Lawrence Nowosenetz

Who Guards The Guardian

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes
(Juvenal )

This age old political question was posed by a Roman writer in the 1st to 2nd century – who guards the guardians? The promotional spin on the Guardian web site says “Milllions turn to the Guardian every day for fearless independent journalism”. Clearly that does not apply to the opinion columns of The Guardian which should be billed as “Millions of beknighted misinformed ignoramuses turn to The Guardian for ideologically driven misleading bigoted opinion masquerading as legitimate journalism”.

We need only look at the opinion piece published by The Guardian (Wed 24 April 2024) entitled “We Need an Exodus from Zionism” by Naomi Klein to wonder at the mendacity and sophistry of the self described ecofeminist. Certainly she lacks credentials at the very least in Jewish history, international law and rigorous journalism to back her outrageous claims. Lets look at some of them.

“This Passover, we don’t need or want the false idol of Zionism. We want freedom from the project that commits genocide in our name”.

A false idol? Modern political Zionism has its roots in Jewish religion and history. In one fell swoop, the writer, presumably Jewish, has trashed a basic tenet of Judaism – the spiritual centrality of Zion . The Amidah, the standing prayer recited three times a day, is recited facing Jerusalem ( Zion). She has the effrontery to say

“Zionism is a false idol that has betrayed every Jewish value, including the value we place on questioning…” .

The real question is what kind of Judaism does she profess ? A disembowelled distorted and twisted Zionless version. Judaism in the world according to Ms Klein has been something akin to being hijacked by Zionism. George Orwell could not have produced a more laughable parody. Jewish and Zionist thought has always been subject to rigorous debate and dissent. Jews are highly self critical and within Zionist ranks there have always been diverse opinions, Religious Zionists, socialists, and many other shades of opinion . A intoxicated mindless herd mentality is anathema to Jewish tradition. .

She goes on to say – .

“They are enraptured by it. Drunk on it. Profaned by it”

Hyperbolic and melodramatic in equal measure to its falsity and absurdity. Any detached observer needs only to stand on the streets of major Western cities or on the campuses of the top US universities to notice the violent , aggressive and threatening pro Palestinian protestors abusing all basic standards of civility and peacefulness. We are witnessing the most uncontrolled pubic disorder and chaos by anti Israel protestors where the law enforcement authorities shave been mostly impotent to contain them. The pro Israel supporters have been law abiding peaceful and respectful of others. If anyone is enraptured, drunk or profaned, it is the disruptive, screaming and aggressive Hamas fans and the supporters of Palestine chanting murderous slogans such as “Death to Israel”, Death to the Jews”, Ïntifada now” and other inciteful and hateful conduct. This of course falls outside the radar of this self righteous peddler of Zionist hatred and libel.

She describes Zionism as a project. This is a gross trivialisation of the historic national and spiritual modern liberation movement of the Jewish people. A quest to achieve statehood and sovereignty. A profound historic movement which enjoys the support of many non Jews and of course is backed by international law which affirms the right of national self determination. Describing Zionism as a project can only be intended by the writer to demean and belittle what is recognised by international law a fully fledged and long awaited right.
Risible too , is her claim of genocide, particularly fashionable with reference to the current war in Gaza. In a recent clarification by Joan O’Donoghue, President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) when it made its Provisional Measures Order in the case brought by South Africa against alleging genocide, she confirmed that the ICJ did NOT decide that a plausible case of genocide had been made. The meaning of the ruling is widely misunderstood. It relates rather to the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case and make an interim or procedural directive that “the Palestinians had a plausible right to be protected from genocide” and that “South Africa had a right to present that in the court.” Such a finding is not definitive or of a final nature and the ultimate determination of the issue of the existence of genocide will only be made at the final hearing of the ICJ at some undetermined future date.
The refined legal reasoning of the ICJ is far more authoritative that the ill informed, emotive opinions of Ms Klein . She omits to mention at all the sober and objective assessments of the conduct of the IDF in Gaza by qualified military experts Col Richard Kemp (UK) or Major John Spencer (USA). They consider that the IDF has taken unsurpassed measures in urban warfare to avoid random and unnecessary civilian deaths. These include warning civilians of aerial attacks and urging them to evacuate to places of safety. The IDF has surpassed the standards of other armies in the world and have achieved a historically low ratio of civilian casualties to armed belligerent deaths. Hamas claims 33 000 deaths in Gaza of which Israel has accounted for 13 000 of them being combatants. In percentage terms 1.52 % of Gazans have been killed while the civilian component is 0,92% The civilian to combatant death ration in Gaza is 1.54: 1. These figures are far lower than killings in other urban conflicts.

