“It is important to say consistently Israel is a racist, ethno-supremist, settler-colonial state set on ethnic cleansing,” writes Jon Fish Hodgson in an outrageous article, published this month in South Africa’s Independent (*See original article below).
Adv. Craig Snoyman responds
A’le’lay li, woe is me. Once again I have struck out. Once again, an article of mine was submitted to a South African newspaper and has been rejected and once again I was hopeful and now thankful that Lay Of The Land saw the need to publish. This time my article was in response to a three-quarter page spread in the national fleet of Independent Newspapers, published on Saturday 3 July 2021. It was written by a certain Jon Fish Hodgson, who does not appear to have any recognised credentials that would suggest his article should have been published or given such prominence. To me, it appears that he was published purely on the basis that he is a Jew. Jews make great news, particularly when they malign Israel.
Hodgson makes great news.
In an article entitled “Palestinian conflict “not complex”” Hodgson’s bias shines through like a 5000-watt spot -light beamed into a tiny room. Issues that have eluded solution by many of the brightest minds on the planet over the last one-and-a-half centuries, he regards as “not complex”!
Hodgson seeks to take the simplistic attitude that the intersectional custom-designed “settler colony” theory solves everything and nothing else is relevant to Israel. He dumps in a couple of other derogatory opinions of Israel at the same time. He views Israel as irredeemably bad and committed to the oppression of innocent good Palestinians. By endorsing this one-dimensional concept, and by following this uni-directional, biased approach, Hodgson concludes that the Israel-Palestine conflict is not complex. His solution to “Israel bad, Palestine good” is to boycott the current State of Israel and to replace Jewish Israel with a Palestinian State. On the face of it, this over-simplistic view does not warrant a three-quarter page opinion piece.
Unfortunately, it received national prominence!
I had always understood that if an opinion was to be expressed in the media, it should be based on fact, with justifying comments permitted within reasonable limits. When reading this article, I question whether I have been labouring under a misapprehension. Hodgson’s blinkered approach is visible from the very first paragraphs. He commences by stating that “the profound political and ethnic dimensions of the “so-called” conflict are plain” and then lists adjectives of opprobrium, which he states apply to Israel. He refers to Israel as a “racist, ethno-supremacist, settler- colonial state set on ethnic cleansing” which is based on a Zionist “might makes right” ideology and which it teaches to its children. He states it is hypocritical that the innocent Palestinian victims should be “vilified and victim-blamed if they dare fight for liberation” and they are in death spiral “struggling for liberation and life” (note the order). He seems to question whether a conflict actually exists.
It would be quite simple, although rather tedious, to rip Hodgson’s article apart paragraph by paragraph, line by line, misquote by misquote, starting from his first quote, one from Netanyahu, who uses the “Strong Horse” theory, first set out by the Medieval Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun about the weak and the strong surviving and making alliances. Rather than researching, he lazily parrots a comment which compares Netanyahu’s speech to one of Hitler’s. Unfortunately, this lack of original thought permeates the entire article. For instance, he elects to quote Ghassan Kanafani, a terrorist and writer, whose writings reflect the simplistic dualism of the evil Zionist aggressor and the good Palestinian victim. A leading member and spokesman for the PLFP, Kanafani is believed to have masterminded together with the Japanese Red Army the Lod airport massacre in 1972 killing 26 people and injuring 80 others.
In the absence of proper research, he also falsely attributed the death of Kanafani to inspire of Palestinians to join the liberation struggle.
Kanafani is widely believed to have been killed by another terrorist, Abu Ahmed Yunis who in turn was eliminated by other PLFP terrorists. Hodgson similarly inverts the concept of children who go to Hamas vacation camps to learn how to become terrorists and Palestinian school books filled with anti-Semitism by stating that it is the Israelis who teach their children hate. Allegations of double standards, child-killing, victim blaming, dropping bombs on innocent Palestinians, silencing dissent, Zionism being anti-Semitic and allegations of racism, including the intersectional “constitutive racism” roll off his pen. All of these allegations have been debunked hundreds of time in numerous articles written by experts in the field. But another article, this time from a layperson, is just one in a continuous succession of nauseous invective.
