What if Israel didn’t exist? Isacowitz vs Shain

CONTRIBUTIONS by two correspondents published on Politicsweb demonstrate the diametrically opposed views on the existence of Israel as a “democratic state with a Jewish character”. Roy Iscawowitz has taken Milton Shain to task for reiterating the manner in which the country sprung to life after the United Nations sponsored commission on the [British] Mandate then held by the colonial powers.

Shain argues “In the context of two peoples fighting over the same territory, partition of the [British] Mandate was seen as the reasonable and moral option by the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP). It complied with regnant notions of national self-determination.”

He further claims the real reason why the ANC deplores Israel is because of its hostility to Jewish secular identity, its failure to consider Israel was born in recognition of two national movements – an Arab/Palestinian and a Jewish movement – within British Mandate Palestine.” He says: “Those supporting partition knew they were supporting the creation of a Jewish state, alongside an Arab/Palestinian state.”

Isacowitz on the other hand maintains the formation of the Israeli state constitutes an original sin, a political programme to remove the native Arab population, and thus a situation which can only be rectified by turning Israel into an Arab State within a constellation of other Arab states. “To me it’s obvious that Israel was founded on the basis of ethnic preference (which today would be called apartheid.) That’s clear from the policy of “Hebrew labor” (also called “conquest of labor”), which was code for separate development..”

Isacowitz quotes at length without providing any citations from “A State at any Cost: The Life of David Ben-Gurion” written by Tom Segev, while Shain suggests “those interested in a serious analysis can do no better than to read Israel and the Family of Nations, by Alexander Yakobson and Amnon Rubinstein.”

There is a plethora of work on the subject of Israel and Palestine, with most falling into either one of two essentialist camps — those who believe Israel should exist, as a state with a “Jewish character” and who accurately follow the events of the Nazi Holocaust, and those who wish to dislocate the tragedy and instead focus solely on the Nakba, a ‘tragedy of equal proportions’ for the Arab world.

Isacowitz asserts “I won’t challenge his conclusion that the ANC is anti-Semitic. What I will challenge, though, is his attempt to portray Israel as a run-of-the mill country – no different from many others – without even bothering to come to grips with the fact that is has now held the Palestinians of the occupied territories hostage for longer than formal apartheid existed in South Africa.”

Both perspectives deserve due consideration. Should Arabs gain more land than was granted them when the British Mandate was partitioned to form Jordan for instance? Or the French Mandate was unwound to form Syria? Virtually nothing is said these days about the Pan-Arab flag waved at Palestinian rallies, or the San Remo conference in which the Ottoman Empire was broken up, and thus decisions which predate both the formation of the Arab League and the State of Israel. I digress.

What if Israel did not exist? Would the result be a democratic state in which many of the rights we take for granted, LGTBIQ+ rights and freedom of the press, were protected? It is considered a stock Zionist response to any counter-assertion, to simply illustrate the manner in which the Arab states have failed miserably to guarantee fundamental freedoms even to their own minorities.

So let’s consider this problem another way. Do the rejectionists (those who eschew Jewish rights to self-determination), and who were forcibly removed from places like Haifa by the United Nations following partition, and in some instances driven out of Israel by David ben Gurion during the War of Independence, deserve to return?

One can only suggest that it would behove the Palestinian cause if there was a Freedom Charter, much like our own– a political programme guaranteeing rights and freedom for all. Instead, all we see by the Hamas Charter, and the de facto policies of Fatah is the stark reality — the only resolution on the table, is a demand that Jews resume their pre-war status as Dhimmi — people of the book, subjects under an Islamic state with a nominally ‘democratic character’.

[Disclosure: This writer is banned by polticsweb due to his views on Fees Must Fall]

UPDATE: Shain’s response to Isacowitz

BDS beauty rhetoric removes women & gay rights

THE MISS UNIVERSE pageant was not the subject of a boycott when it was held in apartheid South Africa. In fact, the oft referred to event never occurred, and was never scheduled. Our country does not appear as a location on the list of Miss Universe pageants held every year since 1952 — except for a sole 1996 event which was mooted for Johannesburg but then shifted to the USA.

