Critics of Kasrils must direct their Venom at Israel

Minister Ronnie Kasrils’ plea to all South Africans of Jewish descent to support his call for justice for the Palestinians has evoked a harsh reaction from certain Jewish quarters.

While some have attempted to ridicule his criticism of the ruthless security methods employed by Israel as “uninformed” others have accused him as a betrayer of all Jewish people and have assured him of a place on the “rubbish heap of history together with the rest of the Jewish apostates..”

This demonisation of Kasrils by his Jewish detractors is unfortunate and misleading for it demonstrates either an inability or an unwillingness to confront and challenge the most blatant excesses of power-abuse by the Zionist regime.

Instead of an intellectual analysis of Kasrils’ most profound intervention in Parliament, whereby he opened a new door for a critical and mature discourse on Israeli oppression, a group, describing themselves as former Soviet citizens of Jewish descent have sought to rubbish his statement by dismissing it as “disgusting”.

According to the author of “The Zionist Connection – What Price Peace?” Alfred M Lilienthal, the relentless and persistent attacks waged on those who have dared raise even a note of caution, let alone a voice of protest, against the prevailing one-sided pro-Israelism line can find few parallels in a society that has not as yet extinguished free speech or opinion-expression and otherwise permits some talking out against the Establishment. Hence, the attack against Kasrils can be viewed as an attempt to preserve the massive cover-up and cover-over, and the ferocity of the onslaught can be compared to the American blitz, which seeks to level Afghanistan to the ground.

The authors of this open letter to Kasrils need to be reminded that South Africa, especially since April 1994, has developed into an open society with vigorous debates as one of it’s chief new hallmarks. Unlike our murky past under the apartheid regime which was characterised by thought-control and enormous restrictions on free speech and which equated criticism of Israel as being anti-apartheid; the rules have been changed.

Kasrils enjoys as much right as the former Dean of the Washington Cathedral, Francis B Sayre, Jr., who in his 1972 Palm Sunday sermon suggested that the “once-oppressed Israelis have become the oppressors of Jerusalem.” He has the same right to express his moral indignation at Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian lands, as any Christian clergy has to condemn Sharon’s current military expedition in Bethlehem and the indiscriminate killing of children resisting the iron-fisted policies of the Jewish colonial-settler state. After all, didn’t Winston Churchill observe that “it is the church’s duty to lash the conscience of a guilty age” – particularly the repressive policies of a state that has defied international conventions for more than five decades?

It is not without reason that Palestinian academics such as Edward Said complain that Israeli leaders indulge their most primitive fantasies, with no other end in mind except to assert their power and humiliate the Arabs. Not only is Israel a nuclear power, more significantly as an occupying power, dominating the lives of several million Palestinians, it persists in treating them as inferior and alien.

Kasrils’ opponents must investigate Israel’s “original sin” in order to come to terms with facts such as that there was always another people in Palestine, and that every village, Kibbutz, settlement, city and town had an Arab history. Said acknowledges that Moshe Dayan used to admit it publicly but assails Israeli lobbies and scads of pro-Israeli organisations in the United States who celebrate Israel without a trace of awareness that there is tragedy beneath every road, every act of military prowess, every settlement.

Another disconcerting allegation in the Soviet Jewish groups open letter to Kasrils (Citizen, November 2), is contained in the statement: “We strongly believe you and your party are again choosing the wrong sponsor. Before it was international communism: today it is international Islamic Fundamentalism”. I will not venture to speculate on Kasrils’ or the ANC’s alleged ideological shift; they can certainly speak for themselves. My concern however, is the context in which the allegation of Islamic Fundamentalism is portrayed negatively as “the wrong sponsor”.

This is symptomatic of the current western fixation on the Islamic value system, which is viewed as a major threat to their interests in the Middle East and elsewhere, where national resources have been plundered and exploited since the colonial era. The disdain reserved for Islam is concealed by patronising disclaimers such as “not all Muslims are evil” or “extremists abuse Islam”. Indeed, the frequent attacks against “international Islamic fundamentalism” resonates with CNN’s cliché “war against terrorism” and signals the impending doom of ‘civilisation’ if the scourge of Muslim extremism is not annihilated.

Kasrils’ intervention therefore is most appropriate and crucial. His assertion that the fundamental cause of the conflict is Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and the suppression of the Palestinian struggle cannot be disputed.

Indeed, the illegal creation of Israel in 1948 remains the central issue causing global insecurity, not “Islamic fundamentalism”.

Iqbal Jassat is Chairman of the Media Review Network, an advocacy group based in Pretoria.

(Mr. Iqbal Jasarat is Chairman of the Media Review Network, which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.)