Monday, June 15, 2009

David Zinn in his own words

David Zinn in his own words

Ryan Rutherford, aka David Zinn, (for reasons unknown to me at least) challenged me to reproduce his immortal thoughts in my blog, in his normal courteous manner - which I reproduce here here for your edification “I wonder if you’ll be brave enough to publish my rebuttal on your blog, or is your site nothing but a one-way street where you slander people with impunity and provide them no recourse to correct the record and your deplorable distortions?”

Of course it requires little bravery from me since there are few things which better convict the fanatic than their own words. To be honest I have not read through it since I catch the drift fairly early on; perhaps some of you will be hardy enough.

Needless to say I will not be responding but this blog is open to anyone who wishes to respond, or indeed to support Zinny. I will not include any more of Zinny on my blog. He can be found in full torrent on IAS and probably elsewhere.

I am prepared to take considered input, critical or otherwise, minus undue ad hominem irrelevancies and preferably moderately brief.

Mike Berger (aka SOLAR PLEXUS )

Dear Mr Berger

Firstly, let me just say that I feel somewhat honoured that your blog reflects a newfound obsession with my words and what you presume to be my outlook. Your references to me as Zinny are too precious for words, so thanks for the smile that this nickname engendered when I first read it on your blog.

I was also going to apologise profusely for implying that you were a liar, rather than sticking with just gullible, because we really are so poorly served by the mainstream media so it is often difficult, without a bit of work, to know what’s going on in the real world. However, after reading through your take on some of my comments I have begun to wonder whether dishonesty isn’t an integral part of your strategy, which is far from unknown among Zionists.

Let’s now deconstruct, or perhaps reconstruct, those quotations of mine that you referred to in the relevant blog entry.

I wrote that “Israel is a colonialist, deeply racist and apartheid-style state is plainly obvious to anyone who knows anything about the country and isn't a rabid right wing pro-Israel apologist”, and I absolutely stand by this comment based on extensive and wide ranging research on the issue. You are also correct that I don’t need any conference or HSRC report to tell me about what sort of country Israel is. I’m glad that the HSRC has compiled such a report as now there is yet more ammunition against the pro-Israel apologists of this world though, true to form, they’ve gone on the hysterical defensive trying to slander the researchers. The only element of this comment that I admit was rather ill-judged was my reference to “rabid right wing pro-Israel apologists” because there are people who are quite liberal in their outlook who still defend Israel, usually because of their Jewish heritage, or because they are simply ignorant about Israel’s actions. So apologies for having smeared everyone who supports Israel as being ultra right wing extremists.

You go on to quote me as having written “Ahmadienjad doesn’t really wish to eliminate Israel as ‘we know it’ – that is, as a Jewish State. His comments have been misrepresented”, which is a ridiculous distortion of what I actually wrote. In the relevant article on ‘It’s Almost Supernatural’ you are quoted as having written “Ahmadinejad's threat to reality, namely, the elimination of Israel as we know it”. Now this term, “as we know it”, is admittedly vague so I presumed you were referring to his misquoted statements that he wished to “wipe Israel off the map”. As I pointed out in my post, there is no such expression in Farsi and that Ahmadinejad was quoting the late Ayatollah Khomeini who once said that he hoped the “regime in Jerusalem would vanish from the pages of history”, a quotation carrying a very different meaning to the one generally ascribed to Ahmadinejad. I pointed out twice in the relevant thread that to refer to Ahmadinejad’s quote, even if we concede that he used the term “wipe out” or something similar, by not referring to the context is to perpetuate a falsehood. For the record here is my reference to the issue in its entirety:

“…Ahmadinejad never ever proposed "the elimination of Israel as we know it". The mainstream media incorrectly reported that he had threatened to "wipe Israel off the map" which was a woefully inaccurate translation of the Farsi. In fact, this language has no such expression. Ahmadinejad was quoting the late Ayatollah Khomeini who once said that he hopes that "the Zionist regime in Israel vanishes from the pages of history". There's a massive difference between this and hoping for some genocidal elimination of all Jews. He was basically saying, and by extension so was Ahmadinejad, that the State of Israel as it is now constituted must change, a sentiment which I and all humane people throughout the world share. Just as calling for an end to Apartheid was not suggesting that white people be wiped out, so calling for Israel to no longer be a racist Zionist state is not wishing for the Jews to be vanquished from this earth”.

You write that Ahmadinejad is “developing a nuclear weapon as fast as he can” though strangely you provide no proof of this. Have you heard of the NIE, aka the National Intelligence Estimate, which is an intelligence report compiled by 16 US intelligence agencies? In late 2007 they released a report that Iran stopped developing its nuclear weapons programme in 2003.

Considering how you’ve misrepresented me I find it altogether rather rich that I am accused of misrepresenting you. I will concede that I should have taken more care in noting the ambiguity in your original statement which referred to Ahmadinejad wishing to “eliminate Israel as ‘we know it’”. I just assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that you were trotting out that much circulated canard against the Iranian president. Your blithe reference to a “Jewish state” also needs some clarification, so perhaps you’d care to do so. I mean if Israel withdrew from the Occupied Territories tomorrow and worked actively to assist the Palestinians in setting up an independent state, Israel would still remain “Jewish” by virtue of the majority population being of this cultural/religious persuasion. As a result of this action I seriously doubt one would hear many pronouncements from Ahmadinejad, or any other major figures in the Middle East, about Israel being “wiped out”, or at least these figures would have their real agendas exposed as there would no longer be any real world ammunition to fuel the fire of people in the region. You see, Mr Berger, the question isn’t about Israel being “Jewish” so much as it is about being a brutal occupying power and terror state.

You quote my statement that “I find it interesting that people like John Dugard are described as "ideologues" because they take "anti-Zionist positions", which suggests that to be pro-Zionist one would be free of ideology”, yet fail to tackle it in any meaningful sense, instead you just repeat that Dugard, like myself and Virginia Tilley evidently, are “ideologues”. Under that sweet photo of yourself on your blog you have written that the “blog subscribes to an inclusive Jewish identity and support for the right of Israel to exist in security and peace”. Elsewhere you express predictable sympathy for the “Zionist project”, which is by definition an ideological enterprise. I harbour no such allegiance to any state or political philosophy, except perhaps for universality, in other words applying to ourselves the same standard we apply to others. In Jesus and Confucius’ formulation this is known as the “golden rule” while Kant referred to it as the “categorical imperative”. So why don’t you point out what my ideology is, seeing as though you seem to be an expert on the issue.

I also don’t “hate Israel”, anymore than I “hated” South Africa because of the Apartheid government. I have a problem with many states around the world, but that doesn’t mean I hate the entire population. I have English heritage on my father’s side, and am still in regular contact with my family in England, but that doesn’t mean I somehow excuse that terrorist Tony Blair from illegally invading another country, nor do I ever make apologies for Britain’s horrific imperial history. The idea that one should either hate or love a particular state, without any nuance allowed, is a textbook case of ideological identification.

I did indeed write that “Just because Sudan has a horrendous human rights record does that magically exculpate Israel from any and all abuses against the Palestinians? Ditto for the question of ‘xenophobic hatred’ in South Africa, and on and on.” And you respond that “no-one said it did”. If you go back to the original thread you will notice that I was responding to the following comments from Sun:

“South Africa aint gonna spend no dollars on research into what makes the Sudanese Arabs hate, disposses and kill black (Muslim) Sudanese now will they?

Maybe even a proper funding of research into what lay behind the xenophobic hatred last year. No siree.”

So yes, someone, namely Sun, encouraged me to ask the quoted question as this was what he was seemingly implying. By referring to “Chechnia (sic), Tibet and Sri Lanka” you simply confirm the observation I implied in the above quotation and yet again fail to answer the question.

Your last quote has me observing that “Instead of fixating on who wrote and funded the HSRC report, why not actually review the report and tackle it on the basis of facts, and not mere ad hominem attacks. Or is this just standard operating procedure for pro-Israel zealots who cannot address factual information and must constantly go on the offensive with smear campaigns against those who disagree with their perspective of Israel as a paragon of purity?” and once more you fail to address the issue and confirm what I wrote by contending that the report is “fruit of a poisoned tree”. You also seem to think I’m motivated by “negative obsessions” without specifying what these are, and even imply that I am akin to a Holocaust denier like David Irving. You really do appear to harbour a pathological hatred for me, and by extension I presume you exhibit similar hatred towards all critics of Israel.

I notice with some interest that your latest blog entry is entitled ‘Ideologues and Bigots’ which is a perfect description of yourself. You clearly hold to a rigidly doctrinaire belief system and don’t seem too upset by the treatment of the Palestinians, past or present. You have a lot to say about the HSRC and the likes of Virginia Tilley, but where is your outrage at some of the pronouncements of Avigdor Lieberman, surely one of the most repugnant individuals to ever be part of the Israeli government? He has said that if Arabs in Israel don’t give a loyalty oath to Israel they should be expelled, and has proposed dropping all Palestinian prisoners in the ocean to drown. Where’s the indignation, Mike? Or does bigotry only apply to statements that are critical of poor little old Israel?

I’m not sure what’s more revolting, equating me to that despicable anti-Semite Irving or with those racist right wing rejects who Max Blumenthal interviewed in Jerusalem. The first thuggish lowlife he interviews says that Obama is a “f&*$head who should be shot” while others say that Obama should go and “f^$# himself”. The same fine gentleman who eagerly desires to see the President of the United States assassinated later says “white power…f*%^ the niggers”. An overweight and unattractive young woman says that Obama is “a Muslim for sure, and who even knows if he was born in the United States?…we haven’t seen his birth certificate…he’s like a terrorist”, thus revealing her ignorance and bigotry in one foul sweep. One clearly drunk buffoon called Obama a “p*#$y and faggot”, while another repeatedly said “f&$# Obama”. Yet another fine specimen of American Jewish youth said that he’d like to eat a watermelon with Obama who is “another nigger from the town”.

When have I even remotely expressed such sentiments? You have repeatedly asked, in a highly arrogant manner, who I am as if I first have to pass some Mike Berger test before I can say anything about the Israel/Palestine conflict, so why not actually try and find out who I am and what values I hold before making such sick, disgusting, utterly egregious and deeply reprehensible comparisons between me and some asinine scumbags who don’t deserve to scrub my shoes or work in my garden, let alone have a conversation with me. People, furthermore, whose entire value system I loathe with all my being and who should make all decent people sick to the core of their stomach. You may quibble with my interpretation of your person based on what I assumed you wrote, but at least I took your words on, and didn’t begin spewing all manner of obscene insults based on no evidence whatsoever.

On the “Guess who’s coming to SA” thread you write that you “don't really wish to get into the F(inkelstein) - Dershowitz or F(inkelstein) - anyone debate”. Could this be because you’re afraid that Finkelstein will be shown to have destroyed the likes of Dershowitz who is so loved by the Zionist brigade? It is actually very important to compare the work of Dershowitz and Finkelstein because then one will be able to see that the former is nothing but a liar, fabricator and outright propagandist. Dershowitz even relied largely on another hoax, namely Joan Peters’ From Time Immemorial, for his famous book The Case for Israel, which should suggest the kind of scholarship that the famous litigator is responsible for. He even made changes to his book for the paperback addition after Finkelstein had exposed some of his fraudulence.

Instead of hurling insult after insult, clearly something of a speciality with you, such as calling me and others “Hyde Park corner nutters” and “grade A paranoids”, perhaps you might like to provide a critical assessment of Finkelstein’s work and to show where he displays all this so-called “paranoia”. As Woody Allen once said, “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you”. In all seriousness, paranoia usually implies that someone holds a belief with virtually no correlation to the real world. Considering that Finkelstein has displayed a consummate scholarly skill in his work that has been lauded by many experts on the Israel/Palestine issue, while exposing others as frauds and fabricators, the charge of paranoia doesn’t fit all that well without clear substantiation. The US is a major terror state, and Israel’s international terrorism, while on a much smaller scale to that of its chief donor, is also very well-known. To acknowledge this point, whether one is Norman Finkelstein or David Zinn or Nigel Parry or Pete Sampras, isn’t to display paranoia but mere acknowledgement of the world as it actually is. Considering how you’ve displayed yourself to be the consummate ideologue and also a disgraceful smear merchant, I realise that reality rarely intrudes upon your warped brain and that for you those who live in the real world are to be reduced to objects of your vile scorn.

I can’t help but notice the irony that you accuse others of paranoia yet you are one of the chief contributors to a site devoted to “Exposing anti-Israel bias in the South African media and promoting a balanced South African foreign policy towards the Middle East”. If anything, the media in South Africa isn’t critical enough of Israel, nor is our government, at least not publicly among the top echelons. I am also rather curious as to what you could possibly mean by “balanced”, seeing as though you and most of those on ‘It’s Almost Supernatural’ appear to be uncritical adherents of everything Israel does and never utter so much as a peep about the sickening violations of Palestinian rights in the Occupied Territories or within Israel proper. It seems that “bias” and “balanced” have very different meanings for ideological extremists and those who hold to a higher standard of factual integrity.

I wonder if you’ll be brave enough to publish my rebuttal on your blog, or is your site nothing but a one-way street where you slander people with impunity and provide them no recourse to correct the record and your deplorable distortions?

I eagerly await your response.

David Zinn

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ideologues and Bigots

Ideologues and Bigots.

One of the things that time teaches, if we’re willing to learn, is that human affairs are conducted in a permanent mist of uncertainty and confusion. Such is the complexity of human motivation, the diversity and multiplicity of actors, the unavoidable uncertainty surrounding key psychological, sociological and even material factors and the inherent unpredictability of events, we inevitably operate behind an opaque veil of ignorance.

Except for a relatively small number of genuine experts, such ignorance is compounded by our distance from the issues and personalities involved. Our information is second-hand and frequently distorted by the spin imparted by those responsible for processing the news and analysis. Our own perceptions are heavily skewed by unconscious or poorly understood emotional responses conditioned by our upbringing, our identity, our pervasive modes of cognition and belief systems and by self-interest and social dynamics.

Yet, despite all this, we are compelled to make decisions and form opinions. Most “sensible” people do so with some degree of humility – by that I mean they are aware they may be wrong, that they are willing to learn and to change and that even people with whom one profoundly disagrees may have a point. In the cut and thrust of debate, that realisation may be lost at times, but it is a mark of balance and maturity that sooner rather than later one returns to a measure of humility.

Of course, this can be a recipe for fence-sitting in situations in which such passivity or ambiguity is dangerous or wrong or both. In general, I believe that it important to form, and hold, hard-edged but not immutable opinions. Over the years I have moved from an instinctively leftwing position to a far more centrist and realistic perspective.

It is informed by a belief in the moral values of truth, justice and long-term rationality insofar as humanly possible, but is also conditioned by other beliefs and identities. These include an identification with the broad Jewish community and its history, a secular cosmopolitan predisposition, a somewhat pessimistic view of human nature coupled, at the same time, to a cautiously optimistic belief (or is it hope?) in the possibility of progress. I believe that freedom and democracy is important to all human beings but also in the stabilizing influence of tradition. I have seen that power corrupts and so does powerlessness. I believe that all human beings deserve the dignity of respect unless by their actions they unequivocally forfeit that right. Finally, I believe that we have the duty to fight for our rights and for justice but that extremism and greed will ultimately bring disaster down on the heads of those who go beyond the limits of fairness and a decent respect for other human beings.

All this corncob philosophy brings me to the issue of ideologues and bigots. Clearly, as I have described for myself, none of us come as blank slates to the political arena. But the hodge-podge of broad and often mutually contradictory principles and commonsense the “balanced” person brings to the table, is a far cry from the fixed, obsessive lens through which the true ideologue views the world.

Like pornography it is a question of degree and one can make a mistake. But generally one recognises the ideologue by the utter predictability of their responses, their extremism, their compulsion to revile those who differ from them and their total resistance to contrary facts. Of course, the ideologue and the bigot are kissing cousins. By definition almost, the true ideologue is always a bigot since they dismiss any person or viewpoint which deviates slightly from their own. But bigotry, in my lexicon at least, tends to be prejudice without the support of an intellectualised (religious or secular) belief system which the ideologue uses to support their fixed views.

In my experience, such people almost always respond to disagreement with personal abuse. The greater the public posture of moral sanctimony often the greater the degree of private intolerance and rudeness. It’s a kind of statistical law. I had always expected that from the rightwing and was shocked when I encountered it from the left – but no longer.

In my Quote du Jour on Solar Plexus ( I gave some publicity to comments by Ron Kampeas of the JTA because, though I have some reservations, in broad terms he articulated something which we need as a Jewish pro-Zionist community to get to grips with. Please go and read it and my previous post on the above link

In short, I feel that something needs to be said about some “noisy” Zionists who by their words, and sometimes actions, do almost as much to discredit Zionism as the most fanatical of anti-Zionists. There is no reason to believe that miraculously the Jews, alone amongst the peoples of this world, will be free of stupidity, fanaticism and bigotry. But perhaps it is possible to persuade at least some of them to reconsider their behaviour if only to stop providing ammunition to those who would stigmatise a whole people and Israel itself because of the attitudes of some.

As good a starting point as any is the Cairo speech by Obama. It reflects a major policy initiative and represents a decisive step away from the isolationist and confrontational policy of the Bush years. Every word was carefully calculated and, within the bounds of human capability, it accurately reflects the broad policy strategy to be pursued by the Obama government vis-à-vis the Muslim world.

This has been summed up by Bicom in the following terms (shortened by author):
• It is remarkable that in a speech designed to recalibrate relations between the US and the Islamic world, Obama spent significant time challenging anti-Semitism, busting the myth of Holocaust denial, condemning terrorism and emphasising the unbreakable bonds between Israel and the US.
• There was no detailed policy plan, but the speech combined Obama's ideals with a hard-headed, realist view of the US interests. It was a direct challenge to the idea of a ‘clash of civilizations' between the West and Islam.
• The speech was directed at Muslim people, rather than their governments. The US went to considerable length, by flying in journalists, to ensure it was heard by Muslim people around the world.
I would add to that (see the speech in full, the BICOM article and many others) that Obama went to considerable lengths to reassure the global Muslim community of two things: firstly, that the USA both respects the Muslim world and has no desire to set the West up in opposition to Islam and, secondly, that the USA will act decisively against all forms of terrorism, including that coming from Islamic sources.

Of course it included other themes, including specifically the interconnectedness of the global community, but I am mainly concerned with Israel. It was not intended as a detailed blueprint but as a call for imagination and for transcendence of religious, cultural and political differences through a common commitment to humanity.

I thought it was brilliant. It is easy to dismiss this as mere rhetoric signifying nothing, but I would differ strongly. Words are terribly important for both good and ill, and the Obama speech called to the best of our common humanity. It was an attempt to undercut extremists of all stripes and to appeal to the commonsense and decency of the ordinary man in the street.

