Thursday, March 20, 2008

Me and the collective.

There is one issue that should be addressed up front: am I an agent or spokesperson for the South African Jewish Board of Deputies of the South African Zionist Federation?

To answer that properly some brief history is needed. I have been traditionally a marginalised Jew in the sense that I am irretrievably (but not militantly) secular, have never been involved with Jewish communal organisations - which I perceived as peripheral to my own concerns, and boring to boot - and a "progressive pluralist" by instinct. At the same time I had a clear-cut sense of Jewish identity and a committment to Israel's right to exist as a secure and fully accepted equal in the global community of nations.

What, if anything, has changed in the past decade? Firstly, about the time of the start of the second Intifada in 2000, I became more aware of the extremely biased, almost vindictive approach of the local press to Israel and found myself writing articles in its defence. As a result of further research, I found my previous instinctively progressive and borderline anti-Zionist perspectives undergoing some transformation to what I hope is a more realistic view.

More specifically, my experience both of the "new" South Africa and of Israel's predicament in the Middle East, together with an increasingly informed interest in politics and history, made me more conscious of the limits of the "moral stance" in relation to real life. This is a complex issue to be pursued elsewhere but I took up the cudgels in defence of Israel in the face of a clear propaganda campaign of delegitimisation.

For my pains I found myself on the local Media Team (under the joint auspices of the Jewish Board of Deputies, Cape Province and the WPZC), and then its chairman from about mid 2007 to the end of the year. Again to cut a long story short, that close relationship came to an amicable end a few months ago, due mostly to the fact that I wished to retain my independence and focus of action.

This is all to the good. I am a completely independent agent. I receive no financial support of any kind either directly or indirectly from either of these organisations or any of their affiliates. I am NOT their spokesperson in any way and am completely free to criticise if and when I feel that is desirable. I remain a much more realistic "progressive pluralist".

At the same time, I share many of the concerns and committments of our communal representatives. I am on good terms with members of these organisations and make use of their links to information and contacts. This I believe is an entirely ethical and pragmatic relationship. Should it change in any way - either positively or negatively - I would make this known on this blog site.

This information is supplied in the interests of clarification and transparency.

Mike Berger

No comments: