Thursday, 11 April 2019

A Defiant Ronnie Kassrills Speaks at a large War on Want Meeting at SOAS Tonight


The Jewish founding member of the ANC's umkhonto we sizwe defies the Zionist attempts to close down free speech 




It was a privilege to hear the legendary Ronnie Kasrills, founding member of the ANC’s Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), speak tonight.  Ronnie was radicalised after the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre when 69 Black demonstrators were mowed down by the South African Police.
Of course this massacre, which signalled the beginning of the end of the Apartheid regime, has today been overshadowed by Israel’s murder of more than 200 unarmed demonstrators in Gaza in the past year. But whereas Sharpeville radicalised the world, in much of the West Israel war crimes have received support. Only last summer Labour Friends of Israel, which numbers among its supporters MPs Tom Watson and Emily Thornberry, openly tweeted its support for the Israeli military.

Ronnie spoke of the unanimous vote of Vienna's Council, controlled by a group of Social Democrats and Greens, to ban him from speaking at the Vienna Museum (see article below). In the end he spoke at a Turkish restaurant. Every member of the Council, including the neo-Nazi and fascist Right of the Freedom Party of Heinz Christian Strache voted to prevent Ronnie Kasrills, a Jewish member of the ANC speaking because he had the temerity to support the Palestinians.
According to a BDS Movement website, Chief Mandla Mandela, a member of parliament for the ANC and Nelson Mandela’s grandson, said of the cancellation in Vienna:
The truth cannot be silenced! We deplore the venue cancellation for the scheduled Israeli Apartheid Week event at the museum in Vienna, Austria. This type of censorship was deployed by the South African Apartheid regime and as South Africans we condemn this act of repression. We will talk against all acts of racism and apartheid. We will continue to fly the Palestinian flag and speak against Israeli apartheid, aggression and occupation from the streets if we are denied venues. We will not be silenced and I call on activists all around the world to be spurred on and continue the struggle until we end the unjust occupation and until Palestine is free. Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is an international series of events that seeks to raise awareness about Israel’s apartheid regime over the Palestinian people and build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Ronnie was based for many years in London and in a humorous talk told us of the many small meetings that he spoke to in the 1960’s from one end of the country to another in what he described as Britain’s appalling weather! Ronnie described the conservatism of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in London which looked in horror as a young Peter Hain, then Chair of the Young Liberals and newly arrived in Britain from South Africa, proposed disrupting British cricket and rugby matches involving touring sides from South Africa.
On a personal aside my first venture into politics was when I played truant from my school, the King David Jewish school in Liverpool to go on demonstrations against the Springbok Rugby team in 1970. We ran on the pitch and disrupted the games as rugby stewards threw us off. Direct action raised the issue of Apartheid such as none before had. The following year’s tour of South Africa by the English cricket team was called off.
The Boycott of South Africa sporting teams caused an immense political shock to the psychology of South Africa Whites just as the Cultural Boycott is aimed at shocking Israeli Jews out of their racist complacency.
The attempts to ban and disrupt Ronnie’s tour in Europe show the lengths to which the Zionists will go to prevent free speech on Palestine.  The ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign in Britain is not unique.  Israel and its friends are mounting an international campaign crying ‘anti-Semitism’ with the clear aim of delegitimizing and demonising the BDS campaign.
Contrary to the statement in Ronnie’s Wikipedia entry Ronnie made it clear that he is not a supporter of the 2 State Solution, which he described as an apartheid solution.
In 2001 Ronnie wrote with Max Ozinsky a statement entitled a "Declaration of Conscience by South Africans of Jewish Descent" on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It was signed by 220 Jewish South Africans amongst whom was Nadine Gordimer, a Nobel prize winner, Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro), Dennis Goldberg, who was  sentenced to life imprisonment with Nelson Mandela; and Arthur Goldreich, an escapee from Rivonia who settled in Israel but nonetheless signed the statement as well as many younger signatories who experienced detention and imprisonment in apartheid’s prisons.
At a speech on the launch of the statement in December 2001, Ronnie declared that:
What is most significant of this list of conscience is that virtually all our signatories have participated in the struggle against apartheid over the years leading to our country’s freedom in 1994.
Then as now we represented a tiny minority of whites who as a matter of conscience broke ranks with our supposed blood ties and pigmentation to protest against the brutal violation of human rights in the name of our tribe and race. Then and now we could not lend our names to the oppression of other human beings on the grounds that survival of our kith and kin was at stake, and that our unquestioning support and unity was necessary regardless of the methods used.
Then and now we saw that as morally shameful and an abrogation of the lessons of anti-Semitic persecution down the ages, and the ghastly nightmare of the Holocaust. We grew up with the question:  why had the German people remained silent at the evil being implemented in their name? The eternal answer of humanity has always been:  to remain silent in the face of evil is to condone evil. We by no means equate Hitler and Israel but Israel’s  measures to oppress the Palestinian struggle are an intolerable abuse of human rights, so we raise our voices as Jews and cry – out “Not in my name,” and we join with all those in the world demanding justice for Palestinians and peace and security for all in the Holy Land – Christians, Jews Muslims, and non-believers.
It should be no surprise that members of Austria’s neo-Nazi Freedom Party should vote to ban Ronnie Kasrills in Vienna.  It is a matter of shame that members of Vienna’s social democratic party and the Green Party held hands with fascists and neo-Nazis, all in the name of opposing ‘anti-Semitism’.
It is a situation that is becoming remarkably familiar, in Britain and the United States too.  Fascists, anti-Semites and right-wing social democrats, together with Greens like Brighton Green Phelim McCafferty all deprecate the ‘anti-Semitism’ that is involved in supporting the Palestinians and opposing Zionism.
Ronnie himself has been a strong critic of the direction the ANC has taken in its wholesale adoption of crony capitalism. In particular of former President Jacob Zuma.  He described how the Communist Party has tailed the ANC and in particular he criticised the massacre of 34 Black South African miners by the Police at Marikana.  A massacre that the Communist Party and its tame National Union of Miners has justified.
Today Ronnie supports a new Workers Party the United Front.
Tony Greenstein

