Let thy chief terror be of thine own soul:
There, ‘mid the throng of hurrying desires
That trample on the dead to seize their spoil,
Lurks vengeance, footless, irresistible
As exhalations laden with slow death,
And o’er the fairest troop of captured joys
Breathes pallid pestilence.
GEORGE ELIOT’S final novel, Daniel Deronda, was also her most controversial. Few had a problem, upon its publication in 1876, but the Jewish element satisfied nobody, wrote Paul Owen in the Guardian.
Deronda says Owen, “was the first of Eliot’s novels to be set in her own period, the late 19th century, and in it she took on what was a highly unusual contemporary theme: the position of Jews in British and European society and their likely prospects. The eponymous hero is an idealistic young aristocrat who comes to the rescue of a young Jewish woman and in his attempts to help her find her family is drawn steadily deeper into the Jewish community and the ferment of early Zionist politics.”
“Their appearance in the book was as unwelcome to some of her readers as it is to some of the characters. While the novel’s Lady Mallinger bemoans Daniel’s “going mad in this way about the Jews”, Eliot’s friend John Blackwood noted upon publication: “The Jews should be the most interesting people in the world, but even her magic pen cannot at once make them a popular element in a Novel.” Many years later, FR Leavis called for the Jewish sections of the novel to be cut out completely, leaving a country-house romance to be called Gwendolen Harleth, after the fatally self-absorbed gentile who falls for Deronda.”
Owen goes on to raise the problem of the BBC version of Danial Daronda, broadcast in 2002 which “apart from a brief shot of the Jewish singer Mirah by the Thames” is exclusively about the “supposed romance between Daniel and Gwendolen – a romance that barely takes place in the sense hinted at here.” It would seem that when it comes to George Eliot, her last novel was indeed Gwendolen Harleth and not Daniel Daronda.
South Africa’s faith hearings into apartheid atrocities held under the auspice of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) demonstrate even less romantic attention to details, for instance submissions from both the Christian and Islamic faith include minutia such as names and surnames. However in the section of the report in volume 4 detailing the experience of Jews including Jewish opposition to apartheid, no such respect to detail is accorded. Jews are relegated to trivia, their organisations and personal names, including facts like the over-abundance of Jewish activists held during the Treason Trial, bizarrely sequestered away. While the report undoubtedly relies on the testimony of one Rabbi Cyril Harris, and exclusively so, his name only appears in the footnotes along with references to submissions by the Gesher movement and Jews for Justice, whose views are excluded from the report, perhaps because of the problem of the Islamic faith’s non-recognition of Israel.
Not only is the history of English literature and the South African struggle continually being revised in order to edit out those parts which reference Jews, (at least those bits which show them as human beings, or as real characters other than one-dimensional stereotypes like Shakespeare’s Shylock) but the historical record is steadily being changed to accommodate the latest round of replacement theology by the Church.
If it were not bad enough that Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu believes the new testament supersedes the old testament and thus “Anglicans are the Chosen People” in an Anglican Covenant — what we have is an all-out battle to control the meaning and character of Jewish identity and Jewishness. In effect the project to make Jews responsible for the creation of apartheid in 1948, in a massive intellectual fraud in which the salient facts surrounding the rise to power of D F Malan’s brownshirts and the introduction of a series of laws known as apartheid legislation are instead transposed onto the Jewish State of Israel which came into being in the exact same year.
In the aftermath of the most recent incident of anti-Semitism involving the use of the Nazi Sieg Heil salute at South African universities, one has got to question the historical record, including the missing narrative of German Jewish immigrants to South Africa, many of whom were turned back by the authorities because of opposition from D F Malan and H F Verwoerd. The sad story of the SS Stuttgart which almost suffered the fate of the MS St Louis whose doomed voyage around the globe was depicted in a popular novel and Hollywood picture called Voyage of the Dammned, is not wished away by those who would want a Jew-free society in which only the history of the gentiles and the gentlemen are ever recorded.
Again the history of the Jews of District 6, a mixed race neighbourhood in Cape Town which suffered under apartheid legislation requiring race segregation and anti-miscegenation according to the Immorality and Group Areas Acts, is not something that one can simply air-brush away in the search for an instant solution to the problems in the Middle East.
