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I have reread my previous post in Solar Plexus which was also published in Politicsweb. It dealt with the ugly trench warfare around the Trump Presidency in the USA as a symptom of the polarisation, tribalisation is my preferred term, of the USA in particular and much of the broader ‘West, in general.

It raises deep questions about the turn democracy has taken in the last 5 decades and how, or whether, it can be fixed. I’m trying to get my head around this in a book review I’m preparing for Politicsweb, so I won’t say more about it here.

But it will not have escaped anyone that South Africa is in the grip of the same phenomenon in spades.  Whereas in the USA, at the higher level at least, the battle is being fought with rapiers, in South Africa the battle is mainly with clubs and knuckledusters.

Watching the debates in Parliament or in the Western Cape Provincial Legislature around Zille’s tweets is an exercise in psychic self-mutilation which I cannot bear for more than a few minutes at most. How she, or any other intelligent, sentient human being, can sit there for hours on end beats me. I can only wonder at the emotional trauma it entails.

But the stakes are high, here and around the world. One of the issues in which one sees the ideological divisions most graphically is the issue of Islamist terrorism or, more broadly, Islamist ambitions and techniques.

From both the left and the right of the spectrum comes an unending stream of virulent propaganda which ensures that ordinary rational people cannot even begin to think clearly about the issue. These militants simply feed off each other and slug it out to the applause of their followers.

So I’m always on the search for material which is genuinely informative rather than the usual cynical distortion. That does not guarantee perfection but is vastly preferable to the distorting mirror generally being flashed in our eyes. I’m going to mention 3: two being right of centre and one from the left. They are all worth reading.

The first is by Douglas Murray, a moderately conservative commentator in the form of a short well-written article on leftist spin using the Westminster terror attack as an example You will find it here and will enjoy its ironical style and sharp observations.

The second is far more detailed and systematic essay here is by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali Muslin dissident and activist. In it she explores the strategies followed by political Islam, more generally known as Islamism. She makes clear distinctions between different forms of Islam and between the ideology itself and the various tactics, including terror, which may be followed in the pursuit the ultimate political-religious goal.

She avoids vulgar anti-Islamic bigotry, steering, in my view, as  honest and balanced path as one can expect from a partisan. Very adroitly she provides the general reader with a useful perspective and information on Dawa, the strategy used to advance the ideological goals of what she calls Medina Islam.

I strongly recommend it to those with the interest and time (and stamina) to follow the argument, available for download as a pdf file. Naturally not everyone will agree with all of it and I do not hold myself up as an expert. But is written with great clarity and is a very useful source of information not generally known by the ordinary person.

Finally, I recommend a set of original and informed ideas on how the protagonists in the Middle East can arrive at a two-state solution, despite the obstacles. To even suggest a solution along those lines is to possess a degree of optimism that most of us, myself included, have lost. It comes from that left-of-centre, pro-Zionist magazine, Fathom, A welcome break from doom-and-gloom and anger. Worth a read

Finally, and somewhat off-topic, Politicsweb is a good source of material relating to Zille’s tweets. Read Zille’s article itself and, of course, mine.

Totsiens, Shalom – and my best wishes for Pesach to all



3 responses to “Updates

  1. solarplexuss April 6, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    Hi Charles

    “This is the absolute, unshakeable (to date), almost or actual religious belief and determination of the forces that count in the Palestinian world, that no Jewish state should exist in the Middle East. And it follows that the one that does exist MUST sooner or later be destroyed.”

    IMHO I don’t think that is an immutable truth any longer though certainly it may have been at some times and in some (important) quarters. Unfortunately the ‘bittereinders’ (hardliners for those who do not understand Afrikaans) on both sides operate from the same hymnbook only turned upside down. It suits them to have these circulate as ultimate truths. That is not an argument for naivete but it is an argument for keeping a corner of one’s mind open. I also don’t agree that the ‘Arabs’ have an immutable and homogeneous bargaining style. Contexts are very important and changing circumstances can create opportunities. We just have to live with the complexities of reality – even while keeping one finger on the trigger.

    We will continue probably to differ on these issues…best wishes


  2. Charles Smith April 4, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    Hi Mike, A comment on Koby Huberman’s idea towards solving our little problem :
    I give him credit for his genuine effort to think out a different approach toward a solution, and there are some important points made.
    HOWEVER, unfortunately he has (in my humble opinion) totally ignored the first, foremost and overwhelming problem which has been the core issue causing violence between Palestinians and Jews – oops, sorry, I mean Israelis (but it did start before the state of Israel existed) – and the underlying reason for lack of progress in all attempts to solve the problem.
    This is the absolute, unshakeable (to date), almost or actual religious belief and determination of the forces that count in the Palestinian world, that no Jewish state should exist in the Middle East. And it follows that the one that does exist MUST sooner or later be destroyed.
    I’m exaggerating slightly. The Arab traditions of (a) never compromising on your demands in negotiations so that eventually your opposite number will give in, and (b) not treating the agreement, when reached, as sacrosanct, will have to be worked on a bit. (Why to do you think all the Arab countries have been continuously at each other’s throats when no outside pressures have kept them united? It’s a cultural thing which could be a bit of a problem).


    • solarplexuss April 6, 2017 at 5:57 pm


      The latest Palestinian Authority elementary school textbooks are even more radical and show a deterioration in messages of tolerance and peace compared with previous editions, according to a new report by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education. They teach pupils to become expendable martyrs and reject negotiations, while demonizing and denying the existence of the State of Israel.
      “Despite assurances from the PA Education Ministry, these new books are actually more radical than we have previously seen,” IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff said. “There is clear evidence of a strategy of radicalization of young Palestinians, devised and implemented by the ministry, which includes a commitment to an Arab Palestine encompassing the entirety of Israel.”
      IMPACT-se analyzes schoolbooks for compliance with UNESCO-defined standards on peace and tolerance. Its report concluded that the PA curriculum does not meet the UNESCO standards. (Jerusalem Post)


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