Almost forty years ago, Jewish philosopher, George Steiner warned about being urged “to give up the proud image of homo sapiens – man the knower, man the hunter of knowledge – and go over to that enchanting vision – homo ludens, which means, quite simply, man, the player of games, man the relaxed, the intuitive, the pastoral being.” — in other words, man of feelings rather than man of facts.
It is my experience that left wing ideologues tend to fall into that category. Facts? Not if they hurt my feelings.
I sent my article about the myth of apartheid in Israel to Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) who know without a doubt that Israel is apartheid.
I am sharing here the dialogue between us. After I sent the article, here was the response.
I responded: I’ve done a great deal of research. You’ve chosen to portray Israel as an apartheid state and having done that you have sourced material that fits your assumption. Edward Said would be ashamed of you. You refuse to believe those who lived through apartheid. Israel isn’t perfect but I await your attack on the “apartheid” wall that the USA has built along the border with Mexico and the wall that Egypt built to keep Gazans out of Egypt. Your desire to attack the only democracy in the Middle East speaks of your bias. If you spoke up against the horror taking place elsewhere in the world, I’d have some respect for you. By the way, did you post the article – or does it not fit you parameters for free speech?
IJV: Just because we’re critical of Israeli apartheid it doesn’t require us to take public positions on every other injustice in the world. It’s absurd to think that because we criticize Israel, we must therefore give equal criticism to other human rights violating regimes. We are ‘Independent Jewish Voices’, standing in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for liberation from racist and colonial policies and actions. Our mandate isn’t to oppose every act of injustice on earth, nor is that the mandate of any organization I can think of. Why would we post your article? Our page is for us to promote our understanding of the issues to our supporters.
Your article doesn’t further the conversation or offer anything insightful to our supporters. All it does is distract from the real issue, which is Israel’s regime of domination over the Palestinian people. Israel is not a democracy, and to believe that discredits you enormously in the eyes of everyone who supports IJV on this page (emphasis mine).
There’ve been many South Africans who’ve openly called Israel an apartheid state, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was a leader in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa (other leaders in the struggle who use the term in relation to Israel are: Breyten Breytenbach, John Dugard, Antjie Krog, Mahmood Mamdani, and Barney Pityana). There has also been support from the South African government (ANC) for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, which acknowledges that Israel practices a form of apartheid (apartheid is a crime under international law that doesn’t require comparisons to South Africa): . Your arguments don’t stand up to even the slightest bit of scrutiny.
I responded: Read about Desmond Tutu. That you don’t agree that Israel is a democracy, that you refuse to accept that fact, a fact accepted everywhere where intelligent people read, when all citizens – of all races, colours, creeds and religions have equal rights, access to the Knesset as members of the Knesset, that you won’t acknowledge one truth speaks of your organization. You’re a hate-filled group of people, desperately trying to be accepted by the 7 billion other residents on earth and are willing to walk away from the 14 million Jews still alive. Go for it. Twist yourselves into pretzels by trying desperately to prove Israel is an apartheid state. Today the one apartheid state in existence is Saudi Arabia. And as far as ethnic cleansing, other than Rwanda in 1994, today ethnic cleansing is taking place in Burma – the Buddhists are murdering the Muslims. Ethnic cleansing includes a massive reduction in the numbers of a particular race. The Palestinians have increased exponentially. Have you posted my article on your home page? Have you gone to the site on Huffington and said your piece? If not, why not?
IJV: We haven’t responded because it isn’t worth our time as organizers for human rights and social justice to engage with this kind of rhetoric. We will go on pursuing equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis (this doesn’t exist in Israel, you obviously didn’t read the documents from the first message I sent you), and not be distracted by dishonest commentators like yourself. This correspondence is over with from our perspective.
I responded: Thank you. I was about to write the same thing to you. I have a name. Whoever has been responding doesn’t seem to have the courage of his/her convictions. That you don’t have the courage to post a different perspective and to cast aspersions on me – libel – also speaks volumes. You do realize that you have libeled me by calling me dishonest. I have a different opinion based on facts. FACTS. You fear facts. You fear being found to be wrong. You, as Jews, have not internalized one of the most important lessons. We are people of the Book. We engage intellectually, parsing every word. You won’t do that because you know in your hearts that you’ve twisted language to make a point.
Edward Said wrote that one must verify that the initial assumption, upon which an argument is based, is in fact true as opposed to feelings. Otherwise it all comes down like a house of cards. Which brings us full circle to George Steiner.
It is painful to me that an organization like IJV would engage in moral relativism. After all we went through, from enslavement to freedom and given the honour and responsibility of bringing the Decalogue into the world, there are those who call themselves Jews who turn their backs on ethical monotheism.
I leave you with this question. How are we to engage with Jewish organizations that seem to hate Jews? Not only seem to hate Jews, but deny the basic fact that Israel is a democracy. Sending facts doesn’t appear to work. My facts were dismissed as dishonest. Whether my facts were correct or not – to this group it’s all rhetoric unless you agree.
I await your responses.