A simple reading of Hodgson’s article should suffice to show that there is little fact in the article, and that which there is, is usually not accurate. A simple examination of the first few paragraphs is sufficient to show up a deficient and misguided ideology.
His article commences by stating that “Palestine’s history” is “long and detailed”. No detail of this history is given, thus avoiding the inconvenient intimate link between Jews and the land of Israel and Jerusalem. The simple truth is that the “long and detailed history of Palestine” has always been inter-twined with the Jews. The Jewish connection to Israel appears thorough the bible and is acknowledged by Jews, Christians and Muslims. After the ill-fated Bar Kochba rebellion in 136CE, Jerusalem was renamed Aelia Capitolina and Israel became part of Syria Palaestina. Both the names “Aelia Capitolina” and “Syria Palaestina” were introduced to try and remove the Jewish link to the land. The Ottoman Turkish Empire, probably the world’s greatest coloniser, included the biblical Israel within Greater Syria, which was an Eyalet, or province of the Empire. The name “Palestine” was not used. In fact, from the fall of Rome until the early twentieth century, the name “Palestine” was used virtually only by the Jews, who sought to return to their homeland. Only when Great Britain was granted a mandate by the League of Nations in 1922, did the name “Palestine” re-enter international discourse. The Jews referred to themselves as Palestinians until the State of Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948. The Arab occupants of Palestine (including the portion of the Palestinian mandate that Great Britain gave to the Arabs in 1922, which became known as Jordan) regarded themselves as Arabs, not as Palestinians. In February 1949, shortly after having captured the West Bank in the Independence War, King Abdullah I of Jordan banned official usage of the word “Palestinian”. Renowned historian Efraim Karshi states that the Arabs only started identifying themselves as Palestinian and making regular use of the name “Palestinian” for political identification with the land, after the Six Day War of 1967. With the strong Jewish link to the land of Palestine and the name “Palestine” and the lack of an Arab attachment to Palestine is not a convenient dialogue to raise, if you are anti-Israel.
It is far easier to gloss over history by referring to it as “long and detailed”.
Hodgson’s article then proceeds to the demonisation of Israel.
He refers to Israel as racist. To evaluate this claim objectively, it is appropriate to refer to an internationally recognised definition of racism. Defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary, racism is “a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race”. When one looks at Israeli society, there is no evidence of a reliance on the inherent superiority of a particular group of people in that society. People of all races, colour and religion are entitled to the same schooling and tertiary education, the same political and social rights. Minority grouping fill the same ranks as other groups in fields such as medicine, law (both as lawyers and as judges), big business, politics and even members of cabinet. One cannot say with any degree of honesty that Israel subscribes to, or is dependent upon, the belief that only certain people can perform specific jobs because of their inherent racial traits and capacities which made them superior to other groups of people in that society.
Hodgson’s next allegation is one of ethno-supremacy. This can be repudiated on the same grounds as his claim made in respect of racism. The aspect of ethnicity should however be addressed. In modern era, when Jews from all over the world move to Israel, no matter their background, they still all share common ethnic characteristics which were handed down by their forefathers and whose practices are found in their bible. It was no different with the earlier immigrants to and Jewish occupants of Israel. They were and are not settlers. Their ethnicity and history link them to the land. Ethnology and anthropology and other histological facts place the Jews as an indigenous population. It is actually the Arabs from the time of the Ottoman Empire that became the settler-colonialist rulers, expelling and re-admitting the indigenous occupants. Pinhas Inbari’s Review of the History of Palestine clearly identifies the genealogies of many of the Palestinian clans and tribes, showing them to have originated outside the Southern Levant. Former Hamas Minister Fathi Hammad proclaimed on television that “Personally, half my family is Egyptian. We are all like that. More than 30 families in the Gaza Strip are called Al-Masri [“Egyptian”]. Brothers, half of the Palestinians are Egyptians and the other half are Saudis.” The Jew’s ethnicity does not create a supremacy, it merely created a strong claim to the land. Be that as it may, ethnicity in Israel has not created a superior class; all citizens have equal rights. It does raise the issue as to validity of the grounds upon which the Palestinians lay claim to the land. Once again, Hodgson’s allegation doesn’t fit the internationally accepted definition.
