Dear Ms Naledi Pandor

Dear Ms Naledi Pandor,

Your campaign to exclude the Jewish African Diaspora from the African Union refers.

That I live in a country with an egregious history of involvement and support for Hitler’s policies of mass extermination of Jews, should not have to be the starting point for a debate in South Africa. Yet, I am forced to remind you that it was then Minister of Interior, DF Malan who introduced both the Quota Act (1930) and Aliens Act (1937), restricting Jewish employment and also Jewish immigration to South Africa.

A National Party membership card of the time carries both the Swastika and the words: “The South African National Party emanates from the S.A. gentile National-Socialist movement and incorporates the said movement as also the SA Grey Shirts”.

The resulting political formation was the selfsame movement which introduced apartheid race laws defining our country’s citizens in terms of race criteria — criteria modelled upon Hitler’s own Nuremberg Laws.

Between 1933 and 1941, the Nazi policy of judenrein (cleansing of Jews) aimed to remove the German Jewish population “by making life so difficult for them that they would be forced to leave the country”. By 1938, about 150,000 German Jews, ‘had already fled the country with many Jews unable to find countries willing to take them in’.

The plight of the SS Stuttgart, a ship carrying 537 Jewish refugees is illustrative of the problem. Chartered to beat the ban imposed by the Aliens Act, it was opposed in Cape Town harbour by DF Malan’s Grey Shirts, who subsequently held several meetings on the “Jewish Problem”, addressed by HF Verwoerd and TE Donges, who exclaimed: ‘The Jew is an insoluble element in every national life.’ [1]

The Évian Conference was convened 6–15 July 1938 at Évian-les-Bains, France, to address the problem of German and Austrian Jewish refugees wishing to flee persecution by Nazi Germany. Attended by 32 countries, with South Africa apparently in observer status, our country agreed to “taking only those with close relatives already resident”, in the process condemning many of the Holocaust’s victims.

Last year Israel was granted observer status by the African Union — 46 AU Member States already have relations with Israel including our own, and the resolution has the support of a majority of its members. In so doing, the Chairperson of the AU affirmed the union’s “positive role of mediator to the conflict.”

Nevertheless South Africa’s policy towards Israel, consistent with Mandela’s bipartisan support for a two-state solution, was taken to task by the vocal Palestinian Lobby within the country. The result is that your government currently opposes the presence of Israel within the AU and now comprises a minority group of 21 nations so opposed.

A recent Constitutional Court decision (SAHRC on behalf of SAJBD v Masuku and Another) affirmed the right of Jewish South Africans to an identity which includes affinity with the State of Israel. Counsel for the SAHRC stated that the word Zionist “in the South African context means Jew because the vast majority of South African Jews are Zionist”.

Whether or not you take issue as I do with current definitions of Zionism — whether as a religious, political or secular philosophy, is beside the point.

The fact remains that Israel itself possesses a considerable African population, comprising Ethiopian and Maghrebi Jews i.e. North African Jews who are “native Jews who had traditionally lived in the Maghreb region of North Africa”, and others, comprising some 3.3% of the total population.

There also exists a sizeable population of Jews in Africa, such as the Ogoni from Ogoniland in Nigeria,​ ​Abayudaya in​ ​Uganda and Zimbabweans, who to some extent are recognised by the Orthodox Rabbinate, following completion of religious victuals, but who are otherwise discriminated against by the Israeli Beth Din.

Our own country has a relatively small Jewish diaspora, with Non-Theist Jews such as myself, a minority within a minority.

To those who persist in pursuing an abhorrent apartheid doctrine, within South Africa, for instance, by claiming all Jews should be classified as white for the purposes of population registration, but be nevertheless discriminated against when it comes to our secular rights and freedoms, I can only state, that my own children are very much Rainbows and people of color.

Instead of campaigning to remove Israel from the AU, supposedly to pressure the Israeli government when it comes to the dispute over the Final Status of Jerusalem, I suggest that your time could be better spent tackling the lack of rights and representation of black Jews within the African Union.

Instead of embarking upon a path which leads directly into a confrontation with the majority of AU members, in order to pursue a territorial conflict in which Arab states were awarded some 65% of the territory of Ottoman Palestine, only to dispute the remaining 35% awarded under the British Mandate and UN partition plan, may I suggest that you could a lot better by removing sanctions against your own citizens — unlawful sanctions against persons such as myself who do not currently possess a right to a secular identity due to the prognostications of your own political, religious and legal emirs.

