IN a Mail & Guardian ‘Thought Leader’ piece ‘Beware the one-eyed Middle East critic’ (a rather unfortunate title given the casualties on either side, status of critic Salman Rushdie) Richard Calland myopically opines about what he ‘observed’ during his year 2000 sojourn in Israel.
If all that was required were a sunny disposition expressed in outward liberalism, as Calland has it, in proceeding to outline what he views as a ‘progressive political stance’ on the subject, we could all simply ‘make a cup of tea’ and the problem would be solved.
It is difficult and near impossible to square Calland’s narrow-casting of contextualisation, alongside pronouns and micro-aggressions, that sit together with a somewhat effete claim that ‘international law matters’ in the absence of any sign that either Hamas or the Israelis actually support international law — whether resolution 181 (which created the State of Israel) or resolution 242 (which demands a return to the borders of June 14, 1967). Such is the enormity of the tragedy of the past month — the reality of a situation whose genesis includes two major world wars, and at least seven regional wars since the establishment of Israel.
Initial jubilation by the Pro-Palestine brigade over the October 7 massacre of over 1400+ persons including women and children, nothing less than a ‘victory for Palestinian Resistance’ has turned into dismay and outrage at the long-term humanitarian consequences for Gaza, with little or no prospects for peace for the rest of the world.
The mass gatherings in support of an Hamas theocratic “End the Occupation”, with annihilationist calls for Jihad and Global Intifada, and chanting of ‘From the River to the Sea’, have been referred to as ‘hate marches’ by UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman, since according to her, this is a demand for the ‘elimination of Israel and its replacement by an Islamic State’.
Nevertheless, Calland persists in his intellectual parlour game, which from a post-October perspective, is really an anachronistic attempt to fit the Middle East into a South African playbook. We all know how apartheid turned out, it must follow that if we assign the right labels, impose politically correct contexts and virtue signal within our individual matricies of morality, (sprinkling Rainbow-coloured fairy dust on the situation), then peace will break out and we can all go home for, yes, another cup of tea?
“Substitute “Arabs” for “blacks” and you can hear a South African cop of a certain demographic say exactly the same, can’t you? And with the same level of outrageous presumption — that because of one’s own race, the level of prejudice will be the same” he writes. Callend is quick to call out “the bantustanisation of Palestine; apartheid Israel.”
The trouble with this analogy — it is only vaguely useful when discussing the dynamics of the West Bank & Gaza, which has other comparators — the San Diego-Tijuana border for instance, thousands of labour migrants cross it each day, so too the partition demographics already in place between North & South Sudan, India & Pakistan and Greek & Turkish Cyprus.
When stating our experience under apartheid is somehow an exemplar, a template for analysis (you can read my piece debunking this here) , one can only conclude the wholesale redeployment of this narrative is wholly inaccurate when it comes to historical claims, mutual land rights , security and demographics within the MENA region at large. Let us not forget some 800 000 – 1 Million Mizrahi Jews (who include Arab Jews from Morocco, Egypt, Yemen Lebanon, Syria, Iran & Iraq) who were forcibly dispossessed prior to and immediately following the creation of Israel.
The dropped narrative of the Farhud massacre and dispossession of Bagdad Jews in 1941 which immediately preceded the Shoah, both events where Palestinian leader Amin al-Husseini was one of many Arab supporters of the Final Solution — represent an extremely long list of similar massacres and forced removals of Jews at the hands of Islamists.
Massacres like that which occurred on 7/10 last month, stretch all the way back to the 1066 Granada Massacre, in which ‘Jewish vizier Joseph ibn Naghrela was slaughtered alongside most of the local Jewish population’ and the earlier 1033 Fez Massacre in which some 6000 Jews were similarly dispatched following the ‘conquest of the Moroccan city from the Maghrawa tribe by, the forces of Abu’l Kamal Tamim, chief of the Banu Ifran’.
That today’s Pro-Palestinian activists openly call for Jihad, whilst readily reciting a religious text referring to the Khayber Pass battle in 628 CE between early Muslims, led by Muhammad, and the Arabian Jews living in Khayber, fuels ethno-religious lunacy in which ‘Bibi the Butcher of Gaza’ has been equally reciting similar passages from the old Testament referring to the ‘Tribe of Amalek’.
As many South African’s reach back into anti-apartheid theology, the eschatological distraction may appear to be of necessity rather than simple virtue. It is most certainly inappropriate and futile when it comes to apportioning blame, pressurising the belligerents, and arriving at mutual agreement and cessation of hostilities.
Nevertheless one must strive, hope and pray that a Secular Freedom Charter and TRC emerges in the Middle East?
For all the Fanonian rhetoric of ‘oppressor and oppressed’, the easy resort to the apartheid libel, (which echoes the earlier blood libel of the Middle Ages, where Jews were accused of murdering Christ and worse), what has occurred over the past month, and even past decade, has been an increase in polarisation.
Painting the conflict within Manichean terms of good and evil, black and white, has merely acted to provide those who advocate terror a blank cheque to ‘do what thy will’, whilst emboldening the far right with similar ambitions within Israel.
Nations are not races. Strip away the misaligned academic hypothesis, the unproven intellectualism posited by career bureaucrats who never bother to peer review nor debate their findings, and what you have are mutually incompatible systems of justice. Religious disagreements on which law and which state should govern, over which territory — and a proxy war being fought over the Final Status of Jerusalem. It should not be possible to reduce this conflict to a moral proposition of which is the lesser of the three evils — a Jerusalem controlled by Israel, a Jerusalem partitioned by Fatah, or a Jerusualem erased by Hamas and renamed Quds?
Yet the blathering ‘progressives’ of the myopic middle, those who merely echo the lunatic left, continue to issue their ‘dime-a-dozen’, pronouncements. Statements such as: “analysis and understanding must always be contextual, because non-progressive politics is so often characterised by acontextual and ahistorical claims. Seeking to identify the underlying structural and other causes of a “wicked” problem, rather than baying at the symptoms, is what sets progressives apart“, appear callous and hollow if what occurs is precisely that — the dropping of contexts and assertion of ahistorical claims?
If Calland were actually seeking a diagnosis with a prognosis, he would immediately call-out the dropped contexts and missing narratives of the Nakba-grifters, those who forget historical Palestine was once a British Colony alongside Transjordan, accuse all and sundry of wholesale land theft, then dispute the outcome of both World Wars, before proceeding to inflate & conflate their own oppression, whilst denying the historical oppression of others in the region?
Intersectionality is neither the sole preserve of queers nor feminists but of necessity also includes Palestinians, Jews, Arabs and Israelis. Only by addressing objective historical facts, can there be hope of a justificable solution, one that is capable of being resolved under International Law. And by that I mean embracing the ‘progressiveness of realists’ instead of over-identification with any one cause.