Condemning Israel’s attack on Gaza

2009-01-05 00:00

As I pondered, (it needs to be said with a little apprehension) whether or not to attend a protest on the corner of Darling and Adderley streets the other day, I felt myself buoyed by Yeats’s unforgettable poem The Second Coming, which so often, Africans have made apply to Africa. “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world/The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned/The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.”

And of course, it is not difficult to see how it could apply, almost seamlessly, to the worst of our African history and the making of our own history. But the protest I was contemplating attending, was not about the 400 killed in Uganda by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Or about Zimbabwe and the systematic raping and destruction of an entire country. It was about Israel and its assault on a tiny strip of land called Gaza.

The little protest consisted of at best 60 people, most, but not all, of whom were clearly Muslim. Our presence on the corner was mostly symbolic rather than effective. People, particularly those who appeared to be non-Muslim, scurried past, not looking, not reading and probably not caring. I couldn’t help thinking how thunderingly ineffective the whole thing was. But how else can one express one’s horror at what is going on?

At the famous Gatesville Mosque, not very far from where I live, a day or two later, a much more effective testimony was taking place. David Weiss, an orthodox rabbi, addressed the community, saying that the attacks by the state of Israel do not belong to Judaism, they are a direct consequence, rather, of Zionism. He went further in his attack. He suggested that Judaism has been “kidnapped” by Zionism in order to further its expansionist agenda.

As I write, more than 400 Palestinians are dead, with almost 2 000 injured. The killing, we are assured by Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Foreign Minister Livni, will go on. And the arguments they give have exactly the same ring about them as we used to hear in the days of apartheid. “Why do you [the media] only concern yourselves with what we are doing? What about the attacks on us? We have to protect our people. They want to destroy us and our way of life.” It’s like some tired rerun. A recycled script, just with different fatuous faces making the noises. It is sickening.

I am relieved to see a rabbi attacking the state of Israel. Because, at least, no one will be able to accuse him of being anti-Semitic, which is the usual retort. Usual, because it is used so relentlessly, that even to breathe a word of criticism against the state of Israel is to expose oneself to the charge of anti-semitism. I recall the last time I did so in The Witness, I got listed on an anti-Semitic website and there was a barrage of protest letters from outraged Jews. So let me be absolutely clear this time.

I despise the state of Israel. It has proved itself, in every way, to be a terrorist state and I think it is monstrous and evil. I hate the fact that our government has any relations with it at all. I think, further, that any government which sells it arms is morally degenerate and I have no doubt that if the United States stopped its outrageous support of it, the region would normalise in no time at all.

Does that make me anti-Jewish? Not at all. It makes me anti the Israeli government. And yes, to my mind, the same goes for the government of Zimbabwe and the Lord’s Resistance Army and the whole range of other thugs and murderers who blow themselves up in market places and kill children in nursery schools. But let us focus now on this one thing. Israel — lawless, criminal, relentlessly brutal, unrepentant and backed entirely and completely by countries espousing democracy and freedom. The fact that they are Jewish is the most irrelevant thing about the problem.

Perhaps, just perhaps, they are wanting to get as much destruction done as possible, before the new U.S. presidency in the new year, but I would be extremely surprised if there were to be a fundamental shift in allegiances. Alas, I think that nothing much will change for the people of Gaza in 2009. And, as in Yeats’s observation, the best will lack conviction — and the worst will again be full of passion, without mercy. Nothing will be sacred and innocence will be drowned again in anarchy.

Happy New Year.

• Michael Worsnip is director: 2010 World Cup Unit, Western Cape Province, Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport. He writes in his personal capacity.

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