2012 warned “Scientists have long worried that an influenza virus that has ravaged poultry and wild birds in Asia might evolve to pose a threat to humans. Now scientists financed by the National Institutes of Health have shown in a laboratory how that could happen. In the process they created a virus that could kill tens or hundreds of millions of people if it escaped confinement or was stolen by terrorists.”

Probability: High

3. Mutually Assured Contagion

Did either the Trump administration or Xi Jinping’s party collaborate on, or release a virus as part of protracted trade war negotiations, a retaliatory tit-for-tat, resulting in a bizarre engineered covid trade round?

Although the evidence of both USA and China involvement in the Wuhan Institute of Virology is overwhelming, and has been exposed by Peter Breggin MD, there is no evidence of such a conspiracy, aside from Trumps own ravings on the matter in the days following the global lockdown. Proof would require a thorough examination of the motives and capacity for a release: Why would either party want to set loose a mild, but very infectious contagion, except to disrupt markets and make money? Look at the denial carried by the Wall St Journal.

Probability: Medium to High

4. Mutually Assured Covid-nomics

One subset theory of the above is based upon economic modelling conducted by the Whitehouse several months before the pandemic, that predict a sudden cessation of economic activity, necessitating intervention by you guessed it, the Federal Reserve .

In 2004 Jong-Wha Lee and Warwick J. McKibbin in ‘Estimating the Global Economic Costs of SARS’ published in ‘Learning from SARS: Preparing for the Next Disease Outbreak‘ produced a global model to simulate the economic impact of a long-term SARS epidemic using the period 2002–2081. The so-called ‘G-Cubed (Asia-Pacific) model’ is eerie and prescient in its description. I reproduce it here:

First, fear of SARS infection leads to a substantial decline in consumer demand, especially for travel and retail sales service. The fast speed of contagion makes people avoid social interactions in affected regions. The adverse demand shock becomes more substantial in regions that have much larger service-related activities and higher population densities, such as Hong Kong or Beijing, China. The psychological shock also ripples around the world, not just to the countries of local transmission of SARS, because the world is so closely linked by international travel. Second, the uncertain features of the disease reduce confidence in the future of the affected economies. This effect seems to be potentially very important, particularly as the shock reverberates through China, which has been a key center of foreign investment. The response by the Chinese government to the epidemic was fragmented and nontransparent. The greater exposure to an unknown disease and the less effective government responses to the disease outbreaks must have elevated concerns about China’s institutional quality and future growth potential. Although it is difficult to measure directly the effects of diseases on decision making by foreign investors, the loss of foreign investors’ confidence would have potentially tremendous impacts on foreign investment flows, which would in turn have significant impacts on China’s economic growth. This effect is also transmitted to other countries competing with China for foreign direct investment (FDI). Third, SARS undoubtedly increases the costs of disease prevention, especially in the most affected industries such as the travel and retail sales service industries. This cost may not be substantial, at least in global terms, as long as the disease is transmitted only by close human contact. However, the global cost could become enormous if the disease is found to be transmitted by other channels such as through international cargo.

Probability: Medium to High

5. Viral Population Control

Another variation of the Mutually Assured Contagion theory, is based upon events leading up to the assumption to power of Xi Jinping, and the relationship of Trump to the Jinping administration during the early days of the Trump presidency. It can also be summarised as Mutually Assured, Mad Dictator Syndrome. In order for either party to become President for Life, as Jinping became in March 2018, a way to cement power over the global population had to be found. With growing dissent in Hong Kong, the winning dictator released a contagion, that made command and control of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army a lot easier, and ditto US Army.

In this scenario, alluded to in 2007, epidemics are seen as opportunities for either party elite (read global elites) to seize power or cement control, with the added benefit that global spread of the contagion, empowers similar totalitarian initiatives around the globe. Did we forget to mention the World Health Organisation?

Probability: Low to Medium

De Vos over the Cliff: To cancel Icke, or not?

IT SEEMS there is an online storm brewing over cancel culture. In this weeks iteration, legal academic Pierre De Vos seeks to cancel Gareth Cliff for hosting a television show in which one of his guests was none other than the conspiracy theorist crackpot David Icke.

