December 1, 2014
Posted by on
I publish the following without comment and will keep you updated on progress – or lack thereof.
To the Mercury
Wednesday last week I submitted the letter below in response to an editorial and a lengthy interview in The Mercury. I was motivated to write since I considered both the editorial (reprinted from the New York Times) and, more especially, the interview with Ishmael Coovadia to be misleading, simplistic and prejudiced. So far it has not appeared in print and neither has any other letter which conveys a perspective which differs from those of the editorial and interview.
I understand that the editorial team of The Mercury may hold opinions on the conflict which differ from mine or those who believe, in general, that Israel behaves both democratically and in a manner consistent with the highest international norms considering the context. I do not challenge your right to publish material critical of Israel, but in the interests of simple journalistic fairness and good practice surely you are obliged to publish views which challenge those you support and your own position.
In failing to do that you are also failing in the chief purpose of a free media – to provide the public with all sides on a matter of importance in order to make up their own minds. I look forward to your reply and to seeing my letter in print.
Sent: Wednesday, November 26, 2014 11:06 AM
Subject: letter for publication
When reality and self-delusion collide, as they inevitably do, the outcome is seldom pretty. Our own history is replete with such examples the most notorious being the Nongqawuse prophecy which brought starvation and misery to the Xhosa people.
These remarks are pertinent to the editorial and the article (Moving the Struggle Forward) published in the Mercury of 26 November. In the article, Ishmael Coovadia attempts to create in the minds of South African readers an alternative reality in the Middle East, one which has an inverse relationship to the real thing. Thus the Islamist terror group, Hamas, with its infamous, anti-Semitic Charter, becomes a liberation movement. Ask the unfortunate Gazans how liberatory they find Hamas and its thugs.
Zionism, the nationalist movement for Jewish self-determination in the birthplace of the Jewish people, now becomes synonymous with “right-wing”. Nevermind that most of the early Zionists were ardent Socialists and that many leftwing, progressive Jews and non-Jews define themselves as Zionist, progressive Zionists. One could go on: the propagandistic use of “Apartheid” to define Israeli policies vis-a-vis its Arab citizens when such progressive, genuinely informed and extremely sympathetic observers such as Benjamin Pogrund, have clearly demonstrated that the promiscuous use of Apartheid in the context of Israel has no basis in fact.
Equally the editorial, taken verbatim from the New York Times, grossly oversimplifies reality in order to make a purely ideological argument. The bill is indeed somewhat controversial within Israel but the background and context is vital. Salient to any honest debate is the fact that the proposed final bill provides the Arabs of Israel with full democratic and citizenship rights (the equal of which exist nowhere else in the Middle East) and that the bill is being introduced partly in response to Palestinian efforts to write Jews out of Middle East history – bizarre as that may seem. Finally, defining Israel as the Jewish nation-state will relieve Abbas from the politically inexpedient step of explicitly acknowledging that fact in any peace deal, thus facilitating negotiations.
The tone and content of the interview and the editorial are such as to cast doubt on the desire of either The Mercury or Mr Coovadia for peace on any terms other than the destruction of Israel as the Jewish homeland. Such hopes bear no relation to the reality of the Middle East or the more global Muslim community and dash the hopes of progressives within those worlds for a better life and a more hopeful future. South Africa should not become party to such dead-end brinkmanship.
Prof (ret) G Michael Berger
35 Dorries Drive
Simon’s Town, 7975
Tel: 021-786 4823; 082 331 0378