Although some contestants refused to participate in various international pageants if the then Miss South Africa attended, none were barred by their respective governments. They thus exercised their freedom of choice.

The organisers behind the campaign to remove Miss South Africa from the competition being held in Israel this year would like us to believe that similar government actions were taken against the self-same beauty pageant held in apartheid South Africa. It is only the 1996 Miss Universe event which was scheduled to be held in the country, two years after the first democratic elections, but which was later moved.

The blatant denial of the rights of Lalela Mswane, a black woman to decide her fate for herself, especially when it comes to political issues, is both patronising and racist. In a televised interview Palestine4Africa’s Bram Hanekom, upbraids Mswane’s decision to attend, insisting that he, as a white male, should decide her future. In a missive published by IOL, he tells Mswane: “Do as you are told”.

Hanekom claims that since boycotts were used to good measure as one of the many tools of the anti-apartheid movement, similar strategies will be equally effective in ‘gaining rights for Palestinians’. He appears oblivious to the fact that if such an event had been held in the country during the height of apartheid, no black contestants would have been allowed to attend.

The first official Miss South Africa pageant held in 1956 was only open to “white” (Caucasian) females and was organized to send a representative to London for the Miss World pageant”. That year Norma Vorster was crowned Miss South Africa. Two years later, Penny Coelen, was crowned and would later go on to win Miss World. It was not until 1977 that all persons of all races were allowed to compete in the Miss SA competition. “Prior to that, people of colour competed in the Miss Africa South pageant, which was renamed Miss Black South Africa in 1977.”

It is unclear what the goals of the BDS affiliated campaign are — whether or not they are campaigning to effectively end women’s rights in Israel, or merely seek to maintain the status quo viz vi LGTBIQ rights in the region, a situation in which Gay rights are restricted in most Arab States and in some cases subject to the death penalty. Apartheid was a policy separating persons according to pseudo-scientific race classification, not national or religious affiliation, and homosexuality was outlawed.

According to Amnesty International (AI), women in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority continue to face discrimination and violence, including killings as a result of gender-based violence. An Hamas-run Islamic court in the Gaza Strip ruled in February that women require the permission of a male guardian to travel. Meanwhile President Mahmoud Abbas amended an election law in March, raising a quota for women in the West Bank, Palestinian Authority legislature to 26%, not the promised 30%, and still a long way away from the 50% female quotient of the population.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, & transgender (LGBT) persons in the “State of Palestine” face legal challenges and discrimination not experienced by non-LGBT residents. An AI 2020 report on Palestine states: “Section 152 of the Penal Code in Gaza criminalizes [male] consensual same-sex sexual activity and makes it punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.” In 2019, the Palestinian Authority (i.e., West Bank) police banned the activities of queer and feminist rights organization Al Qaws and demanded that residents report ‘suspicious’ activities.

Injustice cannot be overcome by Injustice. Forward to a Freedom Charter for the Middle East. Forward to human rights for all. #StandBySecularism

SEE: Former Miss Iraq supports Miss SA for not quitting Miss Universe pageant in Israel

[published in part by Cape Argus and Daily News 23 November 2020]

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, in the process 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

Sorry Ms Butler, you don’t represent me

THE argument that Israel represents the ‘Jews of South Africa’, often made by members of the SAJBD is as fallacious as the equal assertion that BDS and its leadership represent the diversity of Jewish history and culture, in particular the legacy of Jewish activists during the freedom struggle.

A letter by a US academic Judith Butler written to UCT and published by the Mail & Guardian, ironically refers readers to a committed Zionist and treason trialist, Arthur Goldreich, alongside a liberal supporter of Israel sovereignty, Helen Suzman. This in order to embroider upon an evolving work of fiction — the false analogy between the ongoing struggle of the Palestinians and our own country’s struggle against apartheid.

