Redi and Roro: The Return Match

This article is currently published on IsraeLink:

IsraeLink

Journalists have an ethical imperative to report the news based on facts. The following exchange was motivated by a radio broadcast by well- known 702 host, Redi Tlhabi’s excoriating the leader of the opposition,  the Democratic Alliance’s, Mmusi Maimane. Listen here:

https://omny.fm/shows/afternoon-drive-702/mmusi-maimane-s-trip-to-israel

Rolene Marks letter to Redi Tlhabi:

http://www.news24.com/Columnists/GuestColumn/a-letter-to-redi-tlhabi-on-israel-20170119-2

Redi Tlhabi’s response:

http://m.news24.com/news24/Columnists/GuestColumn/redi-tlhabi-on-israel-maimane-and-unfair-criticism-20170123

Tlhabi’s response contained many factual errors which cannot be left unchallenged. To do so would be to allow dangerous misinformation to flourish at a time when comparisons between Israel and Apartheid South Africa often lead to intimidation and sometimes violence against Jews.

Dear Redi

Thank you for replying to me. While I would love to sit down face to face to chat, I am happy that we have opened up a dialogue on a very contentious issue, one that is highly emotionally charged for many South Africans.

I am also glad that you raised the issue of bullying. We in the media occupy a bully pulpit, it is often very hard for disempowered members of the public to argue and disagree with us, when they do, we should welcome this, this is a fundamental principal of democracy. You have always asked your listeners and readers to engage with you and you must, in turn, be willing to accept the criticism as much as you give it, without feeling bullied. To disagree with you is not to bully you, unless a double standard is applied.

The anti-Israel propogandists often send abusive mails and threats to me. I have been called everything from “Occupier Barbie” to being told “Hitler should have finished me off” and that there was “a gas chamber waiting for you”. Luckily, I am able to shrug it off. My people have been subject to abuse, racism and oppression for so long, this is not new to us. The fact that your letters implies that Jews are not the indigenous population of the land of Israel raises deep concerns for me and clearly alarm bells over your understanding of the past 3 000 years of history.

The fact that I live in a free, democratic and non-racist society where all citizens of Israel vote freely and equally in a democratic state appears not to fit into your narrative. Your assumptions about Israel, its ideology and practice are so far from the reality, that I invite you to come see for yourself rather than adopt the jaundiced views of the most well-funded propaganda machine in the world. As journalists, we have a moral responsibility to report the news based on facts rather than the alternative facts that appear to have permeated our society of late.

I want to explain to you, why to many, your views represent a double standard, that opens you to the criticism you have received.

The thrust of your argument appears to be that Israel traded and cooperated with the old Apartheid regime and must therefore be subject to special scrutiny and criticism for its “current actions”.

While Israel’s cooperation with the Apartheid regime is a cause of much embarrassment to me as both a South African and an Israeli, Israel’s role in not standing up to Apartheid is insignificant in comparison to those countries with whom you appear to have no problem. Israel’s total amount of trade with the then Apartheid government was a mere $200m dollars per annum compared to U.S.A. – $3.4 billion, Japan – $2.9 billion, Germany- $2.8 billion, U.K. – $2.6 billion etc.

It was the oil tankers from Iran and Saudi Arabia which kept the wheels of apartheid oiled. Arab oil exports to South Africa totaled more than $3 billion per year and, if that supply had been cut off, would have ended apartheid in the 1960’s. The Saudi and Iranian human rights records are abysmal and constitute some of the worst human rights violators in the world today. Nonetheless South African government officials often visit both of these countries, yet you have failed to ever raise any issues of concern about them. So the question to be raised is whether a double standard is applied by yourself?

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Image courtesy of Spotlighting

France supplied Apartheid South Africa with weapons, nuclear material and financial aid, Switzerland the USA and Britain funded the Apartheid regime, Germany supported the racist regime in extensive trade. I include a few of the thousands of examples that can be sited:

  • Royal Dutch/Shell’s subsidiary, Shell South Africa, was involved in extensive operations in the petroleum, mining and chemical industries of South Africa and Namibia, with an estimated turnover of more than US$2 billion in South Africa in 1989.
  • In 1962 Britain’s ICI and South Africa’s De Beers each put £5 million into AECI (African Explosives and Chemicals Industries) to set up three new plants producing tear gas, ammunition for small arms, anti-tank and aircraft rockets.
  • British Leyland’s South African subsidiary supplied Land Rovers that were used by the South African police against students in the 1976 Soweto uprising.

The human rights records of all of these nations in Iraq, Libya, Syria have resulted in many hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. Once again, South African government officials often visit, yet you remain silent and raise no issues of concern? One has to ask if a special standard is applied to the Jewish State and why?

