'Abu Mamzer' joins debate, Gordon hangs tough

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Victor Gordon responds to Prof Steven Friedman’s response to Victor’s original letter last week, and Friedman again replies. This looks like it may go on for a while – especially since users have joined in the fray in numbers. Gordon accuses Friedman who accuses Gordon over “misleading” claims at Limmud. Friedman, writes Gordon, “conveniently skipped addressing what he clearly stated at Limmud, being the false claim that Israeli Passports bear the ethnic origins of the holder. The rest of his explanation is irrelevant.” Read the argy-bargy and all the chirps…
by ANT KATZ | Sep 07, 2014

The following reply to the reply of the biggest read last week - is Victor Gordon responding to Prof Steven Friedman's response to Gordon's letter. To follow the original arguments and some hilarious user comments, CLICK HERE or see below.

Writes Gordon:

If Prof Friedman is uncomfortable with my designation of him as an “academic of stature” I will happily revise my assessment. My last wish is to assign to him a status that affords him discomfort.

It was Prof Friedman who in his lecture claimed the figure of 80% of the land (not 93% - the correct number), which, in his written response (CLICK HERE), he has once again erroneously claimed to be available FOR SALE to Jews alone. This land has NEVER been available for sale to ANYONE and is only for LEASE to both Jews and Arabs. The arrangement whereby the ILA compensates the JNF with equivalent “land swaps” (whereby the same area of state-owned land is transferred to the JNF), has nothing to do with Friedman’s original misleading claim that 80% of the land is available for sale to Jews alone. Nothing about this supports his contention that “the principle of land allocation on an ethnic basis is still intact.”  Everything, in fact, points to the contrary.

The rest of his explanation is irrelevant

Prof Friedman has conveniently skipped addressing what he clearly stated at Limmud, being the false claim that Israeli Passports bear the ethnic origins of the holder – JEWISH, ARAB, DRUZE, CIRCASSIAN. The rest of his explanation is irrelevant.

Quite obviously, Friedman places a great deal more trust in Hamas’ reliability and intentions than do I. If Hamas is so sincere about a long term and meaningful peace why leave it at a Hudna which is no more than an armistice or cease fire or truce, and not pursue a permanent peace treaty instead? After all, Hamas broke all seven cease-fires during Op. Protective Edge.

All we have to go on is Hamas’ behaviour towards Israel since assuming its governmental role in Gaza,  as well as its apparent ambition to eventually dominate the West Bank as well. With this in mind I quote from an extensive publication by Raymond Ibrahim, the associate director of the Middle East Quarterly (CLICK HERE) in which he addresses the thorny subject of Hudna and Jihad.

From the Encyclopaedia of Islam, Emile Tyan states: "The duty of the jihad exists as long as the universal domination of Islam has not been attained. Peace with non-Muslim nations is, therefore, a provisional state of affairs only (my bold type); … circumstances alone can justify it temporarily. … (Based) on the 10-year treaty of Hudaybiya (628) ratified between Muhammad and his Quraysh opponents in Mecca … ten years is the maximum amount of time Muslims can be at peace with infidels … (The) sole function of the truce is to buy weakened Muslims time to regroup before renewing the offensive. ..  By their very nature, treaties must be of temporary duration. … Hence the fuqaha [jurists] are agreed that open-ended truces are illegitimate if Muslims have the strength to renew the war against them [non-Muslims] …  In short, the prerequisite for peace or reconciliation is Muslim advantage. …  For, from an Islamic point of view, times of peace—that is, whenever Islam is significantly weaker than its infidel rivals—are times of feigned peace and pretence, in a word, taqiyya.”

In addressing what Friedman terms the “sad reality”, all offers tabled by Hamas to end the violence have been subject to the unacceptable caveats that either Israel returns to the indefensible so-called 1967 “borders”; extends the right of return to all 4.5 million refugees and releases all Palestinian prisoners. This obviously nullifies any possibility of negotiation. 

I am unable to find any reference to the 1997 peace offer to which Prof. Friedman refers.