I interviewed Icke two decades ago, and was able to confirm, as De Vos does, that “David Icke is an anti-Semite and conspiracy theorist who claims to believe, among other things, that an inter-dimensional race of reptilian beings called the Archons have hijacked the earth and are stopping humanity from realising its true potential, and that the British royal family are shape-shifting lizards. “

Unlike De Vos, I do not believe such views warrant censorship and he is patently misguided to suggest, as he does in an opinion piece published by the Daily Maverick that the result is “a wrong-headed argument about freedom of expression, diverting attention from the ethical accountability of the host.”

Notably absent from an otherwise wordy essay on the subject, is the rationale behind the removal of the conspiracy kook from many social media platforms this year. Icke’s insistence that ‘there is no coronovirus” nor even a pandemic for that matter, resulted in his eccentric views and accounts being blocked by Facebook and other media platforms.

Instead of reviewing the science, Icke alleges a grand coverup by our reptile overlords, one that merely feeds into a fractured drama about shape-shifting aliens, best left to the terrain of Gonzo journalism once occupied by Hunter S Thompson and Robert Anton Wilson — two writers with a lot more brains and balls.

That Icke may share some of the views of the late Credo Mutwa is merely grist for the mill. He also shares similar views to early Christian Gnostics who believed in an ‘inferior god of creation’.

What is important to note, is that Cliff provided Icke with enough rope to hang himself on prime time television, and given that he has a committed cohort of listeners (and viewers), who will no doubt question such foolishness, I should add, that it is best to relegate Icke to the realm of fiction, than to advocate the self-same book-burning and destruction of individual liberties that accompanied the Hitler regime.

De Vos does his profession a grave disservice by seeking to throw Gareth over the Cliff at the same time claiming by the action of mundane letters, he is a ‘partisan politico’, driving a ‘universal imperative’ that is merely a ‘“sacred abstraction” of freedom of expression, one which “is used to shield individuals from the consequences of their own (ideologically driven) beliefs.”

In this vein, not only does the fossil seek to limit freedom of expression beyond what is already limited in our Constitution, but he also wishes to clamp down on press freedom — the self-same freedoms which he has come to enjoy, as a dissident writer whose views are often in conflict with the law as well as the ruling party.

Interviewing a subject does not translate into immediately sympathizing with the views of the interviewee, nor may one ascertain an agenda beyond what may be construed as controversy and attention-seeking. And as the old phrase goes, ‘please do not shoot the messenger’.

Advocates of cancel culture really need to be served with fair warning, doing so without a fair hearing, and whilst jettisoning the audi rule, risks cancelling media freedom and what little remains of justice (do we really need to remind ourselves of the pitfalls of the current system based upon apartheid double standards?).

In the melee that occurs when mob-justice is replaced by the dictates of faceless deletionists, and where super-efficient censorship technology is advanced as a political weapon, we end up resembling China whose ruling party censors and keeps tabs on its citizens via face recognition, and artificial intelligence.

And so sorry Pierre, Tutsis are clearly not aliens, and neither are the Hutus. The provided rote examples, common to many defamation cases, often used to demonstrate harm, surely do not apply to the realm of science fiction and fantasy, and unproven theories such as cold fusion?

One may as well take Darwin to task, since his proven theory of evolution inspired racists, as it no doubt inspires today’s informationists, those who regurgitate information found online without bothering to check facts and sources.

Does Icke deserve a platform? Not necessarily see here. Should Cliff be lending a bit of the spotlight to such blather? Probably not. But at the end of the day, it is really all just conspiracy theory, and it is Icke’s defence that he is merely relaying us information, whose sources are often obscure, irrelevant and unscientific, and as if that were a crime?

As an end-note, the test in this case, is really one of mental capacity or mens rea, since if you believe Icke, you will believe anything, and whether he possesses criminal capacity to do harm (or cause harm), has not been proven. One could even say that Karl Marx had a vendetta against bankers, and needed jail time, instead Britain gave the man sanctuary, and the world is richer or poorer for it.

SEE: J.k. Rowling and 150 other authors call for an end to the ‘cancel culture’

SEE: Nick Cave: ‘cancel culture is bad religion run amuck’

Study apartheid, revisit the TRC, reinstate the constitution

A PETITION circulated by Nyasha Mboti, asks: “Why are there no Apartheid Studies in South Africa, or in any other country across the globe? In 1994 Nelson Mandela said “Never, never and never again” to apartheid. But how do you say “Never again” to something that you do not study?

