18 March 2018


I am depressed and embarrassed to say I am Australian

  • Greg Nicolson
Home Affairs Minister Dutton is ready to accept white South African farmers before immigrants from a real war zone like Syria, rejecting doctors and engineers in favour of whites who might be able to till the land. I want to offer complexities, but I can't. The Australian minister is racist and confirmed every South African suspicion about my home country.
There are two common questions people ask when they decode my accent. They take a second and then ask me where I'm from. I pronounce Austraya as “Australia”, but still pronounce aunt as “ant” rather than “aren't”. 
Why did you come here when so many people are trying to go there?” white South Africans often ask after I tell them I'm not from New Zealand or, shudder, England. 
Isn't Australia racist? Didn't you kill all the Aboriginals?” black South Africans sometimes ask. Most people don't care or wait until the third beer before moving on from asking, “So, what do you do?”
The first question is easy. I explain how I moved to Johannesburg and stayed for both love and laziness, a love for the city and the partners I've been fortunate enough to meet, and laziness to pack up my apartment and try somewhere else.

The second, on racism, is more difficult. “Yeah,” I grimace.
I think of my family and friends in Melbourne and want to discuss the complexities of systemic racism in Australia. I want to mention those I know who are at least welcoming and the few who tirelessly fight for equality.
As many times as I want to say “not all of us”, the conclusion is the same. The idea of Australia can't be separated from racism. We preach “a fair go” but far too often think that those who don't conform to the ill-defined and crude myths of what it means to be “Australian” should “go back to where you came from”.
When Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton made his comments this week, I thought about Australians at home and abroad. We're law abiding, scared of committing minor crimes, but we grew up with an anti-authority independence, allowing us to travel the world and master planking. But we're not good listeners; we're poor public speakers. Our fragility means we become defensive when challenged and struggle to listen to an opposing argument.
Dutton said white South African farmers deserve special attention because of the hardships they face due to farm attacks and land expropriation. His department is investigating fast-tracking humanitarian or other visas to get them to Australia.
If you look at the footage and read the stories, you hear the accounts, it’s a horrific circumstance they face,” he said. “We want people who want to come here, abide by our laws, integrate into our society, work hard, not lead a life on welfare. And I think these people deserve special attention and we’re certainly applying that special attention now.”
I want to offer complexities, but I can't. He wants white people. The Australian minister is racist and confirmed every South African suspicion. 
Let them go,” laughed some of my black South African friends after hearing Dutton's comments. In 2016, Statistics SA said 26% of South Africans emigrating from the country moved to Australia, more than the UK, US and New Zealand.
Local comedian Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show in the US, has mocked white South Africans fearing political instability. “Every since our first democratic elections in 1994, Nelson Mandela was about to become president, people started panicking,” goes the joke.
There were people, you'd hear them: 'I'm leaving! I'm going to Australia. I'm going. It's been fun, Mary, but it's time to go, hey. It's time to go. They're going to take over now',” Noah says in a white woman's accent, describing what everyone has heard.
Most South Africans who moved to Australia were able to because of the money and skills they inherited from apartheid and colonial privileges. For decades, if not centuries, the best properties, jobs and education opportunities were reserved for whites.
Some white South Africans have been pushing to be accepted as refugees. There was a petition to allow whites to return to Europe. One South African was accepted as a refugee in Canada, claiming he was persecuted by blacks, before that was revoked. Another family were rejected for spreading “white-supremacist hate literature”. Supposedly, 12 South Africans have received humanitarian visas from Australia in the last five years but it's unclear who and for what.
Dutton's comments follow a sustained campaign by white interest groups bluntly trying to convince the world that the murder of white farmers in South Africa amounts to “genocide”. Groups like Afriforum, a powerful and well-funded organisation established to defend the interests of Afrikaners, have for years fought to protect local white interests.
I didn't know whether to respond when my cousin posted the article this weekend on Facebook. Is it even worth trying to explain the most complex society I have experienced to people who want to see things in black and white, to those who might have heard the names Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, but have no idea of the debates over their legacies?
I have a duty, the South African in me said, post your comment. The Australian said I should shut up, don't rock the boat. In all things discourse, I've learnt to choose the South African side. It's a country divided that has perfected controversial discussion.
The Daily Telegraph, an Australian paper owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, published a horrifying feature detailing attacks on white South African farmers. The piece described assaults, robberies, murders and rapes suffered by farmers.
Farmers feel under attack, probably because of their race; their land is about to be expropriated without compensation, and they should be granted asylum in Australia, went the thesis. It provided an insight into the minds of those who closed highways to highlight farm attacks. The piece said more about the farmers and the article's Australian audience than South Africa.
Come to Mzansi. There are a few things you learn pretty quickly. The Daily Telegraph's journalist appears to have spent so much time with Afriforum that he didn't notice black people make up the large majority of the population.
His article used scary quotes from Julius Malema and Black First, Land First, but didn't feature a single interview from a black South African. Not a farm worker, a black farm owner, a politician. Not one black South African, even though whites only account for 9% of the population here.
The brutality is almost unheard of. There should be a special allowance for people who are the victims of these crimes,” Erns Hattingh, who had moved to Sydney, was quoted as saying.
In a country so divided, you also learn that statistics are debatable. The article repeats Afriforum's figures on farm murders as fact, which fact-checking website Africa Check has consistently said are unreliable.
Dangerous crime in South Africa is a reality, one that we all live with. In Australia we might talk over a BBQ. In South Africa, a braai.
The Australian journalist took statistics cooked over a braai and made them a national topic. There's no factual basis to say white farmers face a higher crime rate than other South Africans. They might be a target for violent crime because they are isolated and are assumed to own guns, but if Australians care about crime here they can read any newspaper, any day, and learn the reality.
The unreliable data Australian pundits are using, in fact, includes black people killed on farms. The hack, Paul Toohey, either didn't bother to find out the facts or interview any black farmers or farm workers. He didn't mention whether black South African farmers are going through the same experience, or whether most South Africans according to the stats, should also qualify for humanitarian visas in Australia.
The last time Australians really cared about South Africa was during the Oscar Pistorius trial. It was weird to see them lined up, their biases on display. Tragically, such brutal killings happen every day here and white farmers are no exception.
Sympathy, for who, for what, we might say. The article mentions the coffin case, where racist white farmers forced a black victim into a coffin and threatened to set it on fire. But it was only cited as a setback for the white movement. Few farm attacks on whites involve a political or racial motive, but a simple Google search will reveal the racially motivated attacks perpetrated by whites on blacks.
Why all the focus on the article published by The Daily Telegraph? Days after it was released, a journalist from the same newspaper asked Dutton about white farmers receiving a special deal, or “jumping the queue” as Australians like to say.