In terms of this debate I feel justified in referring to a report in the Mail & Guardian (8 August) titled “Gaza conflict: Behind SA Jews ‘siege mentality’” written by Gabi Falanga wherein Prof Friedman is extensively quoted. In evaluating his all round objectivity his observations make interesting reading. 

Friedman said SA Jewry are paranoid

Not loath to resorting to sweeping generalisations, Friedman stated that South African Jews are paranoid “which is absolutely central to the community… The way in which the Israeli government ensures support around the world is to create an atmosphere of fear,  … Jews over the centuries were persecuted in many countries. It’s become part of the Jewish memory.”

See Friedman’s further analysis of what he regards as having contributed to the insular makeup of the South African Jewish community on the M&G SA JEWS’ SIEGE MENTALITY.

No rockets before Israel invaded. Huh? 

Further, according to Friedman, There weren’t any rockets being fired before Israel invaded Gaza. How many people in Israeli cities have actually been under threat? Zero. … If you read mainstream Jewish media, their understanding of what is going on there is that people who hate the Jews are now attacking them. The Israeli government blows sirens and forces people into bomb shelters, so that they have a real sense of terror and feeling besieged.”

Asked to accept so blatant a manipulation of fact do we not deserve an explanation for such obfuscation as it is public record that 62 Rockets and 3 mortars were fired into Israel in June 2014 while in July, prior to the launch of Protective Edge, 172 Rockets and 21 Mortars were launched in just 7 days?  (READ IT HERE)

In the event that Prof Friedman has been misquoted by the M&G I am unaware of any objection from him or retraction by said publication.

Victor Gordon

Friedman responds to Gordon’s ‘final word’

Victor Gordon seems unable to distinguish between what I say and what he would like me to say: I didn’t say I was uncomfortable with the way he described me - I said I was glad. So it is no surprise that he remembers me saying things at Limmud I have no memory of saying.

On the bigger issues, despite some smokescreens, Mr Gordon offers no evidence to contradict my point that land in Israel is allocated on an ethnic basis - how else would we describe a system in which a set amount of land must remain in Jewish hands? 

He does not even try to refute my point that Israel implements a discriminatory nationality system in which people’s ethnic label determines their access to immigration, naturalisation, land and employment. It would be interesting to know the grounds on which he justifies this discrimination.

Gordon seems to deal with the uncomfortable reality that Hamas has offered repeated ceasefires which Israel has refused to discuss, by quoting an “authority” on the “Muslim” mind. (Would he be happy with “experts” who claimed to know “the Jewish mind”?)  

In response, I could quote, among many other sources, Nathan Thrall, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, whose sober analysis of Hamas’s calculations offers a much more credible account than one which claims spurious insight into the “Muslim” mind.

Thrall concludes his analysis in the London Review of Books: “The obvious solution is to let the new Palestinian government return to Gaza and reconstruct it… This solution would of course have been available to Israel, the US, Egypt and the PA in the weeks and months before the war began, before so many lives were shattered.” http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n16/nathan-thrall/hamass-chances.

Neither Thrall nor I are fans of Hamas - we simply see it as a rational actor which believes its interests are served by a compromise. But this conclusion requires us to look beyond crude religious stereotypes to the evidence. (If Mr Gordon can't find a source for the 1997 ceasefire, he should try CNN: http://edition.cnn.com/WORLD/9710/07/israel.hamas/

I did not say that “SA Jews” were paranoid, I said the mainstream communal institutions encourage a paranoia in the community which is fuelled by centuries of Jewish persecution. The evidence is overwhelming - I have personally heard representatives of communal organisations claim both that all non-Jews are anti-Semites and that all Muslims are. That sounds pretty paranoid to me.

The fact that I, and others who share my view, are seen by the mainstream leadership as a mortal threat to be silenced, is also ample testimony to a tendency to regard any alternative view as a danger. (Only in response to pressure did a section of the communal leadership distance itself from Ivor Blumenthal’s apparently approving view that in previous eras Jews whose opinions displeased the mainstream would be stoned to death.)