Butler maintains, that “BDS draws on longstanding traditions, some of which were importantly developed in the context of the struggle against apartheid”. While the two struggles may appear similar in mode at the surface, there are significant and important divergences, differences which we disregard at our peril.

For starters, the South African struggle was an epic battle against colonialism and white domination in support of democracy and secularism. Activists such as myself were pitted against a white regime which was theocratic, undemocratic and avowedly Christian in outlook.

Butler goes on to write: “Let us not forget the large numbers of Jews who have fought in social justice struggles, including the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa (Joe Slovo, Arthur Goldreich, Ruth First, Albie Sachs, Helen Suzman), who contest the radical inequalities that form the basis of Israel’s claim of Jewish sovereignty and its claim to maintain Jewish demographic advantage at all costs.”

The claims made with regard to Goldreich and Helen Suzman are instructive and bear greater consideration. A piece published by Benjamin Pogrund for the Helen Suzman Foundation states: “Use of the apartheid label and repeated references to “genocide” against Palestinians and denunciations of Zionism as “racism” are at best ignorant and naïve and at worst cynical and manipulative.”

Unlike the South African struggle where Jews enjoyed leadership roles, and where persons such as Joe Slovo were in many respects over-represented than other minority groups, both Fatah and Hamas have failed miserably to include Jews in top positions.

Palestinian claims about the alleged “Jewish race” share more in common with the racist objectives and malicious aims of the puritans of the Nationalist Party than the alleged non-racialism of the ANC. To reiterate, nations are not races.

Unlike the Palestinian struggle which lacks any meaningful document such as the Freedom Charter setting out winnable aims and objectives, civil rights for all, the South African situation is rather different, and thus the recipe for achieving a negotiated outcome and peace settlement in our own country was founded upon a winning constitutional formula.

BDS have failed time and again to canvas the opinion of persons either referred to as ‘Jews’ or self-defined as Jewish, in a skewed solidarity politics that ignores the problem of Jewish identity. Butler is only able to espouse her own views because other views and Jewish voices have been silenced by the BDS politburo.

Though Butler’s misguided rhetoric on anti-semitism is to be welcomed, let’s be forthright and stop beating around the bush, anti-semitism is open hostility towards secular Jewish identity.

Attempting to provide a non-violent and anti-racist veneer to a religious struggle in which both sides are informed by religious texts in a battle over the final status of Jerusalem, avoids the open inquiry and evidence-based empirical research that needs to occur if we are understand the many dimensions to the problem.

As a person whose Jewish identity has become the subject of a racist legal inquisition in South Africa at the behest of the perpetrators of apartheid, I therefore do take exception to the banning of opinion and obliteration of independent voices outside of these two diametrically opposed camps, injustice vs injustice.

The experience of BDS campaigns within South Africa itself has not been a pleasant one.

​I can only commend UCT council for not caving into the zealots.​

It is not too late, nor out of the bounds of reason, to embrace a secularist and non-partisan ‘third way’, that avoids scapegoating of those who disagree with leaders and pundits on either side, and which avoids sacrificing democratic freedoms, freedom of speech, while protecting constitutional rights in our own country.

NOTE: For the record, DRL a graduate of UCT Center for African Studies, is opposed to the separation barrier, is in favour of a limited arms embargo against the State of Israel, and does not support any cultural or academic boycott targeting persons of Jewish descent on the basis of our alleged history and identity.

Published in part by Mail and Guardian 12/04/2019

Response by David Saks of SAJBD 18/04/2019

SEE: Ronnie’s Sermon from the Grand Masjid

SEE: Dear Steven Friedman

SEE: BDS Abolition of the Right to Dissent 

Letter to Editors

Dear Ed,

As a hostage to the conflict being waged by conservatives on either side, I wish to once again place on record my objections to the war in the Middle East. In particular the internecine, sectarian conflict involving members of various faith groups, who refuse to recognise the rights of secularists such as myself.

