SHUAIB MANJRA vs CAPE TIMES

Below is the correspondence between myself and the Cape Times around the vexed issue of censorship. The Cape Times published an article by Eric Marx essentially calling for a war against Iran. I responded to that arguing that Iran’s objective seem entirely peaceful. Glen Heneck in a disingenuous retort to my article spends all his words attacking a strawman (things I never mentioned or alluded to in my article). I responded arguing this point and responding to other issues raised  by Heneck. Despite enormous efforts on my part the Cape Times refused to publish or even engage with me. I appealed and the Ombudsman who dismissed by application in a bizarre decision where  he argued that if someone uses “in other words’ they can impute to you whatever they want. I applied for leave to appeal, which was denied. Again the crux of the argument was missed by the Judge who instead decided to focus on the civility of the debate.

What was interesting is that the Cape Times saw fit to publish the Ombudsman’s ruling but not my article – choosing censorship or robust debate; churlishness over honesty. There are five articles below for you to read and judge the merits of this case:

  1. The original article by Eric Marx (SAJBD).
  2. My response to Eric Marx.
  3. Glen Heneck’s (SAJBD) response to my article.
  4. My response to Glen Heneck – which the Cape Times refused to publish.
  5. My complaint to the Ombudsman and his response.
  6. My application for the right to appeal which was dismissed.

Thank you,

Shuaib Manjra

____________________________________________________________________

ARTICLE 1: ERIC MARX – Papers baffling stance on Iran

FROM the start of this cen­tury and even be­fore, one of the most vexed is­sues on the in­ter­na­tional agenda has been how to pre­vent the Ira­nian regime from ob­tain­ing nu­clear weapons with­out re­sort­ing to war.

Ear­lier this month, a deal was con­cluded be­tween Iran and the so-called P5+1 (China, France, Ger­many, the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion, the UK and the US) whereby in essence, Iran, in ex­change for the lift­ing of in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions against it, agreed to ob­serve cer­tain re­stric­tions re­gard­ing its nu­clear pro­gramme.

Need­less to say the agree­ment, which is only the lat­est stage in what has been an ex­tended and com­plex diplo­matic process, has elicited a broad range of opin­ions both for and against. In its ed­i­to­rial of April 13 (“A vic­tory for the peace-lov­ing”), the Cape Times placed it­self firmly in the “for” camp. That is fair enough and echoes the sen­ti­ments of the US pres­i­dent.

Need­less to say the agree­ment, which is only the lat­est stage in what has been an ex­tended and com­plex diplo­matic process, has elicited a broad range of opin­ions both for and against. In its ed­i­to­rial of April 13 (“A vic­tory for the peace-lov­ing”), the Cape Times placed it­self firmly in the “for” camp. That is fair enough and echoes the sen­ti­ments of the US pres­i­dent.

How­ever, the ed­i­to­rial goes fur­ther than merely wel­com­ing the deal as a step in the right di­rec­tion to­wards re­solv­ing this fraught and com­plex is­sue. Rather, it presents it as a vic­tory over “war-mon­ger­ing Zion­ist gen­er­als”, and as a vin­di­ca­tion of the “stead­fast­ness” dis­played by the Ira­nian peo­ple in stand­ing up to those un­fairly seek­ing to deny them their right to use nu­clear power for peace­ful means.

Many long-stand­ing Cape Times read­ers have been frankly baf­fled, not to say even an­gered, by the overtly par­ti­san stance taken by the pa­per. Any­one read­ing the ed­i­to­rial would think that Iran is the in­no­cent vic­tim of an Is­raeli-led in­ter­na­tional vendetta. In ad­di­tion to ex­co­ri­at­ing Is­rael’s lead­ers, as if they have no cause to be con­cerned over reg­u­lar Ira­nian pro­nounce­ments that Is­rael is an il­le­git­i­mate “can­cer” that should be wiped off the map, the ed­i­to­rial ig­nores the de­struc­tive role Iran is play­ing in pro­mot­ing con­flict and ter­ror­ism around the globe.

Many long-stand­ing Cape Times read­ers have been frankly baf­fled, not to say even an­gered, by the overtly par­ti­san stance taken by the pa­per. Any­one read­ing the ed­i­to­rial would think that Iran is the in­no­cent vic­tim of an Is­raeli-led in­ter­na­tional vendetta. In ad­di­tion to ex­co­ri­at­ing Is­rael’s lead­ers, as if they have no cause to be con­cerned over reg­u­lar Ira­nian pro­nounce­ments that Is­rael is an il­le­git­i­mate “can­cer” that should be wiped off the map, the ed­i­to­rial ig­nores the de­struc­tive role Iran is play­ing in pro­mot­ing con­flict and ter­ror­ism around the globe.

No one can se­ri­ously deny that Iran, ever since the 1979 rev­o­lu­tion that brought the cur­rent fun­da­men­tal­ist Shia regime to power, has pro­vided fi­nan­cial, ma­te­rial, and lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port for ter­ror­ist and mil­i­tant groups. One of the ter­ror­ist groups it funds and arms is Ha­mas, like­wise an Is­lamist fun­da­men­tal­ist move­ment that shares Iran’s oft-stated goal of de­stroy­ing the Is­raeli state. Another ben­e­fi­ciary of its largesse is the Le­banese-based Hezbol­lah move­ment, which has very sim­i­lar aims and ide­olo­gies. By arm­ing, train­ing and fund­ing lo­cal Shia mil­i­tants in Iraq, Iran has been com­plicit in that coun­try’s bloody dis­in­te­gra­tion into frat­ri­ci­dal civil war. Re­gard­ing the war in Syria, its sup­port of the As­sad regime has con­trib­uted greatly to a death toll now fast ap­proach­ing the quar­ter-mil­lion mark.

No one can se­ri­ously deny that Iran, ever since the 1979 rev­o­lu­tion that brought the cur­rent fun­da­men­tal­ist Shia regime to power, has pro­vided fi­nan­cial, ma­te­rial, and lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port for ter­ror­ist and mil­i­tant groups. One of the ter­ror­ist groups it funds and arms is Ha­mas, like­wise an Is­lamist fun­da­men­tal­ist move­ment that shares Iran’s oft-stated goal of de­stroy­ing the Is­raeli state. Another ben­e­fi­ciary of its largesse is the Le­banese-based Hezbol­lah move­ment, which has very sim­i­lar aims and ide­olo­gies. By arm­ing, train­ing and fund­ing lo­cal Shia mil­i­tants in Iraq, Iran has been com­plicit in that coun­try’s bloody dis­in­te­gra­tion into frat­ri­ci­dal civil war. Re­gard­ing the war in Syria, its sup­port of the As­sad regime has con­trib­uted greatly to a death toll now fast ap­proach­ing the quar­ter-mil­lion mark.

No one can se­ri­ously deny that Iran, ever since the 1979 rev­o­lu­tion that brought the cur­rent fun­da­men­tal­ist Shia regime to power, has pro­vided fi­nan­cial, ma­te­rial, and lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port for ter­ror­ist and mil­i­tant groups. One of the ter­ror­ist groups it funds and arms is Ha­mas, like­wise an Is­lamist fun­da­men­tal­ist move­ment that shares Iran’s oft-stated goal of de­stroy­ing the Is­raeli state. Another ben­e­fi­ciary of its largesse is the Le­banese-based Hezbol­lah move­ment, which has very sim­i­lar aims and ide­olo­gies. By arm­ing, train­ing and fund­ing lo­cal Shia mil­i­tants in Iraq, Iran has been com­plicit in that coun­try’s bloody dis­in­te­gra­tion into frat­ri­ci­dal civil war. Re­gard­ing the war in Syria, its sup­port of the As­sad regime has con­trib­uted greatly to a death toll now fast ap­proach­ing the quar­ter-mil­lion mark.

No one can se­ri­ously deny that Iran, ever since the 1979 rev­o­lu­tion that brought the cur­rent fun­da­men­tal­ist Shia regime to power, has pro­vided fi­nan­cial, ma­te­rial, and lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port for ter­ror­ist and mil­i­tant groups. One of the ter­ror­ist groups it funds and arms is Ha­mas, like­wise an Is­lamist fun­da­men­tal­ist move­ment that shares Iran’s oft-stated goal of de­stroy­ing the Is­raeli state. Another ben­e­fi­ciary of its largesse is the Le­banese-based Hezbol­lah move­ment, which has very sim­i­lar aims and ide­olo­gies. By arm­ing, train­ing and fund­ing lo­cal Shia mil­i­tants in Iraq, Iran has been com­plicit in that coun­try’s bloody dis­in­te­gra­tion into frat­ri­ci­dal civil war. Re­gard­ing the war in Syria, its sup­port of the As­sad regime has con­trib­uted greatly to a death toll now fast ap­proach­ing the quar­ter-mil­lion mark.

No one can se­ri­ously deny that Iran, ever since the 1979 rev­o­lu­tion that brought the cur­rent fun­da­men­tal­ist Shia regime to power, has pro­vided fi­nan­cial, ma­te­rial, and lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port for ter­ror­ist and mil­i­tant groups. One of the ter­ror­ist groups it funds and arms is Ha­mas, like­wise an Is­lamist fun­da­men­tal­ist move­ment that shares Iran’s oft-stated goal of de­stroy­ing the Is­raeli state. Another ben­e­fi­ciary of its largesse is the Le­banese-based Hezbol­lah move­ment, which has very sim­i­lar aims and ide­olo­gies. By arm­ing, train­ing and fund­ing lo­cal Shia mil­i­tants in Iraq, Iran has been com­plicit in that coun­try’s bloody dis­in­te­gra­tion into frat­ri­ci­dal civil war. Re­gard­ing the war in Syria, its sup­port of the As­sad regime has con­trib­uted greatly to a death toll now fast ap­proach­ing the quar­ter-mil­lion mark.

It should be noted that Iran’s role in pro­mot­ing con­flicts around the world is not lim­ited to the Mid­dle East, but in­cludes a range of other coun­tries, among them Libya, Kenya and Afghanistan. Among the ter­ror­ist atroc­i­ties car­ried out by its agents was the bomb­ing of the Jewish com­mu­nal head­quar­ters in Buenos Aires, re­sult­ing in nearly a hun­dred deaths.

Another deeply dis­qui­et­ing as­pect of mod­ern-day Iran is the ex­tent to which ra­bidly anti-Semitic the­o­ris­ing is be­coming an ac­cepted part of pub­lic dis­course. In Oc­to­ber last year, for ex­am­ple, the Ira­nian gov­ern­ment it­self hosted an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence for what colum­nist David Frum char­ac­terised as “Holo­caust de­niers, Mos­sad-did-9/11 con­spir­acy the­o­rists, an­tiSemites of the far right and far left, and other all-around kooks and haters”. The con­fer­ence was just an­other ex­am­ple of how the Ira­nian gov­ern­ment fa­cil­i­tates the spread of global anti-Semitism.

Typ­i­fy­ing the kind of del­e­gates who par­tic­i­pated was Kevin Bar­rett, a pro­po­nent of the the­ory that “Zion­ists” (a word now used in­ter­change­ably with “Jews”) cre­ated Is­lamic State (IS) to fight Mus­lims and Chris­tians in Syria and Iraq, and that “New World Order Zion­ism” was tar­get­ing the US for de­struc­tion. Ear­lier this year, Is­lamic Repub­lic of Iran Broad­cast­ing re­ported that Jews and/or Is­rael were be­hind the Char­lie Hebdo at­tacks in Paris, cre­ation of IS, the 2011 at­tacks in Nor­way that left 77 peo­ple dead and, nat­u­rally, 9/11.

Typ­i­fy­ing the kind of del­e­gates who par­tic­i­pated was Kevin Bar­rett, a pro­po­nent of the the­ory that “Zion­ists” (a word now used in­ter­change­ably with “Jews”) cre­ated Is­lamic State (IS) to fight Mus­lims and Chris­tians in Syria and Iraq, and that “New World Order Zion­ism” was tar­get­ing the US for de­struc­tion. Ear­lier this year, Is­lamic Repub­lic of Iran Broad­cast­ing re­ported that Jews and/or Is­rael were be­hind the Char­lie Hebdo at­tacks in Paris, cre­ation of IS, the 2011 at­tacks in Nor­way that left 77 peo­ple dead and, nat­u­rally, 9/11.

Iran’s ma­lign in­flu­ence in pro­mot­ing con­flict, ter­ror­ism and ev­ery man­ner of racial and re­li­gious ha­tred around the world is well known and at­tested to by in­nu­mer­able in­ter­na­tional stud­ies and re­ports. It is also the real rea­son why the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity as a whole, and not just the US and Is­rael, are anx­ious that it not be al­lowed to ac­quire nu­clear weapons. In light of this, it will hardly come as a sur­prise that the Cape Times’ Jewish read­er­ship in par­tic­u­lar has been greatly of­fended by the pa­per’s por­trayal of Iran as a peace­ful state un­fairly per­se­cuted at the be­hest of war-mon­ger­ing Is­raelis. Cer­tainly, it bears lit­tle re­la­tion to the thought­ful way that the pa­per usu­ally deals with con­tentious is­sues of this na­ture.

Iran’s ma­lign in­flu­ence in pro­mot­ing con­flict, ter­ror­ism and ev­ery man­ner of racial and re­li­gious ha­tred around the world is well known and at­tested to by in­nu­mer­able in­ter­na­tional stud­ies and re­ports. It is also the real rea­son why the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity as a whole, and not just the US and Is­rael, are anx­ious that it not be al­lowed to ac­quire nu­clear weapons. In light of this, it will hardly come as a sur­prise that the Cape Times’ Jewish read­er­ship in par­tic­u­lar has been greatly of­fended by the pa­per’s por­trayal of Iran as a peace­ful state un­fairly per­se­cuted at the be­hest of war-mon­ger­ing Is­raelis. Cer­tainly, it bears lit­tle re­la­tion to the thought­ful way that the pa­per usu­ally deals with con­tentious is­sues of this na­ture.

Read­ers will also have been puz­zled by the ed­i­to­rial’s sug­ges­tion that just as the achieve­ment of Namib­ian in­de­pen­dence from South Africa helped bring about the ne­go­ti­a­tions that led to the end of apartheid, so can the Iran nu­clear agree­ment “do the same for Pales­tine”. With all due re­spect, what pos­si­ble par­al­lels, his­toric or oth­er­wise, can be found be­tween these two vastly dif­fer­ing sit­u­a­tions? It ap­pears to be just an­other ex­am­ple of the ten­dency to deal with the whole Is­raelPales­tine ques­tion in terms of the South African ex­pe­ri­ence and try to force it, re­gard­less of what the rel­e­vant facts might be, into that in­tel­lec­tual par­a­digm.

The Cape Times, as ev­ery­one will agree, has a right, in­deed an obli­ga­tion, to speak with a pow­er­ful voice on is­sues that con­cern all South Africans. How­ever, it also needs to be cog­nisant that there is a wide range of views among its read­er­ship. The op-ed pages of the Cape Times have been full of ro­bust and con­tested en­gage­ment over the years on a myr­iad is­sues, in­clud­ing the con­tentious Mid­dle East. Its ed­i­to­rial page, how­ever, has al­ways striven to re­flect a more nu­anced and in­clu­sive stance, and that has helped to make the Cape Times the pre-em­i­nent daily in Cape Town. One hopes in this re­gard that the pa­per will be more even-handed in fu­ture.

The Cape Times, as ev­ery­one will agree, has a right, in­deed an obli­ga­tion, to speak with a pow­er­ful voice on is­sues that con­cern all South Africans. How­ever, it also needs to be cog­nisant that there is a wide range of views among its read­er­ship. The op-ed pages of the Cape Times have been full of ro­bust and con­tested en­gage­ment over the years on a myr­iad is­sues, in­clud­ing the con­tentious Mid­dle East. Its ed­i­to­rial page, how­ever, has al­ways striven to re­flect a more nu­anced and in­clu­sive stance, and that has helped to make the Cape Times the pre-em­i­nent daily in Cape Town. One hopes in this re­gard that the pa­per will be more even-handed in fu­ture.

Marx is Chair­man Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies.

 

ARTICLE 2: SHUAIB MANJRA – Israel, Iran and the Nuclear Question – A response to Eric Marx

It is imperative that we pursue a future where peace, justice and freedom reign as supreme values predicated on equal respect for all peoples, nations, national sovereignty and the rule of law – not least because we live in an interdependent world with common interests and a shared future. This demands that that any disagreement between nations must primarily be resolved within a peaceful framework. It is within this context that the issue of Iran, its nuclear ambitions and those who oppose it must be seen. But it is also within this context that we should seek to eradicate nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction and non-conventional weapons. Of course in the light of the enormous power of the arms industry attempting to eradicate all weapons would be a futile exercise.

Iran is a peaceful and remarkable nation with a history, culture and civilisation going back many millennia. Speak to anyone who has been to Iran and you face a reality which is far from the demonic, fanatical caricature painted by those who not only want to demonise it, but also destroy it – as they have done with vibrant,  dynamic and largely secular Iraqi and Syrian societies, in the guise of eradicating despotic rulers. Iran has a sizeable Jewish population, with civil and legal equality and an active religious life, with representation in Parliament in excess of its numbers. In fact it is easier to find a synagogue in Teheran than a Sunni Mosque. It is instructive that Iran has not launched a conventional war of aggression against another state in all of modern history. On the other hand it has been the recipient of numerous aggressive threats, wars and the overthrow of a democratically elected President, Mohammed Mossadeq by the CIA. But Iran is not a perfect state: it subscribes to an aberrant democracy characterised as a theocracy. A superior body vets candidates’ suitability for office based on their character, values and history, and also vets laws to ensure that they are in keeping with its Islamic ethos. It is also a repressive regime that commits human rights abuses against its critics and some minority communities. And from time to time it is blessed with idiotic leaders.

Yes, Iran is a patron of Hezbollah and occasionally Hamas and the Palestinians, and a shadow player in the civil wars of Lebanon and Syria. But both Hezbollah and Hamas are national liberation movements that seek to end Israeli occupation of Lebanese and the Palestinian Territories respectively. Similarly Iran has supported progressive movements around the worlds for many years and continues to foster relationships with left-wing governments in South America particularly.