Who knows whether it will succeed? There are those who are so ideologically wedded to their positions, that they are simply incapable of seeing a wider picture. They immediately focused on a small part of the speech in order to construct a narrative to take issue with. One commentator suggested that Obama drew moral equivalence between the Holocaust and Palestinian suffering. He did no such thing.

Another suggested that Israel did not come into being as the result of centuries of European persecution (as Obama suggested) but because of its unbroken spiritual connection to the land. You could have fooled secular Herzl or the many religious Jews who for decades opposed the creation of a Jewish state…some still do.

All this could be dismissed as plain silliness, except that it is designed to herd Jews into a obdurate fanatical camp who see the conflict in apocalyptic terms of good versus evil. In this they become the mirror image of some of their opponents. A plague on both their camps.

It is, of course, quite reasonable to challenge parts of the Obama speech; for instance his strong stance on the settlements. There are some real inconsistencies in his position and it is difficult to see how Netanyahu can comply fully with the Obama demands without collapse of his fragile coalition. But already Mitchell is softening the harsh rhetoric and Netanyahu understands the symbolic importance of the settlements in undermining extremist positions on the Arab-Muslim-Palestinian and Western leftwing fronts.

We need reciprocity on both sides and Obama is well aware of this and the legitimate Israeli fears over security. What he, and all those who understand the long-term need for accommodation, reject is the use of legitimate concerns to buttress extreme rejectionist attitudes. Unless of course you are one of those who believe that Jews can only survive as an embattled people fighting against enemies – real or created. So at varying levels of sophistication, they insist that the Jews (and/or the West) are engaged in an inevitable, apocalyptic battle against Islam or the latest incarnation of antisemitism. This is dangerous nonsense, but words and actions can make it a reality.

All this is bad enough but there is a significant camp within the Zionist camp who adopt puerile, provocative and derogatory terms when referring to Obama or to Arabs or Muslims. We have them here and elsewhere. There is a truly repulsive video on YouTube ( which has apparently over 100 000 hits already. The bunch of noisy, bigoted, ignorant and profoundly stupid Jews depicted there are of course not representative. But they do exist and there are too many within the pro-Zionist camp, where I locate myself, to be ignored.

We need to insist that Israel can and must be defended with honour and dignity and with the appreciation that we are all part of a common humanity. When members of our camp descend to the levels of the worst of our opponents, we do our cause a profound disservice and lend ammunition to the malicious forces who instigated the HSRC Symposium.

Back to Obama for a moment. His fine words will need to be matched by an equally subtle but realistically toughminded appreciation of the obstacles to moving towards his dream of global peace based on mutual tolerance, accommodation and commitment to a universal humanity. Such an outcome is far too Utopian but genuine progress towards resolution of some of the conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere is possible. Let’s challenge and resist his strategy where appropriate but keep our hearts open to his intent and call to a common humanity.

Let us also hope, for all our sakes, that Obama will succeed with our help.

Mike Berger (SOLAR PLEXUS)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sinister Symposium

This post is largely concerned with an upcoming HSRC Symposium on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is important to read through this post carefully since every South African Jew (and citizen) should be aware of the activities of anti-Zionist activists in South Africa. By the shrill and extremist nature of the South African dialogue we find ourselves in serious opposition to the pragmatic and conciliatory tone adopted by Obama.

I also respond briefly at the end to some comments by David Zinn - whoever he may be. I don't usually respond to stupid negativity (in the course of a comment on It's Almost Supernatural he called me a liar and/or a gullible fool) but there are a couple of assertions in his post which require some response. In passing, it is quite amazing how often self-styled moralists on the left resort to vicious ad hominim insults. Jung had it right when he talked about the "shadow". Give me an honest sinner any time.

For those who don’t know, the HSRC (or Human Sciences Research Council) is a statutory body (that is, a Government sponsored and funded organisation) whose core function is, in its own words, “…is to conduct large-scale, policy-relevant, social-scientific projects for public-sector users, non-governmental organisations and international development agencies.”

It is worth expanding on this briefly (again drawn from its website at - : “…Our commitment to cutting-edge research which supports development nationally, in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and in Africa…”. “As the national social science council of South Africa, the HSRC wishes to serve as a knowledge hub to bridge the gap between research, policy and action; thus increasing the impact of research. This is achieved through collaboration with key constituencies, including government, other research organisations, multinational agencies, universities, non-government organisations, and donor and development organisations.
“Its four multi-disciplinary research programmes, two cross-cutting research units and three research centres are focused on user needs. The following units make up the HSRC.
Research programmes:
Child, Youth, Family and Social Development
Democracy and Governance
Education, Science and Skills Development
Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS and Health (including the Africa-wide research network, SAHARA)
Cross-cutting units:
Policy Analysis and Capacity Enhancement Unit
Knowledge Systems
Centre for Education Quality Improvement
Centre for Poverty, Employment and Growth
Centre for Service Delivery”

It is clear from this self-description, that the HSRC is a research organisation supposedly devoted to issues pertaining to the social and political development of a newly emergent democracy with vast inequalities in the realms of wealth and social development, a contentious and divisive history and numerous challenges in the form of education and skills development, health, crime and corruption, substance abuse and the abuse of women and children and in strengthening and consolidating democracy in a volatile and underdeveloped region.
None of this would seem to have anything to do with the complex and historically rooted issues in the Middle East, but if we go to its webpage dealing with Democracy and Govenance ( we find advertised two new items, namely:
• Conference: Re-Envisioning Israel-Palestine, 12-14 June 2009 , Cape Town
• Report on Israeli Practices released: Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid.
Once again, we search the rest of the page in vain for any indication which suggests that the HSRC has a legitimate concern with such issues. Indeed it explicitly states the following: “...The Democracy and Governance (D&G) programme examines issues that contribute to and constrain democratisation in South Africa and around the African continent.
In short the mandate of the HSRC contains nothing to suggest it has a legitimate interest in Middle Easten issues. But the clue and the (fake) justification comes in the wording of the second item listed above “Report on Israeli Practices released: Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid”. I strongly recommend readers to visit the site for themselves.
Somehow its mandate to research and encourage democracy and good governance in South Africa, specifically, and Africa generally (a region in clear and desperate need of such attention), has now mutated into a obviously partisan polemic against Israel.
This conclusion is further buttressed by the following introduction to the report, “The project was suggested originally by the January 2007 report by eminent South African jurist John Dugard, in his capacity as Special Rapporteur to the United Nations Human Rights Council, when he indicated that Israel practices had assumed characteristics of colonialism and apartheid.”
In short, it is clear not only that this entire exercise has nothing whatsoever to do with the core function of the HSRC but contary to its alleged status of a serious research institutions, has allowed itself to be hijacked to serve the objectives of known ideologues and activists with strongly held and openly voiced anti-Zionist positions – like Dugard himself.
In case one has any doubts the following statement from the same webpage in all its unctuous dishonesty clarifies the position: “... The Middle East Project of the HSRC is an independent two-year project to conduct analysis of Middle East politics relevant to South African foreign policy, funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Government of South Africa. The analysis in this report is entirely independent of the views or foreign policy of the Government of South Africa and does not represent an official position of the HSRC. It is intended purely as a scholarly (my emphasis) resource for the South African government and civil society and the concerned international community.
In summary
• The project is funded by South African taxpayers,
• It is not scholarly as reflected in its clearly biased original terms of reference, its original motivation (by John Dugard), its selective and partisan sponsors (scholars and international lawyers based at the HSRC, the School for Oriental and African Studies (London), the British Institute for International and Comparative Law, the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (Durban), the Adalah/Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and al-Haq/West Bank Affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists.) and the equally selective and partisan composition of the research team, headed by Virginia Tilley, a well-known (more appropriately, notorious) shrill and adamant anti-Zionist activist. Her position was sponsored by Stephen Friedman and later by Ronnie Kasrils, both of whom are openly and vehemently hostile towards Israel.
• In no way does the report provide pragmatic and useful guidelines for a foreign policy stance by the South African, but is a pseudo-judicial, one-sided demonisation of Israel using terms deliberately designed to promote ostracism and punitive action by the international community. It has nothing whatsoever to do with impartial research and scholarly activity.
In the Symposium there are 4 theme chairmen/keynote speakers:
1. John Dugard whose anti-Israeli stance is well kn and needs no further explication here.
2. Prof Nadim Rouhana His views in a recent article ( are “For the Palestinian citizens of Israel, life is becoming a collective Kafkaesque experience. For years, their state has been determined to buttress its Jewish identity by legal, constitutional, cultural, and political means, in spite of the fact that one in five of its residents is an Arab. This latest series of bills is just another part of that effort.”
3. Dr Leila Farsakh “I just say that the struggle of our people for achieving an independent state is over. We must start again by resisting the occupation and colonialism, while formulating a new strategy relying upon the concept of citizenship not being fastened any longer to the idea of historical Palestine’s partition. Do forty years of struggle ¬since the occupation of the Territories in 1967 ¬deserve perhaps a State which would be nothing but a set of Bantustans in Israeli territory without any territorial continuity?”
4. Dr Gerhard Mare He is Director, Centre for Critical Research on Race and Identity, University of KwaZulu Natal (Durban, South Africa). As far as I know he has not expressed any views on the Middle East based on my superficial research.
But there is no need – the terms, the sponsors and the other particpants will ensure that Symposium will promote the theme of the Report on which it is based.
This brief review only scratches the surface. We need to ask the following information:
Who (or what group) motivated and promoted this project within the HSRC despite its irrelevance to the core mandate of that body?
Who selected the researchers? What are their credentials in this field and what are their prior positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Was any serious effort made to select researchers with views which ran contary to the apriori terms of reference of the Report?
If the project was an exercise to provide useful information to the South African Department of Foreign Affairs, why is it necessary to hold an open Conference (at considerable expense no doubt) to publicise its finding in an already biased South African media environment? While the Symposium is supposedly designed to promote fresh thinking, the Report is to provide the foundation on which it is structured and will thus frame the entire debate
Where in the report is there a serious attempt to provide the South African government with impartial, scholarly and pragmatically useful information concerning the history of the conflict, the positions of the protagonists and outside powers in the region to help guide the relevant ministry in its dealings with both Israel and the Palestinians?
This entire exercise by a supposedly scholarly, statutory body of the South African Government is nothing but a thinly disguised, pseudo-academic witchhunt, supported by taxpayers, designed to promote the agendas of known anti-Zionist activists. It deserves the widest possible exposure and unequivocal condemnation irrespective of one’s position on the issues in the Middle East.
Mike Berger (SOLAR PLEXUS)

The ink has hardly dried on my previous post but I feel it necessary to follow up with further brief comment. Firstly I would like to thank David Abel for drawing this entire sinister enterprise to my attention in the first place.