Mboti adds: “There has been no interest in provisioning for the formal study of apartheid. There is no degree programme, or even an apology of a course or module, even at 1st year level only, called Apartheid Studies. There is not a single Centre for Apartheid Studies, or Institute of Apartheid Studies, or Research Chair in Apartheid Studies, at any of the 25 South African universities – or anywhere around the globe. The universal absence and neglect of Apartheid Studies is a blot on the world’s conscience.”

The reluctance to tackle South Africa’s past has lead to denialism within our nation’s institutions and a general lapse of constitutional provisions within the justice system. Is the constitution even worth the paper it is written on?

The matter is compounded by the NPA’s failure to prosecute perpetrators, amidst a collapse of the amnesty provisions of the TRC Act. This has lead to crimes under apartheid being treated as if the were mere petty offences, or had simply occurred under the current dispensation, and thus lack the necessary characteristics that accompany the crime against humanity, known as apartheid.

Sipho Ngwema, NPA spokesperson for example, issued an irrational statement last month in regard to the Timol inquest, falsely claiming that the law of prescription applied: “As far as the assault charges at John Vorster Square are concerned, prescription has set in, as a period of 20 years has passed since the commission of the offences in 1982/83.”

This without any word about the actual murder of Timol, a capital crime for which no prescription period is applicable.

The NPA statements echo equally false statements, issued in writing by Legal Aid South Africa, and follow a racist decision handed down in March last year by AJ Martin of the High Court, impugning the TRC Act and essentially refuting the Preamble to our Constitution.

Despite the shoddy legal environment in which apartheid crimes are effectively lauded by the authorities, even if the delicts may be ongoing and the impact and effects, immediate, there remain public calls to charge perpetrators for their crimes against humanity.

Shannon Ebrahim writing in the Cape Times says: ” In the case of South Africa, the liberation movements showed great magnanimity by agreeing to allow the perpetrators of similar brutality under successive apartheid regimes to receive amnesty if they fully disclosed their crimes at the TRC.”

“While many did come forward and admit to their crimes, there were rarely full disclosures, and far too many ­senior members of the military and police failed to apply for amnesty, believing they would never be found or prosecuted.”

It is the gross failure to take action against those who did not receive amnesty, alongside a stark refusal to provide legal aid for the victims, which is particularly troubling. The result is denialism, denial that a crime occurred, then followed by denial of justice.

Hopefully the call for the institution of apartheid studies on our nations campuses alongside renewed interest in the body of evidence that begins with the TRC Report, will result in corrective action being taken to reinstate the constitutional framework. One which begins, by stating, “recognising the injustices of the past”.

Kasrils debunked, I no longer believe in the Middle East

THE WRITINGS of Ronnie Kasrils, SACP central committee member 1986-2007, propagandist and former Minister of Intelligence under Mbeki, require the same stringency of analysis as that of Israel Finkelstein, a critic of the Bible. Finkelstein has long been accused of being a biblical minimalist, “someone who believes that only a bare minimum of the Bible is historically trustworthy”, and maintains the book was ‘essentially the work of`a creative copywriter‘ to advance an ideological agenda.

For starters, Kasrils recent opinion piece published by the Daily Maverick may be seen as an amateurish attempt to rehash the work of Shlomo Sand, who seeks to replace Zionism with Canaanism. In other words, the belief that the land of Canaan, referred to in the Bible existed, and further, was the central narrative, before the Romans arrived on the scene, only to quash the Bar Kokhba revolt, a revolt not of Hebrews but rather Canaanites. 

Sand has been taken to task for presenting “dubious theories” regarding Jewish identity as historical facts. His controversial claim that Ashkenazi Jews are descended from Khazars, who purportedly converted in the early Middle Ages, has been debunked by Shaul Stampfer in the Journal of Jewish Social Studies.

Stampfer found no reliable source for the claim that the Khazars – a multiethnic kingdom that included Iranians, Turks, Slavs and Circassians – converted to Judaism. “There never was a conversion by the Khazar king or the Khazar elite,” he said. “The conversion of the Khazars is a myth with no factual basis.”

Daniel Lazare writing on Sand, in the ‘London Review of Books’  disagrees and says: “The Invention of the Jewish People eagerly trumpets the discovery of the archaeologist Israel Finkelstein, the foremost proponent of the new archaeology, that the conquest of Canaan never occurred and that the dual monarchy of David and Solomon, supposedly the wonder of the ancient world, was a myth. “

“But Sand also endorses the hyper-sceptical ‘biblical minimalism’ of Philip Davies, Thomas Thompson and Niels Peter Lemche, which regards such findings as irrelevant since, as they see it, the early history of Israel is actually a fiction that returnees from the Babylonian exile made up after the sixth century BCE.”

