February 03 – February 09 2006

The myths of Kasrils

Ronnie Kasrils’s ”Myths of Zionism” (January 27) contains objectionable sentiments. But even more disconcerting are Mail & Guardian posters plastered across South Africa proudly proclaiming them.

The wording of the poster re-inforces a basic principle of anti-Semitism — that Jews are deceitful.

In June 24 last year, the M&G printed an article of mine arguing that Zionism is not a ”settler-colonial undertaking” but affirmative action. No one at the paper or in the anti-Zionist camp refuted it. Why allow six months to pass without comment and then let fly with a ”Myths of Zionism” poster from coast to coast? Is this how the M&G plays cricket?

The paper adopted this approach because, I believe, the logic of my article was irrefutable.

In 1929 the Palestinian nationalist leadership betrayed centuries of communal harmony in Hebron by murdering Jews as their preferred way to combat Zionism. The organised Jewish community acquired the right to self-defence at that point. And when Palestinian nationalists joined forces with Hitler, it became a matter of life and death to defeat them.

It is Palestinian leaders, past and present, who made it a life or death struggle. The Palestine Liberation Organisation’s acceptance of Israel in 1988 was a mere tactic — Palestinians, and particularly Hamas leaders, do not accept the legitimacy of a Jewish presence in Palestine.

As I argued, to deny the right of the Jewish Umma (nation in both Arabic and Hebrew) a homeland and a state in Palestine, alone among the nations of the world, is anti-Semitic, and objections to Zionism and Israel invariably contain anti-Semitic nuance. Kasrils can’t help but fall into it, specifically with his allegations of ceaseless Jewish aggression.

The timing of his article is clearly related to Cape politics and the upcoming local elections, and the community’s overwhelming view is that it does not warrant a response. — Rabbi David Hoffman, Cape Town

I am dismayed that a public representative of the South African government continues to disseminate his private opinions on the legitimacy of the state of Israel. Perhaps Kasrils’s obsession with Israel is a ploy to divert attention from the South African myths he and his government are afraid to confront. These include the fairy tale that service-delivery demonstrations are caused by ”third force” anarchists.

The only real myth about the state of Israel is that it will disappear, or that the Jews do not require a nation of their own. — Bryant Greenbaum

The M&G and Kasrils should be commended for not buckling to organised pressure to suppress critical views on Zionism.

The Zionism preached and practised by Israel since 1948 is indisputably racist. The 1975 resolution (rescinded in 1991 after US/Israeli blackmail) adopted by the UN General Assembly condemned ”Zionism as a form of racism and racial discrimination”.

The late Professor Israel Shahak, a Jew and chairperson of the Israeli League for Civil and Human Rights, wrote: ”This racist discrimination began in Zionism and is carried out today mainly in cooperation with the institutions of the Zionist movement.”

The fulminations and intimidation by some South Africans over even the mildest criticism of Israel should not prevent journalists and politicians from articulating the truth. — Firoz Osman, Media Review Network

I agree with much of what Kasrils says. But I wonder if he can see the parallel in the ANC’s reaction to criticism — which quickly earns the label of racist. — John McFarlane

Kasrils’s article was an anti-Zionist cut and paste, which can be gleaned from any number of Web pages designed to provide easy-to-use misrepresentations about Israel.

But even he should be embarrassed to write such laughable stuff as ”when the Arab League called for member countries to wipe out Israel, only five responded”.

Kasrils’s piece contains the usual bleat that any criticism of Israel is branded anti-Semitic, but demonstrates that anti-Semitism these days usually comprises ridiculous characterisations of Israel, which is safer than saying Jews have hooked noses and control the world. — Sydney Kaye, Cape Town

It is a shame Kasrils does not have the ”courage to confront” human rights issues closer to home. Witness his vocal support of our northern neighbour. — James Bernstein

President Leon’s game plan

One does not need the wisdom of Solomon to understand Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon’s vision for South Africa, if his ambitions of becoming president were ever realised.

On foreign relations, he would invade Zim and remove President Robert Mugabe. He would also prioritise relations with the developed North and pay little attention to African countries, entering economic relations with them solely for the benefit of white business in South Africa.

As president, he would not travel to these countries, arguing that this is a waste to the taxpayer. He would send all African refugees packing and erect a high electric fence around our borders.

On the domestic front, municipal managers and the mayoral staff would be chosen from the white population, deemed more efficient and less corrupt than Africans.

For their holiday travels African public representatives would be expected to use budget airlines, such as kulula.com and 1Time.

African public representatives would not be expected to have friends or relatives in any sector of the economy, because this would constitute a conflict of interests.

African public representatives would be presumed guilty purely on allegations by the media.

President Leon would privatise water, electricity, transport, the police services, the army, communications, the municipalities, hospitals and other government services.