Speaking at the launch of the book “Cutting Through the Mountain – Interviews with South African Jewish Activists” in May 1997, Professor Asmal Kadar, Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, saluted the Jewish heroes of the anti-apartheid struggle. “The Jewish community of South Africa has produced proportionately more heroes in the struggle against apartheid than any other so-called white group.” Asmal also said the leading Jewish activists had suffered considerably by going against the tide of white opinion during the apartheid era. “Some were imprisoned for long periods; some went into exile; some were martyred such as Ruth First, and some were almost martyred such as Albie Sachs. Many lost their livelihoods and the special branch gave them undivided, almost extra, attention. It is in recognising people such as Ray Simons, Nadine Gordimer, Barney Simon, Anton Harber, the Colemans, Laurie Nathan, the Slovos, Gill Marcus, Ronnie Kasrils, Issie Maisels, Arthur Chaskelson, Albie Sachs, Helen Suzman, Dennis Goldberg, Raymond suttner and others equally worthy that a public good has been done.”
Despite this illustrious anti-apartheid history, the world has simply turned a blind eye, focusing on the exclusive problem of Israel while scapegoating Jews. Whether one is Zionist or non-Zionist makes no difference in the manner in which one is treated. The role played by Jews in the struggle and the ongoing human rights activism by Jews has turned out to be no guarantee that we will not become targets of anti-Semitism in the future. Targeting of Jews by local politicians has thus seen a disturbing increase over the past years. “We are not so far from a time when Jews were treated as undesirables, when right-thinking people preferred to ignore what was happening to them. We must not ignore the plight of those – the illegitimate, the rootless, the “illegal” – who fall on the wrong” writes Daniel Trilling in New Statesmen.
South Africa, like the United Kingdom, will continue to produce its Daniel Daronda’s and Joe Slovos. For every communist Jew, there is a liberal and conservative Jew, — expecting us all to act and behave the same way is like expecting each and every Jew to conform to a particular obnoxious stereotype, one which would be as unappetizing in a novel as it would be in real life. We therefore need to be vigilant like any minority group, to avoid the problem of having to take our Jewishness underground, or to write, like Mary Anne Evans as George Eliot under an assumed name, merely so that our history and the history of a people, are remembered by those who think the world is comprised solely of white, Christian, men.
THE latest revision of apartheid history by veteran journalist Allister Sparks, in effect claiming that apartheid is an Israeli invention, and merely one of the Jewish state’s policies alongside the Land Act and Group Areas Act certainly takes the cake so far as mendacity and propaganda is concerned.
Sparks, forever the judeophobe, in his recent opinion piece published by Business Day, excludes black Jews from the equation, alongside Jewish refugees from Africa and the Middle East in order to paint a picture of a nationalist struggle not so different from our own. A struggle, one might add, that lacks a freedom charter, cannot and never will be, a freedom struggle. However much one sides with the current halo around all things Palestinian, the problem of divergent and complex interests tied to factions within Islam and Christianity remains.
Despite the religious indictment there are some very good reasons why a Palestinian state should exist. All those in favour of self-determination for Palestinians say aye, myself included. But this kind of blanket, no strings attached support does not solve the ongoing factional violence which culminated in last week’s threat to exterminate the state of Israel along with its Palestinian population using Vx gas and other chemical weapons. Instead of blaming Assad or the rebels, Sparks would like to blame Israel and the USA. He would be better off advocating for a Bill of Rights for the Palestinian people and a Chemical Weapons Convention.
Another strategy is to blame the world’s Jews for all manner of problems in the hope that by doing so, the masses on the ground (including Jews) will either forget about the past or find cause to live out the past vicariously, within changed or altered circumstances. One is reminded of the quote by Franz Fanon: “It was my philosophy teacher from the Antilles who reminded me one day: “When you hear someone insulting the Jews pay attention; he is talking about you.”