Iran has made its nuclear ambitions clear – it wants to develop nuclear technology for peaceful civilian purposes. It is a right which each and every country possesses and one that should be respected. Even Obama avers, when he said at the UN, “we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy”.  Yet Iran is not permitted to pursue this technology simply because of invented suspicions, by its adversaries that it could produce nuclear weapons. Such adversaries have shown an aversion to this state since the overthrow of the Shah’s oppressive regime and its escape from the clutches of imperial power. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Iran is producing, on the brink of producing, or has intentions to produce nuclear weapons –  either from the IAEA, the USA or Israeli intelligence. Netanyahu’s own Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, Israel’s chief of staff Benny Gantz, and Mossad chiefs have admitted that Iran has not decided to initiate a nuclear weapons program or build a bomb. Claims come only from propagandists including Benjamin Netanyahu and his coterie of war-mongers and has a transparent agenda: the first is to maintain the façade that Israel is the pre-eminent victim in the world facing an existential threat; the second is to ensure a continued supply of the most up-to-date military hardware and intelligence from its supporters,  pre-eminently the USA; thirdly to use fear mongering as an electoral ruse, and fourthly to create a ruse to launch an attack on Iran.

 It is worth remembering that during Iran’s 8-year war with Iraq (supported by Western powers), where 20 000 Iranians were killed, over 100 000 injured and where Iraq extensively used chemical weapons against Iranian citizens, the Ayatollah Khomeini refused permission for Iranians to produce or use chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. This religious edict still holds and is confirmed by his successor Ayatollah Khamenei when he said:

“The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.”

Shia theology would require a monumental shift to abrogate Khomeini’s fatwa.

Having established that Iran has the right to pursue its civilian nuclear programme, let us confront another question: if for argument sake Iran wants to transform its peaceful nuclear technology to nuclear weapons, why should it not be permitted to do so? What law or principles guides which state should be in the nuclear club and who should be excluded? Why should the USA have nuclear weapons but not South Africa; why should Pakistan have nuclear weapons and not Bangladesh; why should North Korea have nuclear weapons and not South Korea? Why should those in the nuclear club be its gatekeepers? Why should Iran not be permitted to have nuclear weapons when many of the countries surrounding it have? The rule of reciprocity should ensure that either no one country has a nuclear weapon or all countries have that right. Whether they decide to exercise that right is another matter altogether. Failing that we will have an unstable world where the powerful continue to dominate the weak. Opening the option of nuclear weapons for all nation states would result in a ‘balance or terror’ and consequently in a balance of power between such nations. All would be constrained by the fear of mutual annihilation in a nuclear war. This may just be the perfect antidote to those who refuse to act on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Without this ‘balance of terror’ imperial hegemony and hubris will continue to proliferate.

Then we confront another canard:  should Iran develop a nuclear weapon will it pose an existential threat to Israel? In a January New York Times article three leading Israeli security experts –  Mossad chiefs Tamir Pardo and Efraim Halevy, and a former military chief of staff Dan Halutz – all declared that a nuclear Iran would not pose an existential threat to Israel echoing Ehud Barak. The reasons for this is simple: the first is that since Israel has over 400 undeclared nuclear warheads it would most  certainly retaliate with excessive force as is historically evident, and second,  being a small country an attack on Israel would equally decimate the Palestinian population.

To reiterate – Iran has civilian nuclear ambitions which is within its rights and acknowledged by the international community; there is no evidence of any transformation of nuclear technology to military projects and finally even with nuclear military technology Iran would pose no threat to Israel.

So how do we view the op-ed piece by Eric Marx of the Israeli lobby group the SA Jewish Board of Deputies that is matched in its dishonesty only by its hypocrisy (Paper’s baffling stance on Iran, 27 April)? This explains why we have different moral categories for the fair minded that genuinely seek good, and those you use the ruse of objectivity to propagate evil. One would give some credence to Marx’s concerns if he was an independent observer rather than a lobbyist for an Israeli state that is a major nuclear power,  which refuses to open its facilities to IAEA inspection, nor sign the NPT – both of which Iran has agreed to. In addition Israel has a huge stockpile of non-conventional weapons including chemical and biological weapons. This state that Marx uncritically supports, unlike Iran, has aggressive invaded or attacked virtually every one of its neighbours and spread its terror beyond.  Israel aggressively invaded Egypt in 1956 and 1967, Lebanon in 1982 and 2006, Gaza innumerable times, Syria, Jordan, and has attacked Iraq – bombing its alleged nuclear plant. It continues to occupy and exert a repressive military rule over territory legally belonging to Palestine (West Bank and Gaza), Lebanon (Sheba Farms) and Syria (Golan Heights).  Most of Israel’s attacks were unprovoked and fit into its larger objective of a violent land grab for territorial expansion. It has engaged in terrorism worldwide, engaged in extrajudicial executions, and attacks on Palestinians on foreign soil. In its attack on the tiny Gaza strip – which is one of the most densely populated places on earth – Israel used more munition than the Western forces employed in the first week of the Iraq war, including chemical weapons. It is also one of the largest supplier of arms to conflict zones, including in many parts of Africa.

Marx’s paucity of argument is evident in that all he can resort to is fear mongering through obfuscation, innuendo and unsubstantiated Hasbara assertions. Of course he does not fail to include the discredited trope – that ex-President Ahmadinejad called for ‘Israel’s to be wiped off the map’. What Ahmedinejad has said has been deconstructed, debated and correctly translated:  what he said using Persian idiomatic expression was lost in translation and never meant that Iran is threatening to destroy Israel. But such niceties do not serve the purpose of Israel’s South African lobby.

The essential objective of the Israeli hysteria is a doctrine that simply means total Israeli military domination over its neighbours by formenting regional instability. With Iraq and Syria completely destroyed, and other dictatorships militarily of diplomatically emasculated, Iran stands as a beacon of opposition to Israeli and imperial interests in the region. Thankfully Obama has seen through Israel’s game and Netanyahu’s lies and seeks a peaceful resolution as he has done with Cuba. Of course the US President also sees a constructive role than Iran can play in curbing regional instabilities – including against ISIS and al Qaeda. Interminable conflict serves the interest only of Israel so that can continue to play victim and bolster its military. Hopefully Israel’s local lobby would one day see the bigger picture and seek world peace rather than continuing to support a war mongering state and become cheer-leaders for more war. Hopefully one day they will also support nuclear disarmament.

The Cape Times editorial should be applauded for its balance and its stated commitment to peaceful resolution of this issue rather another senseless war that Israel is seeking.

Shuaib Manjra

May 2015

Published in the Cape Times

ARTICLE 3: GLEN HENECK – Israel more a vexed homeland than belligerent power

SHUAIB Man­jra (Cape Times, May 4) is surely right when he calls the stan­dard me­dia de­pic­tion of Iran a car­i­ca­ture. Too bad then that he ap­pends the words “de­monic” and “fa­nat­i­cal” to his own de­scrip­tion, so mak­ing him­self guilty of the very charge of which he com­plains.

The rest of the piece fol­lows the same pat­tern, of mea­sured de­fence ac­com­pa­nied by bil­ious, hy­per­bolic at­tack – to the point where I won­dered, se­ri­ously, whether the whole thing was in­tended as a par­ody, whether Dr Man­jra’s real in­ten­tion was to sub­tly cau­tion his fel­low anti-Zion­ists and anti-Im­pe­ri­al­ists against the dan­gers of ex­ag­ger­a­tion and in­tem­per­ance.

The cu­ri­ous thing is that, like Dr Man­jra, I have lit­tle re­gard for Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, whose ea­ger­ness to ap­pease the re­li­gious right makes him a poor im­i­ta­tion of the kind of leader the coun­try re­ally needs right now. The prob­lem is, though, that in terms of the Man­jra par­a­digm, the only leader that would be coun­te­nanced is one who would com­mit to a deal akin to the one reached at Kemp­ton Park in 1993.

What he re­quires of the Is­raelis, in other words, is that they aban­don their ex­clu­sivist urges and sub­mit them­selves to the whims of a democ­racy; to a one per­son, one vote ar­range­ment in a uni­tary state.

That just isn’t ten­able though, ei­ther morally or prac­ti­cally. For the es­sen­tial truth is that the two sides can’t abide one an­other, hav­ing been fed lit­tle but re­cip­ro­cal ha­tred for the past 100 years and more. Any elec­tion would be a farce – a crude racial cen­sus – and the con­se­quences of de­feat would re­ally be “too ghastly to con­tem­plate”.

In the Is­rael-Pales­tine con­flict, as much as any on earth, we have proof pos­i­tive of Moses Hess’s propo­si­tion that “race is pri­mary, class is sec­ondary” and of JS Mill’s con­clu­sion that “free in­sti­tu­tions are next to im­pos­si­ble in a so­ci­ety made up of dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties”.

No amount of wish­ful (or venge­ful) think­ing is go­ing to change that re­al­ity. In­stead the best that can be hoped for, by peo­ple of good­will and rea­son, is grudg­ing ac­cep­tance of a two-state so­lu­tion, com­plete with re­cip­ro­cal se­cu­rity guar­an­tees, some kind of cap­i­tal trans­fer (and a UN-run Jerusalem).

It’s here, though, that a man of Dr Man­jra’s es­teem and in­tel­lect could play a gen­uinely use­ful role. For he must surely re­alise that the sine qua non for the peace he so avidly es­pouses is not de­nun­ci­a­tion but di­a­logue, not mil­i­tancy but mea­sure, not hys­ter­i­cal flour­ishes but hum­ble com­pro­mises.

Dr Man­jra is painfully as­tute to the ex­ag­ger­a­tion and dis­tor­tion in the stan­dard con­ser­va­tive ren­der­ing of the cal­cu­la­tions of the regime in Te­heran. Surely, then, he is well placed to see a sim­i­lar process at work in the pro­gres­sive de­pic­tion of the go­ings-on in Tel Aviv? Or does the good doc­tor be­lieve that there is some­thing in­trin­si­cally malev­o­lent about the one set of pro­tag­o­nists? Does he re­ally be­lieve that the Is­raelis are ex­ult­ing in the pain the Pales­tini­ans are suf­fer­ing – or in­dif­fer­ent thereto – or is it not rather a case of a com­mu­nity feel­ing their very ex­is­tence un­der threat and con­duct­ing them­selves ac­cord­ingly?

Dr Man­jra is painfully as­tute to the ex­ag­ger­a­tion and dis­tor­tion in the stan­dard con­ser­va­tive ren­der­ing of the cal­cu­la­tions of the regime in Te­heran. Surely, then, he is well placed to see a sim­i­lar process at work in the pro­gres­sive de­pic­tion of the go­ings-on in Tel Aviv? Or does the good doc­tor be­lieve that there is some­thing in­trin­si­cally malev­o­lent about the one set of pro­tag­o­nists? Does he re­ally be­lieve that the Is­raelis are ex­ult­ing in the pain the Pales­tini­ans are suf­fer­ing – or in­dif­fer­ent thereto – or is it not rather a case of a com­mu­nity feel­ing their very ex­is­tence un­der threat and con­duct­ing them­selves ac­cord­ingly?

I have no ba­sis for ques­tion­ing the sin­cer­ity of Dr Man­jra’s be­lief in the virtue, and the vi­a­bil­ity, of a uni­tary state. Rather what per­plexes me is why he, and his fel­low far­away pro­gres­sives, find it so dif­fi­cult to give any cre­dence to those who adopt a dif­fer­ent ap­proach. Espe­cially in the light of the go­ings-on in Azer­bai­jan, Bu­rundi and Croa­tia; in Ar­me­nia, Bos­nia and Cyprus, and so on.

What the Is­raelis are ask­ing – all of them, not just Ne­tanyahu et al – is recog­ni­tion of their right to live in a state with a per­ma­nent Jewish ma­jor­ity. Per­haps I’m show­ing my prej­u­dice here, or my priv­i­lege, but I’m re­ally strug­gling to un­der­stand why any­one but a fun­da­men­tal­ist – Marx­ist or Is­lamist – would find such a prospect not just dis­agree­able but pos­i­tively ab­hor­rent. We’re talk­ing, af­ter all, about: An arid, oil-free sliver of land; A com­mu­nity with at least some his­tor­i­cal claim thereon;

What the Is­raelis are ask­ing – all of them, not just Ne­tanyahu et al – is recog­ni­tion of their right to live in a state with a per­ma­nent Jewish ma­jor­ity. Per­haps I’m show­ing my prej­u­dice here, or my priv­i­lege, but I’m re­ally strug­gling to un­der­stand why any­one but a fun­da­men­tal­ist – Marx­ist or Is­lamist – would find such a prospect not just dis­agree­able but pos­i­tively ab­hor­rent. We’re talk­ing, af­ter all, about: An arid, oil-free sliver of land; A com­mu­nity with at least some his­tor­i­cal claim thereon;

In a re­gion that is hardly a bea­con of democ­racy or good gov­er­nance.

I re­ally want to be­lieve that Dr Man­jra is be­ing ac­cu­rate where he por­trays the Ira­ni­ans as more con­cerned with build­ing a suc­cess­ful wel­fare state than with bring­ing on Ar­maged­don. In the same vein I urge him to reimag­ine Is­rael less as a bel­liger­ent hege­mon and more as a be­lea­guered tribal home­land.

He­neck holds a BA LLB from UCT and a Master’s de­gree in law from Cam­bridge Univer­sity. He is a city busi­ness­man and a mem­ber of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.

Published in the Cape Times

ARTICLE 4: SHUAIB MANJRA – A response to Glen Heneck

CAPE TIMES REFUSED TO PUBLISH THIS RESPONSE

On reading Glen Heneck’s tortured riposte to my article (Cape Times, 12th May), in order to affirm my own sanity and being convinced of his assault on the proverbial strawman, I had to revert to my original copy. This exercise confirmed that the good lawyer seems to have entirely missed the point of my article and contrived a response to an imagined content. So here is a simplistic summary: my article was about Iran and its nuclear ambitions, challenging Eric Marx (also a member of the SAJBD), who seemed hell-bent on demonising Iran using all the pervasive propaganda and nasty adjectives that he could muster. I argued that Iran’s nuclear ambitions seem peaceful and even if it did want to upscale to weapons there is no legal impediment to doing so, except a self-imposed moral and religious one. Furthermore many nations already possess such repugnant weapons of mass destruction, including Israel – whose human rights violations and violent conduct is on historical record and which has refused to sign on to the NPT. Israel was simply used to demonstrate the irony and hypocrisy of Marx’s position in view of his obsession with defending that State in his article. In another context I could have used North Korea or Pakistan for that matter. Most important was my call for any conflict to be resolved through peaceful dialogue.

Heneck hitched his response solely on this comparison, and in his obsession with defending Israel attributes to me what is neither in my article, nor implied and levels accusations against me with intemperate hyperbole. I implore readers to return to my original article (Cape Times, 4th May) in order to judge Heneck’s dishonesty for themselves. Upon further investigation it is apparent that he had cut and pasted sections of his response to a previous Cape Times article of mine in August 2014 (http://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/israel-and-the-rainbow-nation-1.1735606). Perhaps he was pursuing unfinished business.

That notwithstanding his missive deserves a response since it is so characteristic of those with a liberal bent who I believe have some moral compass, but which is blinded by tribal loyalty. When their deeply held idealistic belief is met with an uncomfortable and conflicting reality they invent fictions in order to reconcile this conflict. Some have labelled this cognitive dissonance. Let me provide a simple illustration: Heneck wants to morally claim Israel as a democracy, but at the same time is committed to an ethnic Jewish State or what he calls the right of Israeli’s to ‘live in a state with a permanent Jewish majority’. This is akin to playing a game, establishing the rules, but with the winner predetermined – effectively rendering the game a farce. Thus Heneck’s State is an ethnocracy, little different to Iran’s theocracy. So when Heneck accuses me of requiring Israeli’s to ‘abandon their exclusivist urges and submit themselves to the whims of a democracy’, although I don’t even get close to addressing this issue in my article, I plead guilty as charged. One does not have to be a ‘Marxist or Islamist fundamentalist’ for it to be apparent that in order for any State with a policy to establish and maintain an ethnic or religious majority means that it must discriminate against others. During its establishment Israel had to engage in ethnic cleansing in order to establish a majority Jewish population. In order to sustain this majority it has to engage in gerrymandering, ethnic cleansing, forcing reduced growth among Palestinians through different mechanisms, discriminatory immigration practices, forced emigration and other measures to control the population of those not Jewish – including African refugees. This is the reality in Israel as a consequence of wanting to acquire more land but without the indigenous Palestinian population in order to achieve Heneck’s state with a ‘permanent Jewish majority’.

In seeking a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian question it would be alluring to heed Heneck’s plea that we see a progressive direction in Tel Aviv and not an intrinsic malevolence. But with continued ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, xenophobia, racism, expansion of settlements, continued dispossession of Palestinians, and with the election of an extreme-right wing fundamentalist government one cannot but see a malevolent intent – one of establishing facts on the ground to make the establishment of a Palestinian state untenable. Netanyahu’s racist comment against Palestinians and his publicly stated view that there never will be a Palestinian state gives one little hope. Of course it is simply an open declaration of what most peace activists already suspected. With him appointing a Minister of Justice who has called for indiscriminate military targeting of Palestinians civilians makes the situation even more dire, with some declaring this a call for genocide.

Heneck could do worse than direct his organisation to seek a new starting point in this conversation:  support a moral and just vision rather than continue as an uncritical lobby for the Israeli regime. Hinging one’s identity on a State as a secular deity, or representative of a religious one, forces one to justify the worst excesses. Heneck’s plea to me to reimagine Israel as a ‘beleaguered tribal homeland’ falls short on numerous counts, in addition to being anti-democratic and anachronistic. Israel is neither beleaguered nor a tribal homeland (it may be a religious holy land).  Imagine the world being divided into tribal homelands rather than civil states of all its citizens. Imagine our reaction if there are calls for South Africa to be declared a tribal homeland? Israel is not exceptional and we should see it for what it really is: a colonial entity legitimised on the basis of religious myth and/or a manufactured tribal identity.

My plea to Heneck is for honest engagement in order to progress just solutions rather than attempting to score points or boxing strawmen.

Shuaib Manjra

ARTICLE 5: SHUAIB MANJRA COMPLAINT TO THE OMBUDSMAN AND HIS RESPONSE

The Office of the Press Ombudsman

Having sought the opinion of legal experts, I believe that the Cape Times legal counsel has not read entirely, or has failed to grasp the detail of the Ombudsman opinion on the Allistair Sparks case. Alternately she is being disingenuous.

I entirely agree that the “the topic at hand is a serious one however an op-ed letter is within the sole discretion of the editor regarding the question of whether to publish a letter or not”. On that score I have had previous articles and letters rejected for publication without complaint, simply because I respect the right of the editor to either publish or not – that notwithstanding the fact that the editor engages in self-censorship for various reasons, not least of which is partisan pressure.