Vienna museum cancels Palestine event with leader of South African anti-apartheid struggle

March 21, 2019
A Vienna museum, Volkskundemuseum, has cancelled an Israeli Apartheid Week event where former minister in Nelson Mandela’s government Ronnie Kasrils was scheduled to speak
Ronnie Kasrils: South African anti-apartheid leader and former Government Minister
March 21, 2019 —  A Vienna museum, Volkskundemuseum, has cancelled an event on Palestinian rights where former minister in Nelson Mandela’s government Ronnie Kasrils was scheduled to speak (Video by Ronnie Kasrils). Kasrils is a renowned South African anti-apartheid activist of Jewish descent, and his address was scheduled for the March 29 event as part of the annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW). Human rights advocates immediately condemned the cancellation, and called for the event to be reinstated.
The museum caved to pressure from Austria’s Israel lobby. The cancellation comes amid Israel’s ongoing repression of the peaceful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights. Two IAW events scheduled in France this week were also canceled.
More than 80 IAW events in 40 cities across Europe, North America and Palestine have been scheduled to date. With events still to be finalized in Asia, Africa and Latin America, IAW is expected to be held in more than 200 cities worldwide this year.
The organizers of the event, BDS Austria, were informed that the Museum canceled the event because the Vienna City Council adopted a resolution in June 2018 not to cooperate with the BDS movement. Anti-BDS measures being promoted at the local and national level in Europe, prompted by Israel’s far-right government, aim to stifle freedom of speech and silence debate on Palestinian rights.  
Ronnie Kasrils said:
I strongly condemn the Vienna museum’s cancellation of a public meeting I was to speak at for Israeli Apartheid Week. Exactly 59 years ago today the Sharpeville massacre took place, compelling me to stand up for human rights in my country, following in the footsteps of Chief Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela. As a result I was banned by South Africa’s apartheid government from attending meetings, and anything I said could not be published. How disgraceful that, despite the lessons of our struggle against apartheid and racism, such intolerance continues to this day, stifling freedom of speech and association.
The Vienna Museum should welcome Israeli Apartheid Week, and discussion of the anti-racist Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality. BDS is a peaceful form of applying pressure to encourage the Israeli government to abide by innumerable United Nations resolutions. Exactly that kind of pressure led to the demise of apartheid in South Africa.
A spokesperson for event organizer BDS Austria said:
We are not surprised by the Vienna City Council’s repression or their growing relations with Israel’s apartheid regime. They are silencing democratic debate and criminalizing all human rights groups, even Jewish ones, that are in solidarity with Palestine. Palestinian academic Edward Said was invited to Vienna shortly before his death and then disinvited due to the Israel lobby’s pressure. We will not be intimidated by this. We remember Edward Said’s words: It is a just cause, a noble idea, a moral quest for equality and human rights.
Chief Mandla Mandela, ANC Member of Parliament and Nelson Mandela’s grandson said:
The truth cannot be silenced! We deplore the venue cancellation for the scheduled Israeli Apartheid Week event at the museum in Vienna, Austria. This type of censorship was deployed by the South African Apartheid regime and as South Africans we condemn this act of repression. We will talk against all acts of racism and apartheid. We will continue to fly the Palestinian flag and speak against Israeli apartheid, aggression and occupation from the streets if we are denied venues. We will not be silenced and I call on activists all around the world to be spurred on and continue the struggle until we end the unjust occupation and until Palestine is free.
The German organization Jüdische Stimme, Jewish Voice for a Just Peace, recently awarded a peace prize in Germany, said:
As a Jewish organisation we face, worriedly, the criminalisation of voices in defense of Palestinian rights all round the world. This pressure is even greater in German speaking countries where growing alliances with the Israeli state and its narrative, undermine all other voices, including Jewish ones, which dare to criticise Israel’s racist policies. We sent a letter to the museum director when we learned that the event was threatened with cancelation. We are appalled that this cancelation was announced, and call again for the event to go forward.
In Paris, only two days before a planned IAW event on March 20, the University Sciences Po emailed the student organizers informing them their event had been banned. L’Intersection, the anti-racist group organising the event with Palestinian speaker Rania Madi, condemned this cancelation, as did Rania Madi. An IAW event scheduled for March 22 in Montpelier, France was also canceled.
The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. It leads and supports the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for Palestinian rights. 