Lazare goes on to say: “Sand seems unaware of the conflict between the two views or of the fact that Finkelstein and the journalist Neil Asher Silberman issued a stinging rebuttal of the minimalist stance in 2006”

It may also be been shown that Sand’s ideas are borrowed from other sources, for example, a work published 5 years earlier by Hassan Bash, which claims to have ‘scientifically proven that the Jews of today do not descend from ancient Israel stock’ in the process repeating many racialised ideas about the Jewish people, also evident in Nazi literature.

In the same way Arthur Koestler deserves credit for his 1976 book ‘The Thirteenth Tribe‘, a hypothetical work, whose stated intent was ‘to make antisemitism disappear by disproving its racial basis.’

Despite the controversy, and the rush to displace history, Kasrils like many of today’s armchair historians, fail to note the state of Syria-Palaestina was created by the Roman Empire in its effort to quash the Bar Kokhba Revolt following “a rebellion of the Jews of the Roman province of Judea” in 135 AD. The last of three major Jewish–Roman wars, recorded by Roman historians. 

Whether you believe as Finkelstein does, that the neighbouring state of Israel was larger and more significant than Judea or not, does not make this well-recorded fact of history disappear.

In order to promote the kind of replacement theory and displacement praxis that is evident on our nation’s campuses, Kasrils goes even further than Finkelstein, in his minimalist assertions and then by entertaining all and sundry with the notion that the modern State of Israel emerged as a ‘colonial project fomented by Zionists, Agnostics and Atheists.’

As a communist, Kasrils should know better than to attack Jews for being communists and for denying Agnostics the right to live in a secular state.

As a person affected by a racist, anti-Enlightenment decision handed down by a corrupt ANC official, a morally reprehensible tract which seeks to define and restrict Jewish identity, I must object. (This at the same time that it replaces my own case with the case of the other party, his own client — all whilst upholding apartheid justifications for separate development.) I find both replacement theology and displacement praxis and its descendent in contemporary replacement ethnography as galling as either claim by either party to the conflict.

To put this bluntly, like Peter Beinart in the New York Times, I no longer believe in the Middle East, but can imagine a Jewish home in an equal state.

The Kasrils text however, is one of many dubious replacement theories circulating on social media, one immediately open to refutation, not since the Bible is a Fairy Tale, whose status is similar to any book by the Brothers Grimm, but rather since modern history is replete with examples of internecine violence and failure to abide by equality in treatment under law.

In this respect Israel and Palestine are not alone, and one has merely to examine the case of Cyprus — or India and Pakistan.

In particular Kasril’s failure to discuss the Farhud Massacre, ‘the violent dispossession” carried out against the Jewish population of Baghdad, Iraq, on June 1–2, 1941, and followed by the expulsion and dispossession of property of Arab Jews speaks reams of the bias and double-standards at play in his argument. Between 1920 and 1970, 900,000 Jews were expelled from Arab and other Muslim countries.

A recent Time magazine article addressing the question of whether or not then Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin Husseini was the source of the Final Solution is but one example of the general problem of focusing exclusively on the Nakba whilst denying the Holocaust.

To put this matter to rest, although Husseini attended the infamous Wansee Conference where Hitler’s Final Solution was formerly adopted, the decision to ‘exterminate all the Jews, and not simply the Zionist ones’ had already been taken, and thus, the ‘invitations had already been sent out’ when the Mufti arrived to argue his case against Jewish immigration to the Holy Land. 

For the record, Husseini’s position in history is much the same as the father of apartheid, DF Malan who introduced the racist Aliens Act in January 1937, restricting Jewish immigration to South Africa before the war.

Both men are responsible for condemning hundreds of thousands of Jews to euthanasia camps in Poland.

Having said that, there is much to be said about objecting to the current dispensation, whether by opposing annexation and the separation barrier or by promoting equality, in a binational state, or a plurinational confederation.

Two wrongs do not make a right. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. Banning points of view, with which one disagrees, and as Kasrils would have it, is never a solution. Rather it is my considered opinion that the conflict in the Middle East represents a tragic case of injustice vs injustice, or as the writer Amos Oz has put it, a case of competing juridical systems.

