Ebrahim Moosa – Opinion | 05 August 2014/07 Shawaal 1435
As I knuckle down to writing this, somewhat of a Twitter storm has begun to brew again. South Africa’s official opposition, the Democratic Alliance, is on the defensive as activists allege that the party’s bias towards Israel in the Middle East conflict has again revealed itself with the purported attendance by a party delegation to a pro-Zionist rally held in Johannesburg.
The allegation stems from a tweet posted by Yolisa Njamela, an SABC broadcast journalist who attended the event. “Officials just announced that delegations from #DA#COPE#ACDP and #IFP here for#Israel#SolidarityRally ,” she tweeted on Sunday afternoon, prompting a flurry of responses seeking clarification from the DA on its stance.
“I was fighting by-elections in Nelson Mandela Bay. I do not monitor DA members’ activities,” came the swift reply from party leader Helen Zille, who just minutes earlier bemoaned the fact that some were “so intent on distortions and spreading lies”.
“These guys don’t want the truth..They just want propaganda. No inconvenient facts,” she voiced in another related tweet.
The frustration was palpable from a Zille who just earlier this week took the unprecedented step of offering the public a window into her personal views on the Middle East conflict. It was a statement, the absence of which Zille had long been hounded for, and one, by its publishing, she certainly would have hoped to have calmed the waters and stemmed the “deluge of “hate-tweets” against her, as she had dubbed it.
The same refrain of questions: Is DA funding a determinant in its stance on the conflict, why DA representatives have not publically aligned themselves with any Palestinian solidarity events and why the lack of pointed criticism from the party of Israel’s violent actions, have yet again resurfaced.
To her defence, Zille should be commended for clarifying her convictions and not hiding behind the wall of generalisations that has been the DA’s Middle East policy until now. By her own admission, an inquiring public is no longer satisfied by these vague pronouncements and is now thirsty for specifics.
So just where does Helen Zille stand?
“On the basis of an acceptance by Hamas of Israel’s right to exist, I believe that Israel should end its occupation of all Palestinian territories based on the 1967 borders,” Zille explained in her statement. “That Jerusalem should be a shared capital of both an Israeli and Palestinian state; that Hamas should stop digging tunnels to attack Israel; that Israel should end the siege and blockade of Gaza, withdraw its settlements from the West Bank and recognize the Palestinian unity government.”
“And as mutual trust grows and suicide bombs cease,” she continued, “the West Bank barrier (referred to as an “apartheid wall” by the Palestinians; and a “security fence” by the Israelis) should come down. And ideally, as confidence returns, all Middle East refugees – including the Christians from Mosul, the Shia from Tikrit, and the Palestinians from Israel – should be able to return to their homes and live in peace and freedom.”
This is Zille’s personal contribution to the deluge of roadmaps(and dead-ends) flaunted for peace in the Middle East. Arguably, it is an attempt anchored in its own air of ‘fairness’ and ‘balance’. Equally though, it is also a stance borne out of unawareness. By her own concession, Zille says she has limited knowledge of the Middle East and has never been there.
It is this position of vulnerability that should compel Zille to be attuned to the significantly better informed voices on this conflict emanating from the region and across the world. Else, her pronouncements can easily be dismissed as a sugar coated version of propaganda handouts from influential lobby groups in the conflict who are known to be quite vocal constituents of her own party. (Prior to this year’s general election, the vehemently pro-Israel South African Zionist Federation(SAZF) classed the DA as a ‘friend’ of Israel. Senior DA party leaders, it alleged, attend Israeli Independence Day celebrations, oppose anti-Israel activities at universities and do not pass anti-Israel resolutions at party conferences.)
Poring through her statement, in fact, it would not be unreasonable to ask if such elements did not have a disproportionate share in moulding Zille’s convictions.
For one, Zille hinges her entire program for restoration of calm in the Middle East on Hamas recognizing “Israel’s right to exist”. This, like so many things Zille pronounces seemingly innocuously, have much deeper symbolism for perceptive readers of the conflict.
“Affirming Israel’s Right to Exist” is a standard maxim in Zionist parlance meant to stonewall any genuine understanding on how Israel actually came to exist. The inconvenient truth is that it was armed aggression and the ethnic cleansing of at least three-quarters of a million indigenous Palestinians, that created the Jewish state on land that had been 95 percent non-Jewish prior to Zionist immigration and that even after years of immigration remained 70 percent non-Jewish. And as Alison Weir demonstrates, despite the shallow patina of legality its partisans extracted from the UN General Assembly, Israel was born over the opposition of American experts and of governments around the world, who opposed it on both pragmatic and moral grounds.