The openly biased counter-accusation by Sparks of Israeli ethnic cleansing in 1948 in the ongoing guilt trip against anything Jewish really jars in its lack of relevance today, especially the problem of a new Cold War. But this is really just the stock in trade of a true Anti-Semite. Invitation accepted. Sparks is demonstrably in favour of a world without Jews, for if Jews have cause to blame the Holocaust for all their troubles, then it must take some plot by the devil himself to create a situation in which neighbouring Syrian Sunnis are being massacred in conditions similar to the First and Second World Wars and to avoid writing about it.
No longer are we able to say shame and Xyklon B in the same sentence, and still be Jewish, because now we have a Sarin Gas nightmare, a blot against the global and collective memory of our species. Never again, as I have said so many times before means, never again for everyone including Syrians.
The problem of a Jewish State which only accepts Jewish refugees alongside the tragedy of millions of Syrian refugees creating an international crisis in humanitarian aid is not solved by the man’s absurd claims to be in favour of the audi rule, but only if it is to hear one side of the debate, since very rarely if ever are black Jews living in South Africa given an opportunity to state their case in a country which refuses to recognize divergence of opinion within the community and Jewish cultural and political rights in particular.
Sparks and his futile and ignorant onslaught against all Jewish people living in South Africa must therefore be rejected as nothing more than a propagandist whose thinly veiled attack against diplomatic peace efforts, are in effect evidence of hate speech, bigoted opinion which avoids the very real threat of chemical warfare being unleashed on the self-same group of people he claims to be supporting.
In the anti Apartheid South African Liberation struggle, it was estimated that Jews were over represented by 2,500 percent in their proportion to the governing population. This stamp issue acknowledges the extraordinary sacrifices made by Jews to the liberation of their African brethren, and these stamps recognize some of the most significant contributors to global humanity in the 20th Century
BLAMING the Jews has become a national sport in South Africa. Instead of taking the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to the next level and prosecuting perpetrators of crimes against humanity it has become convenient to simply blame the Jews for apartheid. The latest incident in which ANC Western Cape leader, Marius Fransman blamed Jews for taking business away from Muslims, in a racist slur where he justified sectarian slander by pointing to war crimes in Israel is but one example. The unintended consequence of Israel-Apartheid week is that now apartheid never happened the way it did in South Africa, and its all the fault of the Jews.
This is not surprising since South Africa’s myopic judicial system insists that all Jews must be Orthodox and therefore Zionists. The Labour Court of South Africa’s steadfast refusal to admit expert evidence from a progressive female Rabbi is a case in point. My ongoing litigation following a complaint against an apartheid media company which refused to participate in the TRC is ample proof. It is thus interesting to witness the following incident in which 400 rabbis from around the world penned a letter asking Jerusalem police to protect women at the Western Wall who want to pray and read the Torah together. The issue of women’s rights in a largely Orthodox world has increasingly become a heated topic of debate in Israel, in which ultra-Orthodox communities still practice religious segregation where the women are separated from the men.
Islam also practices religious segregation, invoking apartheid according to the widely used second definition given by dictionaries. In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive cars, however one does not see Muslims in South Africa battling to get into Jewish Day Schools and calling this apartheid. The idea of separating people according to gender and religion is not a new one. What is new, is the strange demand by Palestinians to Ur-like exclusive rights to the entire land formerly known as the British Mandate of Palestine, as if Palestinians are now the Chosen People of the Bible. Nevertheless, and in spite of this, I continue to support the rights of Palestinians to self-determination, but this solidarity comes at a price. A leading UK physicist, professor Lawrence Krauss walked out of a debate earlier this week, one held by an Islamic group at the University Collage of London, in protest against gender segregation — a controversial move supported by well-known athiest, Richard Dawkins.
Israel has become a mirror image of apartheid South Africa. An inversion of the race segregation we experienced under the National Party. Like any mirror image, ones perception can be deceptive. The left ear is the right ear in the mirror. Your eyes are transposed, one half of the face, is now on the left and the other on the right.