Secondly, it should not only be called "sinister" for its modus operandi and objectives, but also SMART. Let us be quite clear: this symposium is NOT some spontaneous cry of moral outrage but a carefully planned, costly, meticulously implemented strategy of demonsisation of Israel in pursuit of a clear political agenda. In case anyone should be in doubt what that is let me spell it out briefly. It is to set the stage for global ostracism and punitive action against Israel with the intention of bringing Ahmadinejad's threat to reality, namely, the elimination of Israel as we know it. This is to be accomplished not through nuclear weapons (Israel can respond effectively to such dangers) but by the cummulative impact of isolation, sanctions, boycotts and moral opprobrium.

It avoids the crudities of Durban I with its anti-semitic street theatre or the Ahmadinejads and Hugo Chavezs of this world. By enlisting the support of sympathetic academics, both individuals and organisations, and using the jargon and trappings of genuine scholarly discourse, it provides a thin but superficially effective cover for its sinster political agenda. It is, in a sense, the Cape Town I answer to the emasculation of Durban II under pressure from Western countries. There will be no Ahmadinejad to open the conference and thus give the game away (at least in Western eyes), but there will be a sympathetic Western press in the form of the Independent group, the M & G and others to ensure that its findings and conclusions receive a wide hearing.

This requires wide exposure and concentrated attention. While clever, the motivation and deceptive modus operandi is obvious to careful scrutiny. Equally, the content, despite their academic and quasi-judicial tone, is clearly partisan, selective and falls far short of genuine scholarly standards in order to find in favour of a predetermined verdict.

I trust that the influential academics and commentators amongst the recipients of this newspetter will ensure that this nasty and dishonest anti-semitic and anti-Zionist project is exposed and nullified.

Mike Berger

PS Firstly, my thanks to Steve Magid of It's Almost Supernatural for his own trenchant comments and for reproducing my Newsletter in its entirety.

Now to Zinn.

Zinn comment numero uno: “That Israel is a colonialist, deeply racist and apartheid-style state is plainly obvious to anyone who knows anything about the country and isn't a rabid right wing pro-Israel apologist.” Goodness gracious why on earth do we need a Conference with so much intellectual firepower and at such expense, when our Zinn absolutely knows the truth without any shadow of a doubt? Please write to the HSRC and instruct them to call the whole thing off.

Zinn comment number two: Ahmadienjad doesn’t really wish to eliminate Israel as “we know it” – that is, as a Jewish State. His comments have been misrepresented. Yes folk, you read that right: that’s what the man said. Ahmadinejad supports Hamas, Hizbollah, and other anti-Israel terror groups. He runs a conference (strictly scholarly of course) questioning the Holocaust. He is developing a nuclear weapon as fast as he can. But no, he does not want to eliminate Israel as a Jewish State. But please go and read Zinn’s comment on “Supernatural” and watch how he misrepresents what I said in order to contradict me. And he calls me a liar. But it is too boring to to waste more energy on such rubbish.

Zinn again “I find it interesting that people like John Dugard are described as "ideologues" because they take "anti-Zionist positions", which suggests that to be pro-Zionist one would be free of ideology. This really tells me all I need to know about the sort of mindset that underpins this website.” John Dugard (like Zinn, Virginia Tilley et al) is an ideologue. That’s OK. I don’t really like ideologues with their fixed, selective and shrill opinions, whether of the left or the right. But my gripe is that the HSRC Conference and the Report on which it is based has been motivated for, framed and shaped by ideologues of a particular stripe designed to promote the agendas of those who, like Zinn, hate Israel That is not what the HSRC was designed to do, it is not good use of taxpayer’s money and it is grossly dishonest to represent it as scholarly, impartial exercise.

Zinn weer: “Just because Sudan has a horrendous human rights record does that magically exculpate Israel from any and all abuses against the Palestinians? Ditto for the question of "xenophobic hatred" in South Africa, and on and on.” No Zinny, no-one said it did. But is is a far more suitable subject for our HSRC than the Middle East. Oh, and by the way, Zinny, what about Chechnia, Tibet and Sri Lanka to name just a few spots which could do with a “scholarly conference” - not to mention mass marches, boycotts and threats of “to the gas”.? I do hope you write to the HSRC suggesting it expand its horizons further since Africa does not provide the scope it needs for its wide-ranging moral concerns.

Last word from Zinn: “Instead of fixating on who wrote and funded the HSRC report, why not actually review the report and tackle it on the basis of facts, and not mere ad hominem attacks. Or is this just standard operating procedure for pro-Israel zealots who cannot address factual information and must constantly go on the offensive with smear campaigns against those who disagree with their perspective of Israel as a paragon of purity?” If it were a genuine scholarly project and not one motivated by the same negative obsessions which so captivate Zinn, I would agree. But it is the “fruit of a poisoned tree” (I think that is the legal phrase) and as such does not deserve the attention of genuinely impartial and informed scholars. It is a bit like David Irving – he pushed his deeply anti-semitic treatment of Holocaust history to the point of a legal confrontation against genuine scholars – and came seriously unstuck. But, of course, that did not stop the Holocaust deniers, just as it will not stop the Zinns of this world. So I suppose it will be necessary for busy and intelligent, informed people to waste their time responding to the content, but it will have at most minimal impact. For the whole matter has little to do with external reality but with internal reality – that is, psychological obsessions on which facts have little influence.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Cause for Optimism?

I think the best news vis-a-vis Israel (and the world) is the walkout and boycott of the UN's repugnant anti-racism charade. It has always been my contention that in the end the excesses of Israel's enemies would be their undoing...and so it is coming to pass. It is another reason why Israel must base her own political behaviour on what might be called tough-minded moral realism. If only for pragmatic reasons, Israel simply cannot afford to imitate the racist intolerance and extremism of her totalitarian enemies, just as it cannot affort the moralistic posturing of her left-wing critics.

And, more subtly, the Obama presidency is potentially GOOD NEWS for Israel, despite the dire predictions of some. It takes the wind out of the sails of the chronic Israel-bashers when an icon of the liberal left shows some realism and common sense - not to mention common decency. He deserves our cautious respect and support for his efforts to breakthrough the wall of ideological extremism and irresponsibility emanating from certain Arab-Muslim quarters. Whether it will gain any purchase remains to be seen, but I suspect he may be tougher than some imagine.

On a different tack, I enclose a quote picked up from Daily Alert

"Robert D. Kaplan: The new Israeli government faithfully represents the Israeli electorate, which is in utter despair over the impossibility of finding credible partners on the Palestinian side with which to negotiate. Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Abbas' Fatah movement may be willing to live in peace with Israel, but it has insufficient political legitimacy among Palestinians to negotiate such a deal. With Fatah and Hamas facing off against each other, the Palestinians are simply too divided to plausibly meet Israel across the table.
But there is a deeper structural and philosophical reason why the Palestinians remain stateless, as best explained by associate Johns Hopkins professor Jakub Grygiel in "The Power of Statelessness." Statehood is no longer a goal, he writes. Many stateless groups "do not aspire to have a state," for they are more capable of achieving their objectives without one. Instead of actively seeking statehood to address their weakness, as Zionist Jews did in an earlier phase of history, groups like the Palestinians now embrace their statelessness as a source of power.
A state entails responsibilities that limit a people's freedom of action. A group like Hizbullah in Lebanon could probably take over the Lebanese state today, but why would it want to? Statelessness offers a level of "impunity" from retaliation. The most tempting aspect of statelessness is that it permits a people to savor the pleasures of religious zeal, extremist ideologies, and moral absolutes, without having to make the kinds of messy, mundane compromises that accompany the work of looking after a geographical space. (Atlantic Monthly)"

So there is a way to go as yet, but we should be permitted a modicum of optimism.

Finally, I attach a letter to the Cape Times which has nothing whatsoever to do with israel...for a change. Hope you like it.
It is one of the many truisms surrounding South Africa that it is so unpredictable and paradoxical a country that almost anything one says will turn out to be wise or foolish with about equal probability. Optimists and pessimists alike can find plenty of evidence to support their views and, of course, South Africans can swing from one extreme to the other depending on the performance of their favourite sports team.