UPDATE: Read Johnathan Tobin response to Beinart

MOGOENG MOGOENG: STATEMENT BY TWO WAR RESISTERS

AS ANTI-APARTHEID activists, war resisters and peace-builders, with a long history of opposition to the unbridled use of force to achieve political goals, we understand the many predicaments faced by those wanting to build peace in the Middle East, and act in solidarity with those who refuse military service to the Israeli state.

The controversial statements by our nation’s Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng have thrown into stark contrast the divergences of opinion on the subject of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

It is not our objective here to issue dogma nor to take sides on whether or not sitting judges may issue forth with their private or personal views on the subject, nor even to take issue on whether or not Mogoeng Mogoeng was speaking in his capacity as the chief justice or as a private citizen.

Rather and more pertinently, we wish to state that the religious justifications for support of the Israeli state by some within the Christian faith, and a judge holding high office, raise crucial and important questions about the overall neutrality of our justice system, especially the right to dissent from religion when it comes to the issue of secularism.

According to George Holyoake, the man who coined the term, ‘secularism’, and who was imprisoned for his belief that all laws should be subject to rational debate, “Secularism is a series of principles intended for the guidance of those who find Theology indefinite, or inadequate, or deem it unreliable.” (1)

Holyoake went on to say:- “”A Secularist guides himself by maxims of Positivism, seeking to discern what is in Nature — what ought to be in morals … Positive principles are principles which are provable.”

Secularism is not the absence of religion, but rather the absence of religious rule.

For instance, Moses Mendelssohn, (one of the key figures of the Jewish Enlightenment ‘Haskalah’) outlined the central thesis of separation of secular and ecclesiastical authority, in his 1783 book ‘Jerusalem oder über religiöse Macht und Judentum‘, stating ‘the state declares laws, religion offers precepts.’

The principle of separation of state and religion is thus the basis for the Progressive movement within Judaism in South Africa, whose adherents are predominantly secular.

In a critical review of Tarek Fatah’s Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State (3) Professor Nader Hashemi writes, “given the European roots of secularism … the challenge for Muslim democrats is to develop coherent and indigenous arguments in favour of religion–state separation as part of a broader strategy for advancing democracy.”

It is important to note that our own democratic South African Constitution begins with the words:- ” We, the people of South Africa,” and not “In Humble Submission to Almighty God”.

We therefore wish to remind the Chief Justice of the controversy surrounding secularism during the adoption of the preamble and the elegant solution achieved by our country in creating a separation of powers and neutrality in religious outlook.

This was achieved by dropping: “In humble submission to Almighty God”, and appending Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.

We further wish to commend Zane Dangor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for opening a necessary and crucial space for dissent on the subject of religion, by issuing a statement reiterating South Africa’s ethical leadership and moral stance on Palestine. One guided by International Law at the same time that it seeks to uphold the Chief Justice and his rights as a citizen, by stating “he has a right to differ with the foreign policy position of South Africa”

The conflict between Palestinians and Israelis has been waging and ongoing for over 70 years — the prospect of peace has continued to elude our generation. In seeking to find a solution, now is the time to open critical debate (4) by defending the rights of those with differing views within our own country, to speak. 

Talking out the many issues faced in the conflict, ‘Lusaka-style dialogue’, is the only way to solve problems without resorting to more violence and kragdadigheid.

SIGNED ON THIS DAY:

David Robert Lewis

Michael Graaf

IN Cape Town

NOTES

(1) Principles of Secularism, George Holyoake; Austin. & Co., 1871.

(2) Mendelssohn, Moses (1783), Jerusalem: oder über religiöse Macht und Judentum. Von Moses Mendelssohn. Mitallergnädigsten Freyheiten, Berlin: Friedrich Maurer

(3) Political Islam Versus Secularism — A review of Tarek Fatah’s Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State. Nader Hashemi, 2008

(4) Read Rabbi Warren Goldstein’s response to Judge Cameron here.

BRIEF BIO

David Robert Lewis has written and worked for several titles banned under the apartheid regime, including South Press, Grassroots, and New Nation. In 1987 Lewis refused to stand on a combined IDF-ECC platform alongside Cameron Dugmore and then SAUJS president Johnathan Handler. Handler had objected to SADF troops in the townships but asserted his unconditional support of the IDF. The ECC was later banned in 1988 along with its members, as was the Swapo Solidarity Committee, of which Lewis was a member.