The conflict is clearly a long-standing, religious-based conflict involving the deployment of displacement theology by either side, in the battle over identity and the status of Jerusalem, a city regarded as holy by many religions.

I also wish to reiterate my objections to the separation barrier and my rejection of the so-called ‘right of return’ on the basis of my Jewish ancestry, placed on record shortly after the wall was built in 2000, and published prominently in the Israeli media.

As a secular humanistic Jew and subscriber to the principles of the Society for Secular Humanistic Judaism, Jewish identity is best preserved in a free, pluralistic environment. The freedom and dignity of the Jewish people must go hand in hand with the freedom and dignity of every human being.

As a struggle veteran and war resister, I also wish to remind my fellow South Africans of my objections to the rationalisations of members of the IDF, in a combined ECC-IDF platform on UCT campus during 1987, and also the continued dispute involving my Jewish identity recorded in the decision of a South African court, and involving offensive race testing.

Apartheid, and its sequel in the new South Africa, should never be used as the justification for domination by one group over another, nor should its motivations be forgotten. Dialogue and compromise by all sides, is the only way forward. As objectors on both sides have shown, another reality is possible.

Let peace prevail on earth.

[Letter published in South African Jewish Report]

Open letter to Die Antwoord

Dear Die Antwoord,

The recent letter from the Dagga Party and BDS refers.

There was a time when the solidarity campaign with Palestine tolerated secular Jews such as myself, who do not ascribe affiliation to any particular branch of Judaism as such. Over the years, as the campaign has grown, we have seen the closing down of debate, which has merely short-circuited around an untested analogy — the wholesale relocation of our nation’s own experience under apartheid — with the dire results, that unlike the anti-apartheid struggle, dissident points of view, divergent opinions and alternative solutions are ignored.

At no point has there been any consultation with those like myself, who require special needs, in particular that our justice system recognise that freedom of religion, is also freedom from religion, the right not to be subjected to laws governing a religion. The short-circuiting of debate on Israel and the Middle East, and the closing down of secular norms and values, has occurred hand in glove with the erosion of civil rights and freedoms in our own country.

I currently face religious and discursive sanctions in the newsroom as a music journalist, in a country which, having miraculously escaped its past under a Christian Theocracy and the Dutch Reformed Church (NGK), looks set to repeat its historical failures and mistakes. A disputed decision handed down by a civil court in South Africa as late as 2010, and 16 years after democracy, not only slated the late Robbie Jansen and trashed the findings of the TRC Final Report, but it upheld the supposed right of employers to interrogate, to discipline and to enforce conformity, over those persons, like myself, who may not be members of a major religion per se, but merely secularists.

Despite my insistance that I am a secular humanist and progressive, who subscribes to the principles of secular humanism as outlined by the Society for Humanistic Judaism, I have been turned into a pariah, apostate and heretic by our justice system, which seemingly eschews secular Judaism and thus the roots of secularism, as anathema – outside the health and boundaries of acceptable discourse in the community.

To make matters worse, legal professionals such as Kahanovitz SC and Ashraf Mahomed, President of the Cape Law Society, have turned into religious police, and this conservative backlash against progressive values is increasing, with absurd consequences. None other than Jeremy Acton of the Dagga Party has jumped on the ecclesiastical band wagon, who when he is not campaigning for the abolition of cannabis prohibition in South Africa, finds the time to oppose cannabis research in the Middle East. His views on the subject in his recent letter to you, must therefore be rejected as the work of a hypocrite and opportunist.

Israel is the leading proponent of Medical Dagga in a region, where both homosexuals and drug users are routinely faced with capital punishment. In Syria, the death penalty is meted out for drug use and trafficking by a despotic regime, whose Ba’ath party under Assad bears the exact same Pan Arab flag waved around at BDS meetings. Unlike any of the Arab States, Israel has also turned into a technology leader where Cannabis is concerned.

