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Design to confuse

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By Virginia Tilley

(source: BusinessDay, 7/5/2010)

Although there’s little to engage seriously in the letters that responded to mine, readers may wish to have some misinformation corrected.

I’m accused by H Gluckman of not having my facts straight in affirming the Goldstone affair had obtained a global reach (No fatwas from Jews, Letters, April 29). If H Gluckman has no internet access, a recent edition of SA’s Jewish Report bemoans the global scope of the scandal in its cover editorial.

I’m also accused of making up the scathing denunciations of Jewish critics of Israel that have appeared in the pews of SA’s shuls. I’ve been in those pews and draw on personal experience (Get your facts right, Letters, April 29). I can’t speak for Steven Friedman or Ronnie Kasrils but if correspondents H Gluckman and Sol Cowan are so confident of their portrait of the tolerance and inclusion these men have enjoyed, it’s simple to ask them. (A climate of intimidation, Mr Cowan, is not measured by the public face of those rare individuals who stand up to it.)

I never defended Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “utterances to wipe Israel off the face of the map”. I observed that he never said this in the first place. The actual phrasing was that the “regime occupying Jerusalem” would someday “vanish from the page of time”. As the tone was fatalistic, not aggressive, it was hardly the casus belli claimed by Israel and its apologists for the pre-emptive military strike on Iranian nuclear energy installations that Israel has been threatening for several years now. I’m no admirer of Mr Ahmadinejad, but it’s important that he has never issued any direct threat against Israel and I challenge Mr Cowan or anyone else to produce an accurately translated quote to that effect. Judaism may have no fatwahs but Israel’s lobbyists don’t draw on Judaism: they employ classic state security tactics to misdirect and stifle debate — for example, consistently tarring Israel’s critics as anti-Jewish (such as, my supposed “dislike of Jews in general”) and distorting what they actually say. Israeli state agencies indeed formally advise Israel’s international cadres of supporters that, where you can’t convince, confuse. So I won’t waste time on Bev Goldman’s bizarre new attacks on Justice Richard Goldstone (Other side to the story, Letters, April 29) but just point out to readers her Media Team Israel is an operation of the South African Zionist Federation which, according to the 34th Zionist Congress, is an “operational arm” of the World Zionist Organisation, which Israeli law has made an “authorised agency” of the state of Israel. It’s pointless to engage people who use the facade of civil society to deploy arguments designed by a foreign power explicitly to confuse and exhaust public attention. It’s unhealthy for public debate in SA if a few voices are allowed falsely to claim to speak for an entire religious or ethnic group. I’m glad Judge Dennis Davis and other eminent voices are now speaking up for greater liberty and plurality of expression, and hope their efforts will assist the integrity of public debate on the Israel-Palestine conflict.