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Op-eds

Defending the indefensible

  • Howard Feldman 2018
When I mentioned on social media that it has not been an easy week to be supportive of Israel in South Africa, the response that I received was: “Shame, it must be so tough on you defending the indefensible.”
by HOWARD FELDMAN | May 24, 2018

When I argued against the tsunami of lies that surrounds the Gaza situation, I was told that I am part of the Israel lobby. In other words, I don’t have a voice that is my own – but rather, that I echo a party line.

And just for doing what I do, I received the following tweet: “Here is a picture of an apologist for child murderers. His name is @HowardFeldman and he has a regular column on News24. #GazaReturnMarch.”

I wasn’t certain how to respond. At first, I debated engaging in the “child murder” discussion, but then I remembered that I have five children and there were, no doubt (and still are), times when murder seemed like a sensible option. And that if it was my wife who carried out the dastardly deed, I certainly would have sympathised. I might even have been an “apologist” for her drastic behaviour.

Instead, I thanked the “Tweeter” for the shout out, mentioned the fact that they had forgotten that I have a morning show on ChaiFM and effectively ended the conversation.

But with all the banter, the week was very concerning. For the first time, I believe that we have seen a dangerous shift. A number of times last week, government ministers called on Jews to condemn Israel. Although I make no comparison at all, can you imagine the same government asking local Muslims to condemn Jihadist actions in Afghanistan? It would be unthinkable, and it would be labelled Islamophobia. Which is exactly what it would be.

Of course, what makes matters worse is that the vast majority of Jews support Israel and understand the terrible dilemma that it finds itself in. To condemn it would be unthinkable.

What is worrying about this approach is that this is not a new one. And as Jews, we are finely tuned to patterns of history that signal danger. It is an old technique employed by those who are anti-Semitic, with the aim of separating Jews from the country in which they live.

Jews were asked, too, if they are Jewish or German because they could not be both. It is as old as anti-Semitism itself, and unless it is stopped in its tracks, it doesn’t end well.

The equally frustrating part of being forced to defend Israel from untruth and hyperbole is that it precludes other important discussions. One of which is whether Israel dropped the ball in not providing forewarning or readying the media with information with regard to what was always going to happen on the Gaza border.

There was no surprise here. The shift in Hamas strategy was evident to even the lay person. They have been trying out the “protest” approach on the Israel-Gaza border and becoming more emboldened over the last few weeks.

The date of the major clash was predictable as being the date of the US embassy move to Jerusalem and the day before Nakba day. Surely Israel should have found a way to forewarn countries with whom she has relationships and thereby prevent further damage to local communities and to Israel itself.

It is a country that is blessed with some of the greatest minds in the world, with the most advanced technological developments – and yet somehow everyone appeared to be shocked by what happened.

It is very different being on a radio or TV show ahead of time and in doing so, speaking from a position of anticipated concern, rather than defending an event after the fact. Once people have died and the state has been accused of “mowing down unarmed” civilians, it is much harder to explain context.

Surely each foreign office could have made a representation to the country of their host so that when the terrible event did occur, then there would be context in which to view it?

Last week was a very bad week for Jews in South Africa. It was also a bad week for Israel and for Palestinians who live their lives at the mercy of Hamas. Perhaps the horror of the event and the fallout that resulted will be less of a waste if we all learn a lesson or two, and next time do things a little differently.

I am not part of a “lobby”, but sometimes I wish I were. That would mean that when I do try and “defend the indefensible”, I would have bit more information at my fingertips and social media wouldn’t seem like such a lonely place.

  • You can hear Howard Feldman every weekday morning from 6-9am on 101.9 ChaiFM.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Gary Selikow 24 May
    I support Israel because I am a free thinker and refuse to be prat of the trendy pc hate against Israel and love for the Palestinians that is so fashionable. I also think anyone who genuinely thinks fairly and accesses unbiased information will be pro-Israel These anti-Israel lefties - especially at universities- are following the herd.
    They sheep but vicious sheep who bite anyone who departs from their doings.

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