Unlike some Orthodox Jewish sects, whose members in New York recently blessed the herb as Kosher for Passover, attempts to raise the issue of harm reduction, public health, rational drug use, medical cannabis, and the abolition of dagga laws amongst BDS, is guaranteed to raise the ire of affiliate organisations such as People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad). The organisation eschews all forms of inebriation, recreational or otherwise. I do not have to explain to you what this means for your band, associated as it is with recreational drug use, and civil liberties.

The conservative assaults against traditional Khoisan herbs and beverages by religious cops and the vice squad in South Africa, supposedly enforcing the fatwas, edicts and religious strictures issued on a daily basis by BDS and others, have occurred in an atmosphere of intolerance and political inquisition. I have only to refer to the closing down of popular Observatory Jazz Venue Tagores, following a campaign against Jazz music by the Woodstock constabulary who perceive music itself as licentious, since it supposedly is a gateway to drug use.

Despite criticism of the BDS movement by academic luminaries such as Noam Chomsky, who has publicly stated that it is “a mistake for BDS campaigners to target Israeli cultural and educational institutions” and who has argued that “parallels between BDS campaign and action against apartheid-era South Africa are misleading”, the campaign continues along its merry way, and now looks set to launch into a vigorous campaign against Die Antwoord.

Chomsky and many musicians and activists like myself, favour a limited sanctions campaign targeting goods produced by Israeli firms actively involved in the occupation. Such a position is both moderate, accurate and reasoned. It gives opportunity to engage both parties at the same time that it places our voices, behind peace and resistance to war on both sides. It also embraces and articulates the bipartisan position of our nation’s founder, the late Nelson Mandela.

Mandela whilst on the Ted Koppel Show shortly after his release from prison, explained his principled position on Israel and Palestine thus:

“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.”

Clearly the lesson learnt from South Africa’s bitter and tragic experience under apartheid, in particular its unprecedented resolution, is that until we accepted that the other party was a part of the solution, there could be no solution to the problem. Similarly, unless we recognise the rights of both parties to the conflict, in particular Israel’s right to exist, which includes guarantees of access to Jerusalem and other holy sites in the region, as well as the right of access of all Muslims to Al-Aqsa, there will be no end in sight to to the conflict.

I therefore kindly request that you join solidarity with the global campaign for a secular solution to the problems in the Middle East.

Best regards

David Robert Lewis

NOTE: A news story Activists request meeting with Die Antwoord over Israel boycott, is not the lead story about the Dagga Party Letter, but merely one of a sequence of events surrounding Acton’s sudden activism on the subject.

The Pharrell Williams Fatwa

THE HIGH court is allowing 16,000 protesters to gather outside US singer, Pharrell Williams‘ concert in two days. Williams, who recently performed in Tel Aviv, has come under fire from several pro-Palestinian groups for partnering with retailer, Woolworths, accused of trading with the Jewish state. South Africa currently has diplomatic and trade ties with Israel, and Pharrell Williams’ tour thus has full support of the country’s laws.

BDS is comprised of mainly religious groups and the anti-Secular left.

The move comes days after a fact-finding mission by opposition leaders, including Mosiuoa Lekota (Cope), Bantu Holomisa, (UDM), Pieter Mulder, (FF+)  Kenneth Meshoe (ACDP), and Mangosuthu Buthelezi (IFP) who returned from Israel and the Palestinian territories, after meeting with the Palestinian Authority ambassador to South Africa.

In an interview on Radio Islam, Holomisa and Lekota explained their reasons for the mission, and the group’s findings.

The opposition group believes that Israel is not an apartheid state per se, and supports South Africa’s bipartisan role, drafted by the late Nelson Mandela, in bringing both sides to the negotiation table. The country must rather support peace though negotiations they say.