Michael Graaf was sentenced to one year in jail, suspended on condition that he completes 2400 hours of unpaid community service at King Edward VII Hospital, at the rate of 72 hours per month. In October 1990 Graaf was found guilty at the Pietermaritzburg magistrate’s courts of refusing to serve in the SADF. Mike was objecting to a camp call-up for the 15 December 1989. The sentence was set aside in June 1991 and he was able to stop his long hours of portering at a Durban hospital.

FW de Klerk, Media24 book award, Timol inquest, Nattrass and all that TRC Hypocrisy

NEWS that FW de Klerk had decided to cancel a US trip amidst an outcry over his statements earlier this year, was greeted with relief in some quarters. Apparently the former politician hastened to avoid embarrassing his American Bar Association hosts ‘in the current charged racial climate.’

This after a group of local attorneys including Lukhanyo Calata, the son of slain anti-apartheid activist Fort Calata, and members of The Pan African Bar Association of South Africa (Pabasa), condemned the ABA for providing De Klerk with a platform ‘to speak on racism’.

The cancellation comes after protests surrounding the murder of George Floyd, and one can only wonder at the double standards at work here, involving academics and members of the legal profession, those who are quick off the bat, when it comes to soundbites, but resoundingly fail on the detail, when it comes to the hard task of preserving our Constitutional dispensation and especially the contents and spirit of our Preamble back at home.

As I write this, there are several similar stories involving police brutality, apartheid denial, racism and the rule of law. And all impacting upon freedom and the boundaries of acceptable discourse.

A sorry state of affairs which may lead one to believe that our nation’s Preamble really begins, ‘ignoring the injustices of the past’ before moving on to an ironic statement:  ‘South Africa belongs to some of the more well-heeled and connected people who happen to live here in possession of legal aid.’

First up, there is the blarney over lack of representation and diversity at this years Media24 book awards. Bare in mind that this is an annual event which has come and gone each year for some decades, without the slightest peep of discontent from the black literary world, not to mention the academic black caucus.

It is not all that surprising, given the general myopia at work, that relatives of Albert Luthuli, Steve Biko, Ahmed Timol and Neil Aggett “just a few of the families of activists killed during apartheid” are still forced to question, under a black majority government, why it is, that President Cyril Ramaphosa ‘hasn’t acted on their call to investigate the suppression of cases from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.’

I have only to refer to my own dismal experience, the failure of the High Court to deliver justice last year in a matter affecting the status of the TRC final report, to point out that we have anything but the rule of law in this country, a sham democracy if ever there was one, where the default is 1994-denial, and where persons such as myself are denied any defence against racism.

Instead of an evidence-based legal system consistent with our Constitution, we have an extremely costly opinion-based boondoggle, one which unevenly dispenses justice to those who can afford it, while maintaining apartheid-era race privileges that hark back to the days of colonialism, and whither academic freedom and the institutions, whose ivy league temples equally provide sustenance to the system?

If necessary readers may follow my detailing of the capture of the justice system by ANC membership, in several posts published here. But still wonder at the temerity of those on the bench and silks allied to the justice system, who have time and again moved to squash open debate, while failing to render any remedy, — the Kobus Faasen fiasco in which Media24 escaped censure for referring to persons of color as ‘Bushmen’, springs to mind.

Remarkable since Faasen like myself was a pro se ‘self-represented’ litigant. If anyone needs to know, the system is designed to circumvent pro se litigation, all that the other more well-heeled party need do is to introduce a legal confusion, a complex side-bar issue, Mr Elephant said something in Bull vs Shite 1820, for the process to become derailed.

The result of the miscarriage of justice, in which the perpetrators of apartheid walk Scot free, despite being condemned by the TRC, and lacking amnesty is a massive public deflection. Whether it be the deflections of the FW de Klerk foundation or the bizarre extra-curricular academic argument occurring on the nations campuses, sparked by the latest student hiccough, the Nicoli Nattrass saga.

The outcome is invariably lack of due process, short circuiting of open debate, and the closure of the public mind. “Next year, we’ll be living in the new South Africa”, we used to tell ourselves. Next year, indeed.

Lord Musi, quit calling yourself a judge

IN THE PURSUIT of ‘open debate’ on the touchy subject of who is an African and who is not, commentators often fail miserably in their characterisation of continental identity as solely a ‘race issue’, in the process repeating many of the racist tropes and typology of the past.