I however beg to differ on the issue that the “ The right to refuse to publish a letter was confirmed by the Press Ombudsman in the finding titled Allister Sparks vs. Cape Times…” In the cited case the Ombudsman opined on the specific merits of that case rather than creating a general principle applicable to all contexts. If the right to publish was an absolute right in the hands of the editor, without due consideration for the facts and the truth, then I respectfully submit that the Ombudsman would have effectively ruled himself out of a job. So my case hinges on the accuracy and truthfulness of an article, and its remedy, not on the rights of the editor.

My issue specifically relates to a case where the editor has failed in his responsibility to the Press Code on many of its articles, but more specifically 4.7.1 and 4.7.2.

4.7.1 The facts reported are true or substantially true; or

4.7.2 The article amounts to fair comment based on facts that are adequately referred to and that are true or substantially true;

In my specific complaint the editor not only permitted errors of fact to be published in a critique of my article, and subsequently failing to correct, retract or explain that, but also denying me the right to respond, as required  in 2.6 of the Press Code. It thus failed the accuracy test:

2.6 A publication shall make amends for publishing information or comment that is found to be inaccurate by printing, promptly and with appropriate prominence, a retraction, correction or explanation.

In its actions the Cape Times violates the basic premise of the Press Code, contained in its preamble. The Cape Times failed society by permitting a willful misrepresentation of my article and thus not permitting its readership to make an informed judgment on the issue.

‘The press exists to serve society…. It enables citizens to make informed judgments on the issues of the day, a role whose centrality is recognised in the South African Constitution’.

Also different from the Sparks case, mine is not based on innuendo, back room intrigue, assumptions, presumptions and a disagreement on what constitutes the facts. In my case the facts are clearly stated in print for all to see – and is not based on opinion. These facts are verifiable, as required by the Press Code. Failure to do so also points to a dereliction of duty by the editor.

2.4 Where there is reason to doubt the accuracy of a report and it is practicable to verify the accuracy thereof, it shall be verified. Where it has not been practicable to verify the accuracy of a report, this shall be stated in such report.

In permitting the critique of my article, the editor also does not control the use of intemperate language, and sophistry that I believe impugns my dignity and reputation.

4.7 The press shall exercise care and consideration in matters involving dignity and reputation. The dignity or reputation of an individual should be overridden only by a legitimate public interest and in the following circumstances…

On all these counts the Cape Times has failed the Press Code.

By his own recognition and admission that ‘the topic at hand is a serious one …’, it thus behooves the editor to ensure greater accuracy, truthful expression and balance.

Following is the substance of my appeal in greater detail:

Following on an editorial in the paper on Iran and its nuclear programme, a representative of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, Mr Eric Marx was provided an op-ed on the 27th April 2015 to refute the content of the editorial (Article 1); this after the publication of numerous letters of a similar view.

I responded to Mr Marx in an op-ed published on the 4th May supporting the stance of the paper and critical of Mr. Marx’s position (article 2).

Subsequent to that the Cape Times provided a further op-ed to another member of the  SA Jewish Board of Deputies, Mr Glen Heneck,  in order to criticize my article and which was published on May 12th 2015 (article 3).

Besides making disparaging comments against my piece, the correspondent, Mr Heneck was dishonest and disingenuous in that he raised issues and criticized them, which were not in my article in the first instance. Here is the main object of his criticism (in reference to my article):

‘What he re­quires of the Is­raelis, in other words, is that they aban­don their ex­clu­sivist urges and sub­mit them­selves to the whims of a democ­racy; to a one per­son, one vote ar­range­ment in a uni­tary state.’

He spent a considerable amount of time refuting this argument notwithstanding that I did not even make that argument in my article. Please refer to my article and you will see that not only do I not make that argument, I don’t even allude to it, nor do I make any reference to it. It was a classic case of attacking the proverbial strawman. I challenge the Ombudsman to verify this for himself.

In other parts of the article Mr Glen Heneck continues to takes liberties with the truth. Here is another example:

‘Too bad then that he ap­pends the words “de­monic” and “fa­nat­i­cal” to his own de­scrip­tion, so mak­ing him­self guilty of the very charge of which he com­plains’.

He fails to explain that these were descriptions that I had ascribed to Iran’s detractors and does not explain how in doing so I would be ‘guilty of the very charge of which (I) complain’. This is sophistry of the worse kind.

He continues this sophistry, in addition to impugning my dignity and reputation:

The rest of the piece fol­lows the same pat­tern, of mea­sured de­fence ac­com­pa­nied by bil­ious, hy­per­bolic at­tack – to the point where I won­dered, se­ri­ously, whether the whole thing was in­tended as a par­ody, whether Dr Man­jra’s real in­ten­tion was to sub­tly cau­tion his fel­low anti-Zion­ists and anti-Im­pe­ri­al­ists against the dan­gers of ex­ag­ger­a­tion and in­tem­per­ance’.

I believe that it was the duty of the Cape Times to ensure that any response, any article or any op-ed is accurate, truthful and fairly reflects the debate in order to do justice to the protagonists and so that the public has a fair and balanced view, as is the requirement of the Press Code. Failure to do so is dereliction of duty by the editor, which I believe occurred in this case. It is a case of cowboy journalism.

I responded to Mr Heneck but to date the Cape Times has refused to publish my piece and has to date refused to engage with me on the matter (article 4). This leaves this matter unresolved in the public eye and does not provide the necessary balance required in the media, and remedy the editor’s glaring error.

I don’t know Mr Heneck, have nothing personal against him but seek redress in getting a fair balance in the media on a controversial matter, which in this instance is not being provided despite numerous attempts to discuss this with the editor of the Cape Times.

After about 10 telephone calls to the Cape Times I only managed to speak to a journalist, a Mr  Aziz Hartley who told me that this issue was for the Editor (Mr Aneez Salie) to deal with. He was requested to pass on the message to editor, in addition to other messages left for him and an email that was sent to him.

The articles in reference are given below and attached to this correspondence. The unpublished article is attached to this correspondence. I am sure you will agree that there is no correlation between my published article and the response by Heneck.

Being a daily reader of the Cape Times I also do not believe that space is at issue since in the week since my article was submitted (14th May 2015) there were extensive sections of the paper dedicated to speeches by Government Ministers.

I seek and trust your adjudication in seeking remedy in this matter. The remedy is seek is either a publication of my article in full or alternatively a correction in the Cape Times pointing out Heneck’s disingenuousness in his response.

SHUAIB MANJRA

______________________________________________________________________________

RESPONSE OF THE PRESS OMBUDSMAN

Dr Shuaib Manjra vs. Cape Times

Ruling by the Press Ombudsman

17 June 2015

This ruling is based on the written submissions of Dr Shuaib Manjra and those of the Cape Times newspaper.

Complaint

 Manjra is complaining about a response by Mr Glen Heneck to his opinion piece (both were published in the Cape Times) and wants the newspaper to either give him a right of reply (he says the second article misrepresented him), or to correct that writer’s “disingenuousness in his response”.

The texts were about the troubled situation in the Middle East.

The complaint in more detail

Manjra says that, besides making disparaging comments against his piece, Heneck was dishonest and disingenuous in that he raised issues not included in his article and then criticized them.

He cites the following sentence in Heneck’s text as the main object of his criticism: “What he re­quires of the Is­raelis, in other words, is that they aban­don their ex­clu­sivist urges and sub­mit them­selves to the whims of a democ­racy; to a one per­son, one vote ar­range­ment in a uni­tary state.”

 Manjra counters, “He (Heneck) spent a considerable amount of time refuting this argument notwithstanding that I did not even make that argument in my article… It was a classic case of attacking the proverbial strawman. In fact he cut and pasted much from a previous correspondence of his where he criticized another article of mine…”

He says it is the duty of the Cape Times to ensure that any article and any response is an accurate and fair reflection of the debate so as to do justice to the protagonists and to present a fair and balanced view to the public. “Failure to do so is dereliction of duty by the editor, which I believe occurred in this case.”

He complains that the Cape Times refused to publish his response to Heneck’s article and also refused to engage with him on the matter. “This leaves this matter unresolved in the public eye and does not provide the necessary balance required in the media, and remedy the editor’s glaring error.”

Analysis

To date the editor has not published Manjra’s response or any “correction”.

Manjra’s response not published

This office has no mandate to interfere with editorial decisions and therefore will not direct the newspaper to publish another article by Manjra.

No ‘correction’ published

While it is true that opinions expressed in opinion pieces should be fairly and honestly formed, it is also true that freedom of speech in a real sense gives one the right to be wrong. I therefore need to consider the possibility that Manjra may have been misrepresented and weigh that against the right to freedom of speech.

As freedom of speech has its limitations, and Heneck’s article may have been fundamentally unfair, I read the articles by both Manjra and Heneck with interest.

The crux of Manjra’s dissatisfaction is the sentence reading, “What he (Manjra)  re­quires of the Is­raelis, in other words, is that they aban­don their ex­clu­sivist urges and sub­mit them­selves to the whims of a democ­racy; to a one per­son, one vote ar­range­ment in a uni­tary state.”

Heneck then builds most of his argument on this statement.

It is true, as Manjra says, that he did not make such a statement in his piece. But Heneck used the expression “in other words” – which points to his interpretation of Manjra’s article. Surely, he had the freedom to take the argument further on the basis of his interpretation of the original article.

It would be a sad day for the South African press in particular and our democracy in general if this office should decide a writer is not allowed to interpret what others have written.

I refer to the ruling of the Constitutional Court (McBride vs. The Citizen) where Judge Edwin Cameron stated: “Criticism is protected even if extreme, unjust, unbalanced, exaggerated and prejudiced, as long as it expresses an honestly held opinion, without malice, on a matter of public interest on facts that are true.” (April 2011)

This is in line with the provisions of the Press Code.

I also take into account the sensitivity of the matter – people differ vehemently on this issue. The one person’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist. Who is right and who is wrong? Is there a right or a wrong?

Lastly, my office cannot expect a newspaper to research all the statements in articles submitted for publication by outside contributors under their own names. That would create an untenable situation.

I therefore conclude that, even if Heneck’s article has misrepresented Manjra, such an assumedly mistaken opinion was not serious enough for me to even contemplate that it should outweigh the right to freedom of expression.

Heneck is entitled to his views, and Cape Times is justified in printing them. It is also the editor’s responsibility to decide what should be published and what not.

Finding

The complaint is dismissed.

Appeal

Our Complaints Procedures lay down that within seven working days of receipt of this decision, either party may apply for leave to appeal to the Chairperson of the SA Press Appeals Panel, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, fully setting out the grounds of appeal. He can be contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.

Johan Retief

Press Ombudsman

ARTICLE 6: APPEALING THE OMBUDSMAN’S RULING AND THE APPEAL FINDINGS

22 June 2015

The Honourable Judge Bernard Ngoepe

Chairperson of the SA Press Appeals Panel

Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za

Dear Sir

APPEAL: DR SHUAIB MANJRA vs CAPE TIMES

I hereby wish to apply for leave to appeal the ruling by the Press Ombudsman in the case Dr Shuaib Manjra vs. Cape Times, which I attach herewith. Not being of legal bent, I beg your indulgence.

The grounds for my appeal are set forth hereunder, followed by a more detailed discussion of the points raised:

  1. I believe that the Press Ombudsman has erred in fact, in interpretation and in logic in determining this case.
  2. Consequently, I do not believe that the Press Ombudsman sufficiently applied his mind, or given sufficient weight to the merits of the case.
  3. Furthermore, I believe that the Press Ombudsman is generally biased towards the media rather than the public interest.

I begin with a personal commitment to the notion of freedom of the press, but with the limitations as contained in our Constitution. Press freedom is fundamental to any democracy and to critical dialogue. I concur with the Ombudsman in that:

While it is true that opinions expressed in opinion pieces should be fairly and honestly formed, it is also true that freedom of speech in a real sense gives one the right to be wrong.

The notions of right and wrong are entirely subjective and based on one’s personal worldview

However, in his ruling this is one point where the Ombudsman, I humbly submit has critically erred.

My complaint was not about fettering freedom of speech or the right to be wrong. My main complaint is about deliberate and willful misrepresentation and/or imputing into my article what is clearly not there, nor alluded to,  nor open to such interpretation. The Ombudsman himself admits this, when he states:

It is true, as Manjra says, that he did not make such a statement in his piece.

If by his own admission that I did not make such a statement in my piece, how then can this be honest or critical comment?  By some warped logic the Ombudsman deigns that this can be construed as interpretation, when he states:

But Heneck used the expression “in other words” – which points to his interpretation of Manjra’s article. Surely, he had the freedom to take the argument further on the basis of his interpretation of the original article.

If it was about interpretation then that interpretation must be a reasonable one. It must be an interpretation of a statement I made, a proposition I proferred, the context of my article or the broader narrative of my piece. Interpretation is not free floating, but is rather grounded in the text – particularly in an opinion piece of this nature. A literary piece can be subjected to post-modern devices.  I submit that there is absolutely nothing in my article that opens itself to such interpretation.  If the Ombudsman opines to the contrary, the onus rests on him provide the evidence – which he has failed to do in his ruling.

The only bizarre evidence that the Ombudsman provide for interpretation is Heneck’s use of ‘in other words’. To quote the ruling:

But Heneck used the expression “in other words” – which points to his interpretation of Manjra’s article.

The Ombudsman provides no other evidence except to argue that simply by using ‘in other words’ Heneck has the licence to impute or interpolate anything into my article regardless of whether I said that or not; whether I alluded to it or not; whether I made reference to it or not or whether it was within the broader narrative of the article. None of which apply and I submit that no reasonable person would arrive at a similar conclusion, except it seems the Ombudsman.  Rather, the use of ‘in other words’ is generally construed as paraphrasing, simplifying a position, expressing it differently or summarizing it – while remaining faithful to its meaning. None of this is evident in Heneck’s position regarding my article.

Furthermore, as I stated in my complaint my article was about Iran in the nuclear context, not about the Middle-East conflict which the Ombudsman assumes. The Middle-East conflict is generally taken to mean the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My article was about Iran and it nuclear ambitions wherein I merely used Israel as a comparison (since my response was to an article by Eric Marx whose sole interest was in defending Israel).

On this question, my contention is that I did not speak about a solution or about the conflict, accept to allude to Israel’s behavior in the region as a nuclear power. Even if someone wants to interpret my view on a solution, which I reiterate I did not offer or allude to, there could be range of solutions – a unitary state, a two-state solution, a federal state, etc. Yet Heneck imputes me offering a one-state solution without any evidence from my article – and then attacks this proverbial strawman in the rest of his article.

I submit that the Ombudsman is wrong in considering this interpolation as an interpretation –which Heneck further uses to disparage me. Thus the Ombudsman is wrong when he states:

It would be a sad day for the South African press in particular and our democracy in general if this office should decide a writer is not allowed to interpret what others have written.

While I agree with the general sentiment, it simply does not apply in this context. The science of interpretation is a complex one, but generally speaking interpretation is understood as the the action of explaining the meaning of something. There is a vast difference between interpretation and interpolation or imputation. My objection is not to interpretation but rather to imputation and interpolation.

I further submit that the Ombudsman interpretation of Judge Edwin Cameron’s ruling, quoted below from the Ombudsman’s ruling, is erroneous for various reasons:

I refer to the ruling of the Constitutional Court (McBride vs. The Citizen) where Judge Edwin Cameron stated: “Criticism is protected even if extreme, unjust, unbalanced, exaggerated and prejudiced, as long as it expresses an honestly held opinion, without malice, on a matter of public interest on facts that are true.

It is my contention that the Ombudsman ignores the learned Judge’s opinion where the important consideration is “… on facts that are true.’  I submit that in this case neither are the facts true, nor is there any evidence that such an opinion is held without malice.

Finally, I respectfully submit that I regard the following statement by the Ombudsman  bizarre considering his role as custodian of the Press Code:

… my office cannot expect a newspaper to research all the statements in articles submitted for publication by outside contributors under their own names. That would create an untenable situation.

Without labouring the point and I contend that I am not stretching the meaning of what is intended, I submit that the Ombudsman disregards accuracy as paramount in any article. I submit that accuracy is one of the cornerstones of a free and responsible media. Reducing staff to increase profits cannot be used as an excuse to willy-nilly disregard accuracy. Furthermore this was not about researching facts; it simply required validation of a critique against the original article. It is a simple and expected requirement of the editor or sub-editor.

The Press Code demands accuracy and truth, in the following provisions:

4.7.1 The facts reported are true or substantially true; or

4.7.2 The article amounts to fair comment based on facts that are adequately referred to and that are true or substantially true;

2.4 Where there is reason to doubt the accuracy of a report and it is practicable to verify the accuracy thereof, it shall be verified. Where it has not been practicable to verify the accuracy of a report, this shall be stated in such report.

Even if one accounts for the Ombudsman’s opinion that the editor cannot vouch for accuracy, as this would be ‘untenable’, then the publication has a responsibility to make amends for such accuracy come to light (as in this case), as stated in the following provisions of the Press Code:

2.6 A publication shall make amends for publishing information or comment that is found to be inaccurate by printing, promptly and with appropriate prominence, a retraction, correction or explanation.

We cannot have a situation of sacrificing accuracy without consequence. That would encourage reckless journalism. That may just require the Cape Times to print a disclaimer in its banner that it cannot vouch for the accuracy of its reports, if the Ombudsman opinion is to hold sway.

Furthermore, the Press Code states that:

‘The press exists to serve society…. It enables citizens to make informed judgments on the issues of the day, a role whose centrality is recognised in the South African Constitution’.

Permitting false reports does not permit our citizenry to make informed decisions and I would argue that this violates our constitutional right.

On these bases I hereby submit that the Ombudsman has erred on

  1. Matters of fact, in interpretation, and in logic in determining this case;
  2. Not sufficiently applying his mind, or given sufficient weight to the merits of the case;
  3. Being generally biased towards the media rather than the public interest.

I do not make the last point lightly – it simply came to light during my saga with the Cape Times when the paper deemed it fit, in a fit of triumphalism, to print its private correspondence with the Press Ombudsman. This case involved the Cape Times and the MEC for Education in the Western Cape, Debbie Schafer and demonstrates the cosy relationship that exists between the media and the Press Council. The Ombudsman in its private correspondence to the Cape Times stated that ‘the Department protesteth too much’. This was in a case that was to be possibly adjudicated by the Ombudsman. In a letter to the Cape Times the Press Council had to apologise for the blurring of lines.