Our politics has been almost uniformly bad whether one considers the white or black sections of our population. Taken for granted are the iniquities of European colonialism and apartheid, but Bantu internecine warfare and displacement of the indigenous San peoples of South Africa were hardly examples of enlightened political behaviour. Furthermore, the past decade of black government has fallen far short of what our liberal and socially progressive constitution portended and the prospect of a Zuma Presidency seems to fulfil dire predictions of yet another failed African state, long on rhetoric and spin but very short on performance and integrity.

Yet we are still here and the centre has not fallen apart, even though worrying cracks are apparent. The DA, which still remains the single most principled and rational of our political parties, has gained significantly under the leadership of a singularly determined and able Zille. Parts of the economy are flourishing and, despite the abuse of affirmative action, a more self-assured and educated black middle class has emerged to counter the primitive populism of the Malema cult with its appeal to impoverished and disempowered young blacks excluded from the post-liberation gravy train.

We still have our wonderful topography and climate, our intoxicating diversity of people, cultures and physical environment. We have our natural resources and a core of resourcefulness, common sense and hardiness which has seen us through many potentially catastrophic crises.

But why do we still need to stray so close to the edge of the abyss? Surely it is about time we aimed for something higher. Forget about the Scandinavian or European models. They are beyond our abilities and are in any case not suitable for a still raw, energetic and heterogeneous country. And certainly the East (Far or Near) is totally alien to the South African temperament.

But why not a United States of South Africa? - untidy and of sometimes questionable morals, but energetic, ambitious, diverse and pulsating with a raw commitment to democracy, opportunity and freedom.

We have what it takes if only we have the imagination and will. But we must first get rid of our residual dependency yearnings for a “strong leader” who will provide for us and through whom we can feel empowered. Such leaders will provide only for themselves and their cronies and will strip us of our self-respect and, ultimately, of our economic prospects and independence. We must also free ourselves of a self-indulgent cynicism and apathy. Our future is in our hands.

The beginnings have been accomplished through the strength of the DA and the emergence of COPE. But besides these vital political developments we must have a strong civil society and insist on delivery whether in fighting crime, providing for the health of our population, stimulating small business and entrepreneurship, protecting our common environment and enhancing our physical and electronic infrastructure.

Once again we are provided with the challenge and opportunity. Let’s start.

Mike Berger

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Soft Challenges of a PR Warrior

Extracts from a talk presented at the AGM of the Bnoth Zion Association WIZO, 17 Feb 2009.

I have been engaged for about 10 years now in the defence of Israel in the context of an often shallow, biased, amoral and actively hostile media environment. Since it is this environment which shapes the views of the South African population, my task entails setting the record straight where it has been distorted, contextualising actions and pointing to lapses in logic or honesty of those who criticise Israel.

Human history is, as we know only too well, littered with miscalculations, wishful thinking, unpredicted consequences and missed opportunities. Afterwards, with time, more information and insulation from the pressures and passions of the moment, it may be possible to point to the mistakes made and options missed. But even these are bitterly contested by scholars with irreconcilable views.

Indeed politics is conducted under a veil of ignorance through which we desperately try to discern a path through an intractable reality.

Few of these difficulties appear in the popular media. If the truth be told, politics is much more complex, subtle and unpredictable than “rocket science”, the supposed gold standard of high intellectual endeavor. The media, however, does not sell hard cognition; it sells emotion.

At its not infrequent worst, it sells indignation, righteous rage, and a sanctimonious sense of self-righteousness. It sells prejudice. It sells softcore and, sometimes, even hardcore political pornography.

I could give you many examples, but I’ll take a recent report from Damascus by a Harvard graduate student conducting research there:

“This morning, while I made my coffee and eggs, I tuned in to the best show on television. ...
The show is the conflict in Gaza. On Al-Jazeera.

Even if CNN could sneak a camera crew through the checkpoints, it's hard to imagine they would produce anything like what's on Al-Jazeera - an all-day, ever-shifting drama that throws war in your face with all its gruesome cruelty. ... Their broadcasts routinely feature mutilated corpses being pulled from the scene of an explosion, or hospital interviews with maimed children, who bemoan the loss of their siblings or their parents – often killed in front of their eyes. Al-Jazeera splices archival footage into the live shots, weaving interviews and expertly produced montages into a devastating narrative you can follow from the comfort of your own home.

This is news without even the pretense of impartiality....”

There is much more to this quote, and Calderwood contrasts it to the “bloodless coverage” in the West. I would challenge him on that. Much of the West’s coverage is softcore as distinct from Al-Jazeera’s hardcore material, but judging by the reaction just as effective.

Of course, as we are only too painfully aware, the IPC receives attention disproportionate to the number of lives lost or damage caused by the struggle in the Middle East. While every life blighted or destroyed is worthy of regret, the painful truth is that any one of a number of African and other conflicts over the past half century have dwarfed the IPC on virtually any measure you may care to use.

One reason is, of course, that the IPC has become both a proxy and a diversion for the wider struggle of fundamental Islam with the West, the “culture wars” within the West itself and the struggle of Islam to modernise and escape the centrifugal pull of the totalitarian Islamist movement. Within the West, the IPC has become the focal point of much progressive activism and is kept alive on campuses and in the media partly through targeted funding from Islamist organisations.

Some indeed see this conflict as the focal point of a global struggle already in progress between opposing civilisations. While that may be a simplification, it is has sufficient truth to account in part for its disproportionate claim on the world’s attention.

So let’s look at the war for public support in the West more closely. Here is an extract of an account from the supposedly hard-headed, objective magazine, The Economist. It is titled “The war of words and images”, and I quote:

“Israel is now better prepared. The tactics it deploys on the media front are as cunning and punchy as those its army has been wielding against Hamas in Gaza”.

In case you missed the subtext in that extract here is more “Yet wider support among the American public for Israel in this conflict appears to be less robust than usual. (“Surprise, surprise” – my comment)...And that was before the bloody attack on a UN school and other such incidents. Global public opinion has also probably shifted against the Jewish state. Even inside Israel, human-rights groups, concerned that much of the normally outspoken local press has turned largely jingoistic, have launched a website to expose the mounting tragedy inside Gaza.” And so the softcore expose continues.

The Economist is not alone amongst the normally sober and balanced media in adopting the dark tools of the propagandist. The equally prestigious Financial Times saw fit to run an article by the Saudi Prince, Turki al-Faisal,entitled “Saudi patience is running out” January 22, 2009. This includes such comments as “In the past weeks, not only have the Israeli Defence Forces murdered more than 1,000 Palestinians, but they have come close to killing the prospect of peace itself. Unless the new US administration takes forceful steps to prevent any further suffering and slaughter of Palestinians, the peace process, the US-Saudi relationship and the stability of the region are at risk”. And this “Let us all pray that Mr Obama possesses the foresight, fairness, and resolve to rein in the murderous Israeli regime...”.

In case you may have thought, “well this is just the exercise of free and impartial coverage of all perspectives” you would have sought in vain for countervailing comment putting Israel’s case with similar forthrightness. On the contrary, the editorial section simply reinforces the FT’s selectively pro-Palestinian stance. For example, in condemning the BBC’s decision not to run an advert for a Gazan charity, the FT has this to say “Ordinary people, informed not least by the BBC’s own coverage of the destruction of the lives and livelihoods of Gazans, can distinguish for themselves the difference between acute humanitarian need and propaganda”.

Like hell they can and, of course, the FT knows it!

In an article published by The Institute for Global Jewish Affarirs, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin documents on-going anti-Zionist activity on the University of California at Santa Cruz. This involves the intrusion of such material into lectures and courses with little ostensibly to do with the conflict in the Middle East, accompanied by such unreferenced statements as “Israeli massacres are often accompanied by sexual assault, particularly of pregnant women as a symbolic way of uprooting the children from the mother, or the Palestinian from the land.”

A purportedly academic conference entitled “Alternative Histories Within and Beyond Zionism" was recently held which constituted a systematic delegitimization of Zionism. The number of Jewish participants was notably high.

Of course, this material is the relatively polite side of propganda. It can be passed off as “democratic opprobrium”, legitimately evoked by Israeli policies. Who are we kidding?

The mask comes off in many Muslim rallies or rallies in countries not afflicted with lingering guilt over the Holocaust. There chants of “Jews to the ovens” and “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas” are perfectly acceptable. That such slogans are screamed by people who at the same time deny that the Holocaust ever took place should surprise only the incurably naïve. That Israelis are regularly compared to the Nazis and the Gazan invasion evokes comparison to the Holocaust is the stock-in-trade of the more open antisemites.

Prof. Frank Furedi carefully documents how anti-Zionism is increasingly becoming difficult to differentiate from open antisemitism: in his words “Anti-Israel sentiment is morphing into anti-Jewish sentiment, as more and more people project their disdain for the modern world on to ‘the Jew’.” Of course, this does not mean that every criticism or critic of Israel is antisemitic. But, increasingly, the sanctimonious and shallow left, the angry and bigoted right and the Islamic fundamentalist find themselves in bed together and prove amazingly accomodating to their new companions.

This is no longer news to many of us but, understandably, it still elicts great distress and anger.

But anger is not enough. Uncontrolled it leads to stupidity and to worse; becoming the narrow-minded, obsessed fanatic of our own worst nightmares and fulfilling the caricatures of our enemies. Not only would this seriously harm the best Jewish ideals of universality and tolerance, but it is the sure way to losing the battle for survival.

To flourish, Israel will need to continue on the path of idealistic realism. At times this will demand harsh action - hopefully rarely and always tempered by a consideration for human life. Most of the time it will demand firmness and tenacity, clarity of thought and a readiness to grasp opportuniy while not sacrificing appropriate caution.