So in Israel, and unlike South Africa, one sees ethnic-based “race segregation” the result of an armed struggle. The partition barrier in the West Bank has been built subsequent to the uprising. The separation of Palestinians following their refusal to accept Israeli citizenship has all happened post-Intifada. A recent incident involving bus segregation in Haradi communities is revealing. It started out as a segregation issue involving women, and quickly escalated into a segregation issue involving Arabs and Jews. We thus have the strange reversal of the civil rights movement in which activism by people such as Rosa Parks is seen as the cause of the problem, not the solution.
In a recent address, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu said the public domain must be kept “open and safe” for all Israeli citizens. In his view, Israel is a “mosaic” of Jews and Arabs – secular, religious and haredi.”
“Until now there was peaceful coexistence and mutual respect, recently there have been attempts to unravel that coexistence.”
The Israeli prime minister claims to be “strongly opposed” to separate seating for males and females on buses, and says that “marginal groups cannot be allowed to dismantle our common denominator.”
However in order to protect the rights of Haradi communities to observe religion in an antiquated, often repugnant way, at least to modern civilisation, Palestinian children are dying in the West Bank.
The IDF continues to occupy the territory in defiance of UN resolution 242. The dominant Likud party persists in offering war instead of peace, refusing to explain to the world why it is that Jews should be allowed to settle in the area once known as the Kingdom of Israel & Judah, in which Jewish artifacts are everywhere, including Rachel’s Tomb, a site holy to all three-monotheistic religions . The atrocities are mounting, so too the fall-out, as Jews become collectively responsible for apartheid.
Controversial article by Peter Beinart published in the Daily Beast claims there is no significant Reform movement in South Africa, that all South Africa’s Jews are Zionists:-
“South Africa is America on steroids. It’s even more sports-obsessed. It’s even more violent. Its state-sponsored racism was even more brutal. Its racial progress has been even more jaw-dropping. Its gulf between rich and poor is even more awful.”
“South Africa’s debate over Israel is more extreme too. The right is further right; the left is further left. And the big reason is apartheid, which haunts South Africa’s Israel conversation at every turn.” More
Melissa Levin of Africa is a country, responds:-
The next time , Peter Beinart who wrote a post on “The Israel Debate in South Africa” for The Daily Beast, visits South Africa, he ought to spend more time, with more people, getting a deeper sense of the complexities of the country and its struggle history. He may learn then, for starters, that South Africa is not America on steroids. America is America on steroids. And he’ll also learn that the affinity of the masses of people to the Palestinian struggle is hardly as mysterious and convoluted as he would suggest.” More
Some background on the current debate around conservative vs reform Judaism can be found here
I wish to commend those in South Africa’s Muslim community who have chosen to commemorate an event which has particular resonance for Jews, both within and without our borders. We must never forget that communists, gypsies, homosexuals, disabled and the unfit, all died together in the Nazi extermination camps. No one group was singled out for special treatment, and all were exposed to the horrors on an equal footing.
As a person of Jewish descent who grew up in the aftermath of the war, and the unspeakable tragedy which was unleashed upon the world, I believe I am entitled to speak out when members of my own community choose to ignore what is universal about the Holocaust, or Shoah as it is also known. Indeed, never again, should be never again for all people.
The universalism of the moral and ethical issues presented by the Nazi extermination camps and the ideology of eugenics which underpinned race supremacist notions of superiority and inferiority in Germany as too in our own country, have a particular lesson for South Africans. It is therefore no coincidence that hearings into Holocaust denial continue apace in Cape Town, as we as a nation slowly begin to confront the twin issue of Apartheid denial, for example attempts to lay the blame for apartheid on an unrelated group instead of tackling the real perpetrators, the ideologues and generals, the propagandists and politicians.
As Africans we need to reach out to the victims and the survivors of these and other tragedies and we need to be cognizant that as we do so, we are witness to new atrocities, the raging wars in the North – both Mali and Sudan which threaten to unleash further killings. As I write this letter, there is word of renewed offenses against humanity as 20 000 Sudanese are reported to have been massacred in Darfur.
Ideologies of race hatred which lead to such terrible deeds, the killing fields of Rwanda, need to be exposed. Ideologies which preach that a particular soul is qualitatively different from other souls, or that one race should be advantaged to the disadvantage of another, these are the seeds of hatred.
