The war against the two Ps

2014-07-21 07:00

ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte raised the ire of the pro-Israel lobby the other day when she compared the actions of that country’s government to the brutality of the Nazis in Germany.

Duarte was commenting on Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, which has so far claimed more than 260 lives.

“As we move towards the month of August and are reminded of the atrocities of Nazi Germany, we surely must ask the people of Israel: Has the term ‘lest we forget’ lost its meaning? The state of Israel has turned the occupied territories of Palestine into permanent death camps,” she wrote.

Stones and bricks rained down on her. Her attackers bristled, hurled all manner of invective at her and supplied a thousand reasons she was being insensitive. There were even thinly veiled accusations of anti-Semitism.

They asked Israeli government critics to rather focus on other murderous regimes and other violators of human rights.

Duarte should have known better.

There are few things that rile supporters of the Israeli government more than the comparison of the regime’s racist attitude towards Arab citizens and neighbours to the ideologies of Nazism and apartheid.

It is like telling the ANC that when the police force it controls mows down black people, it is behaving like the PW Botha regime. Or saying to Zanu-PF that its suppression of the opposition and the erosion of human rights is akin to the actions of the Ian Smith regime.

So it was no surprise Duarte came in for heavy flak after her comments. This lobby hates being reminded that the horror that directly led to the establishment of the state of Israel should make its citizens the most conscious when it comes to tolerance for others.

Apologists of the Israeli regime overlook the significance of the quote on the wall of the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, which reads: “A country is not only what it does. It is also what it puts up with, what it tolerates.”

These words were uttered by German Jewish writer Kurt Tucholsky early last century when Adolf Hitler was on the rise and the intolerance of Nazism was gripping Germany.

It is an apt reminder to Israeli citizens and that country’s supporters about the society they sought to create when they established their nation in 1948.

The nation’s founders surely did not have in mind the intolerant society that treats Palestinians in the same way Hitler’s Reich treated their forebears in Germany.

Sadly for the Palestinians, the end of their suffering is not nigh.

I remember returning from a trip to Palestine and Israel some years back and feeling utterly depressed about the hopelessness of their situation.

Even in the darkest night of the apartheid era, there were always flickers of light. Apartheid was clearly unsustainable and was going to end one day.

Not so the oppression of Palestinians. As long as the Israeli government has powerful friends in Western capitals prepared to back its every evil act, there is no chance of the Palestinians ever removing the jackboot from their backs.

They will just have to be comforted by the outrage of ordinary citizens across the world who see this injustice and are appalled.

But back to the ANC’s deputy secretary-general. Duarte and the ANC’s outrage was echoed by the other members of the Tripartite Alliance, as well as by other sections of society.

It was the kind of outrage that this lowly newspaperman wishes would greet the other war being waged closer to home – the war on young men’s penises.

According to the SA Human Rights Commission, this war has claimed the lives of 500 young men in the past seven years. Thousands more have been left with no penises or seriously damaged members. The war is waged by adults under the guise of culture and tradition.

Boys are lured or dragged to bush “initiation schools” on the pretext that they are going to reach manhood there. But often they return from this macabre ritual with the physical manifestation of their manhood taken away.

They have to live the rest of their lives knowing they will never enjoy the pleasures of adulthood and can never partake in boastful banter in bars and taverns.

Just like the defenders of the Israeli government’s atrocities, adherents of this practice tell critics to butt out of their business. They accuse anyone who raises their voice of ignorance of their culture and traditions.

This, they attest, precludes them from speaking on behalf of fellow South Africans.

Every winter – the season when this war on young men’s penises is usually waged – government springs into action and promises us that the following year things will be different.

But the following winter, we do the macabre count again, tallying the numbers of the lifeless and the penis-less.

So by all means, let us all be outraged by the Israeli regime’s heartlessness. But let us be equally outraged and noisy about the war closer to home.

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