Opinionista Tokelo Nhlapo 26 September 2013

Dubul’ iJuda/Shoot the Jew: A response to Rebecca Hodes and the local architecture of anti-Semitism

The recent singing of Dubul’ iJuda (Shoot the Jew) at a protest at a concert at Wits University was unfortunate. However, the focus on the song alone diverts attention from the real issue at hand: the contention that Israel is a racist, colonial Apartheid state in the name of the Jew.

It’s pity that some white academics continue to write to newspapers from their positions of privilege, making baseless claims that remain unchallenged. One such academic is Rebecca Hodes of the University of Cape Town (UCT) who wrote what appears be a desperate attempt at claiming that there is a deep-seated hatred for Jews in this country.

At a concert organised at Wits, Hodes defends the actions of Zionists’ buying-out tickets to ensure the specific attendance of Jews. Like all racists, white Zionists always have reasons as to why whites should be by themselves, in this case using “blacks are violent” as a justification for Apartheid-like exclusion at the concert. Of course, a few house Negros where allowed to attend to cleanse the bloody image of Israel.

Hodes takes specific issue with the singing of the song Dubul’ iJuda. The song was indeed unfortunate and I admit should not have been sung. But focusing on the song alone is misleading, diverting attention from the contention that Israel is a racist, colonial Apartheid state in the name of the Jew.

Furthermore, the way in which this white UCT historian understands the singing of the song is misplaced. She erroneously claims that Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions South Africa (BDS) is an architect of “anti-Semitism”. She clearly lacks an understanding of the spirit in which songs of the struggle are sung and her selective application of information and history shows her own ignorance and hypocrisy.

I don’t understand how black people in this country have experienced Jews differently from other whites. Put simply, we experience Jews first as whites, then as Jews. The problem arises when “justice-loving” Jews allow their identity to be used for a colonial project at the expense of Palestinians. We know all too well as black South Africans that we owe our freedom to the international solidarity that refused to collaborate with, engage or host any events by the Apartheid South Africa. We return this potent gift to Palestinians, not to wish Jews away but to challenge all who believe in freedom, equality and justice and who see Zionism as a rejection of these principles we hold dear. Zionism is racism. It is a political ideology that is exclusionary and holds the white Jewish identity superior. It offends our values.

Even more confusing, Hodes correctly points out that the song comes from Dubul’ iBunu and the only change is “iBunu” into “iJuda”. Despite struggle songs like Dubul’ iBunu being sung as far back as 1940, for decades the anti-Apartheid struggle remained a passive resistance movement in our peoples’ quest for true humanity, for equal rights and equal citizenship.

It was only later, in 1961, that Umkhonto we Sizwe was formed, not to liberate through arms, but to defend the black majority against a minority government that responded to the demands of the blacks with violence. The spirit in which this song was sung was not hatred for the whites/Boers but as an expression against the violent colonial project of the National Party government against the black majority, in the name of the Boer.

Israel is a racist, colonial state in the name of the Jew and the core business of institutions like the Jewish National Fund, the Jewish Board of Deputies, the Zionist Federation and others is to mislead South Africans, and the world, that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic and that Zionism is inseparable from Judaism. If Israel must exist, it must exist with equal rights for all. Zionism has nothing to do with being Jewish.

For a long time the Apartheid government confused the world, the same way the Zionist/Jewish lobby does today, stating Apartheid was not racism or colonialism. Instead they called it a “policy of good neighbourliness”.

Zionism, founded over 100 years ago, seeks to create an exclusive Jewish society through the successful displacement and dispossession of Palestinians. They have almost achieved total segregation (which is what the Nationalists wanted for South Africa) by continuing to build Jewish-only settlements in Palestinian territories, the continued extension of its Apartheid wall and continuing to pass laws of separation between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians.

Given this context, it is unsurprising that this concert was racially profiled. BDS produced records exposing an organiser who said that a Jewish organisation bought all the tickets. In a telephone conversation the organiser answered, “Yes” when asked if the event was “Jewish only”.

Any event sponsored by, or in collaboration with, institutions which support Israel will not be romantically accepted. This is not an act against the Jew but against any attempt to normalise relations with Israel.

If Jews allow their identity to be used for a colonial agenda and remain silent, then they must be made uncomfortable for their complicity. Israel is a colonial Apartheid state and the architect of this racism is Zionism. We will boycott, divest and sanction it until the racist wall falls. DM

Tokelo Nhlapo is as post-graduate student of politics and the SRC Deputy President at Wits University.

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