It’s no accident, therefore, that most South Africans do not buy into his warped vision. — Khangelani Vincent Hlongwane, Pretoria

Your January 27 comment ”Take back your City — [from the blacks]” is simple mischief-making.

The slogan ”Take back your city” clearly means that the DA lost Cape Town in 2002 because of the selfish behaviour of certain ”crosstitutes”. Since then, the ANC has made a monumental mess of running the city.

The meaning is clear: the city should be returned to its rightful custodians, the DA, the democratic choice of the majority of voters. — Debbie Schafer, DA ward councillor, Cape Town

Smoking a personal choice

We all know the effect of smoking on health, but lighting up is a personal choice.

The Holocaust was not a result of the wrong choice made by the Jews.

It is absurd to see Anton Rupert in the same light as Hitler. — Stephan Hauman, Cape Town

As a young man in the ad business, I worked with a talented German art director who smoked and drank so heavily that he often made himself ill.

He saw a series of doctors who told him: ”Stop smoking, cut down on the drinking.” His response was to change doctors.

One day he came back to the office and said he had found a doctor who said he could smoke and drink as much as he wished.

”What’s this doctor’s name?” we asked, impressed.

”Doctor Anton Rupert,” he replied. — Paul Cockburn, Johannesburg

HIV ‘Codesa’ a myth

There is a worrying inference in Christina Scott’s article about HIV/Aids statistics (”One in nine ‒ it’s official”, January 20). This is that consensus can be achieved on numbers, and that they become ”official” simply if people talk to each other enough.

This is of concern to an agency committed to producing statistics through the application of documented and defensible ideologies.

In general, statisticians do not have perfect or complete knowledge of what they seek to measure. With the HIV prevalence rate, this observation translates into the fact that there has been no complete census of all South Africans to test their HIV status. Thus the prevalence estimates rely on the measurements of samples of the population, or sub-population, together with assumptions that enable estimates to be derived from the sample results and applied to the entire population.

The study by the Human Sciences Research Council Scott mentions, and the report by the Department of Health, are examples of this approach.

One can also infer the prevalence rate using other sources of data, such as mortality data and population figures, together with epidemiological models and parameters supported by scientific studies. The model of the Actuarial Society of South Africa, as well as Stats SA’s mid-year population estimates, draw on a variety of data sources to infer an HIV prevalence rate consistent with available data.

Where results differ, it could be the result of the sampling approach, estimation procedures or how the ”best fit” to a variety of data sources is obtained. The sample design, estimation procedures, assumptions and limitations of data sources used can and should be interrogated.

But the resulting number cannot be debated in isolation from the way it has been derived. The influence of emerging data sources on estimates is illustrated in the evolution of the estimates provided by the Actuarial Society over the past five years.

Stats SA encourages open discussion of methodologies that produce statistical estimates in general, but must distance itself from the view that the actual numbers can be determined by a Kempton Park Codesa-type negotiation and consensus process.

Naturally, a prerequisite for ongoing discussion to improve methodologies is transparency with regard to how the statistic was derived. Stats SA remains committed to maintaining such transparency. — Pali Lehohla, Statistician General

Ideology is not the issue

I was disturbed by Justice Director General Menzi Simelane’s arrogant responses to questions on controversial Bills seeking to regulate the judiciary (January 20).

The judges and the Department of Justice are not divided by ideology. Leaders of the judiciary reject government’s proposed changes to the Constitution, taking away the chief justice’s authority over the administration of the courts and giving it to the justice minister, because they undermine the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary — the bedrock of our Constitution.

These leaders include Chief Justice Pius Langa, Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke and most judge presidents. Indeed, 45% of judges on the Bench are black. But they are united in wanting to uphold our constitutional democracy.

Simelane’s claim that the Bills seek to transform the judiciary does not wash. The African National Congress government is clearly on a crusade to control all levers of power.

From Simelane’s response it is clear the department has snubbed Langa’s task team, which has negotiated with the justice department on the Bills.

Simelane claims the Constitution is silent on the chief justice’s role, but it is clear where judicial authority lies. Under Section 165 (1), judicial authority is vested in the courts, while Section 173 empowers the courts to regulate their own processes.

If the chief justice’s function need to be spelt out in more detail, this can be done in the legislation. — Sheila Camerer, MP, Democratic Alliance, spokesperson on justice


A single discarded cigarette set Table Mountain alight last week, causing a loss of life and vast environmental damage.

This is not an isolated incident. Each year 2 500 fires are caused by cigarettes thrown away while still alight. Yet such fires can be easily avoided.

Cigarette-makers add ”accelerants” to cigarettes to ensure they do not go out and keep burning until the butt is reached. A simple change in design can ensure that cigarettes self-extinguish if they are not puffed upon for more than a minute. Such fire-safe cigarettes are available in the United States and New Zealand. — Yussuf Saloojee, PhD, executive director, National Council Against Smoking

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