I refer your honour to the relevant articles:

http://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/cape-times/20150609/281676843528729/TextView

http://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/cape-times/20150612/281814282488515/TextView

I finally want to state that I have had numerous opinion pieces and letter rejected for publication by the Cape Times with no complaint because of my respect for editorial independence. This case is substantively different, hence my complaint.

On these bases I seek the right to Appeal this case. The points of my appeal have been set out as above.

Sincerely

SHUAIB MANJRA

_________________________________________________

JUDGE NGOEPE’S FINDINGS – REFUSING MY RIGHT TO APPEAL

(I believe that he entirely missed the crux of my appeal, rather focusing on the civility of the interaction rather than the substance of my appeal):

DR SHUAIB MANJRA                                                                                APPLICANT

 AND

 CAPE TIMES                                                                                                RESPONDENT

 MATTER NO: 1148/05/2015

 DECISION ON APLICATION FOR LEAVE TO APPEAL

 [1]     In its editorial of 13 April 2015, the Cape Times (“respondent”) expressed itself in support of the nuclear peace deal concluded between Iran and 5 major powers.  This attracted a response from Mr Eric Marx, Chair Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies.  In his article entitled “Papers baffling stance on Iran”, which was published on an op-ed, Mr Marx criticized the editorial; he felt that it had been partisan in its support of the deal, in favour of Iran.  He argued that the editorial wrongly portrayed Iran as a peace loving country; he mentioned several violent incidents which he says were supported by Iran, ranging from Norway to South America, East Africa and the Middle East.

[2]     In his article, published by the respondent also on an op-ed on 4 may 2015, Dr Shuaib Manjra (“applicant”), joined issue with Mr Marx, and defended the respondent’s editorial.  He portrayed both the good and bad side of Iran, but, in the process, criticized Israel and some of its policies such as towards the Palestinians. In the process, he criticised Mr Marx.

[3]     In its turn, applicant’s response to Mr Marx attracted a response by Mr Glen Heneck also on an op-ed, published on 12 May 2015. Needless to say, Mr Marx criticized the applicant in a number of respects (I return to this later).

[4]     The applicant wrote a response to Mr Heneck, but the respondent refused to publish it. After failed numerous attempts and much effort to persuade respondent, the applicant eventually lodged a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman.  He wanted “either the publication of his article in full or alternatively a correction in the Cape Times pointing Heck’s disingenuousness in his response.”

[5]     In its defence, respondent, through its journalist, responded as follows: “I have spoken to the Editor of the Cape Times Mr Aneez Salie who feels that the topic at hand is a serious one however an op-ed letter is within the sole discretion of the editor regarding the question of whether to publish a letter or not”.  The journalist then referred to a decision of the Ombudsman in a previous matter, namely, .Allister Sparks vs Cape Times, which the applicant says is distinguishable from the present case.

[6]     One of the complaints the applicant has against Heneck’s article is that he was misinterpreted and attacked; he wanted to set the record straight.  In his Ruling dated 17 June 2015, the Ombudsman dismissed applicant’s complaint.

[7]     The Ombudsman stated in his Ruling that he had to consider whether the applicant had been misrepresented by Heneck.  He held that even “if Heneck’s article has misinterpreted Manjra such a mistaken opinion was not serious enough”.  The Ombudsman said that he had no mandate to interfere with editorial decision; accordingly, he could not order the respondent to publish applicant’s letter. The complaint was therefore dismissed; hence this application.

[8]     I have read carefully Heneck’s response.  I do not think it mounts the kind of attack applicant says it does.  It might have been robust; but it was overall civil and restrained.  It did not even appear to be personal; it kept to the substance of the debate. Turning to the issue of editorial discretion: one respects it; however, in suitable cases such a decision may have to attract some consequences.  I do not believe that harm should be caused to individuals, and be allowed to stand, all in the name of editorial discretion. It is inconceivable that a paper can offer a platform for a scathing attack by A on B, but, in the name of editorial discretion, refuse to publish B’s response.  However, the present is not such a case. As I have already said, Heneck was restrained and civil and really kept to the point which was the subject of debate; the issue is not whether he was right or wrong. I therefore hold that the Ombudsman’s Ruling cannot be faulted.

[9]     For the reasons given above, the applicant has no reasonable prospects of success before the Appeals Panel; the application is therefore dismissed.

Dated this 14th day of August 2015

Judge B M Ngoepe, Chair, Appeals Panel

Advertisements

ARTICLE 2: SHUAIB MANJRA – Israel, Iran and the Nuclear Question – A response to Eric Marx

It is imperative that we pursue a future where peace, justice and freedom reign as supreme values predicated on equal respect for all peoples, nations, national sovereignty and the rule of law – not least because we live in an interdependent world with common interests and a shared future. This demands that that any disagreement between nations must primarily be resolved within a peaceful framework. It is within this context that the issue of Iran, its nuclear ambitions and those who oppose it must be seen. But it is also within this context that we should seek to eradicate nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction and non-conventional weapons. Of course in the light of the enormous power of the arms industry attempting to eradicate all weapons would be a futile exercise.

Iran is a peaceful and remarkable nation with a history, culture and civilisation going back many millennia. Speak to anyone who has been to Iran and you face a reality which is far from the demonic, fanatical caricature painted by those who not only want to demonise it, but also destroy it – as they have done with vibrant,  dynamic and largely secular Iraqi and Syrian societies, in the guise of eradicating despotic rulers. Iran has a sizeable Jewish population, with civil and legal equality and an active religious life, with representation in Parliament in excess of its numbers. In fact it is easier to find a synagogue in Teheran than a Sunni Mosque. It is instructive that Iran has not launched a conventional war of aggression against another state in all of modern history. On the other hand it has been the recipient of numerous aggressive threats, wars and the overthrow of a democratically elected President, Mohammed Mossadeq by the CIA. But Iran is not a perfect state: it subscribes to an aberrant democracy characterised as a theocracy. A superior body vets candidates’ suitability for office based on their character, values and history, and also vets laws to ensure that they are in keeping with its Islamic ethos. It is also a repressive regime that commits human rights abuses against its critics and some minority communities. And from time to time it is blessed with idiotic leaders.

Yes, Iran is a patron of Hezbollah and occasionally Hamas and the Palestinians, and a shadow player in the civil wars of Lebanon and Syria. But both Hezbollah and Hamas are national liberation movements that seek to end Israeli occupation of Lebanese and the Palestinian Territories respectively. Similarly Iran has supported progressive movements around the worlds for many years and continues to foster relationships with left-wing governments in South America particularly.

Iran has made its nuclear ambitions clear – it wants to develop nuclear technology for peaceful civilian purposes. It is a right which each and every country possesses and one that should be respected. Even Obama avers, when he said at the UN, “we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy”.  Yet Iran is not permitted to pursue this technology simply because of invented suspicions, by its adversaries that it could produce nuclear weapons. Such adversaries have shown an aversion to this state since the overthrow of the Shah’s oppressive regime and its escape from the clutches of imperial power. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Iran is producing, on the brink of producing, or has intentions to produce nuclear weapons –  either from the IAEA, the USA or Israeli intelligence. Netanyahu’s own Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, Israel’s chief of staff Benny Gantz, and Mossad chiefs have admitted that Iran has not decided to initiate a nuclear weapons program or build a bomb. Claims come only from propagandists including Benjamin Netanyahu and his coterie of war-mongers and has a transparent agenda: the first is to maintain the façade that Israel is the pre-eminent victim in the world facing an existential threat; the second is to ensure a continued supply of the most up-to-date military hardware and intelligence from its supporters,  pre-eminently the USA; thirdly to use fear mongering as an electoral ruse, and fourthly to create a ruse to launch an attack on Iran.

 It is worth remembering that during Iran’s 8-year war with Iraq (supported by Western powers), where 20 000 Iranians were killed, over 100 000 injured and where Iraq extensively used chemical weapons against Iranian citizens, the Ayatollah Khomeini refused permission for Iranians to produce or use chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. This religious edict still holds and is confirmed by his successor Ayatollah Khamenei when he said:

“The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.”

Shia theology would require a monumental shift to abrogate Khomeini’s fatwa.

Having established that Iran has the right to pursue its civilian nuclear programme, let us confront another question: if for argument sake Iran wants to transform its peaceful nuclear technology to nuclear weapons, why should it not be permitted to do so? What law or principles guides which state should be in the nuclear club and who should be excluded? Why should the USA have nuclear weapons but not South Africa; why should Pakistan have nuclear weapons and not Bangladesh; why should North Korea have nuclear weapons and not South Korea? Why should those in the nuclear club be its gatekeepers? Why should Iran not be permitted to have nuclear weapons when many of the countries surrounding it have? The rule of reciprocity should ensure that either no one country has a nuclear weapon or all countries have that right. Whether they decide to exercise that right is another matter altogether. Failing that we will have an unstable world where the powerful continue to dominate the weak. Opening the option of nuclear weapons for all nation states would result in a ‘balance or terror’ and consequently in a balance of power between such nations. All would be constrained by the fear of mutual annihilation in a nuclear war. This may just be the perfect antidote to those who refuse to act on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Without this ‘balance of terror’ imperial hegemony and hubris will continue to proliferate.

Then we confront another canard:  should Iran develop a nuclear weapon will it pose an existential threat to Israel? In a January New York Times article three leading Israeli security experts –  Mossad chiefs Tamir Pardo and Efraim Halevy, and a former military chief of staff Dan Halutz – all declared that a nuclear Iran would not pose an existential threat to Israel echoing Ehud Barak. The reasons for this is simple: the first is that since Israel has over 400 undeclared nuclear warheads it would most  certainly retaliate with excessive force as is historically evident, and second,  being a small country an attack on Israel would equally decimate the Palestinian population.

To reiterate – Iran has civilian nuclear ambitions which is within its rights and acknowledged by the international community; there is no evidence of any transformation of nuclear technology to military projects and finally even with nuclear military technology Iran would pose no threat to Israel.

So how do we view the op-ed piece by Eric Marx of the Israeli lobby group the SA Jewish Board of Deputies that is matched in its dishonesty only by its hypocrisy (Paper’s baffling stance on Iran, 27 April)? This explains why we have different moral categories for the fair minded that genuinely seek good, and those you use the ruse of objectivity to propagate evil. One would give some credence to Marx’s concerns if he was an independent observer rather than a lobbyist for an Israeli state that is a major nuclear power,  which refuses to open its facilities to IAEA inspection, nor sign the NPT – both of which Iran has agreed to. In addition Israel has a huge stockpile of non-conventional weapons including chemical and biological weapons. This state that Marx uncritically supports, unlike Iran, has aggressive invaded or attacked virtually every one of its neighbours and spread its terror beyond.  Israel aggressively invaded Egypt in 1956 and 1967, Lebanon in 1982 and 2006, Gaza innumerable times, Syria, Jordan, and has attacked Iraq – bombing its alleged nuclear plant. It continues to occupy and exert a repressive military rule over territory legally belonging to Palestine (West Bank and Gaza), Lebanon (Sheba Farms) and Syria (Golan Heights).  Most of Israel’s attacks were unprovoked and fit into its larger objective of a violent land grab for territorial expansion. It has engaged in terrorism worldwide, engaged in extrajudicial executions, and attacks on Palestinians on foreign soil. In its attack on the tiny Gaza strip – which is one of the most densely populated places on earth – Israel used more munition than the Western forces employed in the first week of the Iraq war, including chemical weapons. It is also one of the largest supplier of arms to conflict zones, including in many parts of Africa.

Marx’s paucity of argument is evident in that all he can resort to is fear mongering through obfuscation, innuendo and unsubstantiated Hasbara assertions. Of course he does not fail to include the discredited trope – that ex-President Ahmadinejad called for ‘Israel’s to be wiped off the map’. What Ahmedinejad has said has been deconstructed, debated and correctly translated:  what he said using Persian idiomatic expression was lost in translation and never meant that Iran is threatening to destroy Israel. But such niceties do not serve the purpose of Israel’s South African lobby.

The essential objective of the Israeli hysteria is a doctrine that simply means total Israeli military domination over its neighbours by formenting regional instability. With Iraq and Syria completely destroyed, and other dictatorships militarily of diplomatically emasculated, Iran stands as a beacon of opposition to Israeli and imperial interests in the region. Thankfully Obama has seen through Israel’s game and Netanyahu’s lies and seeks a peaceful resolution as he has done with Cuba. Of course the US President also sees a constructive role than Iran can play in curbing regional instabilities – including against ISIS and al Qaeda. Interminable conflict serves the interest only of Israel so that can continue to play victim and bolster its military. Hopefully Israel’s local lobby would one day see the bigger picture and seek world peace rather than continuing to support a war mongering state and become cheer-leaders for more war. Hopefully one day they will also support nuclear disarmament.

The Cape Times editorial should be applauded for its balance and its stated commitment to peaceful resolution of this issue rather another senseless war that Israel is seeking.

Shuaib Manjra

May 2015

Published in the Cape Times

ARTICLE 4: SHUAIB MANJRA – A response to Glen Heneck

CAPE TIMES REFUSED TO PUBLISH THIS RESPONSE

On reading Glen Heneck’s tortured riposte to my article (Cape Times, 12th May), in order to affirm my own sanity and being convinced of his assault on the proverbial strawman, I had to revert to my original copy. This exercise confirmed that the good lawyer seems to have entirely missed the point of my article and contrived a response to an imagined content. So here is a simplistic summary: my article was about Iran and its nuclear ambitions, challenging Eric Marx (also a member of the SAJBD), who seemed hell-bent on demonising Iran using all the pervasive propaganda and nasty adjectives that he could muster. I argued that Iran’s nuclear ambitions seem peaceful and even if it did want to upscale to weapons there is no legal impediment to doing so, except a self-imposed moral and religious one. Furthermore many nations already possess such repugnant weapons of mass destruction, including Israel – whose human rights violations and violent conduct is on historical record and which has refused to sign on to the NPT. Israel was simply used to demonstrate the irony and hypocrisy of Marx’s position in view of his obsession with defending that State in his article. In another context I could have used North Korea or Pakistan for that matter. Most important was my call for any conflict to be resolved through peaceful dialogue.

Heneck hitched his response solely on this comparison, and in his obsession with defending Israel attributes to me what is neither in my article, nor implied and levels accusations against me with intemperate hyperbole. I implore readers to return to my original article (Cape Times, 4th May) in order to judge Heneck’s dishonesty for themselves. Upon further investigation it is apparent that he had cut and pasted sections of his response to a previous Cape Times article of mine in August 2014 (http://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/israel-and-the-rainbow-nation-1.1735606). Perhaps he was pursuing unfinished business.

That notwithstanding his missive deserves a response since it is so characteristic of those with a liberal bent who I believe have some moral compass, but which is blinded by tribal loyalty. When their deeply held idealistic belief is met with an uncomfortable and conflicting reality they invent fictions in order to reconcile this conflict. Some have labelled this cognitive dissonance. Let me provide a simple illustration: Heneck wants to morally claim Israel as a democracy, but at the same time is committed to an ethnic Jewish State or what he calls the right of Israeli’s to ‘live in a state with a permanent Jewish majority’. This is akin to playing a game, establishing the rules, but with the winner predetermined – effectively rendering the game a farce. Thus Heneck’s State is an ethnocracy, little different to Iran’s theocracy. So when Heneck accuses me of requiring Israeli’s to ‘abandon their exclusivist urges and submit themselves to the whims of a democracy’, although I don’t even get close to addressing this issue in my article, I plead guilty as charged. One does not have to be a ‘Marxist or Islamist fundamentalist’ for it to be apparent that in order for any State with a policy to establish and maintain an ethnic or religious majority means that it must discriminate against others. During its establishment Israel had to engage in ethnic cleansing in order to establish a majority Jewish population. In order to sustain this majority it has to engage in gerrymandering, ethnic cleansing, forcing reduced growth among Palestinians through different mechanisms, discriminatory immigration practices, forced emigration and other measures to control the population of those not Jewish – including African refugees. This is the reality in Israel as a consequence of wanting to acquire more land but without the indigenous Palestinian population in order to achieve Heneck’s state with a ‘permanent Jewish majority’.

In seeking a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian question it would be alluring to heed Heneck’s plea that we see a progressive direction in Tel Aviv and not an intrinsic malevolence. But with continued ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, xenophobia, racism, expansion of settlements, continued dispossession of Palestinians, and with the election of an extreme-right wing fundamentalist government one cannot but see a malevolent intent – one of establishing facts on the ground to make the establishment of a Palestinian state untenable. Netanyahu’s racist comment against Palestinians and his publicly stated view that there never will be a Palestinian state gives one little hope. Of course it is simply an open declaration of what most peace activists already suspected. With him appointing a Minister of Justice who has called for indiscriminate military targeting of Palestinians civilians makes the situation even more dire, with some declaring this a call for genocide.

Heneck could do worse than direct his organisation to seek a new starting point in this conversation:  support a moral and just vision rather than continue as an uncritical lobby for the Israeli regime. Hinging one’s identity on a State as a secular deity, or representative of a religious one, forces one to justify the worst excesses. Heneck’s plea to me to reimagine Israel as a ‘beleaguered tribal homeland’ falls short on numerous counts, in addition to being anti-democratic and anachronistic. Israel is neither beleaguered nor a tribal homeland (it may be a religious holy land).  Imagine the world being divided into tribal homelands rather than civil states of all its citizens. Imagine our reaction if there are calls for South Africa to be declared a tribal homeland? Israel is not exceptional and we should see it for what it really is: a colonial entity legitimised on the basis of religious myth and/or a manufactured tribal identity.

My plea to Heneck is for honest engagement in order to progress just solutions rather than attempting to score points or boxing strawmen.

Shuaib Manjra

Cape Town

Say No! to Xenophobia

Good morning, Sanbonani, Goeie More, Salaam, Shalom, Namaste

I greet you friends in celebration of our diversity in humanity and our diversity as South Africans; a diversity which profoundly contributes to the beautiful mosaic of our wonderful country.

Friends, June 16th is a hallowed day in South Africa’s history. It should be one that is celebrated in every school in this country. It was the day in 1976 when youth, such as yourselves, stood up and said no to injustice, no to discrimination, no to apartheid, no to xenophobia. It was the beginning of the Tsunami that saw the eventual dismantling of Apartheid in our country two decade later. That moment in 1976 represents the bravery, courage  and vanguardism of South African youth that had consequences many years later. That mantle passes on to you – because what you do today will have repercussions in future. You make tomorrow.  I therefore commend the organizers for their bravery in taking up this burning issue of xenophobia.

Xenophobia  is the “deep-rooted, irrational hatred towards foreigners or of the unfamiliar”.