Furthermore, as Michael Luciano argued in the Daily Banter recently, Palestinians have already recognized Israel just as they would recognize any other state in the international arena more than 20 years ago. The shortfall is demonstrably from the Israeli side.
“If the success of the peace process and the realization of a two-state solution are contingent upon Palestinian recognition of Israel’s right to exist, why are they not also contingent upon Israel’s recognition of Palestine’s right to exist?” he asked.
“At no point has Israel acknowledged or been asked to acknowledge by the U.S., a Palestinian state’s right to exist. In fact, the U.S. and Israel have thrown international hissy fits at any prospect of Palestinian statehood that does not materialize with their direct blessing.”
“..It is these two who, in defiance of a majority of the world’s states, will not accept Palestinian statehood unless it is a direct byproduct of negotiations with Israel as mediated by the U.S., which time and again has shown itself wholly incapable of acting as an impartial arbiter,”he concludes.
What the obsession with demanding that Palestinians recognise Israel’s ‘Right to Exist’ – on borders it still fails to declare – also masks, is the role of Zionism, which by its very nature is exclusivist.
As former CIA analyst Kathleen Christison explains, Zionism rests on the fundamental belief that Jews have superior national, human, and natural rights in the land, an inherently racist foundation that excludes any possibility of true democracy or equality of peoples. Thus, Israel’s destructive rampage in Gaza is merely the natural next step in the evolution of such a founding ideology. Precisely because that ideology posits the exclusivity and superiority of one people’s rights, it can accept no legal or moral restraints on its behavior and no territorial limits, for it needs an ever-expanding geography to accommodate those unlimited rights.
“Zionism cannot coexist with any other ideology or ethnicity except in the preeminent position, for everyone and every ideology that is not Zionist is a potential threat.”
As far as Hamas goes, the Palestinian resistance movement has clarified its policy towards members of the Jewish faith on numerous occasions, most recently in an interview with American broadcaster PBS.
Asked by veteran interviewer Charlie Rose whether he could foresee living beside Israelis in peace, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal said only a future Palestinian state could decide whether to recognize Israel. “We are not fanatics, we are not fundamentalists. We are not actually fighting the Jews because they are Jews per se. We do not fight any other races. We fight the occupiers,” he said, as reported by Ma’an. “I’m ready to coexist with the Jews, with the Christians and the Arabs and non-Arabs,” Meshaal added. “However, I do not coexist with the occupiers.”
Zille wholesomely consumes yet another Zionist mantra when she sets the cessation of suicide bombings as a proviso to restore trust, and eventually peace in the region. While she awaits the bombers to stop detonating themselves, she reveals another gross unawareness: that Palestinians already actively abandoned that practice almost a decade ago. A unilateral ceasefire from Hamas in the West Bank in 2005 and a reappraisal of the organization’s tactics to focus more on the political arena brought the incidence of such bombings in recent years almost to a complete halt. (The only bombers that continued dispensing their bombs throughout, in case Zille had not noticed, were the Israeli F16’s and drones)
An ominous element of Zille’s exposition is her tacit endorsement of the sentiments of controversial and compromised personalities in the form of the “renowned” Bernard Lewis and Maajid Nawaz. What the Western Cape Premier should realise is that exemplifying such demagogues seriously calls in to question any of her other gestures feigning neutrality.
As M. Shahid Alam documents, it was the renowned literary critic Edward Said that cut to the kernel of Lewis’ scholarship when he wrote that his “work purports to be liberal objective scholarship but is in reality very close to being propaganda against his subject material.” Lewis’s work is “aggressively ideological.” He has dedicated his entire career, spanning more than five decades, to a “project to debunk, to whittle down, and to discredit the Arabs and Islam.”
Lewis has not only provided historical justification for Washington’s “war on terror”, but also emerged as chief ideologue for the recolonisation of the Arab world through an American invasion of Iraq. The paradox of considering his judgement to be an authoratitve source of commentary on the Middle East is not lost on those who have been monitoring his consistent track record of lobbying, shaping and promoting to American administrations the most hawkish of policies in support of Israel against the Palestinians.