My statement on rockets was designed to illustrate the point. At the time I made my comments, one Israeli had died in a rocket attack (outside the cities) and yet the entire urban population was routinely herded into shelters. By the end of the conflict, the death toll had sadly risen, but not a single resident of an Israeli city was a victim of a rocket attack.

Despite this, the sirens were heard repeatedly in the cities and local Jews no doubt feared for their loved ones in the shelters. But in the cities, the danger was illusory. Contrary to one of the libels currently used to silence critics, the point is not that it is a pity that more Jews didn’t die: any death is one too many.

 It is, rather, to challenge a severe obstacle to a peace settlement -the view that, despite the overwhelming military superiority of the Israeli state, Jewish Israelis are in imminent mortal danger.

As long as the enemies of peace foster the false claim that the state and its urban residents are in peril, potential negotiating partners will continue to be seen as mortal dangers. The enemies of peace need groundless fear - there will be no peace unless we expose the use of fear to prevent talks which will save lives.

Don't miss out this lot

READ LAST WEEK’S HEATED EXCHANGE & USER COMMENTS - Users had a field day posting comments on the tit-for-tat letters last week.

Mike said, simply, “F is for fraud,” Steve Marks included the following: “Friedman misses the entire point of a Jewish state. May he never need it.”

‘Some Body’ said “Prof Friedman implies that Hamas is willing to make peace with Israel. Perhaps he would care to explain why the Hamas charter calls for the complete destruction of Zionism and the Zionist entity.” Needless to say, the eloquent ‘Some Body’ had more questions for the Prof.

Well-known Johannesburg gyneacologist Theo Kopenhager said thatthe problem with Steven Friedman's presentation was the question time… I agree with Victor Gordon that this gave Friedman the opportunity to deflect the answers and at best to disguise the true facts without giving the questioner the opportunity to counter what he said.” Added Kopenhager: “Bring Friedman back next year to debate someone with the true facts at hand.”   

Choni’s daily dose almost seemed on-topic when he asked: “So why invite Prof Friedman to Limmud in the first place? His anti-Israel views are well known and his presence can only be harmful?” But Choni couldn’t help himself, decided to attack Dr Theo and suggested he did Israel as much hurt as Friedman because he didn’t agree with Choni’s radical view of things.

Gary Selikow gave one of his typically short and sharp observations: “Steven Friedman has a pathological hatred of Israel and Israelis and his entire being is driven by this. He clearly supports Hamas.”




  1. 2 Abu Mamzer 07 Sep
    Then it was Steven Friedman, “an academic and political commentator”, in the Mail & Guardian. He said: “There weren’t any rockets being fired before Israel invaded Gaza. How many people in Israeli cities have actually been under threat? Zero.” He had missed reports about the nonstop rain of rockets that has terrorised Israel: about 450 from January 1 to June 30. He went further: “The Israeli government blows sirens and forces people into bomb shelters, so that they have a real sense of terror and feeling besieged.” This was disconnected from reality – nutcase stuff. It was also insulting to Hamas. What did Friedman think was in its thousands of thousands of 75kg to 154kg warheads? Confetti? In the Cape Argus, Kieran Legg interviewed a Palestinian diplomat, Tamer Almassri, about Gaza. Under a gory headline, “Playing in our blood”, he managed to avoid any reference to Hamas missiles; it was as if Israel was cruelly attacking Gaza for no reason. He also left unquestioned Almassri’s statement that “we will not let 66 years of bloodshed come to nothing … We will not give up until we have our historical land again.” Legg presumably did not realise Almassri was harking back to 1948 and calling for Israel’s destruction.
    (Quote from Mail and Gordian,by Benjamin Pogrund)
  2. 1 Choni 09 Sep
    I resent the editor's use of the term radical when describing my opinions.
    What is radical, however is Dr. Copenhager's description of settlers as right wing fanatics.
    Also all my opinions are based on Torah. If these opinions are radical then the Torah is radical.
    I challenge the editor, and/or any reader, to debate any issue with me regarding Zionism in a manner of Torah dialogue, using proofs fro the words of Chazal.
    Only then will I concede any matter.
    The matter of Dr. Copenhager's views on settlers is a case in point.


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