Put simply, Xenophobia is a form of hatred for others simply because they are different or unfamiliar to us. It represents a hatred for people who are different because of their race, culture, language, ethnicity, religion, nationality or sexual orientation. This hatred also has other names: racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Nazism, homophobia or Zionism.

It is an irrationality that arises out of seeing people as others – or outsiders from our own circle of insiders; outsiders because they are different to us in some aspect. Because of this difference we then stigmatise such people and then discriminate against them. Creating a situation of insiders and outsiders, us and them, permits us to reduce their sense of humanity in our eyes, and permits us to discriminate against them without disturbing our natural sense of justice. This ‘othering’ creates a banality in our evil – where even good people inexplicably commit the most dastardly evil.

This is evident in history whether it was in this country, in Rwanda, in Bosnia, during colonialism or during the Holocaust. During the Holocaust the Nazi’s killed people simply for being different – they killed the Roma people, they killed those who were disabled, they killed the communists, they killed the gays and they killed the Jews. They were killed because these people were considered the outsiders, aberrant or imperfect. We see in Rwanda and Bosnia – where communities who lived an integrated existence and intermarried turned on each other. Neighbours turned on neighbor in a frenzy of hatred. But we also see forms of it in the USA, in Britain, in France, Germany and Spain – particularly with regard to recently arrived immigrants.

We need to check ourselves because we all engage in stigmatizing other people in our daily conversations. We attempt to give his hatred a degree of rationality, either through our negative experience with a member of this group and generalize that tendency to all members of that group. Or we may grow up with assumptions about certain people and then dehumanize them,  and then discriminate about them. In other cases we simply imitate what other people, who are close to us, say and do. To some degree we all do this. It is a tendency we need to be vigilant against and constantly check ourselves and others– so that we don’t allow these attitude to take root and fester. So that we learn and teach others to accept people as humans, as individuals and attribute an essential goodness to them. We must celebrate our diversity and as a nation celebrate our unity in this diversity.

So my first point is that xenophobia is possible because we all create insiders and outsiders within a circle that we create, and use this as a basis to hold certain views about outsiders, stigmatise them and then discriminate against them.

My second point is that there is an irrationality about creating insiders and outsiders – because while we may inside our circle, because of our difference we may be outside somebody else’s circle. While we stigmatise others, they may form a basis to stigmatize us. Today we may discriminate against someone for being different to us; tomorrow we will be targeted for being different

There is an ever-closing circle of ‘othering’. To quote UCT Social Anthropology Professor Francis Nyamnjoh:

this diminishing circles of inclusion dictates that the next amakwerekwere, foreigners or strangers, is always one layer below the obvious one’.

Today it is the foreigners, tomorrow it could be Indians, Coloureds and Whites, then it could be Vendas, Pedi or Sothos, then it could be gays and lesbians, then it could be the disabled, then women …. This hierarchy of race, class and ‘othering’ continues to close down on those who are more vulnerable, as if the dehumanization must be a continuing cycle: that because I am dehumanized, I must similarly act in an inhumane way towards others below me in the social hierarchy.

Unless we break this cycle – this continuing cycle will destroy all of us.

This ‘diminishing circle of inclusion’ is poetically and presciently captured by one of Hitler’s victims, Pastor Martin Niemoller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me

We can only act against this urge, if we being to treat humanity as one family – as part of our family. As we celebrate differences in our own families – we accept the differences in us as human beings as a strength. More importantly where we see the earliest signs of racism or xenophobia we challenge it.

Friends, we as individuals need to recognise and be conscious of the fact that we are not the pure products of any group. Rather we are the products of a historical process, to quote Antonio Gramsci, who have been influenced by‘infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory’. If we are to compile that inventory of what has influenced us– we would be African, European, Asian and American. We have influences of different races as proven in our genetics. Our civilisations and cultures have been influenced by previous ones since the dawn of time. In our own lives we have influences from different cultural systems – we use the Arabic alphabet, we watch American movies, drive Japanese cars, listen to African music, and consume Indian cuisine. We have infinity of traces that enriches our lives. We are bound together by a fatalistic dialectic. Society can never be divided into us and them. There is only us. Therefore to hate – is to hate that part of who we are.

My final point is that we are all foreigners and natives to this land. Let me demonstrate that fact by invoking a Nando’s advertisement to demonstrate our common history:

The ad starts with black Africans illegally crossing a barbed-wire border fence into South Africa. There is a voiceover and each time the voice calls out a name, the group of people who represent that particular identity are transformed into a cloud of smoke, as follows: You know what is wrong with South Africa: all you foreigners. You must all go back to where you came from – you Cameroonians, Congolese, Nigerians, Somalis, Ghanaians and Kenyans. And of course you Chinese and you Europeans. Let’s not forget you Indians and Pakistanis. Even you Afrikaners. Back to Swaziland you Swazis, Lesotho you Sothos, Vendas, Zulus, everybody. In the end, only one person is left standing, a San man who, armed with a bow and arrow and ready to explore the wilderness, confronts the voiceover with these words: “I’m not going anywhere. You found us here.” The ad concludes with the voiceover saying: “Real South Africans love diversity.”

This advert in its simplicity articulates a profound idea: that the idea of identity and belonging in South Africa recognises the history of mobilities of peoples that have made South Africa possible, and that remains open to new and ongoing mobilities. It makes the point that people will be coming into this country and leaving; those who come and those who leave would have contributed to our beautiful mosaic which we call citizenship.

We have come to this country merely a few years before others. Despite this we have witness the most dastardly acts against people from other countries who have come to ours for various reasons – as political, social or economic refugees. These people would rather die or drown in oceans than stay in their home countries – so dire is their lot. The acts against these people are acts of criminality driven by an unacceptable hatred. We have targeted people simply because they are different to us (or more successful). Nothing can justify such attacks against innocent people earning an honest living who come to our shores out of desperation. It robs our country of a civility.

These xenophobic attacks are not only against foreigners; rather they attack all we stand for, as victims of apartheid, as a rainbow nation, and our constitutional imperative. The preamble to use constitutions recognises that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity’. Let us embrace this diversity in our daily lives.

Let us begin to meaningfully understand other cultures, religions, traditions and races through substantive engagement so we can all be enriched by our diversity. And let us spare a thought for those who through desperation, and facing death and destruction, leave their homes to seek security and prosperity in our land. In their circumstances we would have done no different.

I end with a prayer for peace, justice, reconciliation, hope and freedom; a prayer I hope all of you recognize:

Lord bless Africa May her glory be lifted high Hear our petitions Lord bless us, your children

Lord we ask You to protect our nation Intervene and end all conflicts Protect us, protect our nation Protect South Africa

Out of the blue of our heavens Out of the depths of our seas Over our everlasting mountains Where the echoing crags resound

Sounds the call to come together, And united we shall stand, Let us live and strive for freedom, In South Africa our land.

 To those who have no recognised it, I remind you that this is our beautiful national anthem -penned by Enoch Sontonga – to which we do violence every single day.

I thank you.

Shuaib Manjra

Cape Town

16 June 2015

Breaking the Cycle of Violence – A Call for Action

Talk delivered by SHUAIB MANJRA at the Claremont Main Road Mosque, 22 February 2013.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have taught the following:

“The believer with the most complete faith is the one with the best character and the one with the best character is he who treats women with dignity and honour” (reported by Abu Hurayra and recorded in the hadith collection of Tirmidhi)

On the basis of this hadith we conclude that in Islam the level of the believer’s faith is evaluated by his/her ethical conduct and the highest form of virtuosity is affirming the full dignity and honour of women.

INTRODUCTION

South Africa reacted with shock, disgust and disbelief at the brutal violation of 17 year old Anene Booysen. She was raped and brutality murdered in Bredasdorp a few weeks ago.

Her murder was overshadowed in the last week by the case of South Africa’s celebrity Paralympiam Oscar Pistorius’s – who allegedly senselessly murdered his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp –  an act which also left our country aghast.

One was a crime against an innocent girl, largely unknown to the perpetrators or known to some. The other was a crime against a woman who shared an intimate space with the alleged perpetrator. The two cases that I cite involve people that come from different races and different classes. The common denominator in both cases was a crime against women. More importantly they were an exercise in power. An expression of hubris that knows no boundaries – boundaries of race, class, ethnicity, religion or educational level are immaterial.

Both cases are little different in their intent, brutality and the factors which contribute to such violence.

It was the brutality and insanity of the violence perpetrated that shocked. It was a demonstration of a lack of humanity of the perpetrators. An inhumanity that tears at the soul of each and every one of us. Even in the country which has become accustomed to violence and rape, we were brutalised by these gratuitous acts of violence. It was the representation of a moral vacuum.

Our hearts go out to the survivors of this brutaliy – Anene Booysen’s family and friends. Reeva Steenkamp’s family is also in our thoughts. We feel for them, but can never experience their pain.

These events are tragedies. But the greater tragedy lies in the fact that these are not unusual occurrences – but are simply emblematic of a broader societal problem. This is a daily occurrence in many parts of our country – not least of all in the poor working class townships that are a blot on our country. They remain hidden except in the vilest cases.

But there comes a time when society stands up and says this is enough. Jyoti Singh’s brutalisation and murder   represented such a moment in India. India is another country where violence against women is endemic and structural and given legitimacy through culture and religion. The public reaction to Jyoti’s death in India was dramatic with even the Prime Minister present at the airport to receive her body. The public reaction in South Africa was more muted – where at best there were statements condemning the episode. Thousands of UCT students who this week marched against violence against women are to be commended. Aneen Booysen’s murder must represent that moment for us in South Africa.

The knee-jerk response of most of us was to call for increased and improved policing, harsher sentencing and even the death-penalty. These measures are necessary for both their punitive and deterrence value  – but they largely serve to address the consequences of the actions.  We cannot deal with this moral morass, these levels of endemic violence simply through harsher punitive sanctions. We should be asking another question; a more fundamental question: how can this be prevented? What are the underlying causes of such violence. However in addressing the structural causes of such violence we must not detract from personal complicity. And in apportioning personal blame we cannot ignore societal influence. Such actions ultimately are formed by a complex matrix of individual and societal influences.

Unless we begin to address these – the scourge of violence against women will continue unabated. In fact it will only get worse.

STRUCTURAL CAUSES OF VIOLENCE

The structural causes violence in our country are stark and inter-related. Evaluating them gives us a sense of the enormity of the problem and puts to bed any notion of short-term solutions or easy remedies. We should not be lulled in seeking tidy, simple solutions to complex, untidy realities

SOCIALISATION

The first and most important cause of such violence is the way we are socialised –  the way our attitudes and behaviours towards women are shaped in our formative years. Our children learn what they see and what they experience. If our society casts women as inferior, as weak, as objectives, as possessions, as servants – then our children grow up accepting such attitudes. Our boys grown up with such attitudes and our girls grow up accepting such attitudes. In short we do what we learn, what we see and what we experience.  These attitudes are replicated through generations.

INTERGENERATIONAL VIOLENCE

The second major cause is attributable to the cycle of violence where those who are victims of violence or even witnesses to violence are more likely to become violent themselves. This is termed intergenerational violence. Such behaviour may manifest through anger issues, criminal behaviour, domestic violence, etc.  Violence becomes a learnt behaviour, which is taught through society:  such violence may be represented by physical violence, emotional, or sexual violence. Children learn that this type of behaviour is normal and may re-enact such behaviour. Problems are managed through violence, which also serves a disciplining role.

In short violence is a learnt behaviour that is passed on through generations unless the cycle is broken.

A MULTIPLY WOUNDED SOCIETY

Thirdly, we are ‘multiply wounded country’. This simply means that we are wounded in different ways and that this wounding is widespread.  This is a term that was first used by Nicaraguan psychologist Martha Cabrera who worked in Nicaragua, a country as wounded as ours,  through her organisation Citizen’s Movement for Social Change.

Our multiple woundedness as a country comes from our experiences of colonialism, apartheid, dislocation, victimisation, racism, patriarchy, marginalization, economic exploitation, violence, torture and other forms of disempowerment that reduces the majority of our population to the level of sub-alterns. We thus carry the weight of this scarring as individuals, families, cultures and communities. This continues through generations.

The effects of this past sits hidden in our souls and the very fabric of our daily existence,  terrorising us with the actions of rapists, murderers, domestic violence, school violence, alcohol abuse, police violence, road rage, taxi conflicts, violence by striking workers and interpersonal violence.

We have not adequately dealt with this scarring of the past. Reconciliation in our country has benefitted the powerful, not the powerless.

We lack the emotional vocabulary to express our feelings and have normalised the abnormal behaviour that comes from these scars – the behaviour of violence that lauds the policy of ‘shoot to kill’,  a return to the death penalty. Or a view that believes it is okay to beat a woman now and then.

A MASCULINE IDENTITY

The over-arching need to create a dominant masculine identity among our men has resulted in a notion that masculinity means power. And that power needs to be exercised to demonstrate masculinity – that power is most often demonstrated through physical aggression.  Compounding this, when men are traumatised, the dominant way they express their pain is through violence and aggression.

This masculine identity is reinforced through sports clubs, gangs, parental prodding and insults. Don’t be a sissy is one such insult. So sports club may be a solution – they could also become a problem if they over-emphasise a negative masculine identity. How often have we heard of members of sports clubs gang raping women.

While this masculinity is problematic, this problem is compounded where this identity is challenged. Currently in many communities this masculine identity is in crisis.  Men are frequently not the bread-winners and don’t occupy the traditional roles, thus emasculating men. Furthermore boys often have no male role models because of absent fathers. A large part of our communities consist of single parent families. Boys frequently find their masculine identity being formed outside the home where violence becomes a legitimate response in human interaction.

UNEMPLOYMENT

In areas such as Bredasdorp where the violence against Anene Booysen occurred over 50% of the population is unemployment. Unemployment creates a crisis of identity – where there is a feeling of a lack of self-worth, of a sense of time that whiles away, of a sense of hopelessness. In a traditional society it robs a man of sense of supporting his family.

Unemployment eats away at one’s soul – since we all find meaning in productive work. It destroys the morale and leads people to other forms of escape – drugs, alcohol, etc.

DRUGS, GANGS AND ALCOHOL

These remain a scourge of our society and are major contributors to violent behaviour.

South African drinkers rank amongst the top  five heaviest drinkers in the world with approximately 45% of drinkers classified as risky drinkers – with the risk particularly high in the Western Cape. Alcohol abuse is a major contributor to homicide. SA as a country has among the highest homicide rate in the world. Alcohol is major problem amongst those who carry out homicide, as well as the victims. Trauma consumes one third of our provinces health budget.

While this has been recognised as a problem – little is done to address it.

MORAL CRISIS

Last but not least – we face a profound moral crisis in our country. Even the President of this country hides behind the veneer of culture and tradition to demonstrate a lack of respect for women. We have a crisis of leadership. A culture of legalised looting.  A lack of respect for law. Every disregard for law inspires other violations of the law. Everyone begins to act with a sense of impunity.

We also need to recognise that each one of these perpetrators come from a community. Each one of these perpetrators is a son, a father, a husband or a brother. And each one of the victims is a sister, daughter, wife or mother. Each  one of them comes from a community made up of families, social clubs, religious institutions and schools. All these institutions have failed both perpetrator and victim.

So in summary the structural cause of such violence emanate from our SOCIALISATION, it is perpetuated through GENERATIONS. The over-emphasis of an aggressively MASCULINE IDENTITY plays a role in such violence. Other contributors include UNEMPLOYMENT, DRUGS, ALCOHOL and GANGSTERISM. All of these are contributed to, and are indicative of a PROFOUND MORAL CRISIS. We also need to recognise the MULTIPLE WOUNDEDNESS of our society.

These problems have no simple solutions. And don’t be fooled by those who offer such simple solutions. The rhetoric of politicians, the preaching of the clergy, the marches of the activists and the selflessness of the NGOs are not sufficient to address this profound crisis. We need to all work together and declare a STATE OF EMERGENCY in this country. We need every resource to work towards rebuilding the shattered fabric of this society. We may not feel it in the surburbs, the evidence in the townships abound.

WHAT DO WE DO?

Against this background of the multiple causes of violence we could become disempowered. We all do not have the tools to change these historical injustices. I do not have the answers. All I do is echo and add to some very practical suggestions by  Carol Bower, former head of Rapcan.

  • Ask better questions and use these to educate and inform ourselves and our actions

Do not ask what we can do to stop this – as this couches the narrative of us (good people) against them (bad people). Rather we should be asking the question ‘what is it that we are doing that creates the possibility for these things to happen”. How do we as a society contribute to such violence?  Why is it that our sons, brothers or fathers can commit such acts? For example how do we construct gender and gender roles and the unequal power relations that characterise such roles.

Why is it that rape happens? How is it linked more broadly to violence? We need to understand why rape is  not about sex or lust but more about power and control. So to focus on women’s dress does not address the issue.

  • Raise our kids differently

We need to raise our kids with self discipline, the ability to make sensible decisions and live as free and equitable human beings that respect the rights of all others. Don’t allow them to become abusers or victims of abuse.

We need to teach our children that violence is not a tolerable response. That men and women are equally deserving of respect and trust and equally contribute to society without these genders determing strength or power.

Teach them the Quranic essence that both men and women were created from the same spirit (nafsiw waahidah) – deserving of equal respect.

  • Develop intolerance for certain behaviours

Do not tolerate attitudes or behaviours that create the environment for a sexist society to exist. Do not tolerate sexist jokes; harassment or violence against women.

Provide support to those who are abused and counsel them to seek help without fear.

Religious communities should declare a zero tolerance for abuse and violence. Whether this related to paedophilia in the Catholic Church; or where a Saudi celebrity preacher violently rapes, tortures and kills his five-year-old daughter and then is released by paying blood money, or the case of a Jewish Rabbi of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement who likened sexual molestation to diarrhoea and has said victims of sexual abuse ‘should get over it’.

We should develop a zero-tolerance for Imams, Shaykhs and Moulana’s who abuse their power against women and children.

  • Provide support to organisations delivering services to survivor of rape and violence

I believe that in the absence of adequate social services in our country, the NGOs are the glue that hold our society together. Without them millions of people will be left to drown in the sea of neglect. Just recently Rape Crisis, the Saartjie Baartman Centre and the Trauma Centre for Survivor of Violence and Torture faced imminent closure because of a lack of funding. These organisations play a critical role in supporting our communities and turning victims into survivors. They counsel abused women and men, they introduce violence prevention programmes in schools and many other interventions that seek to reduce the levels of violence in our society. We need to support all of them. Without them we will all be poorer.