I therefore thank you once again for standing up for universalism in particular and human rights for all.
David Robert Lewis
THE dejudaisation of the South African struggle proceeds apace. In order to accommodate the solidarity campaign around the return of Greater Palestine to the Ottomans, the freedom struggle is being revised. No Jews participated in the struggle. We do not exist and our views do not count. Unless we support Palestinians right to return to “their country” via an armed struggle which refuses to draw up the meagerest of documents guaranteeing fundamental human rights for all, to date no Palestinian Freedom Charter, we are subjected to accusations of being “Zionists” or worse, being simply “Jews”.
Such is the manner in which international opinion has determined that what is happening in Israel is not only Apartheid, but the South African problem “pales in comparison”, that it is now considered politically incorrect to complain about the actual effects of apartheid itself, even though in some quarters the maintainance of apartheid privileges in South Africa has become a sine quo non for the country’s right-wing. The word is being cleaned of all meaning. There is no longer a specific history attached to the term, as left-wing scholars rush to churn out monographs seemingly demonstrating that every bush and tree planted in the Middle East must have been put there by Jews for ulterior motives.
The ideological cleansing of the anti-apartheid struggle means that its nuanced tropes and symbolic valleys may not be invoked in support of the truth. One is not allowed to live in the 21st Century for example, and complain about D F Malan and his support of Hitler. We are not allowed to draw comparisons between the architect of apartheid, Hendrik Verwoerd and the Fuehrer’s own Albert Speer. There are no lessons from PW Botha’s experiments with the bomb and Israel’s own bomb. If one happens to get into a racially-charged incident in my country and a person calls you a “Jew” this is not Anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism in South Africa does not officially exist. The Hezbollah party line has put paid to any notion of Jews having equal rights on the sub-Continent. We are now considered objects not subjects of history, to be used as cannon fodder in a grand political scheme which sees the ultimate goal of a Palestinian controlled Jerusalem, the jewel of Dar el Islam.
Our only worth, is if we happen to side with the Palestinians. Not that my support for the Palestinian cause over the years means anything. I no longer have the luxury of supporting such a struggle against myself. There was a time when freedom of religion was considered important enough to put it in the constitution. Since the right to acccess such a right, was abolished, in the name of Palestine, the authorities have taken another view. If you happen to be an employer, you may, according to the Labour Court of South Africa, interrogate employees, on matters of religious doctrine. Furthermore, managers are allowed to decide what religion is or is not. The corrupt judgement handed down by a labour broker moonlighting as a judge, while his business partner was orchestrating a financial services merger with the holding company of the company being sued, is the stuff of Goebbels’ own propaganda machine.
Good Jews are those who simply acquiesce. If we keep quiet and allow corruption to continue, we are good. If we complain about the failure of a corporation with an apartheid past, to come clean at the Truth Commission, we are bad. Bad Jews, according to the court, are those which lie. A lie in terms of South African law, would normally be considered the truth, but since the truth has been reduced to lies, there are now good lies, and bad lies. Good lies are lies which serve a political purpose, bad lies are those uncomfortable truths about human nature, for instance, an editor of a community newspaper accuses a journalist of plagiarism. There is no proof and the facts dispute her version of events. Nevertheless, because she is an editor of a title owned by a corporation with ties to the Broederbond, an Afrikaner secret society, her views must prevail.
The South African system is banking on keeping all Jews quiet. If you happen to be Ronnie Kasrils, who isn’t Jewish in any sense of the word, except for the fact that he eats gefilte fish, you are allowed to declaim on “Israel Apartheid”. One of the many “experts on apartheid” alongside Zackie Achmat who believes there were no Jews in the Struggle, aside from Kasrils. So Jewish deviants like Albie Sachs, Denis Goldberg and Nadine Gordimer are not considered relevent enough to warrant any attention. My own direct experience of the struggle is rendered meaningless. If I happen to express a particular environmental view that results in sustainable development in Africa, this is too dangerous to imagine. If I utter words to the effect that I think all people need to be accommodated, including Palestinians, these words are not important.