The third allegation that Hodgson makes is that of settler-colonialism. This is a theory-nouveau, introduced and applied because the theory of colonialism didn’t quite fit the Jew-Israel paradigm. Allegations of substantial Arab colonisation of Israel only start during the Ottoman Empire period when it cannot be shown that the Jews have a single sovereign or colonising county, the colonial theory starts hitting problems.
By the addition of “settler” to colonialism, a new less problematic paradigm than the coloniser theory is created. Settler-Colonialism “seeks to replace the original population of the colonized territory with a new society of settlers” . This fits in well with the current academic trend toward a global oppressor-oppressed paradigm, which has already spawned intersectionality and critic race theory. It allows the “Israel bad, Palestine good” narrative to be placed in a settler-colonial exemplar.
The argument of settler – colonialism only works if it can be shown that the Palestinians have a better historical title to the land than the Jews. To provide substance to this position, the Palestinians have claimed that they are directly descended from the biblical Canaanites. Muslim scholar, Zakariyya Muhammad, has effectively refuted this position. He points out the critical weakness of this so-called “Canaanite ideology” is that this Canaanism cancels the assumption that Zionism is a European coloniser movement. It completely negates the “coloniser” argument. This is the same flaw that exists in the “colonial theory” – the settler, who is a settler and when does one become a settler. The anti-Israel lobby needs to rely on the Canaanist argument, but equally needs to rely on the mutually destructive Euro-Zionist coloniser argument.
The third flaw of the theory relates to the lack of Palestinian ethno-national consciousness. Karshi makes the point that these Arab occupants of Israel and the Territories, post 1967, had no common ethnic distinction other than their Arab heritage. So the settler-colonial doesn’t fit the unique Israeli situation, even with its own set of designer requirements. Intersectional academia is redefining “settler colonialist” as the modern day “Israeli settlers” but continues to ignore the history of Zionism and the development of Israel or even whether it is possible for Israel to colonise itself. This boutique-designed, secular supersessionist theory continues to mutate in order to falsely replace the account of the return of the Jewish people to its land.
Lastly, on Hodgson’s list of bald allegations is that “Israel is set on ethnic cleansing”. (note the present tense) It is a regrettable fact that the world is presently witnessing ethnic cleansing. Myanmar exterminating and/or expelling its Rohingya, Ethiopia – as I write- is ethnically cleansing its Tigray population. The rapes, deaths, brutality, destruction, expulsion, and mass-terror that attach to ethnic cleansing are terrifying viewing, if you have the stomach to watch. There can be no mistake, ethnic cleansing is one of the most graphically horrifying events of our time. Ethnic Cleansing or “the mass expulsion or killing of members of one ethnic or religious group in an area by those of another” does not embody the full barbarity of this conduct. Yet Hodgson states, apparently without qualm, and without any factual basis, that Israel is guilty of ethnic cleansing. Both the Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the Palestinian Territories have continued to be fruitful and multiplied. Israel is continually in the spotlight of hundreds of NGO’s and is the virtual headquarters of a global press, with probably more civil-rights representatives and journalists per square kilometre than anywhere else in the world. Many are hostile to Israel. Yet with all of this, there are no allegations by any of them of mass killings or mass expulsions. No front page headlines and no international reports from Human Rights Organisations. Unless Hodgson has somehow divined the intention of the Israeli government (because it’s not complex?), this can only be viewed as another perversion of the facts and another diabolical attempt to vilify Israel.