We need to support them financially, with our time and our power to get government to allocate funding to such valuable institutions.

  • Interrogate religious texts

Cultural and religious traditions play in socialising and legitimising human behaviour. These are consequences of religiously sanctioned gender roles – when one gender is seen as more powerful than the other. It creates a culture of patriarchy which is essentially a power construction. We need to critically examine religious texts within the broader spirit our of faith to ensure that the dignity of all human beings is equally affirmed.

  • ALCOHOL, DRUGS AND GANGSTERISM

Are issue that demand action both by civil society and the state.

In conclusion our country faces a profound moral crisis.  It is not sufficient to bemoan politicians. Rather we all need to believe in our own power to change this society. And societies change through individual change. Deep within each one of us we need to rekindle a spirit of equality, fairness, justice and respect for all people. We need to specifically focus on respect for women in our communities.  We all need to invest in rekindling the morality that our society so desperately needs. The immorality of corruption, of poverty, of homelessness, of sexual violence are all inter-linked. Thus this struggle is a long and difficult one. I repeat that we should not be lulled in seeking tidy, simple solutions to complex, untidy realities.

As Gandhi said – we must become the change we want to see in the world.

The Quran says: ‘Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change themselves’. (13 : 11)

This is a long and difficult road …. but this is one journey we must begin …. and we must begin NOW. We should not be lulled in seeking tidy, simple solutions to complex, untidy realities.

Reflections on the 21st Anniversary of our Democratic Elections

Talk delivered at the Claremont Main Road Mosque on the occasion of the 21st Anniversary of the first democratic elections

With a landmark 21st anniversary of our 1994 watershed democratic elections upon us, I want to use this opportunity to reflect on this critical conjuncture of our history.

South Africa undergoes periodic paroxysms of serious debate around transformation when a signal event occurs or a dramatic eye-catching one. The rest of the time this debate simmers in the background by the malcontents – and rightly so. This current paroxysm has been initiated around the statue of Cecil John Rhodes and to a lesser extent the inclusion of Vernon Philander in the Protea’s Team that lost their World Cup semi-final match to New Zealand. Then of course we have the current outbreak of xenophobic violence. Common to all these is the issue of marginalization and exclusion.

After reading the thousands of words written on this issue and the question of transformation, one thing is patently clear: that transformation means different things to different people. Or, as Lewis Carroll put it in Alice through the Looking Glass – ‘When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean’.

So Xolela Mangcu thinks it’s race that is the fundamental issue, in response to others who think that class has been missing in this debate. Others think that the economy is the fundamental question; others think that land is of primary consideration. And then there are others who think that if we create an open and equal opportunity society the consequences of the past will right themselves automatically.

Historically the idea of transformation emerged as a response to the inadequacy of the binary opposition of reform versus revolution in the post-1990 conjuncture. Revolution would have seen the old system destroyed and a radically new system replacing it; reform would have seen an adaptation of the existing order to accommodate the demands of the majority of South Africans. Thus the notion of ‘transformation’ is the outcome of a negotiated compromise settlement at Codesa which ensured South Africa’s stable transition to democracy. Transformation within this context was the weapon meant to ensured that a compromised political transition translated into a broader and more fundamental social change in this interregnum, where to use the words of Antonio Gramsci –‘the old has not yet died and the new had not yet been born’. This is a delicate time in the history of any nation in transition where there is a contest for hegemony by the old and the new – where the new want a stake in the system, or to transform the system, and the old want to preserve their power and privilege and the status quo. Of course one can never predict the outcome of this struggle or that of transformation. There is always the danger – one which Gramsci called transformismo – which roughly equates to the cooption of threatening ideas in a particular social context, in order to create consensus and maintain the dominance of the hegemonic group. Put another way the leading class in society absorbs, translates and articulates the demands of some of the dominated sectors in order to better defuse them. In Gramsci’s analysis the formation of a new ruling class through transformism ‘involved the gradual but continuous absorption … of the active elements … from antagonistic groups’ in a process whereby ‘the absorption of the enemy’s elites means their decapitation’. This meant that the new system gave the ruling elite a stake in the new system in what passed for transformation. Some would call this necessary to maintain stability, as happened in Italy where the leftist radicals were coopted into government and which informed Gramsci’s analysis. Jeff Rudin puts this in the context of our debates around transformation at UCT:

‘Collegial governance has, on balance, reinforced rather than undone white domination and it has sheltered racist attitudes and practices. Many black staff and students find the university to be a hostile space in which a degree of mutilation of the self is part of the price that has to be paid to keep going’.

Transformation is thus both a process and an outcome to ensure that society fundamentally changes the way in which it operates in order to grant the majority (or disempowered) population an equal stake in the system. Of course what this system constitutes requires another critical discussion. Democracy is one aspect of this change – but democracy here refers to democratizing all spheres of social life and an empowerment of those hitherto disempowered; not the democracy that actually disempowers.

This is where the liberal notion of ‘equal opportunity society’ falls flat. One cannot simply take a society with a long history of racial discrimination, marginalization and dispossession, and the next day expect them to compete on an equal footing with those who have had access to the best education, finances, health services, resources, networks and experiences. That power relations reproduce themselves is axiomatic. Historical resources are used by the dominant class to enter, entrench, extend and perpetuate their positions of power and privilege, consequently keeping the weak and marginalised out of this circle of privilege. Poverty similarly reproduces itself through unemployment, poor housing and health care, poor education, lack of role models and networks. This cycle, as is historically evident, is reproduced through generations benefiting a particular class and/or race – where the rich become wealthier and remain largely white, and the poor become poorer and remain largely black. This has been scientifically confirmed in Thomas Piketty’s landmark published study, Capital in the 21st Century.  It takes a momentous committment and process to change this vicious cycle of exclusion so that all members of society have equal access to resources and, importantly, realise their full potential. Trickle-down economics will not make a dent in the transformation process.

Apartheid was no simple racism or separate development that can be righted in a short space of time.  It was social engineering on a grostesque scale. Apartheid was a form of racial capitalism that simply treated black people as cheap labour and nurtured them as ‘hewers of wood and carriers of water’ – this was the biblical phrase used by Hendrick Verwoerd to describe black people . It was a form of capitalism that used legislation including the poll tax to force black people off their subsistence farms, forced them to engage in wage-labour, and dislocated males and females from their families through pass laws. Men and women saw their families once or twice a year: fracturing families, destroying traditional family relationships, child-rearing, African traditional life and decimating local economies. Starvation wages and illnesses associated with mining were the lot of the miners eking out a pitiful existence on the margins of urban localities– and who were simply dumped back to their homes when they were too ill to continue working. Marikana in its dastardly form was a picnic compared to the lot of mineworkers and other workers over centuries.

Transformation in this context requires reverse social engineering to level the playing fields so that those who are excluded are included, those who are denied opportunities are given them, and those whose access has been blocked are given first access. This assumes critical proportions in a society as unequal as ours. Our societies are variously divided into the pre-modern and post-modern, rural and urban, the employed and unemployed, black and white, rich and poor. Within this context the tools of transformation that we seem to rely on are Black Economic Empowerment, Employment Equity, preferential university admission and quotas in sports teams. Unfortunately these mostly benefit the already privileged.

We would be mistaken to think that those born into privilege or those who have acquired it (some through their own enterprise) are going to relinquish it easily. Of course none would question the legitimacy of transformation, but few would be willing to give up their privilege or at least share it. As Steven Friedman writes about the Rhodes Statue – and here may I remind you that Friedman is not speaking about the right wing elements, but rather about liberals:

But the controversy is really about something deeper — the racial denialism of a strong strand of South African liberalism. Black students and academics are angry because, 20 years after the end of apartheid, they remain second-class citizens on most campuses: black academics remain a small fraction of teaching staff, while the writings of black thinkers are relegated to the margins. Most students are black but the world in which they study is distinctly white. This shows how deep-rooted the attitudes that underpinned apartheid are — and it points a finger at a form of liberalism that has washed its hands of racism while continuing to practise it. It is no accident that the protests are happening on the campuses of English-speaking “liberal” universities, which have long claimed to be victims of racism: it is precisely at those institutions that race is kept alive by denying it’.

So transformation importantly requires an acknowledgment of the black experience, black hurt, its pain, its consequences and its reproduction and the exclusion of its culture, values and history in our discourse. Without that transformation would remain superficial and not address the core issues that cause periodic ructions in our communities. Having said that, we need to remember that fundamentally there will be no substantive transformation unless socio-economic transformation occurs. It is ultimately about the economy.

This brings me to the second point regarding transformation, which is that by purely focusing on race, we miss the dimension of class and power. This is important because the GINI coefficient demonstrates that South Africa remains one of the most unequal societies on the planet. BEE has created the enrichment of a few not the empowerment of the majority. Capital has granted access to those in political power in order to leverage some privilege rather than empower ordinary workers, foremost amongst them their own labour force. How much more effect BEE would be if it compelled employers to grant some stake in their business to their own workers. Creating black millionaires and billionaires through BEE simply entrenches the existing class and power structure without addressing the upliftment of the majority of black people. These black capitalists are simply absorbed into the system doing little to empower other black people as predicted by Gramsci’s transformismo. Cyril Ramaphosa and Marikana are a case in point – where he seemingly played a role in the massacre of striking workers. Show me one beneficiary of BEE that has changed the nature of power relations, of labour relations or bucked the system (unless they have been personally aggreived).

Similarly much of the concern around the Rhode statue and the ructions at UCT and elsewhere are largely, but not exclusively middle-class concerns. Black academics want promotion, students want access and privileges. Of serious concern is exclusion of black students as a result of not being able to afford the fees. Working people and the unemployed, who are stared down by Rhodes from his perch care less whether his statue falls or remains. Killing and removing the dead is easy – hence UCT’s easy capitulation on the removal of Rhodes statue. More difficult is to challenge and eradicate the ideas of Rhodes which are very much alive at UCT – of racism, liberalism, of privilege and workers exploitation. Symbolism does not translate into substantive transformation. Will promoting black staff and students at UCT make for a better society or a society that cares for its poor and really disadvantaged or like BEE just create a stake for them in the existing power system. Thus Xolela Mangcu is fundamentally wrong in simply invoking race as the most important arbiter in this conflict. As Jeff Rudin says of those obsessed only with race:

Colour-coding access to scarce resources is the main hallmark of the new, post-Apartheid, non-racial South Africa. This colour-coded access to wealth and/or promotion is, of course, enormously important to those who benefit, many of whom are not without legitimate grievances. But for everyone else – the vast majority of South Africans – it makes not a jot of difference, for as long as the class structure of South African capitalism remains untouched. Creating black billionaires and millionaires through BEE further entrenches this class structure. Similarly, making university staff all black is plainly important to the people concerned but, in itself, does nothing to promote the interests of everyone else that’s left behind in the inequality that makes our country a world-beater.

So far – with all too few exceptions in some universities – there’s precious little to show that black staff are any more disposed to promoting the radical societal changes required by workers – who still suffer the legacy of Rhodes’ cheap labour policies and practices – the unemployed and the other battalions of the increasingly restless poor and disadvantaged.

Economic transformation is fundamental. Racial desegration will not bring about economic transformation. But economic transformation will go a long way in desegregation and bringing about substantive social transformation.

My third point is that transformation requires a fundamental restructuring of how power is constituted in our society. We cannot simply reproduce the apartheid power relations with black faces. We need a fundamental shift in how power is exercised and diffused throughout society. Currently we have a ruling party instead of a serving party:  A party that operates as a democratic dictatorship (or democratic centralism) instead of a model of participatory democracy. Majoritarianism has been falsely equated with democracy. While acknowledging the merits of the proportional representation system we currently have, the major problem is that no individual is accountable to his or her constituency or the public– but is rather beholden to the party and all of its policies. These parties are in turn beholden to its funders where such funders are hidden from the public. We thus need to support the current campaign for transparency in political party funding, which all the parties currently oppose. Our current power elites have simply fitted into the model of the past with all the trappings of privilege. We expected better. Even the Trade Union leadership, currently consumed in its own battles is oblivious to the dire circumstances that people in Khayalitsha daily confront, for example – with no access to santitation, high crime rates and poor policing, poor schooling and poor amenities. Those in power are far removed from people’s daily realities. Our ruling party spends more time defending the President than serving the nation. In doing this they could destroy all the institutions that protect our functioning democracy: SCOPA, the Public Protector, the NPA, the Hawks, the judiciary,  SAPS and the Intelligence Agencies. Through cadre deployment and corruption we have seen the destruction of Eskom, SAA, the municipalities and a host of other institutions where corruptions seems to be the norm with no firm visible action taken against perpetrators. Political cover is given to the guilty – the Amigos case just one such example. We also currently view with alarm the decimation of COSATU.

This new form of power has avoided any degree of political accountability by using its power as the majority party and through the use of a simple obfuscatory mechanism called The Commission of Inquiry or what Dale McKinley sarcastically calls the Omission of Inquiry. He further states:

“Amongst its many other attributes, South Africa could arguably be called the Commission capital of the world. While there is no official list of how many Commissions of Inquiry there have been in the 20 years since 1994, suffice to say that the numbers are impressive. In the last 14 years alone there have been no less than 10 national-level, high profile Commissions of Inquiry – five of which have yet to run their course – accompanied by scores of others emanating from the executives and departments at national, provincial and municipal levels. What is a great deal more in doubt though is whether all these Commissions have achieved anything other than to soak up large amounts of public monies, to control and manipulate public opinion and attention, to avoid political accountability and individual responsibility, to cover-up criminal behaviour, and generally act as vehicles for doing little to nothing?”

 The findings of these Commission’s are presented to the President and executive, who more often than attempt to conceal their findings through invoking state security legislation or use it to fight political battles. These commissions include the Khampepe Commission into the 2002 Zimbabwean elections; 2004 Hefer Commission – set up to investigate allegations of spying against the then head of the National Director of Public Prosecutions; the Khampepe Commission of Inquiry into the affairs of the Directorate of Special Operations (Scorpions) in 2006. The 2006 Matthews Commission on Intelligence; the  Seriti (Arms Deal) Commission which has racked up a bill of over R300 million rand with a limited mandate in order to protect state employees; finally there is the Farlam (Marikana) Commission of Inquiry into the 2012 massacre of striking miners – the report therefrom is currently sitting with the President.

As Terry Crawford-Browne has noted “Commissions of Inquiry have traditionally become places to park a hot potato until it gets cold.”

The one Commission of Inquiry which did achieve some success was the Inquiry into Policing in Khayaletsha – which was forced by civil society actors including the SJC and Ndifuna Ukhwazi. Interestingly this Commission was opposed in court by the Minister of Police when established by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille. There have been notable successes out this Commission because it was independent and initiated and monitored by Social Movements, but much more has to be achieved. This is an example of grass roots activism and democracy.

But the public is not easily fooled. South Africa has an extremely high rate of social protests that take place on a daily basis, which remain largely unreported until they affect functionality or more affluent areas. They are largely based on local issues – lack of service delivery, non-performance by local officials, crime and corruption. It is only a matter of time where this rebellion of the marginalised becomes an organic crisis and becomes more organised, more political, more widespread and more coordinated – where we begin to see a move such as the Occupy Movement or the Arab Spring which may give rise to new political formations or exploited by existing ones such as the EFF or the United Front. We have seen such protest movement remove traditional liberation movements around the world – where sentimentality gives way to disillusionment and common interests.

As Abraham Lincoln famously remarked: you can fool some of the people some of the time; all of the people some of the time; but not all of the people all of the time. That time will surely come if this government continues to ignore the poor and marginalized – a time where popular rebellion by the marginalized will engulf this country on an unprecedented scale – far worse than the high number of civil protests that we currently have.

Talking about the poor and marginalized brings me to the next point regarding transformation and that is the burning issue of xenophobia.  We have witness the most dastardly acts against people from other countries who have come to ours for various reasons – as political, social or economic refugees. These people would rather die or drown in oceans than stay in their home countries – so dire is their lot. These are acts of criminality driven by a hatred termed xenophobia. We have targeted people simply because they are different to us (or more successful). Nothing can justify such attacks against innocent people earning an honest living who come to our shores out of desperation. But these attacks don’t occur in a vacuum. They result from discontent among people regarding their lot and rather than blame those responsible lay lazy blame on outsiders. Such thinking is fuelled by those in power: be it the Zulu King or Ministers in Government who either inspire such attacks or create a veneer of justification for them. In fact the Khayalithsa Commission of Inquiry into Policing heard that crime against business owned by foreigners was twice that of local shop owners and that police stood by as Somali, Zimbabwean and other foreign owned shops were attacked and looted – pointing to a complicity by the police force.  That foreigners are succeeding in business on our shores is due to our failure to create entrepreneurs or skills for people to succeed where others can. We should not begrudge the other, but rather aspire to their successes and learn from them. Most of these people came to our shores with very little but have succeed through hard-work and establishing networks for mutual benefit. There is no reason why we cannot do the same. I will give you simple case: my helper at home spoke about a Somali trader in her area who she used to purchase from. She described him as one of the kindest people she knew. She had numerous burglaries in her house and he used to voluntarily come and fix her gate and other broken items without cost. When he was attacked she showed some sympathy but  laughed about it –  not the outrage one would expect in such circumstances. This was because regardless of how good he was, he was of the ‘other’. This ‘othering’ creates a banality in our evil. It robs our country of a civility. Xenophobia is world-wide phenomenon, it’s just that with our experience of apartheid we expect better.

This ‘othering’ and consequent demonization is a historical phenonemenon with catastrophic consequences. Frightening is that those who have been victims become its perpetrators. But more importantly there is an ever closing circle of ‘othering’. As UCT Social Anthropology Professor Francis B Nyamnjoh writes:

this diminishing circles of inclusion dictates that the next amakwerekwere, foreigners or strangers, is always one layer below the obvious one’.

Today it is the foreigners, tomorrow it could be Indians and Coloureds, then it could be gays and lesbians, then it could be the disabled, then women …. This hierarchy of race, class and ‘othering’ continues to close down on those who are more vulnerable, as if the dehumanization must be a continuing cycle: that because I am dehumanized, I must similarly act in an inhumane way towards others below me in the social hierarchy. This ‘diminishing circle of inclusion’ is poetically and presciently captured by one of Hitler’s victims, Pastor Martin Niemoller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me

Professor Nyamnhoh invokes the Nando add which was banned by the SABC to demonstrate our common history:

The ad starts with black Africans illegally crossing a barbed-wire border fence into South Africa. There is a voiceover and each time the voice calls out a name, the group of people who represent that particular identity are transformed into a cloud of smoke, as follows: You know what is wrong with South Africa: all you foreigners. You must all go back to where you came from – you Cameroonians, Congolese, Pakistanis, Somalis, Ghanaians and Kenyans. And of course you Nigerians and you Europeans. Let’s not forget you Indians and Chinese. Even you Afrikaners. Back to Swaziland you Swazis, Lesotho you Sothos, Vendas, Zulus, everybody. In the end, only one person is left standing, a San man who, armed with a bow and arrow and ready to explore the wilderness, confronts the voiceover with these words: “I’m not going anywhere. You found us here.” The ad concludes with the voiceover saying: “Real South Africans love diversity.”