Take a look at a map of Palestine supplied by the Ottoman Railway Company showing that Palestine once included what is today Southern Lebanon, parts of Syria and the East Bank of the Jordan, before you rush to defend the Anti-Semitic supercessionist movement called Hamas.

Instead of cynically expressing solidarity with a Palestinian sectarian organisation which seeks to create a ‘Palestine within Palestine’, currently lacks a Freedom Charter and which is fundamentally opposed to LGBTIQ rights, you could do far better by creating a safe and open space for both parties to the conflict to witness African Ubuntu and the democratic processes within the AU.

If you wish to raise any issues with regard to the above, please do not hesitate.

Sincerely yours,

David Robert Lewis

Notes

  1. incapable of being dissolved into a solution.

SEE: Remarks of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission on the granting of observer state to the State of Israel

Israel Amnesty Report, an exercise in ellipsis and paradox

THERE is an astonishing contradiction at the heart of the latest Amnesty International Report on Israel, one deserving further analysis. Resolving it, could be the key to unlocking a potential solution. Ignoring it, could mean, business as usual, since the document’s omission of history and demographic context, makes the report in all likelihood, an exercise in futility.

Prior to 2018 and the passing of ‘Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People“, by the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s raison d’être was exactly, as the didactic law maintains, to provide a nation-state for the Jewish people. Yet there was always hope that the country could achieve a lot more for all its citizens. As a cosmopolitan and democratic hub in the Middle East, it had pretensions at being just like any Secular Western country, a melting pot of divergent interests.

It was successive Intifadas beginning in 1987, which put paid to this notion. The reason can be seen by the manner in which Amnesty International treats the issue of nationality, preferring to tackle the problem from the perspective of a proposed, single unitary state, one which ignores the logic of Islamic Jihad, and Palestinian separatism, all while holding to a UN-sponsored fiction that Israel occupies Gaza, for the purpose of analysis.

Thus Palestinians in Gaza, according to Amnesty are being denied their rights to become Israeli citizens, at the same time they are being denied their rights to become Palestinians in a country that includes all of the territory under the former British Mandate.

The same is true in the West Bank, where the issue of nationality, passports and permanent resident status are compounded by an ongoing dispute involving land and borders, one that revolves around a centuries old teleological crisis involving the City of Jerusalem. To put this another way, it is a crisis within monotheism, as to which monotheistic religion prevails at the end of the day.

In recent years there have been a number of attempts to apply UN definitions of the ‘crime of apartheid’ under international law to the conflict. I have written about some of these earlier, mostly misguided endeavours to impose pseudo-scientific race definitions onto the situation [1], and have routinely objected to the resulting category error, since clearly nations are not races. There is no distinct Palestinian ‘race’.

Page 7:
[Amnesty International] does not seek to argue that…any system of oppression and domination as perpetrated in Israel…is…the same or analogous to the system of segregation, oppression and domination as perpetrated in South Africa between 1948 and 1994.

Page 211:
Amnesty International has analyzed Israel’s intent to create and maintain a system of oppression and domination over Palestinians and examined its key components: territorial fragmentation; segregation and control…It has concluded that this system amounts to apartheid.

Thank you Whoopi, your statement demonstrates an important point of departure in our common struggle

SOME get what Whoopi was trying to say: ‘Slavery wasn’t about race, Apartheid wasn’t about race, the Holocaust wasn’t about race. It was about man’s inhumanity to man.’ (Or in the case of Leni Riefenstahl, woman’s inhumanity to woman). Except, that wasn’t exactly what she was saying. The wording is mine. The actor and talk-show host, wasn’t drawing a humanistic lesson from Hitler’s Final Solution, a universal truth that could apply equally to slavery, apartheid, the Rwandan Genocide.

Instead she was responding to the school-banning of Art Spiegelman’s Maus by a Tennessee School Board. And engaging in a trite intellectual exercise that often begins by downplaying the profound impact of Auschwitz, (why get hot and bothered by the banning of a comic book?), a dramatic intervention which then proceeds to ignore the role of the perpetrators, in order to raise an anti-racist point or two about Israel.