In known genocides historically, the percentage of deaths in relation to the population are as follows:
Armenian genocide in World war 1 – 80%
The Jewish people in World War II – 67%
The Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 – 85%

(Source : The Jerusalem Post 26 April 2024 – The Death of Genocide by Eugene Korn)

There is simply no basis for an inference from the number of civilian deaths caused by the IDF bombing in Gaza that a systematic programme of ethnic cleansing is being conducted. Mass killing does not automatically constitute genocide.

It escapes Ms Klein that the claimed high number of children killed raises the question why no provision was made to protect civilians from the bombing of buildings in Gaza, This war is far from the first in which Gaza has faced aerial bombardment. Hamas as the governing authority in Gaza should surely have foreseen this and provided shelter or places safety for civilians. There certainly was no shortage of underground shelter in the maze of tunnels built by Hamas. Ms Klein and others of her ilk give Hamas a free pass despite the shocking disregard for the safety of the children of Gaza. Some (not all) Gazans support Hamas and must take responsibility for the harm which has befallen their children. Children may be innocent but their parents are not. How many Gazans protested the atrocities committed by Hamas on 7 October 2023? Not many it seems.

It is no simple matter making a finding of genocide it is an an easy matter to demonise and accuse Israel of all kinds of atrocities, including child killings . The absurdity of singling out Israel for targeting the killing of children is obvious. How do military commanders know which buildings to bomb for the express purpose of killing children ? Not even Ms Klein has suggested that death squads roam Gaza looking for children to kill. It takes a really determined hater of Israel to justify such implausible claims.

The significant requirement of intent to commit mass destruction of life in Gaza is overlooked. A crucial requirement for proving genocide is the criminal intent or mens rea as lawyers call it. The South African case in the ICJ attempted to show genocidal intent by quoting emotive rhetoric of leaders in Israel shortly after the 7 October Hamas atrocities. Even these enraged statements fall far short of any official plan or policy of ethnic cleansing in Gaza. The government and military policy is very clear and has always been to conduct war against Hamas, destroy it and rescue the hostages. An internationally recognised right of self defence.

Nor do the known genocides and atrocities of recent times in places like Syrian, Myanmar , Yemen and Sudan seem to merit the concern of Ms Klein. Rape, starvation and deaths in far greater numbers are happening there. Could it be that the perpetrators are not Zionists and thus falls outside her purview as a questioning Jew.

She says that the story of Passover itself has turned –

“ into brutalist weapons of colonial land theft , roadmaps for ethnic cleansing and genocide”.

The crude use of the term “brutalist” betrays her ignorance. Brutalism is more commonly used to describe a style of architecture rather than a form of political oppression . But that is a minor concern. Her effortless leap of logic from the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to Zionist crimes against humanity is breathtaking in its disingenuity and falsehood . Colonial land theft and ethnic cleansing are the stock in trade of the anti Israel and BDS groups. Canards that would make Mr Goebbels.envious. The discredited UN resolution “Zionism is Racism” which was revoked in 1991 by the General Assembly in 1991 has morphed into “Zionism is Colonialism” .

Contrary to Zionism being colonial, it the opposite. The story of Passover is the inspiration for the re- establishment and creation of the Jewish state: The reconstitution of the Jewish people in their historic home. Zionists fought colonialism from Roman times to the British Mandatory era. What a perversion of history to label Zionism as colonial. An indigenous people cannot be a coloniser . Clearly Ms Klein has no difficulty with this inherent contradiction.

“Zionism’s version of liberation” she claims ‘required the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and ancestral lands in the Nakba”.