“I don’t see the signs of apartheid there,” says Lekota, “in Israel today, in the Knesset, their parliament, are sitting Jewish people, both supporting the party in power and other parties, and also sitting there are Palestinians with their representatives, and Muslim elected representatives. We could never sit in the Assembly under apartheid.”

There are crucial differences between the experience of South Africa and the experience of Palestinians.

Both Lekota and Holomisa met with their counterparts, leaders of the opposition in the Knesset and the Palestinian Authority. Holomisa, has travelled previously to Ramallah, as a guest of the late Yasser Arafat.

“They indicated their dissatisfaction, for instance, the Israeli flag does not express them. They don’t have equal language rights, the national anthem does not express them, when it comes to land rights, they don’t have equal land rights. Now those elements are there, but to say this is apartheid is a misnomer.” says Lekota.

This view is backed up by Holomisa who concurs: “What we have seen in Israel, we went to hospitals, we saw that Israelis and other communities are treated equally. We also saw in the streets that we don’t see taxi ranks, this one is for Israelis, that one is for Arabs. We also heard from minority MPs in the [Knesset], who say they don’t have access to land, and when we asked this question, they didn’t give us any answers. If Israel was an apartheid state, South Africa, I submit would not have established diplomatic ties with [the country], under the ANC.”

Lekota says he holds the firm views which Mandela taught him. “When we were here under apartheid, we understood from him that it was critical on our part to convince our oppressors that there would be no solution unless there was negotiation between us and them.The situation is not very dissimilar. It is critical to find a counterpart to negotiate with in Israel.”

Both agree with the Palestinian Authority, that the conflict in that part of the world, will never end “as long as USA is the sole mediator of peace”,  in order to solve this problem, they would like to see a similar thing, as the team which negotiated in South Africa. But in order for this to happen, “we need to recognise the realities of people who have lived in the area for centuries”.

SEE: Kasrils lambasts Lekota AND SAJBD: South Africans are tired of BDS bullying AND South African Muslims stand against Anti-Semitism.

SRC politics and BDS extremists

TWO incidents involving campus politics in South Africa need some explanation.

The first involved the Durban University of Technology (DUT). Last week its SRC chair was calling for all Jews to be deregistered and in particular, those Jews who support Israel.

This week, the SRC was issuing a retraction. The announcement was shortly followed by news that members of the University of Cape Town (UCT) students council would be visiting Israel, ostensibly on a fact-finding mission.

The predictable anger from the vocal Palestinian lobby on campus looks set to disintegrate into yet another round of name-calling. So far as PSF is concerned, issues in the Middle East should not be debated, Jews must be banned or restricted from holding any opinions not authored by the BDS central committee.

It is not surprising then that some of the basic tenets associated with the campaign are falling apart, since BDS appear to be living in a Cold War time warp, cherry-picking UN resolutions to back up their arguments.

In 1975 the UN issued the infamous resolution 3379 equating Zionism with racism.

After the end of the Cold War, the same UN general assembly issued a resolution reversing the earlier resolution.

Thus in 1991 “the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly … to revoke the bitterly contested statement it approved in 1975 that said “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.”

“The official count found 111 nations in favor of repealing the statement and 25 nations, mostly Islamic and hard-line Communists, voting against. Thirteen nations abstained. Seventeen other countries, including Egypt, which recognizes Israel, and Kuwait and China, did not take part in the voting.”

The earlier 1975 resolution 3379 is the basis for several conferences in South Africa, each one arriving at the conclusion that Zionism is Racism and worse, apartheid.

The 1975 resolution is also the basis for a Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) research paper reiterating its findings.

No resolution has ever been issued by the UN for any similar form of ethnic nationalism, for example: Kemalism.