Absent the Holocaust, and the Nakba seems to be a terrible, singular tragedy unleashed upon innocent civilians by Jews on holiday from Eastern Europe. Absent the 1929 Hebron Massacre, subsequent 1941 Farhud Massacre, and especially the complicity of Palestinian leadership during the 1940s and 50s in pursing a ‘definitive solution to the Jewish problem’ — a broad campaign to remove Jews from Arabia articulated by Amin al-Husseini, and the result looks a lot like apartheid South Africa.

Whoopi’s ‘inhumanity to mankind’ spiel, is often trotted out whenever the privileged ‘woke’ few, wish to castigate the Zionists for defending their attempts to create, what they claim, is a secular safe haven for Jews. Since I am a non-theist and non-Zionist, I often used to engage in exactly the same type of rhetoric. Whoopi was being rhetorical, she was not adding, so much as subtracting from an important conversation, one which needs to begin by drawing humanistic and universal lessons from history.

Unfortunately the conversation around Maus, was not the correct moment to be doing this. It was downright offensive and insensitive. Amidst the resulting twitter backlash, Whoopi was forced to apologise and has been suspended from her show The View, for two weeks.

If there is a universal truth to be drawn from Belsen and Treblinka, it is not by denial of Hitler’s attempts to create an Aryan master-race. It is not by denial of the Nuremberg race classification laws, nor denial of the Nazi’s attempts to cast persons as superior and inferior.

It is by examining the manner in which pseudo-science and cherry-picking of facts are abused by crackpots on the far right, and also by misguided individuals on the left, and realising that Hitler’s propaganda machine had a massive role to play in creating the necessary conditions for the genocide, not simply one or two bloody massacres listed in the hundreds, but rather an industrial-scale effort to affect the euthanasia of an entire population in the millions — the sheer magnitude of which is mind-boggling.

It is often said of the Rwandan Genocide that radio played an important part in the deaths of Tutsis at the hands of the Hutus. Television and social media have become integral players in formulating public opinion. In my own country I have witnessed the emergence of anti-immigrant pogroms and the failure of newshounds and journalists to do anything about prejudice and bias when it comes to debating issues. Need one refer to censorship?

Last year, South Africa was entertained by a controversy surrounding Miss Universe, at the same time our then chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was taken to task for expressing his opinions on a political controversy. This year, we have seen an Emma Watson ‘solidarity’ fiasco (solidarity is ordinarily expressed with persons sharing common values and interests, not those like Hamas, opposed to our constitutional dispensation) and readers will no doubt find much of interest in the latest Amnesty Report on “Apartheid Israel’ (more analysis on this I promise).

When we find ourselves thus regailed by our media, remember there are always two sides to every story, and then there is the truth. Not even during apartheid did we attempt to negate our opponent’s very existence, nor did we advocate the removal of the Boers from an existential perspective. Rather, we arrived at our common peace settlement because we debated and hosted talks, talks which included all parties and all factions, listening to each other’s different perspectives, in arriving at our democratic solution.

Miss SA: Mind the gender gap, Mr Roper

CHRIS ROPER WRITES “we need to demand accountability of beauty pageant contestants and governments alike. And consistency in their application of principle.” Roper’s views are decidedly patriarchal, old-fashioned, and redolent of gentlemen clubs and men’s magazines. He thus appears to garner his information on the subject from Wikipedia and his principles with reference to one Iqbal Surve and the Independent Group.

That’s the daily media outlet still touting a decuplet, multi-child trafficking story.

Woman have been getting their own act together and deciding their fate for themselves ever since women’s suffrage started in 1889. A former Miss Iraq, Sarah Idan fully supports Miss SA, and has come out in support of Lalela Mswane’s stance. It is her decision as a women after all, to attend or not at the end of the day.

Since Roper’s article is behind a paywall, I can only surmise on the rest of its contents, but his macho rhetoric appears to be in line with other male BDS chauvinists and homophobes, those who continue to stake their claim as [white] males in determining the views of black women such as Mswane

In South Africa white women were given the right to vote by the ‘Women’s Enfranchisement Act of 1930’. It would tragically take another 6 decades before black women were effectively able to vote in 1994.