Despite the sensationalism, I have faith that the universal human respect for honesty and fairness will win out over baser emotions.

(A not added afterwards:

It is my sense that such are the excesses of Israel’s enemies, that the tide is beginning to turn. There may well be a backlash in Europe and other countries against Islamic pressures, partly caused by sheer numbers and partly caused by violent Muslim behaviours both within the host country and elsewhere.

If indeed this does occur, it would relieve the pressure on Israel which most of us would welcome. But it would be a pity to see xenophobic nationalist sentiment return to a part of the world (wider Europe) which has been at the forefront of post-modern cosmopolitanism.

There are many ills in the world, including within the West and Israel itself, which need to be addressed. The atavistic extremism of the West’s enemies makes reform (or some sort of pragmatic justice in the Middle East) suicidal, thus encouraging the most intractable elements within our own societies.

Well at my age, I am neither surprised or disappointed – just vaguely regretful. But first things first. Stop Arab-Muslim extremism and then try to move beyond towards a sustainable raprochement. Neither will be easy and neither seems to be on the cards for the foreseeable future.)

Mike Berger

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


If you find this worthwhile, please include in your distribution lists. Note the new Quote du Jour from Yvonne Green

It's been a bit of a break what with photography, kids and grandkids, renovations (slight) and the general inescapable trivia of life.

BUT I have been following the goings-on, local and general and have downloaded some of the more interesting stuff to my "archives" where they gather cobwebs till I delete in dispair. Nine downloads in the past week and 42 in the past month. But in a recent "delete frenzy" I accidently knocked off my accumulated Newsletter postings over the past year or so. Luckily most of these are preserved in my website at Solar Plexus (

I also submitted a couple of pieces to the Jewish Report, both of which were rejected - because of space and other considerations the editor assures me. We'll see! Here is the shorter of the two submissions entitled "Incredulity", for your consideration (but I want to expand on a couple of themes thereafter - so please keep reading):

"I read the letters in the previous few issues of the JR and elsewhere in this country with a mounting sense of incredulity. It seems that a significant proportion of the Jewish elite, including its legal luminaries, and non-Jews like Edwin Cameron, have entered a never-never world entirely disconnected from any discernable reality.

Concerned above all to maintain their self-perceived halo of moral rectitude they happily sign documents decrying Israel's "disproportionate" response in a world baying for Israel's blood using self-justifying terms like "slaughter", "murder", "massacre" and "Nazi" as a thin veneer to cover the hatred let loose by decades of systematic propaganda and Jewish complicity in its own demonisation.

Iran is making a mad dash for a nuclear weapon while acquiring air-defense systems from Russia to mitigate counter-measures. In the never-never land in which our luminaries and their hangers-on have taken refuge, Israel should treat annihilationist rhetoric, demonisation as "the sons of apes and pigs" (to repeat the more printable terms) and the constant flight of erratic but lethal rockets into its civilian population as "manageable irritants".

They find time to threaten critics with legal action and to write letters defending themselves and their accomplices in a nauseating ritual of self-sanctification, but not one moment to demand an end to the madness engulfing not only the extremist groups infesting the backward and dysfunctional Middle East but much of the rest of the world besides - including South Africa. They use words like "negotiation", "human rights" and "peace" as religious mantras without the slightest effort to provide credible contextualisations to such noble admonitions.

Indeed it is probably true that those whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad, but that requires the willing acquiescence of the fantasists themselves. For this they cannot be forgiven by the rest of us."

Strong language, but the propaganda trenches are not really conducive towards great nuance (a much abused word in any case which makes me reach for my verbal shotgun). Nevertheless, I stand by what I say in that submission. Direct speech is better than vague waffle designed to obscure dubious logic and even more dubious agendas.

But it is interesting to explore what constitutes "FACTS" in the Great Middle Eastern debate. The saying has it (roughly) that "comment/interpretation is personal but facts are sacred". Well be that as it may, but the way you FRAME "facts" has an enormous influence on how they are perceived.

Most people are aware of optical illusions in which perceived size and colour is a function of the context in which the object is presented. It is precisely the same with facts. The context or frame provides the cues to interpretation: "Man shoots 17year-old kid in the back" is interpreted differently to "man shoots 17 year-old youth caught raping his daughter, in the back".

So much is obvious, but usually forgotten. But even more basic, "is what are the facts?"

On the one hand we have Operation Cast Lead as a "disproportionate/indiscriminate", "slaughter/massacre/ bloodbath" in which hundreds of children died, the infrastructure of Gaza destroyed, white phosphorus was used as an instrument of war and schools/mosques/hospitals were flattened - all depicted in endless technicolour gore by Al-Jazeera or in more tasteful, aesthetic tableaux by our very own Times.

Here is a statement from a doughy warrior of the Left (MJ Rosenberg of the Israeli Policy Forum): "Much of Gaza was destroyed and now resembles Warsaw after World War II."

Yet on more information some of these "FACTS" melt away like summer snow. The wholesale destruction of infrastructure becomes essentially limited to pinpoint elimination of weapons storage depots and Hamas headquarters, while most of Gaza goes about its daily business - if not in great comfort then in relative safety. The wholesale massacre of civilians reduces to about a third of the total mortality - an extraordinarily low figure given the nature of the terrain and the Hamas policy of "human shields". The white phosphorus attacks beccome the normal military use for illumination purposes. The 40+ dead from an attack on a UN school becomes 12 dead (at most) in a strike outside the school which remained wholly intact. And so on...

Here is a couple of extracts from a report in the J Post 03-03-09 written by Yvonne Green (a poet, English Jew and frequent vistor to Israel - to use her words):

"From the mansions of the Abu Ayida family at Jebala Rayes to Tallel Howa (Gaza City's densest residential area), Gazans contradicted allegations that Israel had murderously attacked civilians. They told me again and again that both civilians and Hamas fighters had evacuated safely from areas of Hamas activity in response to Israeli telephone calls, leaflets and megaphone warnings."... "THE GAZA I saw was societally intact. There were no homeless, walking wounded, hungry or underdressed people. The streets were busy, shops were hung with embroidered dresses and gigantic cooking pots, the markets were full of fresh meat and beautiful produce - the red radishes were bigger than grapefruits. Mothers accompanied by a 13-year-old boy told me they were bored of leaving home to sit on rubble all day to tell the press how they'd survived. Women graduates I met in Shijaya spoke of education as power as old men watched over them."

So the question becomes "what are the facts"? And just as important: what conditions the unquestioning acceptance of the most extreme and bloody facts regarding Israeli actions by the media and some of the public (including parts of the Jewish community) when it is known that the "manufacture" of facts for propaganda purposes is a thriving cottage industry in the Middle East and amongst their Western allies?

Part of it is simply commercial. There are vast media profits in sensationalist reporting, and the Middle East is the mother of all "hot topics". It is the rare editor indeed who is likely to insist on "real" proof when there is the whiff of a juicy massacre in the air.

But much of the explanation lies in the psychology of prior expectation.

For considerable proportion of the anti-Zionist brigade, Israel is - by definition - an evil, brutal, colonial settler state, and thus any "fact" which reinforces this prior assumption is taken without question as additional confirmatory evidence . Few committed ideologues indeed are prepared to suffer the cognitive discomfort of seriously questioning such "evidence" unless compelled to do so.

Even those who claim to be "pro-Zionist", when pushed, reveal that buried within their readings of the creation of Israel, are strongly held beliefs about Zionist duplicity, brutality and territorial ambition. In short they have thoroughly internalised a whole set of ideas around Western (especially Zionist) evil along with a corresponding set of opposing ideas surrounding the "oppressed" and "victims" of colonialist aggression..

Now some of these ideas are true enough, but taken as a whole they create a mythic psychological frame in which even the most obviously atavistic, corrupt and violent movements take on the halo of sanctification. For this crowd too, "facts" depicting Israeli sins are simply grist to a perceptual mill already saturated with negative imagery. A good example of this mind-set can be found at Support Human Rights in Israel and Palestine (

Does this mean that no Israeli duplicity, insensitivity, brutality, sadism, simple stupidity or bigotry exists? It would be a ludicrous proposition and there is plenty of credible direct evidence for such Israeli culpability. Should such failings be ignored or glossed over? Given our expectations for Israel as an essentially moral and democratic state, we should (and I do) expect it to apply its laws fairly and impartially, to use the democratic mechanisms at its disposal to interrogate its conduct and to adopt remedial policies to rectify such deviations from its own ideals and those we hold for it.

BUT that does not entitle us to sit as a kind of Diasporean Jewsih Inquisition on our distant kin living under constant existential threat, minutely examining their conduct for deviations from perfection, ready to believe any and all incriminating evidence while ignoring, condoning or faintly damning the transgressions of its enemies. To do so smacks of deep hypocrisy. And, within the current context in which an overt propaganda war is being waged against Israel - within a larger context of a resurgent totalitarian Islamist doctrine within which the Jews are eminantly dispensible - such behaviour is understandably seen as betrayal.

If you want to play an active role in Israeli politics, get your butt over there; just don't sit here and moralise.

There is far too much sycophancy within our Jewish community. We suck up to our elites in the hope that some of their reflected glory will rub off on our humble selves. Let us respect their achievements in their own spheres without imagining for one instant that grants them greater wisdom, integrity or credibility in world affairs. We need to bear in mind Kipling's comment regarding "failure" and "success" as those two imposters.