Pig Wars, Woolworths, BDS

FIRST there were the fatwas and pronouncements by Islamic scholars on the status of Woolworths in the global BDS movement. Then well-heeled young Muslim students staged a bizarre flash-mob event, consisting of coordinated dance and movement while shouting Pro-Palestinian slogans. Then the combined sit-ins by SACP and BDS members, and now the latest round involving COSAS and a badly executed pig.

cosasAlthough Woolworths stocks less than 0.1% products sourced in Israel, the high-end retailer has come under fire by youth groups and students who wish to see Israel replaced by an Islamic republic under the Caliphate.*

The recent COSAS porker incident, (what about cruelty to animals?) involved a failed attempt to contaminate a “kosher” meat section of an outlet in Sea Point, frequented by Jews, and marks a strange new turn in the campaign.

If anything, COSAS has merely demonstrated the troublesome nature of competing dichotomies in the Middle East.

It is one thing to target so-called ‘Israel Made’ goods, it is quite another thing entirely to black-list Kosher products eaten by Jews, forcing Woolworths to also recall Halaal products. Similar dietary laws apply to both groups and many of the products affected have duel labeling.

“Woolworths is appalled by this incident. Placing a pigs head in our store is unacceptable and offensive to our employees and customers, including Jewish and Muslim employees and customers” according to Woolworths Group Director of Retail Operations Paula Disberry

“We will destroy any halaal products that may be affected and take any other appropriate measures.” she said.

The resulting misadventure, in essence the expose of the culinary habits of rival and competing religions, and the rules surrounding kashrut and halaal produce, signals a troubling escalation, and we have surely not seen the end of it — over 40 BDS members were arrested over the weekend for creating a public nuisance in a campaign endorsed by SACP Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande and struggle luminary Denis Goldberg.

While Goldberg has criticised the SAJBD for not taking a stand on apartheid, it should be noted this position was also common to the MJC which refused to demand an inquiry into the death of Iman Haron.  Muslim support for apartheid as recorded in the TRC Final Report, is thus also part of the broader picture relating to BDS’s political project — the revision of South African history, and the relocation of apartheid to the Middle East in a short-circuiting of debate that avoids crucial questions regarding a solution.

The Woolworths ruckus may seem opportunistic and ill-considered, given that other retailers such as Pick ‘n Pay and Shoprite have more exposure to Israeli produce.

Then there are the uncomfortable questions which need to be posed regarding Israel’s many BEE deals with the ANC ruling party.

Remgro, a South African industrial conglomerate, which is also a large investor in Kagiso and Sabido, own several Israeli equity and IT firms, including Veritas Venture Partners and Fring.

Naspers which has ties with Remgro, recently bought Similarweb, an Israeli IT firm.

(*Certainly, the nuanced bipartisan and non-sectarian secular views of the late Nelson Mandela relating to a two-state solution and the 1967 borders, do not make for a pithy slogan, as those waving around the Jordanian flag and shouting: Free Palestine! The paradox of support for another Palestinian state while there is a war against a renegade Islamic State has also been remarked upon.)

Shoot the Jew, or shoot the Gogo?

WHEN Jean Paul Sartre wrote his seminal work, ‘Anti-Semite and Jew – an exploration of the etiology of hatred’, it was shortly after the liberation of Paris, Sartre had noticed that in discussions about postwar France, “the imminent return of French Jews deported by the Nazis was never mentioned …. Some of the speakers, he guessed, were not pleased by the prospect; others, friends of the Jews, thought it best to he silent. (Neither they nor Sartre knew how many of the deported Jews would never return.) Thinking about these discussions, Sartre decided to write a critique of anti-Semitism. ”1 

In critiquing Rebecca Hodes opinion piece on the recent events surrounding the singing of “Dubul’ iJuda/Shoot the Jew”, Wits SRC deputy president Tokelo Nhlapo ignores the problems of stigma raised by Hodes while pursuing an offensive anti-Semitic inquiry on the issue of race identity: Does the Jew exist, and who exactly is a Jew?