A conspiracy theory with no historical justification. No part of Zionism is based on ethnic cleansing and the Declaration of independence of the State of Israel is a clear manifesto of the recognition of rights for all inhabitants who dwell within Israel. This can be contrasted with the Hamas Charter and recent utterances which indeed live up to Ms Klein’s claim of ethnic cleansing but in reverse: Islamic annihilation of the Jews in Israel. This egregious and uncontested truth seems to not diminish the anti Zionist fevour of Ms Klein. Ethnic cleansing of the Jews was the aspiration of the Palestinians and Israel’s neighbouring Arab states long before the existence of Hamas. The Palestinians (ie Arab residents of present Israel) began attacking Jews immediately after the United Nations Partition Resolution was announced in 1947. Some (not all) supported the Arab armies of invasion of Israel after the Declaration of Independence of Israel in 1948. It was declared to be a war of annihilation of the Jewish State A totally illegal and unjust war in international law. It would behove Ms Klein to face the inconvenient truth that ethnic cleansing is still the calling card of Hamas and its supporters which includes a large part of the Palestinian population.

There was never a Zionist liberation ideology or master plan to drive out the Palestinians en masse. In the 1948 War of Independence Palestinians were either driven from their homes or fled as their towns were conquered by Israel. Those that stayed have never been subjected to any form of mass eviction. Something that seems to escape the morally defective narrative of Ms Klein. It bears mentioning that when the Eastern Jews had to flee the Arab and Moslem lands in the wake of the 1948 war, no special United Nations refugee agency was created to assist them as UNRWA did and still does 75 years later for the Palestinians.

“Zionism is a false idol that equates Jewish freedom with cluster bombs that kill and maim Palestinian children” .

A bizarre juxtaposition of Zionism and cluster bombs There is no evidence at all of cluster bombs being used by the IDF to kill and main Palestinian children. Cluster bombs were used by the IDF in Lebanon in 1982 and 2006 but since the 2008 international treaty signed in Oslo which banned the use of cluster munitions, Israel has complied. Equating Zionism with use of illegal weapons on Palestinian children is reckless and demonising journalism that would fit well on the pages of Der Sturmer .

Another howler –

“Our Judaism cannot be contained by an ethnostate, for our Judaism is internationalist by nature.”

Wrong on all counts. Judaism is both particularistic and universalistic. Laws such as kosher observance by way of example are particularistic as being unique to Jews and no other religion or nation. However the moral laws of Judaism such as the idea of freedom, kindness, basic criminal law, equality of man, charity and more are universal. Judaism is internationalist in the sense that prayer and religious observance may be performed anywhere in the world. However that does not detract from the spiritual centrality of Zion; the ideal of national redemption in the land Israel as promised by G-d to our forefathers .

The Jewish people today is a nation rather than an ethnic group. Modern Israel consists of Jews of many ethnicities as well of course other nationalities and religions. If Israel is an ethnostate, so too does the entire Arab Moslem Middle East and ,parts of North Africa consist of ethnostates . Indeed the Palestinian Constitution provides that it is a state for Arab Palestinians and Islam is the official religion.

The Guardian is in dire need of quality control for the material it accepts for its opinion columns. The platitude that everyone is entitled to their own opinion is indeed true but misses the point. One is not entitled to have one’s shallow, ill informed, irrational thought and bigoted malevolent opinions foisted on readers by publication in honourable newspapers such as The Guardian. Even opinion piece should be subject to the English tradition of fair play. Gratuitous insulting, libellous and reckless content should be rejected. We the readers would like enlightened, considered, rational and factually grounded opinion please!

About the Author
Born in Pretoria Lawrence Nowosenetz obtained his BA at University of the Witwatersrand and LLB at the University of South Africa. He has been admitted as an Attorney in South Africa and as an advocate in South Africa. He practiced at the Pretoria and Johannesburg Bar and worked as a human rights and labour lawyer at the Legal Resources Centre a public interest law firm. Lawrence was Awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and completed professional internship in the USA. He was a a labour arbitrator and mediator, part time Senior Commissioner at the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) as well as a panelist at Tokiso Dispute Settlement. He was a member of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and Pretoria Chairman. He has also served as an Acting Judge of the Hight Court, South Africa. He now lives in Tel Aviv.