Finally, what does the ordinary, warm-hearted, tolerant Western democrat make of all this? There is evidence, that under the deluge of selectively anti-Israeli commentary and the moral imperative of multi-culturalism, they are increasingly predisposed to see Israel as culpable of all the sins being attributed to her. Or, if not in the more extreme terms of the anti-semite, but at least as a kind of nationalistic anachronism in the brave new world of global tolerance - especially towards those non-Western elements busy painting themselves as the victims of Western cultural arrogance and domination.

Of course, this is not a one-way street. Such people are hardly blind to Islamist extremism or the hard facts of cultural invasion or to African dictators and disasters, but the need to explain these as aberrations within a natural response to Western (and Israeli) aggression, weakens their clarity of vision and firmness of purpose.

But I am not a prophet of doom and gloom. Many strong Jewish and non-Jewish voices are speaking out on behalf of the Jewish community and the excesses of those who wish to destroy Israel will in all likelihood be their own undoing - in much the same way as in all the great totalitarian movements of the past. But this will not happen without clear and determined resistence to the forces of violence, hatred and despotism and their apologists.

Mike Berger

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Why I am a Zionist

Dear Readers

Two letters appeared in the Cape Times this morning (5 Feb), criticising my last post entitled "Betrayal by any other name" which had previously been published in the same newspaper. The letter by Leonard Shapiro can be accessed on the Internet at Unfortunately, I cannot provide you with the URL for Rosemund Handler's letter which appeared in the same issue.

My response, written in some haste but which conveys the broad thrust of my position adequately, is reproduced below. It has also been submitted to the Cape Times with the request to publish in full. I would like to thank Steve Magid of "It's Almost Supernatural" for drawing attention to my blog since his readership is, deservedly, much greater than my own. He, together with Joel Pollock on "Guide to the Perplexed" keep up an informed critical commentary on on-going events which I cannot match.

They are not alone: the names David Saks and Cape Town's pithy letter writer, S Kaye, spring to mind. I hope this brief list is not invidious and apologise to the many other friends of Israel who have been outspoken in their support. We do not always see eye to eye on details but we are united in the belief that the broad Zionist project and Israel deserves the full support of the Jewish Diaspora.

And let me remind you, as I sometimes have to remind myself, don't forget to get a life. The world is bigger than the the endless conflicts which mankind is prey to. Don't get mired in despondency or anger or a sense of hopelessness. Such emotions solve nothing and often involvement in these controversies are ways of escaping from oneself or projecting one's own fears, disappointments and anger onto others. Jung sort of said it when referring to WW1:

"The psychological concomitants of the present war- above all the incredible brutalization of public opinion, the mutual slanderings, the unprecedented fury of destruction, the monstrous flood of lies, and man’s incapacity to call a halt to the bloody demon- are uniquely fitted to force upon the attention of every thinking person the problem of the chaotic unconscious which slumbers uneasily beneath the ordered world of consciousness.”

Letter submitted to Cape Times

This is a brief response to Leonard Shapiro and Rosemund Handler (Cape Times, 5 Jan), and possibly other Jews who feel the same way or are simply confused:

With Isaiah Berlin I believe that culture, spirit and values are not abstractions but are embedded in the history and struggles of a people. The values that both these writers express, and which, in general terms, I share, are those of the Jewish people formed over millennia of dispersion and struggle.

If they would truly engage with the history of their own people, and not the spectres thrown up by virulent anti-Zionists, they would understand that much Jewish existence for most of the 2nd millennium was marginal and harsh and was coming to a cataclysmic end in Christian Europe in the 19th and 20th century.

It was apparent to Jewish thinkers like Herzl after witnessing the Dreyfuss case and other evidence of the collapse of Jewish emancipation, that the Jews desperately needed a physical space in which the diverse strands of their national identity could find expression and evolve in its own unique manner. In short, they needed a national home – the necessity for which become abundantly clear with the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust within my lifetime.

This was the essential foundation on which Israel was built. But reality and history rarely accommodate themselves to human needs and deepest yearnings and the fact is that the Zionists landed in the midst of another people’s own emergence into modernity and struggle for self-expression – namely the Arabs.

The result has been the messy and often ugly struggle which persists today and is tied up with the ambitions, agendas and ideologies of both regional and global participants. It is not pretty and is extremely difficult to resolve.

I fully identify with this heroic Jewish project which has brought the possibility of a decent and full human existence for the first time to millions of marginalised and brutalised Jews from around the world. I identify with its struggle for morality in the midst of a deadly struggle and sympathise with (not overlook) its transgressions and errors. I admire its remarkable achievements. None of this detracts from my belief in the common brotherhood of humanity.

Now it is possible that this history leaves Shapiro and Handler cold or that they have other ideological commitments. But that does not mean that they’re obliged to overtly or covertly lend ammunition to those who actively wish to bring an end to this extraordinary product of Jewish idealism and spirit.

Loyalty is not a specific Jewish value – it is a universal one – and loyalty and honesty dictates that those Jews who cannot identify with the Zionist project or are especially concerned with what they perceive as its failings, find ways to express this which do not involve acts of betrayal.

Mike Berger

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Betrayal by any other name

There has been a vigorous campaign within the Jewish community, initiated by members of the South African Human Rights Delegation (SAHRD), to dissociate itself from the carefully worded and moderate statement by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, the South African Zionist Federation and the Chief Rabbi supporting Israel in its military response to years of rocket and mortar attacks from Hamas and other extremist groups in Gaza on civilian communities in Israel.

After considerable effort, this group has managed to gather 300 signatories, out of a community of around 80 000, to a petition condemning Israel’s response to these attacks as inhumane and disproportionate. It is safe to say that the sentiments expressed by the signatories run contrary to the opinion of most South African Jews. Furthermore, at least some of those who signed are Jews in name rather than in substance or identity.

At the same time, many of the petitioners have a well-deserved high profile in South African public life and a few are known to me personally as decent, intelligent people for whom I have a high regard.

Nevertheless, I believe the action they have taken is morally and intellectually insupportable. In brief, the moral content of any action is ultimately determined by the context in which it takes place. To illustrate this in the simplest and crudest of terms let us take the murder of another human.

The sanctity of human life is rightly regarded by modern civilised people as a basic intrinsic virtue. Yet we would equally recognise that the morality of shooting a man in the back would be significantly different were he a defenceless neighbour going about his own business or the same neighbour engaged in raping your wife.

Loyalty, is equally regarded as a basic human virtue. Yet there are circumstances in which loyalty is recognised as wrong and inappropriate. For instance, in the years leading up to World War 2, when Nazi doctrines of Aryan superiority and Jewish evil were being actively promulgated by an increasingly totalitarian state bent on achieving world domination and the elimination of Jews and other “inferior” peoples, open opposition by fellow Germans can only be applauded.

The common factor in both these examples is that extreme conditions are required to justify actions like murder and betrayal which go against a deep moral consensus. This is recognised by ordinary people, by moral philosophers and, I dare say, in law.

The creation of Israel is a Jewish project (otherwise what would be the point of advertising one’s opposition as Jews?) supported by the majority of Jews worldwide. The act of publically condemning Israel for its self-defense nowhere remotely meets the standards required to justify an act of betrayal, which in context this petition undoubtedly represents.

On the contrary, the petition is being widely disseminated in the context of a situation which has been deliberately engineered by Hamas and its allies as part of a long-term strategy for reversing the creation of a Jewish state in the Middle East. This strategy includes a global campaign of demonisation and condemnation based on manipulated, selective and often downright false information. The result is a global outpouring of hatred and anti-Zionist rhetoric - and antisemitic sentiment last seen in the 1930s.

The petition lends ammunition to those whose deepest desire is to see Israel destroyed and even to those who have bought into the notion of Jewish evil, a necessary prelude to genocide the world over.

The signatories should think again and take the necessary corrective action.

Mike Berger

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Beyond the pale

I attach below a letter I wrote late last night in response to one from Michael Kransdorff who, together with Steve Magid, is a co-author of that excellent blog, "It's almost supernatural". I've tidied my original up somewhat and slightly expanded it, but otherwise it is identical. Kransdorff's letter may be available on his blog or perhaps from him directly.

There is one issue which I have not examined here - that is the question of "loyalty" in a political context. What does it mean, what are its limits (if any) and what actions are appropriate or otherwise? I hope to take up this issue in a talk I have been invited to present to WIZO.

Please read on...

Dear Michael

While I admire your commitment to civil discourse, I fear that in this instance the beneficiary (or beneficiaries) of your goodwill do not merit it.

Let us be clear: this is not some academic debate being conducted between scholars in which normative standards of mutual respect are in order. Geffen et al are "activists" in a context in which Israel (a tiny Jewish state of less that 6 m Jews) is under constant, potentially genocidal pressure from those who hate not only the "Zionist" (ie. Jewish) state but Jews in general. Part of the strategy of such groups, given the military superiority of Israel, is to mobilise world opinion against Israel.

This has a number of ends in view. One is to pressure countries and political leaders to adopt at worst neutral stances in this struggle but, even better, to adopt actively hostile policies towards Israel. So far it hasn't really worked to the full, but it has stopped the West from openly labelling a spectrum of groups mainly, though not exclusively, from within Islam as the atavistic, fanatical and genocidal movements that they are. The second is to demoralise and divide Jews both within Israel and outside so as to wring "concessions" and hopefully, eventually, see the disintegration of the entire Zionist enterprise - and in the even longer term who knows? Of course, such tactics include economic pressure as well as political and social pressure.