“I don’t understand how black people in this country have experienced Jews differently from other whites,” writes Nhlapo in the Daily Maverick “Put simply, we experience Jews first as whites, then as Jews. “ he says, defending the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign and its troubling resort to Dubul’ iJuda/Shoot the Jew – merely an “unfortunate” incident which “diverts attention from the real issue at hand: the contention that Israel is a racist, colonial Apartheid state in the name of the Jew.”

533712_539912536019611_1400565373_n-382x570Nhlapo could do well to read Sartre, since his work serves as a prelude to the equally troubling question of existence, in this case, the imminent return of the Jews of District Six. A recent exhibition by the South African Jewish Museum paid homage to the contribution of South Africa’s black Jews — the Jews of District Six — expelled from a community which once represented a mosaic of culture and cross-pollination. Rendered all but invisible by the apartheid government, and persecuted today by ideologues like Nhlopo who would have every Jew conform to a normative model of Judaism in which the only Jews with acceptable identities are European, and the only Jews considered in possession of religion are the Orthodox.

The problem of South Africa’s Jewish assimilados, many of whom were assimilated into the coloured community, and who still identify as Jews while practicing a variety of faiths, are not wished away by a simplistic narrative which views the Jew as the oppressor and the Palestinians as the oppressed. It is thus dangerous to make such assumptions and associations, in articulating our history of struggle as a nation by linking  with a solidarity campaign that opposes the history of Jews living in Israel, many of whom are as black as Nhlapo, and who are as much a part of African history as black people living in Europe are a part of European history.

Let us not make the further error of forgetting all the Arab Jews, some 50% of Israeli’s, and those Arabian refugees, deported to Israel after 1948 or exiled from North Africa and the Arab States, and Southern Africa’s own Lemba people, a tribal group living in Zimbabwe and Limpopo who identify as Jews.

The ongoing middle east conflict, and its patina of similarity with the South African experience, does not allow for essentialist notions of struggle, and while one may sympathise with the Palestinian cause and the manner in which the quest for identity / self-identity is being raised by those seeking out the holy land as a focus point, can one do so without also posing the equally obnoxious question – do Palestinians exist and who exactly is a Palestinian? 

Such inquiries if they do not result in violence because of the ongoing blood libel against Jews by the Christian Church and Islam’s ever-present vendetta against Israel,  invariably produce an uncomfortable impasse — the answer usually presented in the form of  a composite and patchwork view of idealised historical communities with tribal and religious affiliations to the holy land, all of whom need to be accommodated under a future political dispensation.

My own Jewish bobba, Fanny Katsef, the product of refugees from Eastern Europe spent most of her life escaping the Nazis and “blending in”, classified as white, but passing as coloured. Along with so many working class from Woodstock, Maitland and Salt River, she had both a white card and the card enumerated by people like A Abdurahmen and C Vogel who elaborated coloured identity according to the discourse of fraternization and assimilation deployed by the apartheid government in its pseudo-scientific attempt to remove undesirables from the white race.

Would Nhlapo wish that people chant “Kill the Gogo?” In his reductionist efforts to save the Palestinian struggle and its demand for self-determination and autonomy, the university graduate fails miserably.  In not relating the problems presented by competing nationalisms and ethnic identities, the so-called colonial project, Nhlapo merely conveys his own ignorance of the subject matter. When people resort to the self-same logic of every brute who ever wished to persecute a minority group, first, by removing us from history, then by denying our common humanity, can one really blame those “unjust” Jews who support Israel, separating those who seek justice from those who at the face of it, do not, even though their religion may demand it?

Israel was created so that the Jews would no longer be treated as the objects of political intrigue but rather the subject of human rights. If entertaining a world in which “Zionism” exists alongside “Hamasism” makes one a collaborator in Nhlapo’s view, then so be it.

1 Michael Walzer, in preface to Anti-Semite and Jew, An exploration of the Etoilogy of Hate, Schocken Books Inc. 1948