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

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.

Mandela and the Middle East Propaganda War

THIS week the Middle East propaganda war intensified with the redeployment of the late Nelson Mandela.  First there was the revelations published by Haaretz that “Mandela received weapons training from Mossad agents in Ethiopia” detailed in a letter classified top secret and dated October 11, 1962 – about two months after Mandela was arrested in South Africa, shortly after his return to the country.

Then the denials and juristic counter-narrative issued by the Nelson Mandela Foundation stating that it “had not located any evidence in Nelson Mandela’s private archive… that he interacted with an Israeli operative during his tour of African countries in that year.”

The foundation went on to say that in “1962 Mr Mandela received military training from Algerian freedom fighters in Morocco and from the Ethiopian Riot Battalion at Kolfe outside Addis Ababa, before returning to South Africa in July 1962.”

In 2009 the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s senior researcher had apparently “travelled to Ethiopia and interviewed the surviving men who assisted in Mandela’s training and no evidence emerged of an Israeli connection,” read the statement.

The Jewish Algemeiner has weighed in by raising some problematic facts surrounding  Mandela’s Treason Trial. The evidence of a Jewish plot to overthrow the apartheid state is hard to deny. Goldberg, Bernstein, Hepple, Wolpe, Kantor and Goldreich were all Jews, but according to the Algemeiner, it was Goldreich who was the Zionist operative in question and who may turn out to be the person named in the top secret letter:

“Mandela’s memoirs are full of positive references to Jews and even Israel. He recalls that he learned about guerilla warfare not from Fidel Castro, but from Arthur Goldreich, a South African Jew who fought with the Palmach during Israel’s War of Independence. He relates the anecdote that the only airline willing to fly his friend, Walter Sisulu, to Europe without a passport was Israel’s own El Al. ”

It would seem odd that Mandela, an avowed Black Nationalist and non-sectarian, would have received military training from a radical Muslim group, only to be caught some months later on the run with a gang of Jewish communists and ANC sympathisers.

Whatever the truth of the much feted Mandela journey to Ethiopia, and whether Mandela the ‘black pimpernel’. actually met with members of Israel’s Haganah or was a closet Zionist, the issue is bound to perplex Mandela’s supporters and critics alike, for years to come.