I fought South African apartheid. I see the same brutal policies in Israel

I was shut down in South Africa for speaking out, and I’m disturbed that the same is happening to critics of Israel now
 Ronnie Kasrils was a leading member of the African National Congress during the apartheid era and former government minister
‘Benjamin Netanyahu said recently: ‘Israel is not a state of all its citizens … Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and them alone.’ Photograph: Amir Levy/Getty Images
As a Jewish South African anti-apartheid activist I look with horror on the far-right shift in Israel ahead of this month’s elections, and the impact in the Palestinian territories and worldwide.
Israel’s repression of Palestinian citizens, African refugees and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza has become more brutal over time. Ethnic cleansing, land seizure, home demolition, military occupation, bombing of Gaza and international law violations led Archbishop Tutu to declare that the treatment of Palestinians reminded him of apartheid, only worse.
How disgraceful that, despite the lessons of our struggle against racism, such intolerance continues to this day
I’m also deeply disturbed that critics of Israel’s brutal policies are frequently threatened with repression of their freedom of speech, a reality I’ve now experienced at first hand. Last week, a public meeting in Vienna where I was scheduled to speak in support of Palestinian freedom, as part of the global Israeli Apartheid Week, was cancelled by the museum hosting the event – under pressure from Vienna’s city council, which opposes the international movement to divest from Israel.
South Africa’s apartheid government banned me for life from attending meetings. Nothing I said could be published, because I stood up against apartheid. How disgraceful that, despite the lessons of our struggle against racism, such intolerance continues to this day, stifling free speech on Palestine.
During the South African struggle, we were accused of following a communist agenda, but smears didn’t deflect us. Today, Israel’s propaganda follows a similar route, repeated by its supporters – conflating opposition to Israel with antisemitism. This must be resisted.
A growing number of Jews worldwide are taking positions opposing Israel’s policies. Many younger Jews are supporting the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a peaceful mobilisation inspired by the movement that helped to end apartheid in South Africa.
The parallels with South Africa are many. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, recently said: “Israel is not a state of all its citizens … Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and them alone.”
Similar racist utterances were common in apartheid South Africa. We argued that a just peace could be reached, and that white people would find security only in a unitary, non-racist, democratic society after ending the oppression of black South Africans and providing freedom and equality for all.
By contrast, Netanyahu’s Likud is desperately courting extremist parties, and abandoning any pretext of negotiating with the Palestinians. His plan to bring an extremist settler party and Kahanist terrorist party into his governing coalition is obscene. His most serious opponent is a general accused of war crimes in Gaza. As long as a repressive apartheid-like regime rules, things will only worsen for Palestinians and Israelis too.
The anti-apartheid movement grew over three decades, in concert with the liberation struggle of South Africa’s people, to make a decisive difference in toppling the racist regime. Europeans refused to buy apartheid fruit; there were sports boycotts; dockworkers from Liverpool to Melbourne refused to handle South African cargo; an academic boycott turned universities into apartheid-free zones; and arms sanctions helped to shift the balance against South Africa’s military.
As the movement developed and UN resolutions isolated Pretoria’s regime, pressure mounted on trading partners and supportive governments. The US Congress’s historic adoption of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act (1986) was a major turning point. When the Chase and Barclays banks closed in South Africa and withdrew their lines of credit, the battle was well-nigh over.
This required huge organisational effort, grassroots mobilisation and education. Similar elements characterise today’s BDS movement to isolate apartheid-like Israel.
Every step is important – pressing institutions and corporations that are complicit in Israel’s crimes and supporting Palestinians in their struggle for liberation. This is not about destroying Israel and its people but about working for a just solution, as we did in South Africa.
It is the duty of supporters of justice worldwide to mobilise in solidarity with Palestinians to help usher in an era of freedom.
Ronnie Kasrils is a former South African government minister, and was a leading member of the African National Congress during the apartheid era

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