Politics of Censorship cannot be kosher for Israel

Its pretty pleasing when sections of the South African media display its ability to tackle issues with the gutsiness reminiscent of the alternate media of the 70’s and 80’s.

Its equally challenging to do so in the face of constant threats and intimidatory tactics such as "withdrawal of adverts" by lobby groups tied to protecting the image of Israel.

The opinion piece by Mark Lavie "Changing Standards" [Daily News, Oct 17], is one such example.

In raising discussion on the scandal plagued leadership of the Jewish state, the chutzpah shown by the Daily News, not only makes a bold statement regarding its commitment to robust journalism; it also says to its readership that its editorial team and journalists on the beat are dedicated to probe and unravel stories – some may consider to be "sensitive"!

One sees the length such "sensitivities" are stretched when events are cancelled upon the insistence of pressure groups. In the case of the Goethe Institute, who buckled under severe pressure to deny a serving Cabinet Minister an opportunity to speak at its venue, it is disgraceful that foreign NGOs would arrogate to themselves the right to censor.

Such actions are routine in parts of Europe and the United States, where powerful pro-Israeli pressure lobbies hold sway over the nature of debate on Israel. There, to the eternal shame of the "civilised West", censorship and muzzling of individuals such as Tony Judt, who are viewed to be critical of the political programme of Israel, have become standard practise.

The cancellation of Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils’ address to the Ceasefire Campaign and others, on the grounds that his comparison of Israel’s repressive conduct against Palestinians with the behaviour of Nazis, was unpalatable to the local Jewish Board, makes a mockery of the latter’s espousal of free speech.

That such intimidation exists to proscribe criticism of Israel is unacceptable and should not be tolerated by South Africa. As a free country, we expect our media, academics, politicians and civil society as a whole to be able to interrogate the corruption and practise of apartheid in Israel without succumbing to pressure and blackmail tactics.

Is it not strange that the robust debates surrounding the Zuma trials and questions raised about Mbeki’s presidency are tolerated, yet different standards are applied when the politics of Israel warrant similar discussion?