In his next paragraph, Hodgson seeks to deal with the issue of Zionism. Hodgson again provides no facts, quite irrationally, and in his “not-complex” manner, chooses to redefine Zionism. He states that Zionism has been concisely articulated in a quote from Netanyahu (whose name for some reason he chooses not mention, which in itself is strange if this is the person that you are relying on for a definition.) His definition, again, is a risible calumny. Netanyahu (without reference to context) is quoted as stating: “There is no place for the weak. The weak crumble, are slaughtered and erased from history, while the strong, for good or ill survive. The strong are respected and alliances are made with the strong and in the end peace is made with the strong.” This is an observation that one might expect find in Pliny or Cicero. Instead Hodgson seeks to demonise Netanyahu by linking the quote to Hitler. With just less lazy parroting and a little better research, he could have found this concept in the works of Ibn Khaldun. Netanyahu’s quote may articulate many things, but it certainly does not articulate Zionism – or as Hodgson has referred to it: “Israeli Zionism” (the latter being an unfamiliar animal, which Hodgson seems to imply is different from common or garden-variety Zionism).
Netanyahu’s use of the “strong horse” theory was also articulated by Yasser Arafat at a mosque in Johannesburg in May 1994. Having just concluded a historic agreement with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and acquiring self-rule for the Palestinian Territories, and while still receiving tributes from world leaders for this accomplishment, Arafat said to a vast assembly of mosque congregants:
“This agreement, I am not considering it more than the agreement which had been signed between our prophet Mohammed and Koraish, and you remember the Caliph Omar had refused this agreement and [considered] it a despicable truce.”
The incident to which Arafat referred, relates to how the then-weak Mohamed entered into an agreement with the then-strong Koraish. Once Mohamed and his followers became strong, they breached their agreement of despicable peace, slaughtered the tribe of Koraish, plunging the tribe into the forgotten annals of history, and he proceeded to conquer Mecca – just one of those instances where the weak crumbled, were slaughtered and erased from history, while the strong survived to enter into other alliances. No doubt, many devout Muslims would be rightly indignant at having this incident involving the holy prophet, described as an articulation of Zionist ideology.
Zionism is described as the national movement of the Jewish people, starting in the 19th century seeking to recreate a Jewish state in Palestine, and return the original homeland of the Jewish people, thus there seems to be little correlation with Hodgson’s allegation that Zionism is a “might makes right” ideology . Hodgson’s Zionist ideology bears no resemblance to actual Zionist ideology. Once again, Hodgson disregards accepted definitions for his own mission.
So having dealt with the first few paragraphs and found the basic foundation of the article to be faulty, disingenuous and shameful in numerous respects, one then questions the need to read the rest of the article. Nonetheless, reading the rest of the article, there is nothing new or novel. It is a substantial repetition of bias, errors. hyperbole and theories, which when applied to Israel are plain bunk.
Complex issues are not called complex for nothing. Simple answers for complex issues usually suggest that the writer has not understood the issue properly. A one-dimensional “Good Palestinian” while heaping blame and opprobrium on “Bad Israel” is not complex, but it is not true! Hodgson’s simple perception may be why no comprehensive answer to a complex question, but it certainly seems to reflect a poor understanding of the situation which he addresses.
In these nine days before Tisha B’Av, we are again focused on “sinat chinam” or baseless hatred that resulted in the destruction of the Second Beit HaMikdash. The PLO wasn’t the cause; it wasn’t around at the time. But in modern days, the PLO has imposed a death sentence on anyone who sells land to a Jew (not an Israeli, a Jew) and has stated that its’ Palestine will be a Judenrein state. It wasn’t Hamas, which also cannot claim the Temple’s destruction. Both of these organisations are external enemies that still seek the destruction of the State of Israel in their Charters. No, it was people like Jon Fish Hodgson that were responsible for the destruction of the Temple! There can be no greater demonstration of sinat chinan than a Jew who publicly denigrates Israeli, calls for its destruction with its associated ethnic cleansing and eradication of the millions of fellow Jews living in Israel, and disgracefully adds his voice to the slogan “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free!” A’le’lay li that I ever heard of you, Jon Fish Hodgson.
Shame on you, Jon Fish Hodgson!!
About the Writer:
Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.
Palestinian conflict ‘not complex’
By Jon Fish Hodgson*
The Palestinian liberation struggle against the settler colony of Israel is not confusingly “complex”‘. While Palestine’s history is long and detailed, the profound political and ethical dimensions of the so called “conflict” are plain.
