By Iqbal Jassat
Having read Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein’s convoluted “open letter” to Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, I’m not surprised that his defensive stance on the racist settler-colonial regime leans on an attempt to divert attention from Israel to Islam.
As absurd as it may be, it is not untoward for defenders of Israel’s Apartheid regime to do so. After all, the issue of Israel is closely linked to the issue of Islamophobia.
In his desperation and failure to find sound convincing responses to Archbishop Makgoba’s letter to the Anglican Church members in which he correctly criticized Israel, Goldstein injects a bizarre narrative implying Hamas is linked to the insurgency in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique.
Not only is it a ridiculous notion; it is entirely at odds with authentic probes undertaken by among others, Amnesty International. But facts don’t matter if your mission is to deliberately portray Mozambique’s socio-economic woes as a “religious war”.
The absurdity of Goldstein’s mischievous conflation is captured in his own words:
“In northern Mozambique, there is a religious war being waged by Ansar al-Sunna, known locally as al-Shabaab, a militant Islamist group that pledges allegiance to Islamic State and shares the same violent ideology as Hamas, both of which are funded by Iran.”
Classic Islamophobic language. “Militant Islamist”, “Violent ideology” are terms associated with Israel’s Hasbara (propaganda) programs, aimed precisely to stoke fear and alarm of Muslims.
However, it becomes more menacing. Goldstein’s misplaced argument to depict Israel’s genocidal policies as no more than a defense against “violent extremists”, ought to be an embarrassment to the office he holds.
But unashamedly his purpose is to persuade the Anglican Church that the “very same violent religious ideology drives extremists right here on our borders – and their intended victims are your Christian congregations”.
Casting Hamas as being driven by the “most violent, extreme form of Islam…” adds up to warning Archbishop Thabo Makgoba to desist from casting Israel as evil, unjust and comparable with apartheid South Africa.
Profiling Palestinian resistance movement Hamas as a “murderous ideology”, Goldstein castigates Makgoba for being on the wrong side of history and in neglect of protecting his parish…all because of “your support for Hamas”.
The attack, warning, and threat inherent in Goldstein’s open letter to Archbishop Thabo Makgoba are apart from demeaning, also insulting. Failing to address the core issues driving Palestinians to strive for freedom and justice, which are aligned with fundamental rights espoused by the Anglican Church, is a copout.
These issues arise from Israel’s incremental genocide against Palestinians. The Israeli barbarity of disproportionate military devastation caused by relentless bombings and missiles on Gaza, which is under a crippling siege by Israel as the Occupying power, is both immoral and criminal.
Any moral leader, especially one who is vested as the chief rabbi, is expected to lead the charge against Israel’s tsunami of war crimes. Failure to do so will raise questions about his ability to be a moral leader.
Having read the letter addressed by the Arch to his parish and the response by the Rabbi to him, I remain astonished that Goldstein resorts to fear-mongering instead of distancing himself from the atrocities perpetrated by Israel.
That Israel is an Apartheid State is not in dispute any longer. B’tselem, an Israeli-based human rights NGO, as well as the US-based Human Rights Watch, are two of the most recent institutions that have undertaken extensive studies to arrive at this conclusion. More importantly, HRW warns against enabling crimes arising from the apartheid regime.
Rampant injustices against Palestinians (Muslim and Christian), have been a dominant feature of Zionist colonialism for more than seven decades. From ethnic cleansing to military occupation; from dispossession to illegal land grabs; from settlements to forced expulsions; remains a deliberate pattern defining an unjust and immoral ideology underpinning the apartheid regime.
To sidestep the horror emanating from Israel and divert attention by leaning on Islamophobia, as Goldstein has attempted to do is disingenuous.
– Iqbal Jassat is an Executive Member of the South Africa-based Media Review Network. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit: www.mediareviewnet.com