It appears that your perspective has little to do with a historical relationship between Israel and South Africa. It also looks as if not to be based on human rights. When our leaders visit Russia, perpetrator of some of the greatest crimes against humanity in modern times in places like Syria and Chechnya and which has recently occupied parts of the Ukraine, you have never raised any issue of concern.

When the ANC hosted internationally criticized Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in South Africa, a man responsible for attempted genocide against the Jewish people – you failed to raise your voice.

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President Jacob Zuma and Hamas’ Khaled Meshaal

And therein lies the rub of why you have opened yourself up to so much criticism from such a broad range of South African society. If your views on human rights were consistent, you would have no criticism. But when a special standard is applied to Jews and the Jewish state, you lead people to ask some very troubling questions.

I would love to welcome you here in Israel to see for yourself and understand the remarkable, vibrant, troubled, free, complex and conflictual society in which I live. You and all people are always welcome.

A noble intersection – where Zionism and Feminism meet.

This article currently appears on Israelink:

Noble Intersection – Israelink

Linda Sarsour would appear to be a rising star of feminist causes. She organizes rallies, cleans up cemeteries and protests at every conceivable opportunity. She is a veritable pin up for girl power.

In the last few days, Sarsour has made sweeping comments that Zionism and feminism simply do not go together.

“It just doesn’t make any sense for someone to say, ‘Is there room for people who support the state of Israel and do not criticize it in the movement?’ There can’t be in feminism. You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none. There’s just no way around it,” Sarsour said.

Comments like this are fast alienating Jewish, Zionist women from participating in the growing feminist movement in the USA.

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Feminism is very much a part of the fabric of Zionism and the story of the modern state of Israel and as a Zionist, feminist woman I am free to pretty much say what I want – unlike my Palestinian sisters.

Feminism predates the modern state of Israel and weaves through Jewish history with feminist heroines like Yael and Devorah and they have continued the tradition of strong, outspoken women in modern times. Zionists wrote the book on feminism. Literally! Have you read the bible? Some pretty strong women in there!

Zionist women are the ultimate feminist rebels, pioneers and trailblazers.  Before the formal establishment of Israel, women were establishing the systems and institutions that would improve life for her citizens.  While the men jaw jawed and talked politics, women were busy on the ground.

I am a proud volunteer member of WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organisation), holding the position of Executive member in charge of Public Diplomacy. WIZO was founded in 1920 and a little known fact is that the organization was at the forefront of the suffragette movement that took place in Europe at the time.  The struggle for political suffrage for women is regarded as first wave of feminism.

Our history is proud and noble and our women have worked hard for the improvement of the status of women both in Israel and globally. We have representatives on various UN bodies that lobby for the rights of women and children and amongst our many achievements have been programmes that help women in minority communities, some who have even run for office. WIZO formed a party and ran for Knesset in Israel’s first elections in 1949, receiving 1.2% of the vote and winning one seat and was represented by Rachel Cohen-Kagan, chairwoman of WIZO at the time and a signatory to our Declaration of Independence.

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WIZO’s Rachel Kagan signs the Declaration of Independence

Women’s rights in Israel are amongst the most progressive in the world and it would be remiss of me to not mention the iconic Golda Meir, one of the first female Prime Ministers in the world.  A powerful leader and orator, Meir was one of the first to recognize how Israel can help impoverished countries in Africa and this was very much in line with the father of modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl’s, vision that he wrote in his manifesto.

Zionist women are free to criticize any policy that we may disagree with because an Israel that stands up to the tenets of Zionism is what we strive for.

Israel is a vibrant and flawed democracy just like any other country and women are very much a part of the fabric that has and continues to build the country every day. We are pioneers in many fields. We are trailblazers in business, politics, volunteer organisations, the arts and sciences and so much more.  We are religious and secular and everything in between. We are warriors and defenders of our country on land, sea, air and airwaves and we are homemakers, entrepreneurs and creative genii.  We are changing the political landscape and we represent over 80 different ethnicities. We can vote, drive, and own property and business. We can make decisions that govern our bodies and our communities and and lobby vociferously for continued improvement.

It is not just in Israel where Zionist women are trailblazers. It was a Zionist, feminist woman, Helen Suzman, who sat in parliament as the lone voice fighting against the Apartheid government in South Africa.

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Helen Suzman and Nelson Mandela

Well Linda, if you are really concerned about the rights of Palestinian women you would be holding the leadership accountable at every possible turn. You would be demonstrating your outrage about domestic  violence and honour killings, gender Apartheid which prohibits women from owning property or businesses,  driving, voting and pursuing careers of their choice. You would march against underage brides forced to marry men before they reach puberty. You would be outraged about genital mutilation, genocide of Christians and the unspeakable torture women are enduring in the Middle East under ISIS.