In contrast, black women have been able to vote since the inception of the state of Israel in 1948, and following the events of the Nazi Holocaust which stripped Jews of legal status as persons. Racist policies which turned European Jews into chattel slaves, to be euthenised when the German war machine had no further use of slave labour. Ethiopian Jews for instance comprise some 3.3 percent of the population, while Maghrabi Jews, those from North Africa number in the region of 750 000. All of whom possess the vote.

Roper like many other misguided individuals, appears to claim black women experience the same situation of apartheid disenfranchisement in Israel, while Gaza and the Palestinian Authority are somehow ‘beacons of hope when it comes to LGTBIQ+ rights’. He thus embraces a false supercessionist movement to replace Israel with yet another Arab State within a broader constellation of Arab States under the rubric of Palestinian statehood. (please see: Letter: Seth Rogen: ‘I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel’ ).

Far from being ‘occupied’ and surrounded by Israel, Gaza shares a border with Egypt and is a separate country, for all intents and purposes. The situation in the PA is a lot different and may be likened to the Chinese occupation of Tibet. No apartheid bantustan ever complained of ‘being occupied’ and the ANC never fought an occupation. For the record, I support the Corpus Separatum viz. vi. the status of Jerusalem and do not favour partition. (please see: What if Israel didn’t exist? Isacowitz vs Shain)

The reverse is true.

When it comes to women and gay rights, Palestinian leadership fails miserably. There has never been a female Palestinian head of state, while Golda Meir was Israel’s PM from 1969-1974. According to Amnesty International, 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.

On the ‘moderate side’, 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%’. This is still a far cry from the 50% female quotient of the population, and the result devalues women.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, & transgender (LGBT) persons in the “State of Palestine” face legal challenges and discrimination not experienced by non-LGBTIQ+ residents. The Amnesty 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 police banned the activities of queer and feminist rights organization Al Qaws and demanded that residents report ‘suspicious’ activities.

Several reports on the subject of so-called Israel Apartheid have been discredited in recent years, since clearly nations are not races. While ethnicity plays a part, there is no science to back up the claim.

Discredited reports

The infamous 1975 UN resolution 3379 ‘equating zionism with racism‘ was overturned by an overwhelming majority of nations in 1991. The same assertion was voted out of the final text of the controversial 2001 Durban Conference on Racism  and the text reaffirmed at Durban II. A highly flawed 2017 UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) report examining the policies of Israel within the context of a UN definition of apartheid was withdrawn by UN Secretary-general Guterres. It famously introduced race categories in order to arrive at its conclusions.

The same category error appears in an equally flawed 2009 local HSRC report written around the time of Durban II and a subsequent NGO Human Rights Watch report published earlier this year.  Eric Goldstein of Human Rights Watch has thus been referring to the unrest surrounding the Sheik Jarra neighbourhood of Jerusalem (which escalated into the incursions on the Temple Mount, and the recent war pursued by Gaza this year) as a conflict occurring in a ‘mixed race’ area.

His assertions beg the question: why are black Jews invisible when it comes to the media? Is it because a Yemenite Jew from Yemen is not considered black enough, nor even Arab for that matter?

While many of the policies of Israel may be considered ‘reprehensible and morally indefensible’, (as are the policies of many other states) the situation is rather one of injustice vs injustice ( the more so considering the Farhud massacre, and the complicity of Palestinian leadership at the Wannsee conference where Hitler’s Final Solution was adopted).

The root cause unfortunately, is not race, (a loaded term) but the confluence of ​religion and ethnicity and in particular, religious schism which has resulted in nationality on the basis of religion​, a fact common to many Middle Eastern countries.

SEE: Feminists divided over Miss South Africa

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]

LETTER: The DA is becoming the poster child of the Right, refers

Dear Ed


The DA is becoming the poster child of the Right, (Mail & Guardian 18 October 2021) refers


Steven Friedman claims to be a ‘political scientist’. Though his career and professorship may appear to chart a course within South Africa’s academic establishment, he merely demonstrates the parochialism which reigns at these institutions.

A case in point is the manner in which Friedman has taken it upon himself to be the ‘pre-eminent analyst within the country of the British Labour Party (BLP)’

I write this letter, not to take issue with the professor’s opinions on the Democratic Alliance, but rather to point out the manner in which the man’s criticism of local politics has descended into a false and misleading indictment of the BLP. 

