The following has been submitted to the M & G for publication:
James Myburgh, founder and editor of Politicsweb, recently published a meticulous deconstruction of the demonisation of George Zimmerman, the young Hispanic-mixed ancestry man who shot and killed a black American youth, Trayvon Martin. Myburgh’s account is essential to get the full picture but the outline is simple.
While driving one rainy evening to buy groceries, Zimmerman, a volunteer member of the local neighbourhood watch of a housing estate in Florida, USA, noticed a young male, Trayvon Martin as it turned out, loitering in the housing estate where burglaries had taken place. Calling the police he advised them he was keeping the “suspect” under inspection. He was then accosted by Martin who knocked him down and proceeded to beat him up breaking his nose and bloodying the back of his head in the process. In the course of the struggle Zimmerman drew his gun and fired a single shot into Martin’s chest killing him.
Myburgh documents the chilling unfolding of subsequent events whereby a spontaneous network of defence lawyers, an ambitious prosecuting team, Trayvon Martin’s family, an assortments of activists and politicians (including Obama) together with the complicity of an ideologically primed media, conspired to paint the event as callous murder, Zimmerman as a “white” racist, Martin as a cherubic and innocent black teenager and a white America still immersed in racial hatred.
Fortunately for Zimmerman, the justice system allowed the truth to emerge. Martin was far from an innocent youth but one on his way to petty and violent gangsterism, Zimmerman showed no evidence of racial animosity and was partly of African-American ancestry himself and the shooting was an act of self-defence. While questions of Zimmerman’s judgement may be debated, murder racist or otherwise, it was not. Nevertheless the hounding, while abated somewhat, has not been called off and the media continues unrepentant.
Myburgh frames it as an issue around the American media and justice system. But it is more than that as he acknowledges when he ends with a quote “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”
The Martin-Zimmerman confrontation has particular resonance for Israel. The former ended with the incomplete and partial rehabilitation of Zimmerman by an authentic justice system doing its job honestly. But no such escape for Israel exists from the relentless demonisation campaign mounted in the West including the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) project. The term “project” is used advisedly to denote a well-funded and professionally run operation whose task is two-fold.
Firstly, through systematic propaganda and related activities to isolate, economically weaken and demoralise Israel to the point of capitulation. Secondly, to depict the Palestinians as the innocent and helpless victims of a racist, apartheid Jewish state. Its strategy and tactics are in the tradition of “total propaganda” as outlined by Jacques Ellul in his classic book “ Propaganda: the formation of men’s attitudes”. The roll call of anti-Israel agitation this week alone in South Africa is revealing.
Robert Fisk who has built an entire journalist career around Israel bashing with brief excursions into anti-Americanism and anti-Westernism, has an article prominently featured in the Mercury and the Star which describes Palestinian land as “stolen”, Israeli “settlements” as illegal, Palestine as “occupied” and includes the traditional canard “Israel has been running rings around cowardly US administrations for decades, ignoring Washington’s squirming embarrassment every time it went for another land grab on someone else’s property.” Those clever greedy Jews.
But Palestinian land is not stolen, the settlements are not illegal and the Palestinians are neither helpless and certainly not innocent. They have regularly walked away from peace, they continue with a policy of systematic anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish incitement as regularly documented by MEMRI but equally regularly ignored by our media and refuse to recognise Israel as a Jewish state. Also ignored by our media is the flood of Syrians into Israel for medical treatment and a similar steady stream from Gaza and the West Bank and almost any other news which may paint Israel in a favourable light.
Besides Fisk we have an Israeli, Yehuda Shaul, co-founder of “Breaking the Silence” scheduled to speak at two BDS sponsored events this coming week in Cape Town on Israeli military brutality. The professional e-mail from BDS announcing these events lists a multitude of other anti-Israeli articles and events with links to a YouTube movie on the same theme.
There is no silence to break of course. There is a cacophony of anti-Israeli noise from this extremely well-funded NGO (amongst others). One wonders how many other democracies living under the existential threats faced daily by Israel would tolerate a systematic domestic campaign, run largely on foreign money, explicitly devoted to the demonization of their homeland?
There is another side to the active anti-Israel project; namely, to divert attention from the realities of the environment which Israel occupies. There is a tacit but clear decision within South African media to avoid reference to the gross anti-Semitism of vast swathes of the Muslim communities in the Middle East and North Africa. Besides the “humiliation” of the presence of a tiny but determined Jewish state within the perceived Arab-Muslim sphere of influence, the population is the target of incessant incitement from fundamentalist Muslim clergy, from state-sponsored media and from their leadership.
It is not possible to conceal from Western audiences the violent meltdown by many of the states of the region, the endless stream of suicide killings by Islamist and Jihadist groups and the horrendous death toll occasioned by Muslim violence mainly, but not exclusively, inflicted on other Muslims. But to refer openly to these matters and to connect the dots which lead to the Palestinian rejection of the existence of Israel as a Jewish state (an Arab-Muslim obsession which long predates the West Bank territorial dispute) opens up the danger of being called a racist and Islamophobe. That is a danger that few within the media and the liberal establishment of this country are prepared to face.
Following the non-guilty verdict, one of Zimmerman’s lawyers had this to say to reporters: “ He (Zimmerman) was like a patient in an operating table where mad-scientists were committing experiments on him and he had no anaesthesia. He didn’t know why he was turned into this monster…”, and held the media responsible. Israel has faced this for decades (and Jews for centuries) with no prospect of a fair trial at the end of the tunnel.
That Israel has generally maintained its humanity and democracy in the face of this onslaught is little short of miraculous. But in the event that, despite reasonable efforts to achieve peace with security, the current initiative ends in failure, continued calumny and genocidal threats, I for one would not blame Israel if it discarded the finer points of democracy and took radical steps to ensure survival.
Almost anything is preferable to death by a thousand cuts.