Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Kasrils and the Star

Below is my response to the truly malicious piece of Kasrils propaganda in the Star of yesterday. I tried to maintain a strong but relatively unemotional tone.
I think we can all agree that my response only touches on the issues raised by the Kasrils article. Some others were raised directly in my letter to the editor accompanying my response, and I strongly feel that others should take up the theme of imagery and misleading captions with the Star - and of course anything else you feel my letter did not adequately address.
The phenomenon of Jewish anti-Zionism - if that is the appropriate term - is interesting from a number of points of view, especially the psychological. It is possible to oppose Zionism (I happen to support a progressive form of it) without descending to the kind of malice exhibited by a substantial portion of the Jewish anti-Zionists, of which Kasrils is a prime example. I touch on that issue in my blog and possibly it is a matter worth exploring jointly.

My suggestion for Kasrils theme tune: Mud, mud, glorious mud, there's nothing quite like it...

My letter to Editor of Letters page in the Star

I submit below a letter for publication in response to the Kasrils article of 07-04-2008. It is the most vile piece of misrepresentation that I have yet come across in the SA press and deserves a fuller reply than the brief one permitted on your Letters page.
I trust it will be published in full. One may also question the Star policy of publishing such clearly politically motivated articles which have the obvious intent of discrediting the 60th anniversary of Israel's creation.
The Middle East lies well outside South Africa's domain of interest, but has considerable emotional significance for both Jews and Muslims in South Africa. You do no service to either community by importing, in such a blatantly one-sided manner, a complex conflict which has no relevance to SA. If it is SA's humanitarian outreach you are concerned to promote then Africa itself provides more than ample scope for our energies.
To this one must add the use of the inflammatory images with patently misleading captions which accompany the article.
Yours sincerely
Dr Mike Berger

Response to Kasrils

No doubt, it is in the service of justice, as he sees it, that Kasrils (7 April) is prepared to treat historical truth, context and methodological integrity as so much bourgeois hypocrisy.

In the same vein Ilan Pappe, a historian whom Kasrils quotes with approval, writes “My bias is apparent despite the desire of my peers that I stick to facts and the "truth" when reconstructing past realities. I view any such construction as vain and presumptuous. This book is written by one who admits compassion for the colonized not the colonizer; who sympathizes with the occupied not the occupiers”.

That history is about establishing truth, not assuming it and then tailoring one’s story to fit a preconceived narrative, escapes Pappe - and clearly Kasrils, for Kasrils follows this formula with shameless abandon.

He quotes “eyewitnesses” who not only claim rape by Israeli soldiers, but butchering and slaughtering by the most brutal means possible. Kasrils rubs in the gory details: he quotes “disembowelled furniture”, a beautiful Israeli girl with “criminal” eyes. He asserts without qualification that “ 254 men, women and children were butchered there (Deir Yassin) by Zionist forces” and that this was but one episode in a long list of others – including Jenin, where it was unambiguously demonstrated that no massacre took place.

Now to a few facts. Sharif Kananah, of Bir Zeit (a Palestinian) University, in a detailed study arrived at an estimate of 110-120 villagers killed. Most accounts accept that rough figure and not 250 plus, which was inflated for propaganda purposes and now used without question by Kasrils.

Mohommad Radwan, an eyewitness involved in the fighting, stated “"There were no rapes. It's all lies. There were no pregnant women who were slit open. It was propaganda that... Arabs put out so Arab armies would invade,". Ayish Zeidan, a teenager, claimed “The Arab radio at the time talked of women being killed and raped, but this is not true. I believe that most of those who were killed were among the fighters and the women and children who helped the fighters."

In the course of the fighting over that period there were a number of “atrocities” committed by both sides These included the killing (and mutilating) of 78 doctors, nurses, patients and Haganah militia by Arab irregulars while attempting to reach Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus and the massacre of about 130 Jews when the Kfar Etzion finally fell to the Arabs.

I certainly have my own commitments to Israel, but it is not my intention to whitewash the Israelis or blacken the Arabs. But Kasrils’ article is the most unscrupulous and malicious piece of anti-Zionist propaganda that I can recall being published in the South African press.

Mike Berger