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 Hussein rallied behind 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.