That Friedman cannot distinguish between the polices of either the Tories nor Labour for that matter, and thus conflate both parties with the Democratic Alliance (DA), is par for the course. More alarming, is his general thesis on ​”current campaigns against ‘antisemitism’ in Western Europe and the United States​” —  campaigns which he alleges are not aimed at racial and religious bigotry, but are rather ‘quite the opposite of their stated intentions’.

​In his latest piece he states​: ​“Power holders who not so long ago were keeping Jews out of clubs and limiting their number at universities claim to be so angered at anti-Jewish prejudice that they have passed laws to prevent it. But this is not a newfound non-racialism. The campaign is really about protecting the Israeli state, which has become a favourite among the bigoted – including some who really are antisemites – because it discriminates against Palestinians. Conveniently, branding supporters of Palestinian rights as racists can also be used to hound left-wingers out of the British Labour Party. To oppose racist treatment of Palestinians is to be branded a racist.​”​

The ‘left-wingers’ he refers to are none other than past BLP leader Jeremy Corbyn and his allied supporters. Friedman’s blatantly dishonest account of the matter has been previously published in New Frame.
Lies about Corbyn surely deserve a careful examination of the truth?

When the Equality and Human Rights Commission report into anti-Semitism in Corbyn’s Labour party was released, it was damning, writes Jay Elwes in The Article. “Facing allegations of anti-Jewish racism, the report said Corbyn’s Labour was “responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination” in an attempt to counter and dismiss those claims.”

The report found there were ‘three especially egregious breaches of the Equalities Act’, including: Political interference in anti-Semitism complaints; a failure to provide adequate training to those handling anti-Semitism complaints; and harassment.

This is a far cry from Friedman’s ​fanciful version of events.​

According the Friedman, not only was there no evidence of anti-Semitism inside the British Labour Party, but ‘the closest (the report) comes to finding that anti-Jewish racism is a problem in Labour is the claim that some in the party use “antisemitic tropes” and say that “complaints of antisemitism [are] fake or smears”.

Corbyn was thus an innocent ‘victim of a trick’, he claims, one which ‘has been used for years in the United States and here to portray racial redress as racist. Less well known is that it is now used to paint opponents of racism as antisemites, people who despise Jews.

That Friedman was ignoring serious complaints made on the left regarding harassment of members of the Jewish Labour Movement (an anti-racist group) which had resulted in 7 MPs including Chuka Umunna, a black MP leaving the party last year is clear.

He thus continues to trot out a well-known criticism of the right, (‘mere tropes’) in an attempt to smear ‘black Labour’, as hopelessly tied to Israel, while promoting Corbyn’s reinstatement as leader of the party.

The only trick here is Friedman’s own chicanery and mendacity in attributing race to Jews and thus reducing all adherents to Judaism, to the status of simulacra. People who ‘look like they could be Jews’.

It is a common tactic of race-obsessed critics to focus attention on ‘Jews of European origin’, whilst forgetting there is a mosaic of difference within the Jewish diaspora, which includes inter alia Jews of Ethiopian, Nigerian and South African origin. Nations are not races, and rather the issue here is one of ethnicity.

In 2018 I wrote an open letter to Friedman questioning his apparent expertise on the subject of Jewish identity, his neglect of issues relating to secularism, and the problem of ‘who gets to decide who is Jewish or not?’ He failed to respond and continues to issue forth with blatantly false allegations, allegations which have not been tested in any court.

I have only to reiterate my own experience with racism and Anti-Semitism at Media24, to demonstrate, the lay issues at stake, have absolutely nothing to do with Zionism per se, nor the tedious opinions formulated by shoddy academics, over whether or not a Palestinian or Jewish State has a right to exist (why not?). But rather the manner in which open debate on the subject of Jewish secular identity in general and Anti-Semitism in particular, is circumscribed and defined by self-appointed political apparatchiks such as Friedman.

As Thomas Jefferson once stated: ‘I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others.’

South Africa is a secular state with a “We, the People’ constitution. The phrase “In humble submission to almighty, God” was removed from earlier drafts of the constitution, and is a well-established narrative recorded by Judge Albie Sachs.


Kind regards


David Robert Lewis

[Letter unpublished]

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

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.

