Business Day

SEPTEMBER 20 2013

WHAT seems quite apparent in his attack on the book Why Israel? (Sparks blinded by bias, Letters, September 18) is that Ben Levitas has not even read our book.

If he did, then we are sure that he would have commented on the more than 55 pages that explore how the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) — of which Levitas is head of the Cape Council — has intimidated South African critics of Israel.

SAZF has further vilified journalists and evaded debate on the question of Israel as an apartheid state.

Perhaps Mr Levitas overlooked the sections dealing with a sustained 18-month campaign of personal pressure and intimidation from his own organisation, the SAZF, on Justice Richard Goldstone? Judge Goldstone headed a damning United Nations Human Rights Council enquiry that found the Israeli government guilty of war crimes during Israel’s 2008-09 bombardment of the Gaza Strip, code-named Operation Cast Lead. Judge Goldstone told Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “When the attacks started — they were vicious personal attacks on me .”

In April 2010, the SAZF threatened protest action at the bar mitzvah of Judge Goldstone’s grandson if Goldstone attended. The judge had to attend the function with a bodyguard. Referring to the weekend of the bar mitzvah, Avrom Krengel, head of the SAZF, told journalist Kevin Bloom, “it was the 72 hours of his life he (Goldstone ) regrets the most “.

On April 3 2011, Krengel told Israeli website Ynet: “He suffered greatly. We took sides against him and it encourages us to know our way had an effect.” The “effect” Krengel was referring to was an opinion piece published a day earlier in the Washington Post, where Judge Goldstone expressed “misgivings” about a finding of the UN report. The other members of the fact-finding team stood by the report’s findings. Since then, Judge Goldstone has not publicly commented on Israeli policy.

It is rather instructive that Ronnie Kasrils, one of the Jewish community’s most celebrated anti-apartheid struggle stalwarts, at the recent launch of Why Israel? spoke of the attacks and abuse that he received from the Zionist lobby in SA. He said his involvement in the struggle against Israeli apartheid has earned treatment that was far worse than anything he faced from the apartheid South African government.

Mr Levitas also seems to have ignored the core of the book that discusses Israel’s numerous violations and its status as an apartheid state — purely in terms of international law. The SAZF evades debate on this issue. For instance, the SAZF pulled out of a discussion of the film Roadmap to Apartheid at the Labia Theatre in Cape Town last year, forcing the screening to be cancelled.

Mr Levitas tries hard to discredit us and the original review of Why Israel? by Allister Sparks. He would be better off reading the sections in Why Israel? that examines Israel’s collaboration with apartheid SA and the role of the SAZF and South African Jewish Board of Deputies in aiding South African apartheid. This might help him reflect on how his organisation is again defending an apartheid state.

Suraya Dadoo and Firoz Osman

Co-authors of Why Israel? The Anatomy of Zionist Apartheid — A South African Perspective (Porcupine Press, 2013)