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Saluting Hamas, or the boring routine of being labelled Antisemitic – Ronnie Kasrils

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Picture: Video grab via The Palestine Chronicle – Al-Qassam Brigades fighters release the first group of Israeli captives. What is notable with the captive exchange presently under way is the broad smiles and high fives between the Jewish women and the Hamas soldiers, the writer says.

By Ronnie Kasrils

In the eyes of the multitude of racists in Israel, the Palestinians are Untermenschen – less than human, even animals.

Spokesperson of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) Wendy Kahn’s diatribe against me is not surprising.

Zionists, and their backers across the West, including their local proxies, are only able to weep for their own kind. Those of us who insist on universal recognition of humanity are now routinely slandered as ‘antisemites’.

Israeli war crimes in Gaza, carried out with genocidal contempt for humanity, have left 15,000 in mass graves – over 6,000 children and 4,000 women to date – with thousands more still under the rubble.

Hospitals, clinics, schools, mosques, cultural centres, water and power plants, and communication centres, flattened, along with 70 percent of the houses, apartments, dwellings, and entire neighbourhoods.

Babies in incubators, patients in ICUs, surgeons, ambulances and health workers, nobody spared. Even the bedridden and disabled among one million people given notice to relocate to the south faced death.

If these people had been Israelis, or other white people, Wendy Khan, along with the Western political class and media, would be calling for an end to the genocide by any means necessary.

Nobody would question the need for effective military action. But they are not white, and many are Muslim.

In the eyes of the multitude of racists in Israel, the Palestinians are Untermenschen – less than human, even animals.

As a result, the idea they take up arms against oppression is rejected as moral perversion. The implicit assumption is they must simply accept their oppression, including mass murder. It is that which is perverse.

Every moral philosopher agrees that the oppressed have a right to resist, and that when oppression is violent that right extends to the right to armed resistance.

We dare not forget that Nelson Mandela was designated as a terrorist. The al-Qassam brigades are the equivalent of Umkhonto we Sizwe (the ANC’s armed wing) and have the same right to act as the armed wing of a liberation movement.

But instead of taking an objective view of the scale and intensity of the oppression of Palestinians and the consequent right to armed resistance, she takes refuge in a ludicrous insult alleging ‘Jew hatred’.

Using the same crude tactics as Israel’s massive hasbara (propaganda) campaign she makes her case about my alleged hatred for Jews on the basis of a single sound bite taken from a thirty-minute talk, ripping it from its context.

That context was an overview of the years of barbaric assault on the people of Gaza and the Palestinians under military occupation.

Yet, any serious appraisal of what I stated clearly shows that my remark, about the military ingenuity and ability of the Hamas raid on Israeli soldiers of the Gaza Division, was not applauding the subsequent killing of civilians at a musical festival and in their kibbutzim.

It should also be noted that many serving military officers residing there were on Hamas’s accurate intelligence list for abduction. In a just war against oppression serving military personnel are legitimate military targets.

My point was that in their racist arrogance the Israeli state and its military failed to grasp the tactical sophistication of the Palestinian resistance. It is wholly and wilfully ludicrous to misrepresent this point as ‘Jew hatred’.

The Vietcong were acknowledged for their expertise, as were the FLN in Algeria.

Many who are deeply opposed to the politics of the Taliban have nonetheless had the maturity to acknowledge the technical process displayed in their recent rout of the Americans.

A sensible military and its political leaders understand that they need to be careful not to underestimate their enemy, and when defeated to learn the lessons of that defeat instead of being blinded by arrogance and rage. The first lesson in war is to never underestimate your enemy.

Any objective observer must admit that Hamas is a competent, highly disciplined, strategic and courageous force. These facts must be acknowledged irrespective of one’s personal politics.

Misrepresenting the October 7 raid as an irrational, barbaric, mindless massacre also blinds one to any possibility of a rational apprehension of events.

The raid had a dual purpose. The first was to undertake a military operation against the IDF. This is a wholly legitimate military objective, one in conformity with International Law.

The second aim of the raid was to take military and civilian captives. It is true that targeting civilians is in breach of International Law but it is hardly surprising that this action was taken when Israel jails thousands of people without trial, a huge number of them civilians and many of them women and children.

One cannot legitimately accept Israel’s right to abduct and detain civilians while presenting Hamas doing the same as barbaric.

The logic of Hamas taking Israeli hostages to secure an exchange for (at the very least) the many children and women among the 6,000 incarcerated Palestinians, subjected to unspeakable conditions, including torture, is not demonic.

What is notable with the captive exchange presently under way is the broad smiles and high fives between the Jewish women and the Hamas soldiers. Sharply in contrast to what Palestinian women and teenage boys are revealing about the threats and abuse they receive on exiting prison.

It is to be noted that the IDF has already adjusted the numbers of people killed during the raid from 1,400 to 1,200. The lies about 40 beheaded babies and raped women have been thoroughly debunked. Only one baby has been reported dead, sadly killed in the crossfire. For this, of course, we grieve.