He sees this advert ‘as articulating an idea of identity and belonging in South Africa that is both conscious and cognisant of the histories of mobilities of peoples that have made South Africa possible, and that remains open to new and ongoing mobilities. capturing the spirit of our nation’.

These xenophobic attacks are not only against foreigners, rather they attack all we stand for as a rainbow nation, including the notion of inclusion The justification provided for these acts of xenophobia are vacuous. Firstly foreigners make up only 4% of our workforce. Secondly those are targeted are black foreigners not white foreigners (or what we rather call expats) – not that, that would be acceptable. Secondly, the challenge to local businesses in the townships come from the monopolies and big supermarket chains, not the Somali or Nigerian businessmen who are only small time traders – yet are targeted. The point I am emphasising is that xenophobia feeds on the already marginalized.

The issues I have raised today, including the need for transformation in dealing with race, economic disparity, the constitution of power and xenophobia point to a South Africa where we are struggling to find and adhere to a common set of values and to forge a shared sense of national identity. Instead of maturely engaging, debating and discussing around our painful, complex, and uncomfortable past seeking genuine transformation, we use this past as an excuse to mask our current failures, corruption and incompetence.

We have failed to include the majority in this new dispensation – who continue to feel dispossessed, marginalized and alienated. As a result of this sense of frustration and despair, despite our peaceful transition to democracy violence is part and parcel of who we have become. As Barney Mthomboti puts it:

 We are a damaged society. Violence is part of our DNA. We resort to violence at the slightest provocation — in our homes, at work and in the streets. People are killed for a cellphone or a few coins in their pockets. Women are abused and murdered by their partners. We resort to violence as an alcoholic turns to booze for solace. And we’ve learnt to justify it. When people commit crime, we say it’s because they are poor. A form of redistribution, I guess.

 In conclusion I quote extensively  Rhodes University vice-chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela since I cannot put the challenges before us more eloquently than him when he spoke at the Universities graduation ceremony a few weeks ago describing those who were running our country ‘as people of questionable moral and ethical character’. He says:

‘The noble qualities and values of personal integrity‚ honesty‚ humility‚ compassion‚ respect for each other‚ fairness‚ forgiveness‚ empathy‚ selfless dedication and willingness to put others first‚ that were so beautifully exemplified by President Nelson Mandela‚ have given way to venality‚ a complete lack of integrity‚ moral decadence‚ profligacy‚ rampant corruption‚ deceit‚ and duplicity.”

He continued:  “SA had lost its moral compass by voting in people who have no sense of the difference between right and wrong‚ just and unjust‚ fair and unfair‚ ethical and unethical to positions of significance‚ power and influence. We have become a society in which obscene and unbridled opulence exists alongside debilitating poverty and deprivation; a society that relentlessly promotes a culture of untrammelled greed and conspicuous consumption above the public and common good; a culture that judges one’s worth by the amount of personal wealth amassed.”

 “South Africa had become a society where far too many people were mired in desperate daily routines of survival‚ while at the same time‚ crass materialism and vulgar and ostentatious displays of personal wealth had become fashion statements for the political elite.

 Speaking directly to the 2015 graduates he said: I urge you to go out and make a difference in a society characterised by incertitude‚ cynicism and despair. My appeal to you is that you become an active‚ engaged and concerned citizen who takes a special interest in and concern for those who are living in the social and economic margins of our society. We cannot fail them; we dare not fail them.”

 This is also our challenge.

I end with a prayer for peace, justice, reconciliation, hope and freedom; a prayer I hope all of you recognize:

Lord bless Africa May her glory be lifted high Hear our petitions Lord bless us, your children

Lord we ask You to protect our nation Intervene and end all conflicts Protect us, protect our nation Protect South Africa

Out of the blue of our heavens Out of the depths of our seas Over our everlasting mountains Where the echoing crags resound

Sounds the call to come together, And united we shall stand, Let us live and strive for freedom, In South Africa our land.

 To those who have no recognised it, I remind you that this is our beautiful national anthem to which we do violence every single day.

Shuaib Manjra, Cape Town, 24th April 2014

Some reflections on the Charlie Hebdo saga

Having read and engaged significantly on the Charlie Hebdo killings and its commentary and consequence over the last few weeks, I had various ideas floating around in my head which I tried to make sense of. Writing permits me to organise these thoughts a bit more coherently. Some of course are more coherent than others. Some are original and others simply reflected from others who perhaps have articulated them better than I can…

‘It has nothing to do with Islam’, is a constant refrain of those seeking to distance themselves from the dastardly massacre that claimed the lives of journalists, policemen and civilians in the attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris. Of course the good intention underlying this disavowal stems from the belief that Islam cannot condone, let alone motivate such murder and mayhem. The truth is that the killers sought inspiration from some form of Islam for these acts. They considered this avenging the Prophet’s honour. More importantly however is that many scholars – traditional and radical – will support capital punishment against anyone who insults the Prophet Muhammad. There is evidence from numerous sources that at least some of those who lampooned the Prophet during his lifetime and later were put to death. Of course our lack of appreciation of the entire circumstances around these episodes does not permit us to use this as precedent; also because some of these people were forgiven by the Prophet himself.  Modern sensibilities also preclude us meting out such classical forms of punishment. It is worth remembering that the Prophet historically played a role as statesman, the political leader of a nascent community, as well as a spiritual and religious leader. Disaggregating these roles will allow us a greater understanding of the Prophetic precedents that are applicable to a religious community.  Nowhere does the Quran permit killing for such as crime.  That notwithstanding we need to recognise and challenge this dangerous strain within Islam which combines fundamentalism and violence and is responsible for the most heinous crimes – Boko Haram and ISIS being contemporary examples. Similarly Judaism cannot disown Zionism, nor can Christian fundamentalism be disowned by its parent. They may be aberrations but their source of inspiration and legitimacy derives from the parent religion, its tradition and scriptures.  Islam, and indeed all religions and secular entities have this extremist violent strain within it. The Kharijites, who are the forerunners of this violent fundamentalist strand, came to the fore soon after the death of the Prophet and have sustained themselves on the margins of Muslim society ever since. The Kharijite’s disavowal of any forms of interpretation fossilised their religious belief in a literalist, harsh and fundamentalist mode and wrought untold damage to the early Muslim communities – brutally killing those it disagreed with.  Three of the four righteous guided Caliphs were murdered. This danger within Islam needs to be challenged lest they proliferate and threaten the very body of Muslim society. In fact the violent threat of this group is most evident within Muslim societies, only occasionally threatening those without.

The Charlie Hebdo killers according to most sources were confessional but not observant Muslims. Their radicalisation did not stem primarily from religion but rather from politics; or more specifically from imperial hubris in Muslim lands. The gross atrocities, torture and physical violence unleashed in Iraq and elsewhere radicalised the Kouachi brothers – who were then ensnared by radical Islamist ideologues who are quick to exploit this anger, crisis of identity and political injustice into a comfortable world of absolutes. In a court deposition in 2007, Chérif Kouachi, the younger of the brothers was explicit about this blowback: “I got this idea when I saw the injustices shown by television on what was going on over there. I am speaking about the torture that the Americans have inflicted on the Iraqis.” Mahmood Mamdani’s calls it ‘calculated acts of political violence driven by the incoherent allegiances of damaged and dangerous young men’. In essence this was a result of secular politics dressed in a religious garb. France has long been a key player in this imperialist network including in its violent colonial history in Algeria and elsewhere. This has further fed this resentment and radicalisation.  When the Algerians – where the Kouachi brother trace their heritage –  freely expressed themselves in a national election in 1990, a French backed military junta overthrew the elected representatives: a continuation of its epistemic violence,  to use Foucault and Gayatri Spivak. France also backed the military intervention in Libya and Mali not too long ago.

The marginalisation and discrimination that Muslims, Africans and other immigrants experience in France and its banlieues, has seen frequent outbreaks of violent resistance – where disaffiliation frequently turns into defiance. Muslims represent an underclass in French society – constituting about 10% of the population but nowhere close to that in representation in the centres of power. The Kouachi brothers, like millions of others were alienated youth living on the margins of society: unemployed and from minority communities. Their communities are past victims of colonialism in their mother countries and present victims of racism in the imperial centres which colonised them. They remain outsiders both in the centre and the periphery of colonial enterprise. Thus the violence of these brothers against civilians was a reaction to imperial violence against civilians. In this case their targets were those who functioned as the ideological arm of imperialism – who mocked the underclass without an appreciation of their context, history and sensitivities – no different to the orientalism project. Jean Baudrillard captures the irony when he wrote: ‘Those who deplore the ideological bankruptcy of the West should recall that ‘God smiles at those he sees denouncing evils of which they are the cause’”.

Freedom of expression, and its subset freedom of the media, which has been fetishised through the Je Suis Charlie campaign is not a sacred tenet as it has been recently constructed and paraded:  it is simply an instrument of power relations, which is contingent and not absolute even in the most liberal societies like France.  Such freedoms are constrained through the power of coercion by Capital, the political establishment, civil actors or in the name of national security or secularity.  In other cases such freedoms are constrained through custom, morality, civility, etiquette or a civil compact to sustain social harmony.  Libel, defamation, discrimination, sedition and blasphemy laws enshrined in many countries have a similar intent. The foundational principle of any society should be  respect for human dignity and civility which actually gave rise to the notion of freedom of speech and therefore precedes it. Freedom of speech has always existed throughout history for the powerful. The victory of freedom of speech is when it becomes accessible to the powerless – not to become its victims. As communities developed, plural citizenship became a reality and civility became an indispensable element to harmonise the community. In fact some freedoms were sacrificed so that humans could live in harmony – which is the story and history of civilisation. Thus can freedom of speech be held with the same regard  as its extreme forms of mockery, insult,  racism, slander and bigotry that causes disharmony and mocks what many hold sacred. And should freedom of speech by the powerful be more sacred than the dignity of citizens, particularly the underclass. Should Muslims be part of the social compact and players in what constitutes acceptable standards of public discourse, or do they require more social standing and economic and political power to assert their rights.

Secularity is the ostensible motivation for the ban on Muslim women wearing the nikab (or face covering). Regardless of its legitimacy in Islamic Law or it being anathema to liberal sensitivities, some women prefer this mode of expressing their modesty. It is a matter of freedom of choice and freedom of expression. To ban it is simply outrageous and illiberal and gives lie to the notion of freedom of expression. Furthermore France has its own censorship: When Nicholas Sarkozy was Interior Minister in 2005 he ordered 25 000 copies of his wife’s biography pulped because it revealed details of their private life. In the same year Frances Catholic Church won a court injunction to ban a fashion advertisement based on Leonardo da  Vinci’s ‘Last Supper on the grounds that it was ‘a gratuitous  … act of intrusion on peoples innermost beliefs’.  Also in that year Le Monde was found guilty of “racist defamation” against Israel and the Jewish people. France’s legislation banning Holocaust denial is another inexplicable paradox. The prosecution of the comedian Dioudienne on charges of anti-Semitism further demonstrates the limits of freedom of speech. Charlie Hebdo itself dismissed an employee for what it suggested was anti-Semitism – a limit of the freedom it espouses. The subjects here were the powerful Jewish community which exerted its power to censor. More importantly however is that such censorship is contingent on appreciating Europe’s violent history against Jews, and the indignity victims of the Holocaust would suffer as a result of its denial.   Three years before the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten published the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2006, it rejected ones offering a light-hearted take on the resurrection of Christ for fear they would “provoke an outcry”. Its editor wrote to cartoonist Zieler saying that ‘I don’t think that Jylland Posten’s readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore I will not use them’. In other words mocking Judeo-Christian symbols requires circumspection, but Muslims are fair game. The USA and the UK have both invoked laws limiting freedom of expression or the media both during times of war or peacetime. Beyond this, self-censorship by the media is the norm in these countries.  In the USA University staff have been dismissed or denied tenure because of their criticism of Israel: Norman Finkelstein and Steven Salata are cases in point.  There is no uproar or public campaign around these individuals because they represent the underclass or at least speak for them. The case of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange is another demonstration on the limits of freedom of expression. In the UK the publication of the findings of the Chilcot Commission is eagerly awaited to hold Blair and his acolytes criminally responsible for an illegal military invasion. Few seem to be extolling the virtue of freedom of access to such information.  Essentially where the powerful exert a limit on this freedom it becomes the norm. On the other had freedom of expression becomes a weapon to continue to assault the underclass and oppressed – those who have no recourse.  But those that espouse liberalism have also targeted and killed journalists – the USA did it in Iraq and Israel in Gaza.  Let us also remember the Western allies in Egypt where the military junta has imprisoned journalists from Al-Jazeera and has banned public protests; or Saudi Arabia where freedom of expression is a distant dream. Such censorship is perhaps not all done in the name of religion – a sign that modernity has moved sanctity from the sacred to the secular: nationalism has become the new religion.

Context is always important. Invoking freedom of speech without considering a historical and social context often results in insult and injury to victims. Considering historical contexts, would it be appropriate for Germans to mock Jews, the British to mock the Irish, The Turks to mock the Armenians, or the White community in South Africa to mock black people? This would not constitute neutral commentary – it represents a blow-back to the past and the continuation of that hubris and mindset. It’s worse if that injustice continues without redress. It’s pissing on your victims. In these cases entities which as a group oppressed, colonized and massacred the indigenes in history have lost the right to mock their victims – whether in satire or otherwise. The pain of these communities remains raw. In the case of Algerians they remain discriminated against, alienated and are pushed to the margins of society. It is like shooting at an ambulance.

The framing of the Charlie Hebdo saga as one between civilised norms and barbarism is misleading. It is wrong because it posits the western paradigm as one of ideas versus Eastern (or Middle-Eastern) violence. “They don’t like us because of our values” is a frequent refrain. It is true but for another reason: that the West was built on a foundation and value of violence to which it also owes its economic success – genocide (of the first nations), slavery, colonialism and imperialism.  Someone  has recently argued that there would be no ‘civilisation’ without the instrument of violence. So to be preached about violence from the West is rather rich in irony.  It is also ironic because western barbarism in Iraq and Afghanistan was responsible for, and continues to be the trigger for the radicalisation of essentially secular youth.  This radicalisation is a reaction to a gross injustice which renders its victims powerless – they have no recourse in law or in international instruments or institutions. Western violence has been more brutal than the Islamist violence in numbers of innocent civilians killed in its ‘war on terror’. One would expect better with the sophisticated weapons employed.  The victims of the ‘war on terror’ are the silent victims – victims of state terror variously ignored as ‘collateral damage’.  Nobody remembers such victims. The American victims of 9/11 are more important than those killed by Americans in its imperial excursions.  The dumping of oil in the Gulf of Mexico is more heinous than if it is done in Nigeria. We memorialise the deaths of Westerners and relegate those of the marginalised.  It’s about the value we place on human life. Memorial cartoons have hyperbolised the conflict as between Western civilised ideas and uncivilised violence: note the imagery of the pen and the gun. This of course is bullshit. Ask the innocent victims of Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Palestine about this Western civility and use of ideas.  Ask the Americans why they murdered Anwar-al-Awlaki and his son in Yemen rather than arresting him and charging him for whatever crime he had committed? South Africa’s eminent philosopher Loyiso Gola put’s it eloquently:  “Stop killing people whose views you don’t agree with – that is America’s job!” This is not about values and certainly the western arsenal that results in its domination is certainly not based on ideas, but superior weaponry: power using the notion of freedom to extend itself. Gary Younge quotes Steve Biko in demonstrating this hypocrisy where Muslims are being vilified twice – once as the subjects of the original cartoons and then again for having the temerity to protest them: ‘Not only are whites kicking us; they are telling us how to react being kicked’. Another irony not taken up by the liberal media is where the Parisian Jews killed in the attack on a kosher supermarket were taken to Israel for burial:  dead Jews are allowed to migrate to Israel and be buried on occupied land, while indigenous Palestinians are being ethnically cleansed! How’s that for another political gripe.

Another important question is whether Charlie Hebdo actually espouses and achieves a progressive political agenda. They have variously been described as leftists or ultra-leftists and defended against the charge of racism. The critical question is how the work of Charlie Hebdo and similar publications contributes to a progressive political and social agenda, aside from its claim to represent an absolute freedom of expression. Even this distinction is dubious as previously demonstrated.  It simply demonstrates hubris: ‘that we will because we can’.  Of course the minority extremists of all ilk should be challenged – but in doing so, should we do violence to a moderate majority? Could other forms of criticism achieve a more progressive outcome rather than infantile caricature and mockery? Zapiro is an example of a cartoonist who espouses a progressive agenda and uses his considerable skills to ‘afflict the comfortable’. Satire should check the powerful and not further hurt the powerless. There is nothing courageous to use your freedom to satirise, mock and ridicule the beliefs of the weakest sections of the community – who have no means of defence, except perhaps violence.

To be clear – there is no justification in killing: whether it is the journalists of Charlie Hebdo or the victims of imperial terror.  All victims of terror – state or otherwise – should be treated with equal dignity and their loss mourned globally. Freedom of speech is essential but not sacred – human dignity and civility trumps it.  Laws of censorship are not the solution since they are used by the powerful to promote their own agenda; rather a civil compact achieves more desirable outcomes. Critique is the lifeblood of any society if it is to progress. Critique should be sacralised not insult in the guise of free speech.

Shuaib Manjra

23 January 2015

The Open Mosque Saga: Progressive Politics or Neo-colonial Posturing

Progressive Politics and Neo-Colonial Posturing: The Open Mosque Saga

The notion of an ‘Open Mosque’ is an alluring idea: such a mosque which is inclusive, non-discriminatory and embracing of human diversity naturally resonates with us as Muslims, feminists and proponents of human rights. There is little to argue against it. In fact many are disingenuously falling over themselves to claim their mosques as ‘open spaces’. In reality the vast majority of mosques are male-centred and controlled by a small coterie of individuals without democratic participation. Women are absent from their leadership ranks, even if they are able to attend – more often than not in some relegated space.