It is important to say consistently Israel is a racist, ethno-supremacist, settler-colonial state set on ethnic cleansing. The Palestinian people are struggling for liberation and life. So we must act in solidarity with Palestinian struggles through international boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel.
Israel’s Zionist “might-makes-right” (“kragdadigheid”) ideology was concisely articulated by a long -standing Israeli Prime Minister in 2018:
“There is no place for the weak. The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive. The strong are respected, and alliances are made with the strong and at the end peace is made with the strong.
This recalls Hitler in 1923: “The whole of nature is a mighty struggle between strength and weakness, an eternal victory of the strong over the weak”. This is what the Israeli regime teaches its children.
The conquistadorial Zionist “flag march” two weeks ago involved Israeli children gleefully chanting: “Death to the Arabs!”
As James Baldwin pointed out: “The boys and the girls who were born during the era of the third Reich, when educated to the purposes of the third Reich, became barbarians. Last month the Israeli state and street mobs lynched Palestinians. This week ethnic cleansing continues.
The Zionist’s state’s friends and/or recent weapon trading partners include Neo-fascist Jair Bolsonaro, Victor Orban and Rodrigo Duterte, who likened himself to Hitler; and of course, the openly antisemitic Donald Trump. For Israel is still supported primarily by the US’s weapons and money as well as its vetoes and geopolitical influence. Liberation is a struggle to build counterpower, against
Zionist efforts to silence dissent are a function of Zionists’ fear of resistance – because of dissent, let alone struggle, is inspiring. Radical Palestinian liberation leader Ghassan Kanafani was assassinated in Lebanon in 1972 because he powerfully inspired others to join the Palestinian liberation struggle.
Two Years before he was murdered Kanafani unmasked questions about “conflict”, “peace talks” and “non-fighting”: “The history of the world is the history of… weak people who has (sic) a correct case fighting strong people who use their strength to exploit the weak … People usually fight for something (in context: liberation)”.
Palestine shows that in liberal politics asserts a double standard towards settlers colonialism: Colonised people are vilified and victim-blamed if they dare fight for liberation, instead of prostrating themselves as innocent and powerless victims. even this double standard is imposed in bad faith as Israel regularly murders children- on this spurious claim that Hamas (or another convenient bogeyman) is or was “wherever we dropped our bombs”.
Zionism’s “war on the truth” is evident to anyone who learns that Israel bombs schools; or learns that Israeli soldiers routinely maim “peaceful” Palestinian protesters for sport (shooting people in the feet, or legs to prevent them from playing football).
Regarding Gaza, Israeli leaders call their regular pastime “mowing the lawn” (one MP recently called for “flattening the strip”). We must deny Israel’s manipulative lie that those who resist Zionism are anti-Semitic. Jews, especially, must oppose this slander. Judaism is a complex tradition but it has long tried to teach far better behaviour. In fact, Zionism itself is anti-Semitic – as more and more Jews are o
Unsurprisingly Zionism’s constitutive racism is apparent in Israel’s oppressive treatment of Mizrahi and especially African and/or black, Jews. A fundamental insight articulated by a black Jewish philosopher Lewis Gordon, via Frantz Fanon is that ethical interaction is impossible between colonists who consider themselves as categorically superior, and colonised people whom the colonists herd into “the zone of non-being”.
Only political action led by colonised people(s) to change these political conditions will enable ethical interaction. Thus, the Palestinian liberation struggle teaches us life, as Palestinian poet-activist Rafeef Zaidah reiterates. Living towards the future requires hope: the understanding that our actions may matter, even if we can’t see how, now. We must be committed to act without guarantees.
Our actions may create ways towards a more just future. We must (re)commit to and agitate for the full international boycott of, divestment from, and sanction on Israel. This includes ending South-Africa’s annual import of R3.4 billion in Israeli goods and services, as well as more in the form of weapons.
From the river to the sea Palestine will be free.
* Jon Fish Hodgson is a Jewish South African who attended Herzlia schools from 1994-2003. He has worked in education for more than a decade.
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