It is common knowledge that the number of soldiers and police killed is close to 400. These are legitimate military targets in legal and moral terms. That leaves 800 others killed.

A significant number were killed in the crossfire, many by Israeli guns and bombs. Reports reflect that some of the Israeli soldiers were poorly trained operating in panic-stricken mode. So much for the IDF’s mythical invincibility.

To be sure there’s footage of civilians being shot by attackers. But those classifiable as attackers comprised Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters, those from other military groupings and a random crowd of civilian followers. The latter point is important.

As South Africans, we know only too well how during our struggle large numbers of people would attach themselves to protests and sometimes indulge in looting and destruction, and even death by “necklacing” (being burnt alive).

The bona fide organisers obviously had no control over the unanticipated violence, no more than spectators at a football match can be held responsible for fighting which breaks out, merely by virtue of the fact that they were on the premises.

The civilians who lost their lives in the raid were killed by fighters and civilians who came from Gaza and the IDF. Moreover, Hamas had no idea there would be a musical rave underway as they moved onto the towns and villages of southern Israel. There were armed guards at that event, and their presence may well have led to further crossfire.

There is clear evidence of civilians being killed by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). It is an established fact that IDF helicopters arrived at the music festival firing missiles. The Electronic Intifada quotes an Israeli newspaper stating that several helicopters ‘emptied their bellies’ and returned to base to reload. An IDF pilot estimates that they killed 120 there and destroyed all the vehicles.

In the settlements the IDF arrived late in the day in confusion, guns blazing, firing indiscriminately, irrespective of civilians being in the houses. Obviously, crossfire ensued and given the disarray, both Israelis and Palestinian raiders died.

An Israeli woman, a witness, explained this on TV. Initially at least one tank was involved, and the destruction of buildings was caused by indiscriminate shelling, again irrespective of who was in the houses. The utter destruction, including that of bodies reduced to ash, was caused by tank and artillery bombardment, not by lightly armed guerrillas.

In a court of law ascription of blame would have to determine who shot the civilians, which fighters from which resistance groups, the random crowd pouring through the fence, security guards and the IDF.

A rational discussion in the media needs to hold to the same principles of objectivity and rigor. The presentation of a specially constructed IDF film for Western journalists of ‘Hamas atrocities’, along with their ludicrous media presentation of Al-Shifa hospital tunnels, is specially prepared propaganda – not credible evidence.

The debacle which ensued during the taking of captives is a separate matter to the military operation against the IDF and Israeli police. Anyone who understands military action would know there is such a thing as informed assessment.

Whether the Israelis and Zionists such as Kahn like it or not, that operation will go down in history as a towering military accomplishment.

I repeat again, that’s what I saluted as a student and one-time practitioner of guerrilla warfare.

We must ask why the Western media, its local proxies here and the local Zionists like Wendy Khan can’t understand this. The answer is clear: Racism!

They simply are brain wired in such a way as not to bear the audacity of a bunch of Arabs to outwit all the nice white people.

What happened to the civilians was tragic but as we South Africans know – you can’t oppress people for decades and not think the pot won’t boil over sooner or later.

When that happens, planned or otherwise, there’s no guarantee it will do so gently to the satisfaction of the oppressors. This is something that any mature person, and anyone with a basic grasp of history, will understand.

The fact that the Zionists and powerful forces in the West have sought to render the expression of basic empirical facts and logic as perverse, is because it is assumed that Untermenschen do not have the same right as white people to resist oppression.

The idea that I was indulging in hate speech and calling my audience to arms is as ludicrous as it is paranoid. I believe I spoke for millions of rational South Africans, people who do not see the world through a racist lens. People who believe in justice for everyone and support the right of all to resist oppression, applauded the speech.

Like South Africa’s chief rabbi, Warren Goldstein, Kahn harps on about skyrocketing levels of antisemitism. But, of course, no factual evidence is provided for this claim.

If she wants to be a serious commentator, she should be fastidious in her monitoring. She should understand that it is her duty to educate the Jewish community by explaining the clear conceptual and ethical difference between antisemitism and legitimate critique of the Israeli state and the Zionist project.

Basic honesty demands that she makes this distinction to benefit the relations between that community and the broader citizenry and avoid fear mongering.

But Khan’s Zionist fixation, and her consequent disregard for the humanity of Palestinians, means that she only gives us sophistry.

The onus falls on the SA Jewish Board of Deputies and SA Zionist Federation not to create division. The allegiance to a murderously oppressive foreign state directly opposed, in principle and practice, to the substance and spirit of South Africa’s Bill of Rights, merits self-reflection by Kahn and others in the Jewish community.

It needs to be recognised that the stance of the BDS and other solidarity groups, including the African National Congress (ANC) ruling party and government, accord with the foundational principles of our Constitution.

Support for Zionism and the Israeli state is in direct violation of such principles.

Ronnie Kasrils is a veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle, and South Africa’s former Minister for Intelligence Services, activist and author. He contributed this piece to The Palestine Chronicle