For his part, Zille’s other ‘authoritative’ voice – Maajid Nawaz, is chairman and co-founder of the Quilliam Foundation, a controversial London based ‘counter-extremism’ think-tank which, in 2013, controversially drafted a “McCarthy-type list of large and established Muslim organisations that they regard as suspect” and smeared them as being ‘Islamists’. As journalist Roshan Mohammed Salih noted, Nawaz’s message of “Islamic extremism” and “Islamic reform” had gone down really well with all the UK’s top Islamophobes . “The (racist) EDL love him, the Daily Mail and The Sun love him, the Conservative Party loves him, liberal hawks love him. Everybody who has ever had an axe to grind against Muslims love him.”
Sadly, this adoration now also appears to be partly shared on our own shores by none else than Mrs Zille.
Ironically, the premier still manages to wrap all this right wing proselytism up in the placid satyagraha of Mr Gandhi.
The problem, as Gandhi scholar Norman Finkelstein bemoans, is that everybody talks about Gandhi but very few people have actually read what he had to say. Gandhi’s sense of non violence did not hearken to passivity in the face of overwhelming odds. Gandhi didn’t believe that violence in the face of such odds really constituted violence. For example, if an individual is being raped and he or she resists the rapist with scratches and kicks and bites Gandhi noted that is not really violence.
Gandhi, whilst sincerely expressing his sympathy for the historic persecution of Jews in Europe, also said such sentiments did not blind him to the requirements of justice in the Middle East.
“Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French,” the Indian freedom fighter wrote in 1938. “It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct. The mandates have no sanction but that of the last war. Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home.”
Yes, Gandhiac ideals can certainly still resonate, even in today’s turbulent Middle East. But application of these would assuredly reaffirm, first and foremost, the historical injustice meted out to the Palestinian people and the urgent need to restore to them their trampled rights and confiscated properties.
Just like the Palestinians today, Gandhi was fighting to end an occupation. And likewise, Gandhi was also up against the most formidable economic and military power of his day. In his case, it was Britain and in the case of Palestinians it is the Israelis with the overwhelming backing of the United States.
It is praiseworthy that Mrs. Zille recognises and berates the injustices being meted out to other religious minorities across the Middle East today, but it is a ludicrous and brazen insult to the Palestinians to pend their fate(already hanging in the balance for more than 66 years) on the resolution of these altogether younger grievances(in which the Palestinians play absolutely no part).
In a nutshell, what justice loving South African’s are seeking from Mrs Zille (and by extension her party, if it espouses similar views) is not her conscription into the ranks of some Palestinian solidarity movement, or even lending her toyi-toyi to mass action for Gaza mushrooming on streets across the world. All they desire is the acknowledgement of the weighty historical injustice and ongoing misery being perpetuated against the Palestinian people. They seek an endorsement of the Palestinian people’s deeply rooted struggle for self-determination, and an unambigious stance that posits the Palestinians as the oppressed and overwhelmingly as victims in the conflict with Israel.
What the honourable premier and shadow president of South Africa should realise is that the so-called Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a crisis to be fixed by merely stonewalling tunnels, ‘iron-doming’ rockets or lambasting ‘fundamentalists’. No amount of romanticism about pluralism and peace-building can ever bring about a just, positive, and lasting peace, until the fundamental injustices of occupation and dispossession are seen and denounced for what they are.
Ebrahim Moosa is a presenter on Cii Radio. He writes in his individual capacity
Glenn Greenwald lambasted the U.S. government’s approach to the Gaza conflict in an article published Monday by The Intercept, but his criticism extends to America’s media practices — for which he gives U.S. journalists a failing grade.
“There’s no question that the way that the American media covers this conflict is based on the principle that Israeli lives are just inherently more valuable than Palestinian lives,” he told HuffPost Live’s Marc Lamont Hill in an interview Monday. “It takes probably 50 Palestinians being killed to get anywhere near the attention of, say, an elderly Israeli woman being frightened in her home and having some kind of a medical problem because of the trauma.”
According to Greenwald, almost as many Palestinians have been killed as Americans on 9/11, and the media has remained “essentially calm about it.”
“I think there’s a racist element to it. I think there’s an ethnocentric element to [the media coverage],” he said. “There’s definitely an anti-Muslim strain that runs throughout how this coverage is conducted.”
Watch Glenn Greenwald’s full HuffPost Live conversation here.