Ronnie’s sermon from the Grand Masjid

HE COULD have given a speech from constitutional hill, a lecture from an academic institution or a civil society NGO, instead Ronnie Kasrils, the self-appointed deacon of moral rectitude in the Middle East chose Claremont Main Road Mosque. Delivering a scathing rebuke of the treatment meted out to two pupils by Herzlia, a Jewish day school, following afternoon prayers.

The timing and location of the Friday address by our former ‘intelligence minister’ (surely an oxymoron?) brought into strong contrast the religious and binary nature of the 70-year-old conflict between Palestine and Israel.

Referring to a recent incident at the school ‘where two pupils were punished for kneeling during the singing of  Hatikva, a Jewish poem written by Naphtali Herz Imber, and adopted as the Israeli national anthem.

Kasrils apparently ‘slammed the school’s attitude as bigoted’

Calling the pupil’s gesture in ‘taking the knee ‘a “perfectly peaceful expression of dissent popularised by American athletes” but failing to note that bending the knee within the context of religion, like doffing ones hat, or kneeling and praying, may have a very different motif to that taken within a civil context.

A popular television series about thrones also springs to mind.

Kasrils opined “the school authorities have demonstrated contempt for what Jewish culture has once been famous for: and that is open mindedness, tolerance, the encouragement of independent thinking and freedom of expression.”

“Secondly, they treat the student’s actions as shameful – yet the bending of the knee is totally passive and peaceful; a very dignified non-violent demonstration of dissent,” he said.”

Readers may remember a similar case in which an openly lesbian Methodist minister Ecclesia de Lange failed in her bid to have sanctions by the Methodist church overturned.

And the silence of Kasrils when it comes to the topic of secularism and religious pluralism.

In 2011 the country banned the Dalai Lama.

There has been quite a bit of debate online about the Herzlia incident. None of the authors of the various articles and documents, including a missive by Herzlia alumni, make any reference to religious pluralism, secularism and the prevailing law in South Africa, fraught as it is, by the legacy of theocracy during apartheid.

The constitutional values which Kasrils purports to defend, including the right to dissent, (values with which I wholeheartedly agree and support), are certainly not bolstered by pitting one religion against another, and Kasrils has been rather shy when it comes to defending secular identity in this respect.

The constant parade of photo-opportunities and news briefings attended by religious leaders, usually Christian or Muslim, is positively nauseating, as too the lack of any platform for representatives from mainstream Judaism, secular Judaism and civil society for that matter.

The ongoing theme of my recent writing on the subject, that of injustice versus injustice has therefore once again played itself out. Thus Kasrils’ religion vs religion is merely injustice versus injustice squared. And the binary position taken by the man is surely contrary to secular identity, especially when it comes to the complexity of the problem?

Imam Rashied Omar is thus reported to have ‘commended Kasrils for speaking out against injustices to the Muslim community in the Israel-Palestine conflict.’

No word on the injustices meted out to secular Jews because of their views, since as the Herzlia alumni are at pains to point out, we don’t count. Not every Jew in South Africa has attended a Jewish day school, nor has visited Israel on holiday camp, nor even intends to do so in the near future.

The comment by Iman Omar comes after Kasrils said “this makes BDS a powerful tool, as was the case during the Struggle against racist South Africa, to isolate Israel until change comes.”

Or until the Messiah arrives, you be the judge?

For readers wanting a better perspective, a BDS video on Youtube purporting to carry the views of the late Nelson Mandela on the subject of Palestine, redacts an interview with Ted Koppel, by removing any reference to Mandela’s equal support for Israel, and hence Jewish nationalism and self-determination.

Mandela’s bipartisan, nuanced and pragmatic position in regard to his support for the 1967 borders are thus turned into an open endorsement of the prevailing position within BDS on South African campuses, that of the complete and utter removal of the country from the face of the earth.

Not that one necessarily supports nation-statism, Global Jihad nor even Kasrilism, but if readers are going to get involved with BDS, at least know what it is that you are supporting.

For the record, as a person of Jewish descent, I support limited sanctions including an arms embargo, a pragmatic approach with achievable goals, not the extremes of the BDS platform bordering upon persecution, and one most certainly opposed to the role played by religious leaders in prosecuting the conflict.