16/05/2018 13:44 SAST | Updated 16/05/2018 13:44 SAST

Dear Zev Krengel: Speaking Out Against Atrocity Is Never Wrong

"People died, Zev – and that’s the horror here, not your hurt feelings."

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More than 50 demonstrators were killed and more than 2,500 wounded during clashes between protesters and Israeli soldiers along the border fence between Israel and Gaza. May 15 is also the day that Palestinians commemorate Nakba, to remember the estimated 700,000 Palestinians who were displaced from their homes during the formation of Israel in 1948.


I am not usually someone who is moved to comment on international politics stories. I try to keep myself out of the way. "I am a comedian, not a learned genius," I will say to myself, and I will move on, but the interview I read on Tuesday with Zev Krengel, the vice-president of South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) so upset me in its tone, callousness and utter idiocy that I thought, "Well, he took it to this stupid level, and I am already here waiting for him..."

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Zev railed against the SA government's decision to withdraw our diplomat from Israel. He was evidently extremely upset, and he gave a few reasons for that. Firstly he said that withdrawing the diplomat was grossly unfair. He said the SA government had never done something like this before, so doing it to Israel wasn't right. In fact, let me quote the exact words he used: "[I]f Muslims kill Muslims — they don't care about it. But the minute Israel does anything, they are in an absolute uproar."

With all due respect, Zev listen to yourself. Do you know what you are saying? Here, let me paraphrase: "But you have never complained about other murders. Now 'cause Israel commits a few dozen murders, you are complaining?! This is so unfair and makes us, as the local Jewish population, so sad! Israel should also be allowed to murder! What do you have against them?"

Sure, SA could be more upset about other murders — and we have often been quiet when we should have said something — but speaking out against atrocity is never wrong.

People died, Zev — and that's the horror here, not your hurt feelings. You speak about Zuma doing nothing but debate when there were tanks in the streets of Zimbabwe, and you say this as though Zuma is regarded as a moral pillar that we all look up to. Zuma was wrong not to do more — he often was. This new dispensation is correcting that.

Secondly, Zev, you said that by withdrawing our diplomat, SA will annoy a great ally of ours, "Trump's America". You said that they gave us loads of money, and will now be irritated because we spoke out against his allies. He said this will cost us in the long run in funding and donations. I don't know if you know this Zev, but Trump's America is not an ally of South Africa.

In just one short article, you first rant about how no one cares what SA thinks, then urge SA to send back our diplomat to 'help bring about peace'. These are mutually exclusive statements, Zev.

Trump's sanctions against Iran are set to hurt us right at the petrol price, and his steel and aluminium import tariffs specifically did not exclude South Africa, which he has also, remember, called a sh*thole country. He has been attacking SA economically and called us a sh*thole country, so quite honestly us hurting his feelings over this can only be viewed as happy bonus — if in fact you truly believe we will hurt his feelings, because you seem confused as to the level of our ability to be noticed.

You see, Zev, you also suggested that the move to withdraw the diplomat was utterly futile. You said we were small fry in international debate and would be doing nothing but aggravating and upsetting the local Jewish population. If that were true, why would the move upset you and them at all? If SA's stance is so impotent and insignificant, then it is neither here nor there whether we withdraw a diplomat, surely?

In just one short article, you first rant about how no one cares what SA thinks, then urge SA to send back our diplomat to "help bring about peace". These are mutually exclusive statements, Zev. Even an idiot comedian can see that. How can we help, if no one cares to hear the input we offer?

It is, however, your casual dismissal of the horror of what happened on the Gaza border that upset me most. You speak on behalf of SAJBD, and through them for an entire community, yet you basically dismiss the deaths of the Palestinians as being their own fault. Just after calling SA a "friend to terrorist organisations", you used these gut-wrenchingly cruel words: "[Y]ou want to protest against the moving of the American embassy; do the protest 1km from the border, then there'll be no loss of life."

It's clear that what you are saying to the Palestinians, is that if they had just been 1km back, out of the public eye, where they would be less effective, the Israeli military would not have shot them. By your admission, the worst thing they did was hold an effective protest. As such, their deaths are "their fault" — because they happened to be protesting just where the IDF were shooting their guns.

In all of history Zev, the ones who pulled the trigger have been to blame for the deaths. Where you should be horrified by the deaths of men, women and even babies, you are instead making excuses. You are justifying brutal deaths inflicted by Israel on people who killed absolutely no one in return. This puts you among the evilest.

How do you sleep at night, when you think murder can be justified?