Saluting Hamas, refuting the SAJBD - Ronnie Kasrils

The October 7th operation will go down in history as a towering military accomplishment


Or the Boring Routine of Being Labelled Antisemitic - Ronnie Kasrils

Wendy Kahn’s diatribe against me, (“Naked Jew-hatred behind Kasrils’ feting of Hamas atrocities” – Politicsweb, November 28) 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 a 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 – 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 have been flattened, along with 70% of the houses, apartments, other dwellings and entire neighbourhoods. Babies in incubators, patients in ICUs, surgeons, ambulance and health workers have been killed. Nobody has been spared. Even the bed-ridden and disabled among the one million people given notice to relocate to the south or face death have been killed.

If these people had been Israelis, or other white people, Kahn, 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 have a right to take up arms against oppression is rejected as moral perversion. The implicit assumption is that they must simply accept their oppression, including mass murder. It is this assumption that 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 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 Kahn 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 exceptional military ingenuity and ability of the Hamas raid on Israeli soldiers of the Gaza Division was not applauding the subsequent killing of Israeli civilians at a musical festival and in their kibbutzim. It should also be noted that many serving military officers in the area were on Hamas’s impressively accurate intelligence lists for abduction. In a just war against oppression serving military personnel are legitimate military targets.

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

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 7 October 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 claiming that it is barbaric when Hamas does the same.

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, and subjected to unspeakable conditions, including torture, is not demonic. The broad smiles and high fives exchanged between the Jewish women and the Hamas soldiers are a striking element of the captive exchange currently underway. This is in sharp contrast to what the Palestinian women and teenage boys are revealing about the threats and abuse they receive on exiting prison. The naked Arab-hatred is as grim as it is brazen.

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 cross-fire.

For this, of course, we grieve.

It's 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 of these people were killed in the cross fire, many by Israeli fire. Reports reflect that some of the Israeli soldiers were poorly trained and operating in panic-stricken mode. So much for the IDF’s mythical invincibility.

To be sure there is 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 “necklacing”. 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 with missiles and shells. The Electronic Intifada quotes an Israeli newspaper stating that several helicopters 'emptied their bellies' and returned to base to reload. An IDF pilot estimates 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, without regard to the civilians 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 that heavy fire, 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 and who among the random crowd pouring through the fence, the security guards and the IDF. A rational discussion in the media needs to hold to the same principles of objectivity and rigour.

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 like Kahn like it or not, that operation will go down in history as a towering military accomplishment. I repeat again, that this is what I saluted as a student of guerrilla warfare.

We must ask why the Western media, its local proxies here, and the local Zionists like Kahn 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 outwitting 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 the pot boils over, 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. Zionists and powerful forces in the West have sought to render the expression of basic empirical facts and logic as perverse because it is assumed that the 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 the 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 anti-Semitism and legitimate critique of the Israeli state and the Zionist project. Basic honesty demands that she make this distinction to benefit the relations between that community and the broader citizenry and avoid fear mongering.

But Kahn’s Zionist fixation, and her consequent disregard for the humanity of Palestinians, means that she only gives us sophistry. The onus falls on the SAJBD and SAZF 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 BDS and other solidarity groups, including the ruling party and government, accord with the foundational principles of the

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

Ronnie Kasrils is former deputy minister of defence, and minister of intelligence services