If one follows Thekiso Musi on the subject, in ‘Don’t call me a black African’ published by Sunday Independent, and supposedly in the ‘interest of generating public debate’, one could be forgiven for adopting a mistake common to many, that of believing the word Africa, denotes ‘exclusive place of the people with the dark skin’.

The retired judge is not only wrong on this count, but his views require a quick history lesson, if not a full traversing of law.

Several well-established theories abound regarding the term Africa and its provenance, all pointing to weather and geography, not skin colour as the over-riding factor in attributing identity.

According to one theory, It is thought that the Romans called the region Afri-terra, meaning “the land of the Afri.” Later, this could have become contracted to form the single word “Africa.”

Another theory is the name was acquired during a series of three wars known as the Punic Wars between Rome and the ancient North African empire of Carthage (present day Tunisia) from 264 BC to 146 BC.

The word “Africa” is thus either derived from the Greek word “aphrike” meaning “without cold,” or from the Phoenician word “Afar” which means “dust” or from Latin “Aprica” which means sunny.

Another theory has it that the term is derived from two Phoenician words, “friqi” and “pharika.” Thought to translate as corn and fruit. Yet another theory suggests that the continent’s name came from even further afield, brought by traders from modern-day India. In Sanskrit and Hindi, the root word “Apara,” or Africa, literally translates as a place that “comes after.” In a geographical context, this can also be interpreted as a place to the west.

It is the modern emphasis on otherising Africa, as a place distinct from the West and in the face of a tragic history which has lead to terms that have less appeal to rationality and reason, than the return of a historical, albeit racialised claim to continental nation-building, one consistent with earlier racist attempts to build a white Volkstaat.

The distinction made today, between African and Non-African is as galling as the distinction made by the apartheid state, between European and Non-European, and so too Aryan and non-Aryan under Hitler’s Germany. Readers may recall the repugnant emphasis on pseudo-scientific race classification which was the hallmark of both regimes.

What exactly marks a person as African or Non-African? Is it ever possible to tell who is African and who is not by simply looking at a person? Are all black persons African? The former judge’s musings on the subject show evidence of a deep seated discomfort with identity that is not solved by our judiciary refusing to accept that such distinctions are, in and of themselves, racist. There is certainly no scientific basis for inferring a separation between the species.

For starters, Musi appears to assert the term ‘African’ refers exclusively to those who are ‘native to Africa’, and hence Africans can only be black and the term ‘black African’ is merely an unnecessary repetition. On the flip side, a ‘white person’, he seems to assert, can never be considered African since ‘Africans are not considered Europeans when they move to Europe’.

“By way of analogy,” says Musi, “an African who has permanently settled in Europe may acquire citizenship of whatever European country he/she has settled in, but he/she cannot be called a European. “

“If he/she has the citizenship of, say France, he/she is a French citizen and may be referred to as French, but that does not make him/her a European”.

These assertions are not backed by any evidence and contradict International and European statutes which assert both the equality of citizens and the right to individual identity. The term Afro European (or simply European) for instance, refers to ‘Europeans who trace at least part of their ancestry to Africa, mostly to former colonies’.

There are some 15 million people of African or Afro-Caribbean descent, living in the European Union comprising over 2.5% of the total population. Notable Afro-Europeans include the French writer, Alexander Dumas, tennis player Yannick Noah, and Rama Yade, a Senegalese-born French politician. They would all no doubt object to Musi’s characterisation of their status as ‘Non-Europeans’, as too would anyone confronted with the apartheid states own pencil test.

Bizarrely, Musi proceeds to conclude that since we as South Africans have a common citizenship ‘there are black South Africans and white South Africans’, just no black or white Africans.

“In South Africa, writes Musi, “we share a common citizenship with our white compatriots (and others) and we can, therefore, talk of white South Africans and black South Africans. But Africans should not get confused and call themselves “black” Africans.”

This is nothing less than racist twaddle, narrow-minded tinkering, chauvinistic bunkum and bigoted opinion by a member of our judiciary. Instead of asserting non-racialism, that we are all human beings, possessed of equal rights, Musi proceeds to claim race as a necessary defining factor in our lives. In this respect, we are all the poorer.

Far from encouraging open debate, the judge must be seen as a spokesperson for a moribund ideology, one that has succeeded in turning my own person, and others, into an absurdity in the eyes of the law.