The saga of the Open Mosque in Cape Town has raised a number of critical points of reflection and learning for people engaged in progressive politics. If nothing else it has forced an important conversation. The media trumpeted this initiative of Dr. Taj Hargey, who claims to have founded “South Africa’s first Quran-centric, gender-equal and non-sectarian Islamic house of God.” However, Hargey’s claims are simply wrong. The Claremont Main Road Mosque in Cape Town and the Masjid al-Islam in Brixton, Johannesburg are two examples of well-established mosques that have actively and communally fostered gender-egalitarian and non-sectarian ethics in their governance, membership and ritual practices, while the “Taking Islam to the People” initiative in KwaZulu-Natal is based on a similar ethos. These initiatives were built through inclusive community engagement over a prolonged period, buttressed with theological engagements and empowering activism. Importantly, these institutions are also sites of progressive politics and social justice. Sadly these mosques remain a small minority.

Hargey, as visiting revolutionary keen to rescue unthinking South African Muslims from religious leaders, might have had a slightly different view if he had consulted local communities of Muslims who have worked hard and long in collaborative consultation to develop egalitarian institutions. The least he would have realised is that Muslim women do more than just make ‘samoosas’ – (and as one Muslim women sharply noted, making samoosas was what paid for her children’s schooling). He could also have fought his unresolved battles with the clergy on a different terrain.

Taj Hargey’s method, manner and politics of engagement are deeply problematic. The feminist approach utilising an “intersectional” lens suggests that when examining any one form of inequality we need to simultaneously focus on how other social hierarchies intersect with that and dynamically create unique convergences of compounding inequalities that need to be understood holistically. Thus gender or sexuality is presented as an element of human identity that cannot be understood in isolation but becomes meaningful in relation to other social relations of power. There is a deeper ethical impact of an intersectional approach to politics and identity: it allows us to carefully assess the integrity of our political positions. It questions our consistency regarding justice and human dignity across multiple socio-political hierarchies, and importantly, whether our ideals of democracy, representation and inclusiveness are consistently reflected in the ways in which we practice our politics including through processes of consultation, communal debate and public engagement. Grappling with some of these questions assists us to refine progressively more comprehensive and inclusive visions of justice and human equality. Through this lens, Hargey’s ‘progressive’ stance on gender and more ambivalently, on sexual diversity, becomes more complicated.

Questioning Hargey’s problematic past may or may not be helpful, as would engaging why he continually represents himself as an Oxford academic when he clearly is not, as this may be seen as playing the man. What cannot be denied is that credibility is a sine qua non for any progressive endeavour.
In the UK, where he lives, Hargey launched a campaign to ban Muslim women from wearing the burqa which he refers to as “an archaic tribal piece of cloth.” If he was genuinely committed to women’s rights, he would support the freedom of Muslim women to make their own judgements and choices on all matters concerning their person, including how they dress. Hargey’s political lobbying against the burqa is not only in direct contradiction to the principle of women’s freedom, but is also allied with the politics of right-wing, anti-immigration and Islamophobic British and European groups. In this Hargey’s gender politics inadvertently reinforces regressive and authoritarian political agendas, which have severe consequences for the very people he claims to empower.

Another example of Hargey’s compromised position is evident in his approach to homosexuality. On the one hand he claims that his mosque will be inclusive of sexual diversity while on the other hand, an official statement on the open mosque website states that it is not a gay organization, that it rejects “with contempt the unsubstantiated charges… of (being) connected with people who are gay” and threatens legal proceedings against anyone “defaming, libelling and smearing us as gay or homosexual”. For someone who is gay-friendly or an ally to people who are categorised as LGBTI, why is it contemptible to be associated with them? On this very visit to South Africa, Mr Hargey, was an invited and funded speaker to the annual international retreat organized by The Inner Circle (TIC), an important grassroots Muslim organization also based in Wynberg, which provides support to Muslims who experience marginalization based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Yet the director of TIC only heard about Hargey’s new mosque on social media the week before its launch. So the very constituency that he claims to be inclusive of had no clue about the so-called “progressive” new mosque. In another act of profound disrespect Hargey was so busy opening his mosque that he failed to fulfil part of his speaking commitments at the retreat without apology.

In this regard, it is crucial to ask where in Hargey’s purportedly democratic vision of inclusivity is there any evidence of consultation with heterosexual women and queer communities, those marginalized Muslim constituencies that he claims to represent. Hargey’s very loud presence in the media is starkly contrasted with a complete lack of any public support from the gay, lesbian, and women’s groups for his project. This lack of support is demonstrated by the extremely poor attendance at his mosque. This lack of public support is not due to fear since these activist groups have publicly operated for many years.

This heterosexual Muslim man flying in from the heart of empire appears to have very little appetite for democratic consultation and debate with South African constituencies. Feminists are quite familiar with this mode of engagement: men who speak for women, or a straight man who speaks for all queer people, claiming to be their saviour, assuming to know their realities without engaging, consulting, listening or involving them in the process of representation or social change. They rightly describe it as patriarchal, patronizing and neo-colonial. Perhaps Taj Hargey is not quite the feminist revolutionary saviour of women and gay people he claims to be. He would do well to listen carefully before he speaks, to develop a deep respect and consultative approach for the communities in which he wishes to work, and to refrain from sensationalist sound bites that sound superficially progressive but are in fact disrespectful, dismissive, degrading and disempowering. The Arabic word Adab, meaning etiquette, is relevant here. Hargey would do well to cultivate at least some of this central Muslim virtue.

Sa’diyya Shaikh
Shuaib Manjra

Dr Sa’diyya Shaikh is Associate Professor in Religious Studies at UCT and the author of ‘Sufi Narratives of Intimacy: Ibn Arabi, Gender and Sexuality’ (UNC Press, 2012).

Dr Shuaib Manjra is a social activist

The unusual case of Mr Daryl Impey

By Shuaib Manjra

Daryl Impey’s exoneration on doping charges brought relief to many cycling fans, not least because the sport needs redemption. With South Africa desperately in need of sporting heroes, Impey was a consistent performer in an unforgiving sport where few seconds divide those bathed in glory and those whose names history will not record. Impey’s legacy, as the first African to wear the famed yellow jersey in last year’s Tour de France, will be imprinted in history, bringing glory to himself and his country. Sadly his opportunity to improve on that feat, or at least repeat it in this year’s Tour was lost because of his adverse analytical finding, or what in common parlance is called a ‘positive test’. Impey tested positive for Probenecid, a substance on the Prohibited List in sport, just before this year’s Tour de France where he was to ride for team Orica-Greenedge.

Probenecid is not performance enhancing, but is prohibited in sport because it is considered a masking agent – where it could potentially mask the presence of other performance enhancing substances such as anabolic steroids or erythropoietin. While Probenecid has been described as a diuretic, it actually is a ‘uricosuric’ drug that increases the urinary excretion of uric acid, which causes gout. But Probenecid’s masking properties are assumed because of another property that it possesses: it acts to reduce the renal excretion of some drugs by competing for receptors in the kidney. Thus less of the active drug would be excreted in the kidney thereby increasing its concentration in the plasma. This would have dual benefits for those using certain performance enhancing drugs – it would increase the plasma concentration of the drug, enhancing its effects, and at the same time reduce its excretion in the urine thus avoiding detection in urine base doping control tests.

In the clinical context Probenecid can increase the blood concentration of some antibiotics, antivirals and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in order to reduce the required dosage of such drugs. This proved particularly useful during World War II when there was a dire shortage of Penicillin, which was rapidly excreted via the kidneys thereby reducing its active life in the plasma. In fact so dire was the need to save the lives of injured soldiers that the urine of those using Penicillin was collected to isolate the drug and re-use it. Thus Probenecid proved critical in prolonging the effect of Penicillin by reducing renal excretion. Probenecid is rarely used today because of the abundance of synthetically produced Penicillin and the availability of superior drugs to treat gout.

So the case against Impey was predicated on the belief that he had used the drug to mask a prohibited substance.

The procedure in the case of a positive test is that Impey would be given the right to have his B sample tested – which is split from the ‘A’ sample at collection. Should this confirm the positive test then Impey either accepts the charge and sanction attendant to committing an Anti-Doping Rule Violation or appears before an independent tribunal to plead his defence. He would have the right to full legal and expert representation – which is the path he chose.

Impey’s defence was simple – that he was the victim of contamination, which is not an unusual defence. In fact it is the predominant defence now used by athletes who test positive, in order to invoke the escape clause provided in the World Anti-Doping Code which is ‘no fault’ or ‘no significant fault’ thereby avoiding sanction or receiving a reduced sanction respectively. Essentially this means that the athlete tested positive through no fault of their own. Tour de France winner, Alberto Contador claimed in his defence that the anabolic steroid Clenbuterol found in his urine was a contaminant from meat that he had consumed. His defence was rejected and he was given a two-year suspension. Frank Schleck,, who came third behind his brother Andy in the 2011 Tour de France, claimed that the diuretic Xipamide found in his urine was due to a contaminated product that he had consumed. His sanction was reduced by half because of the ‘no-significant fault’ clause and consequently he only served a one year ban. Impey’s defence was however novel –he claimed that he tested positive because the empty gelatin capsule that he purchased from a pharmacy was contaminated by Probenecid, which the pharmacist had dispensed to a patient two hours prior to Impey. Both products were dispensed using the same pill-counter, as confirmed in evidence by the pharmacist.

This is highly unusual for a number of reasons. Probenecid is a rarely used drug nowadays; in fact few pharmacies even stock it. Furthermore, for contamination to occur an uncoated version of the drug must be used in order to produce residue, or the drug must be cut or crushed. This is also rare. What are the chances of Impey being the person who attends the pharmacy after the patient who was dispensed the rarely used Probenecid, in a rare uncoated form? So the first issue is that all these factors had to line up against Impey.

Furthermore it seems that the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) had his ‘A’ sample retested – which again is highly unusual. Procedurally confidence in the laboratory results allows an agency to accept the results of the ‘A’ sample and upon request by the athlete have the ‘B’ sample tested. ‘A’ samples are only retested should additional tests be required such as in the case of a Testosterone: Epi-testosterone ratio where the sample is sent to a laboratory in Cologne, Germany. Retesting the ‘A’ sample possibly showed doubt by SAIDS in the result, the initial laboratory procedure or they wanted to be doubly sure because of the high profile nature of this case. Regardless, it did cause a significant delay in this case being brought before a Tribunal. This additional test on the ‘A’ sample is unusual.

This begs another question: Probenecid as a masking agent does not completely block the presence of the active drug in the urine specimen. With currently available sophisticated tests it is highly unlikely that residues of the active drug cannot be identified in urine concomitantly with the masking agent – thus proving the case of doping rather than simply relying on evidence of the presence of the masking agent. SAIDS could have directed the retesting of the ‘A’ sample on attempting to detect a performance enhancing substance rather than a simple confirmation of the presence of Probenecid.

Most intriguing however is the suggestion being made by some that SAIDS had accepted Impey’s defence without a challenge before a Tribunal. When a case is brought before a Tribunal the prosecution and defence present their case, including leading evidence and cross examining all material witnesses, including scientific experts. The Tribunal, consisting of legal and scientific experts, eventually adjudicates the claims based on a balance of probabilities, as in a civil case, and makes a determination. In Impey’s case there was none of this, since SAIDS accepted Impey’s defence without allowing the Tribunal to hear argument. This again is highly unusual.

So why did SAIDS capitulate on this case so easily, or so it seems? The first is that the defence was so overwhelmingly convincing that the prosecution felt they had no case. Alternatively they felt that the chances of convincing the Tribunal seemed remote, and rather than go through a lengthy and costly process, SAIDS would rather, in a sense, accept the defence and be done with the case. The counter argument would be: rather than SAIDS making the decision not to challenge the defence, why not leave it up to an expert, independent Tribunal to make a reasoned decision after all the evidence is presented before them. This would seem more objective and fair.

The alternative scenario is a more disconcerting one, with some evidence to support it – including the retesting of the ‘A’ sample. This scenario is that there were serious procedural flaws in SAIDS case which they did not want to expose at a Tribunal, particularly if Impey had world-class experts defending his case. These could be procedural flaws in the laboratory testing process – which has allowed athletes such as Gert Thuys to be exonerated. Alternately it could be related to the significant delay in this case costing Impey dearly since he missed the Tour de France and the Vuelta. Other procedural flaws could relate to the doping control process, where the Doping Control Officers may not have strictly complied with the International Standard for Testing, bringing into doubt the validity of the results. Comrades marathon winner Ludwick Mamabolo walked free after, a Tribunal found fourteen irregularities in the doping control process.

If such procedural flaws were exposed in Impey’s case it would be rather embarrassing to SAIDS, who already have suffered reputational damage in the case of Mamabolo. This fear would have forced SAIDS into a cynical calculus – either expose the Institute to further reputational damage or allow an athlete to walk free –without a formal Tribunal which potentially could have publicly exposed such flaws in SAIDS processes. Of course the athlete could have potentially walked free anyway if the process was seriously flawed. This conjecture may never be proven since although the UCI and WADA have a right to appeal, they are unlikely to do so with a seriously flawed process. Alternately it may play out in the courts should Impey wish to sue SAIDS for loss of earnings and damage to his personal and professional reputation. This could be a great risk to SAIDS’s future credibility.

Published in GroundUp (2 September 2014)

Response to the Chief Rabbi on Gaza

Karl Marx famously opined that ‘religion is the opiate of the masses’. He was influenced by his observation of religious authority, which more often than not, served as instruments of tyranny, while attempting to soothe the masses with niceties to accept their worldly state, promising a utopia in the afterworld. Such religious authority not only provides a veneer of morality to temporal power but also serves to corrupt religion itself. Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein gives credence to this with his article (http://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/let-world-see-our-rainbow-nation-1.1728669). In calling for civility in debate and invoking the notion of a rainbow nation he attempts to create a veneer of moral authority. One can never argue against the rationality of civil debate and the rainbow nation. Both are noble in themselves. But civility in debate should not mask the underlying violence in such discourse.

The Chief Rabbi supports violence by being a cheerleader for Israel’s massacre of Palestinians. He compounds this violent discourse in blaming the victims for their own deaths, by invoking the tired myth of human shields. Despite claiming so, these are not simply his own views; he is uncritically echoing the Israeli propaganda narrative. One may ask: were the four boys killed while playing football on the beach human shields; were the five children killed on a playground human shields; were the seven children killed playing on a swing-set human shields; was the Christian woman killed a human shield; was the bombed home for disabled children inhabited by human shields; were those in a UN shelter human shields or were those lying sick in hospital human shields? Is the bombing of mosques, churches and hospitals justified? Such justification of Israeli violence betrays the Chief Rabbi’s agenda – which is to create a veneer of morality for such violence in the interest of the Occupation. The massacre of civilians can never be justified. Also sadly nowhere does he display an iota of compassion for those innocents killed – and there are over 1000 of them. The truth is that civilian casualties are part of Israel’s collective punishment and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Ayelet Shaked, the Israeli lawmaker spoke frankly when she called Palestinians “little snakes” and declared that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” – legitimating civilians as targets.

The Rabbi’s chief concern is not justice or human rights but about good manners while justifying killing. His care and concern is limited to Israelis or Jews more broadly. Underlying such a parochial concern is a racist discourse which views Jewish life as more sacred than Palestinian life or non-Jewish life. Just listen to the Chief Rabbi’s speech at the memorial service for the three murdered Israeli teenagers from an illegal settlement and you will find it dripping with racism and Islamophobia. No platitudes or even sympathy for Palestinian victims.

The Rabbi also disingenuously inverts the narrative thereby manufacturing victimhood, when he speaks of defenseless people of the southern towns of Israel. He perhaps missed the memo from the IDF which states that these ‘defenceless people’ have early warning systems, bombs shelters and the Iron Dome to protect them. Palestinians are caged in by Israel in an area 11km by 40 km and truly defenceless – at the mercy of the most sophisticated bombs available.

Needless to say, nowhere does the Rabbi attempt to get to the root cause of the conflict – which is the Israeli occupation and the siege of Palestinian lands rendering them serfs in the land of their birth. The tunnels are built as a lifeline for a besieged population – or would the Rabbi rather that the population starves to death. Those of us who struggled against Apartheid remember that our rainbow nation was constructed out of a struggle against a colonial enterprise; the Palestinian struggle is no less. We remember all too starkly the Apartheid government’s frequent attacks on innocent civilians in the neighbouring countries in the name of fighting terrorism.

One of our great freedom fighters, Ahmed Kathrada, recently condemned the Chief Rabbi on his bullying tactics. After personalizing his initial attack on the ANC’s Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte, the Rabbi then turned his ire on the Deputy Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Obed Bapela. The latter was called by the Rabbi and asked to dissociate himself from the ANC statement on Gaza and further demanded that it be removed from the ANC website. When Minister Bapela refused the Rabbi threatened that there would be “consequences” for the ANC. Such bullying by the Zionist lobby is not isolated; just ask editors at newspapers, radio and television stations. So it is rich irony when the Rabbi says “lets banish the bullying and the intimidation …’ while he and his constituency bully anyone willing to speak out against Israel’s gross human rights abuses. Just ask Judge Richard Goldstone. The Chief Rabbi did not stop there – he challenged the ANC to a public debate. The ANC did not respond to what it probably considered grandstanding. However Open Shuhada Street and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign took up the challenge of a debate and allowed the Chief Rabbi to choose between Professor Steven Friedman and Zackie Achmat to debate the contents of the ANC statement. The Rabbi baulked at the offer providing a cowardly reason.

South Africans, appreciating the value of international solidarity from our own struggle, are known to stand up for human rights all over the world. Palestine is one such case. One can only agree with the Rabbi that this should not create conflict between communities in our beloved country. But how do we as a country deal with South African Jews who are enlisting in the Israeli army to fight in Gaza and are financially supporting Israel’s war effort, including through Magen David Adom (MDA), thereby bringing this conflict to our shores and being party to war crimes.

Rabbi, let us move beyond the pious platitudes and give effect to the ideas of Nelson Mandela and the notion of a rainbow nation – which you so glibly invoke. Here is my challenge to you: let us hold hands and call for the establishment of a rainbow nation in Israel and Palestine, and do away with religious, ethnic and racial hatred. Let us support a unitary secular democracy for all of Israel and Palestine, with equal rights and opportunity for all its people – Jews, Palestinians and others living within its borders, including African migrants. After all it is the home of all three Abrahamic faiths. This would be faithful to this legacy – and not simply using it as a smokescreen for racism and religious bigotry. Would you baulk at this challenge as well?