Thirdly, such tactics help mobilize the Arab street – and immobilize Arab leaders who might otherwise wish to see the wider threat posed by Hamas and its like brought under control.

Given the general backwardness of these groups (state and non-state), the strategy of demonisation is in fact a primary objective. This is why Hamas, as a matter of calculated policy, is prepared to continually compel Israel into measures which inevitably kill civilians. It is for this simple reason that a dead Palestinian (especially a child) is worth immeasurably more to Hamas than a live one.

To achieve this level of sacrifice in the host population it becomes necessary to create a culture of Jihad and martyrdom and also to inculcate an unquenchable sense of bitter grievance and hatred. It is also out of the inevitable images of death and destruction that world opinion can be mobilised against Israel and an apocalyptic climate of global fury can be constructed. Thus every miltary response by Israel brings with it this inevitable side-effect - a painful fact of which Israel and we are only too aware.

This strategy has been extremely successful. The mass rallies and the kind of threats and violent actions we have seen in the last couple of weeks bear ample witness to the mob reaction of righteous indignation which is a pre-condition for ALL genocidal behaviour.

It is in this context that the Geffen-Isaacs axis operates. They state their purpose quite clearly "Doron and I are trying to effect change in the Jewish community by strengthening the hand of progressives." They do this by openly, very publicly and repeatedly declaring their opposition to those Jews supporting Israel, by stigmatising us and by associating themselves with those who have labelled Israeli actions not only disproportionate but "worse than Apartheid", worse than the Nazis, diabolical and so on in an endless stream of invective. To give some flavour here are extracts from a letter published in that sober journal, the Financial Mail, on 16 Jan 2009:

"The unilateral granting of statehood by means of the Balfour Declaration in November 1917, the subsequent terrorising of the legitimate owners of the land, the savage butchering and ethnic cleansing are clearly recorded as historical fact...

No less a Zionist butcher than Yitzhak Rabin, then Israel's chief of staff,...

History is replete with the authentic history of Palestine and its brutal usurpation, which the recorded sayings and biographies of the very perpetrators of this Zionist plot later admitted to... Scripturally, historically and politically Israel's existence is illegitimate and Israel and Zionists will know no peace until they accept that reality... This belligerence has now exceeded all bounds, and the worst tragedy of our "civilised" world is staged in full view of an astounded humanity - barring, of course, Israel's illegitimate step parents."

Further useful evidence of just what kind of sentiment is being stirred up in the South African street (over an intractable and immensely complex dispute taking place thousands of miles from our shores and our interests), here are extracts from a report from David Saks:

“The dichotomy between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Jews came out very strongly during last week’s COSATU solidarity rally for Palestine in Lenasia. It also witnessed what might be the first instance of public Jew-baiting by a member of government in over half a century as Deputy Foreign Minister Fatima Hajaig informed a deliriously cheering crowd that America, as well as other Western countries, was in the grip of Jewish money power.

What the Honorable FJ actually said was: “They in fact control [America]. No matter which government comes in to power, whether Republican or Democratic, whether Barack Obama or George Bush. The control of America, just like the control of most Western countries, is in the hands of Jewish money and if Jewish money controls their country then you cannot expect anything else”

And “Another speaker praised “our Jewish brothers and sisters” who had come out against the Israel Defence Force, assuring them “there is a place in the world we are building in South Africa for you”. Those who had not done so, he warned, had “better watch out because the winds of change are blowing”.

Regarding local Jews allegedly serving in the IDF, another presenter shouted (again to rapturous and sustained applause): “We are going to become impimpis, We are going to become impimpis the business that we are going to carry out with the Jews, with these Zionist entities. We are going to talk to them, were going to find out if their sons have gone to fight our brothers and sisters in Palestine and then we’ll say to them come and fight us at home”.

Of course Geffen et al do not use such language; nor do they burn Israeli flags or scream "death to Israel and the Jews" or "send them to the ovens" - as recorded in a street demonstration in Fort Lauderdale in the good ole USA. But they pass the ammunition via measured phrases, via selective and decontextualised "facts" (now which famous right-wing politician used a similar strategy?) and via carefully calibrated spin to those who do, and to those who would destroy Israel and, if luck came their way, the Jews with it. They do this assiduously and quite successfully.

Such Jews, and they are neither insignificant in number or in influence, are beyond the pale of polite discourse. "Useful idiots" is too polite and they are, in one sense, not idiots. They are a 5th column within Jewry.

Let us be clear on this. It is not their views which are the primary issue. They are entitled to these (even where grievously mistaken) just as others are entitled to vigorously challenge them. Nor are the actions and attitudes of Israel immune from debate and even opprobrium (though I would recommend a measure of humility in the face of complexity and distance).

It is their actions - their public, persistent, insidious participation in the demonisation of Israel in the prevailing political context which renders them beyond the pale of our consideration. It is their political evangelism within the Jewish community and especially the youth which deserves unambiguous repudiation.

I do not believe Geffen et al should be provided with any legitimacy or platform whatsoever by the Jewish community and the community's desperate attempts to appear broadminded and even-handed are not commendable - they are misguided and weak.

I greatly admire your blog...don't dilute it out of a false sense of PC.

respectfully yours

Mike Berger

Monday, January 12, 2009


I attach a personal response below to the cartoon by Zapiro in the Sunday Times and the even more pathetic letter from the usual quarters in the Cape Times this morning. History will ultimately reveal the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of their stance.

Mike Berger

“Of course, none of these arguments can penetrate the brains of the superannuated Stalinists, vicarious jihadists and attention-seeking actors and pop stars who think it’s cool to go on marches chanting, “We are all Hamas now”. Even if these luvvies might not be aware that on Christmas Eve Hamas legalised crucifixion as a punishment for those who “weaken the spirit of the people”, and have been shooting such political enemies in the head when they find them in hospitals conveniently injured by Israeli bombing raids, they still deserve to be dismissed as useful idiots for a depraved death cult.” Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times (UK), 11 Jan 2009

That is perhaps a little stronger than I would normally put it, but it is sad when it takes clear-thinking and courageous non-Jews like Lawson (talking about the UK) to expose the useful idiots embedded in the South African Jewish community - so ably represented by Zapiro in the Sunday Times yesterday (11 Jan 2009) and the signators to the letter in the Cape Times today.

The moral posturing of the Zapiro cartoon is sickening. Hamas has deliberately placed its soldiers and instruments of war specifically in civilian settings – in homes, in hospitals, in mosques, in schools. This vicious policy has been implemented with the clear goal of maximising Palestinian suffering should Israel respond to years of terror inflicted on its southern population centres.

But on this crime, Zapiro, is tjoepstil!

If anything, the Cape Times letter is even more devoid of anything approaching intellectual or moral substance. This little band manages, just, to deplore Hamas rockets and Israeli deaths (are we not grateful for such brave impartiality?), but much - oh so very much - more strongly deplores Israel’s “disproportionate” response and Palestinian suffering.

Well they’re welcome to “deplore” away but we need to make a choice between hope and nihilism, between realism and fantasy, between democracy and totalitarianism and between our Jewish brethren and their bitter and implacable opponents.

I have made my choice, and it is clear they have made theirs.

Mike Berger

Friday, January 9, 2009

Hamas's Media Partners

The following letter was published in the Cape Times today (Jan 2009). A letter from S. Kaye in like vein was also included and an article by the new Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, Steinberg. But the dominant comment in today's C Times - in terms of images, prominence, headlines and wordage - was anti-Israel. This is a reality which cannot be readily changed.

If public demonstrations against Israel mount, it will become necessary for the broader community - and not only Jewish - to publically demonstrate their support for Israel (and for peace and justice). I hope our communnal leadership is preparing themselves for such action.

All this will be found on my blog

Mike Berger

To the Cape Times

I write briefly to correct serious defects in the treatment of the Gaza operation, Cast Lead, by our media. The uncritical approach adopted makes sections of our media partners in the Hamas strategy of using Palestinian civilians as propaganda fodder in its on-going war with Israel.

The facts are well known to everyone. Hamas has deliberately embedded its on-going and extensive military operations deep within its civilian population with three strategic aims in mind:

Firstly, it constrains the response of the Israeli military significantly - contrary to the outrageous claims of some commentators. Israel often takes the militarily costly step of forewarning the civilian population before it takes action. In some instances, Hamas operatives have rushed civilians to the site in order to forstall Israeli action. Not infrequently strikes have been aborted because of such considerations.

When civilian deaths and injuries do inevitably occur, the well-oiled Hamas propaganda machine springs into action to disseminate images, real or faked, together with reports emphasising civilian suffering. The desired outcome is, of course, public damage to Israel’s reputation and enhanced diplomatic pressure on Israel to stop before its objectives have been reached.

Thirdly, of course, Hamas hopes that civilian suffering will be converted into hatred for Israel and not into rejection of its own callous and bankrupt vision. Even here the media plays an important role by focussing attention on Israel rather than on the deliberate instigators of this conflict, Hamas.

Hamas is guilty of war crimes as much through the abuse of its own population as in its total disregard for Israeli civilians. Hamas is solely interested in power and in pursuing its war with Israel irrespective of the cost to its own society. Even if only out of self-interest, Israel only wishes for peace and calm on its borders.

Hamas's brutal disregard for its own population is unmistakeably similar to Mugabe’s actions in Zimbabwe. But contrary to the case of the despot on our border, some sections of our media have become accomplices in the Hamas fiction that Israel is to blame for the Gazan conflict and suffering.

It is about time that this shameful crusade came to an end and that some realism and proportion is applied to the complex Middle East political equation by the media.

Mike Berger