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Why Israel Book Launch at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg

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New Book is a “combat kit” against Israeli propaganda

By Al-Qalam correspondent

“This is a combat kit. We want to ‘arm’ people with knowledge to enable them to counter Zionist propaganda.” This was the main objective  of Suraya Dadoo and Firoz Osman, co-authors of a hard-hitting new book called Why Israel? The Anatomy of Zionist Apartheid – A South African Perspective.

Over 200 diverse people, ranging from high-school students to Palestinian solidarity activists, journalists, diplomats and ambassadors, to renowned anti-apartheid activists and former government ministers, including Ronnie Kasrils, Essop Pahad, and Aziz Pahad – packed the auditorium of the highly symbolic Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg on Sunday, 1 September, where the book was officially launched. Jessie Duarte and Rivonia  trialists Ahmed Kathrada and Denis Goldberg, were unable to attend the launch, and sent strong messages of support to the authors.

With a foreword written by Kasrils, the book has earned the praise of other anti-apartheid  icons, including Archbishop Tutu. Omar Barghouti, the co-founder of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel called the book “timely and crucial.”

The book has also captured the imagination of  a wide variety of people. Durban-based hip-hop artist, Iain Gregory Robinson (aka EWOK) who performed at the launch,  calls the book “an activist’s dream publication” that can be accessed at any point should any question around the occupation arise.  “I feel like I am well armed with extensive knowledge right at my fingertips that enables me and many others now to conduct our own brand of street style ‘lawfare’,” explained Robinson.

Cape-Town based journalist and author Shafiq Morton agrees. In a recent review of the book, Morton called Why Israel? “a thorough work” noting that it is footnoted and its sources clearly attributed. “Because of its academic proficiency I suspect that certain arch-Zionists are going to choke on their coffee as they leaf through its 600 pages,” observed Morton.

While there has been no official response to the contents of Why Israel? from either the South African Jewish Board of Deputies or the South African Zionist Federation, some individuals did  initiate a Facebook campaign to have the book removed from the shelves of a major retailer.  According to Dadoo, the campaign has failed and the book will remain available at all bookstores. She explained that retailers are coming under pressure in different ways. “While retailers will stock and sell the book, they don’t want to be seen to be promoting Why Israel? and refused to launch the book,” explained Dadoo.

According to Osman, this has not hindered the marketing of the book at all, with several other launches planned in the next few months across the country – including one at the Palestinian Cultural Festival in Durban on 13 October.

In an attempt to make the book widely accessible to those who cannot afford to buy the book, every municipal library in Johannesburg will receive a free copy of the book. Copies of the book were also given to the individual winners, and to the libraries of all the schools that participated in the recent Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA) Essay and Art Contest in Johannesburg.

According to the authors, accessibility was a key issue and they want the book to reach as a wide an audience as possible. Given the wide-ranging audience at the Johannesburg launch, and the positive feedback that the book has received from such varied groups, the authors seem to have largely achieved their objective