Thank you Linda Sarsour for exposing what we know for sure – BDS is becoming more and more irrelevant as governments and institutions continue to pass legislation to block or ban them so they have to hijack other cause to remain relevant. This is known as “intersectionality”. You are supporter of this movement that operates under the false pretens of “human rights” but is continuously exposed for the rabid anti-Semitism they extol.

Well Ms Sarsour, we Zionist women are happy to meet you at any intersection. Standing up for the rights of women regardless of religion or political leanings is what feminism is all about.

Stop pointing your finger at Israel and Zionists and use your considerable platform to give a voice to our suffering sisters.  Help those women who you accuse us of discriminating against. They are far more deserving of your attention than we are.

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They call me Occupier Barbie

They call me Occupier Barbie. This is not because of any political opinions or leanings but because I am Jewish. I am viewed as a de facto “occupier” not because I live in any disputed area but because I live in Israel, the Jewish State, which some see as being illegally occupied as they venomously chant  “from the river to the sea”. Historical facts seem to play no role.

Occupier Barbie is not the only derogatory name I have been called. It is just the most creative. Some of the others are so repugnant, that I don’t want to repeat them in polite company. So why am I bringing this up again? The answer is simple – because as long as this ugly hatred rears its head I will show up to use my voice against it. It is critical that we start to use our voices as often and as loud as possible.

Anti-Semitism, long referred to as the oldest hatred, is spreading like a cancer throughout the world. We have seen it resurface in Europe just decades after the darkest moment in human history, the Holocaust. We must remember that the gas chambers of Auschwitz was built on words, they did not simply appear in a vacuum.

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Now this disease has spread to the USA where to date there have been multiple waves of threats against various Jewish Community Centres , graves have been desecrated in cemeteries and property defaced with swastikas and other horrific graffiti.  It seems that even the Jewish dead are not allowed peace.  Anti-Semitism has been roundly condemned by the US government but it has yet to reach the level of consciousness in the media or popular culture that other issues such as the immigration ban or infamous “Pussy Marches” have had. Yes I said the “P”word but how you interpret it is up to where your mind is at. Weren’t you thinking of a hat…..?

While many of my feminist sisters marched for equal rights and equality, notably missing was a sign that said “Jewish rights are human rights”. The march was even organized by arch anti-Zionist, Linda Sarsour, who demanded to “free Palestine”.  She also used an image of Anne Frank to make this point and appropriating a picture of a victim of the Holocaust and using it to support an organization like BDS whose endgame is the destruction of the State of Israel is a new kind of low.

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Linda Sarsour hijacks the Women’s March in the most appalling way.

Sarsour attempted a mea culpa by raising money to repair damaged gravestones that had been desecrated by flagrant anti-Semites. Occupier Barbie is not convinced – I detect a lack of authenticity. It felt a lot like well-planned media grandstanding.  What I do appreciate is the effort from Muslim veteran who offered to stand guard at Jewish cemeteries and synagogues. I tweeted each one my sincere gratitude. Every single one of them responded positively.

I have to say I am more than perturbed by the silence of the most high profile voices – celebrities. We cannot undervalue the power of their reach through social media and other outlets and we know that they LOVE a good cause and lately every opportunity to speak out at any given moment. Award season has been filled with righteous political speeches but when it comes to anti-Semitism, there is not a sound from the pulpits. Nada. Crickets.

While we know that the ACLU ribbon fabulously accessorizes the right frock and Louboutins, it means nothing if you don’t speak truth to power.

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More than a fashion statement?

I would love for them to put their money where the ribbon is and visit a campus and speak to the Jewish students, especially during the course of this month when the dreaded festival of hate, Israel Apartheid Week makes its annual appearance.

Last week it surfaced on the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) campus in Johannesburg. In the face of horrendous hatred and anti-Semitism Pro-Israel students gave us all a masterclass in dignity, class and courage under fire. They refused to be bullied or intimidated and stood up at every turn. They held us up on their mighty shoulders and inspired this blog. They showed us what the collective can accomplish, especially in the face of global silence.

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Iron like lions in Zion! Pro-Israel students on Wits Campus don’t take the “die in” lying down…..

They call me Occupier Barbie.  I refused to be embarrassed or cowered, instead  I am going to own it because I know who I am and what I stand for and invite you to stand with me, name calling and all!

They call me a Zionist apologist and make no mistake, I do not apologise for being a proud Zionist.

I am not naive or stupid. I am well aware of the serious threats and consequences of hate. I live with it every day and have cried countless tears over all those we have lost as a result of incitement and terrorism. I am well aware of loss. Those that seek to destroy us first do so by making us doubt who we are, by instilling fear and dread.

When we stand firm in our conviction, when we show up strong in our identity, they cannot shake our foundations, they cannot sow seeds of doubt. They cannot defeat us.

I am Occupier Barbie and I make no apologies for standing strong, for standing tall, for standing for what is true. Am Yisrael Chai!