 That's when Dutton embraced his racism.
They are following the Zimbabwean path,” said the Liberal Party's Bronwyn Bishop. During colonialism and apartheid whites violently took land from blacks. The democratic government, led by Nelson Mandela, committed to transferring land, still largely owned by whites, to black South Africans. Due to poor policies and failed implementation, the government failed.
Parliament recently decided to explore whether the Constitution needs an amendment to allow land expropriation to occur without compensation. A myriad political factors are involved and the issues are still being debated. What's key is that South Africa didn't seek to punish whites or seek reparations after apartheid.
Instead, it favoured “reconciliation”. White South Africans still own the majority of the land, the wealth, and on average take the top jobs. Just imagine Australia being controlled by a minority who invaded the country. How would you feel? Try telling Jewish people that the Nazis weren't so bad.
Australia's Bishop said Mandela's legacy is dead. Yet Mandela's chosen successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, is now President of the country. Unlike Zimbabwe, South Africa has legitimate elections and no leader has served beyond their mandated term. 

Corruption might be rife, but the country's institutions established to defend democracy have often proved their independence. Otherwise most of my colleagues would be in jail by now.
The issues are heated. Black and white South Africans regularly use vulgarities against each other, but the Equality Court calls both to order and takes action against hate speech, against any race.
I wonder if my Australian compatriots care or whether they remain in their zero-sum game, both left and right believing they're the champions of the world while taking far fewer refugees than most countries. Germany has survived, despite opening its borders to migrants (read: black migrants), so why can't we?
Australia has been condemned by every international agency that matters for outsourcing the processing of asylum seekers to nearby islands dependent on our funding. Dutton is ready to accept white South African farmers before immigrants from a real war zone like Syria, rejecting doctors and engineers in favour of whites who might be able to till the land.
What must I answer now? The Liberal Party might be trying to appease a certain demographic, but its stance is clearly racist. Multiple Australian governments have failed to acknowledge what they have done to indigenous nations,
Before trying to give well-off South Africans a pass, Dutton should should try to resolve the inequality between white Australians and those of the First Nations.
 He must take Australia out of its pariah status in the international community and treat asylum seekers with respect.
Australia treats black and white migrants differently. I'm going home in the next week with my black South African girlfriend. I'm scared. Will someone shout at her on the street? Where are the white racist elements who recently protested?
I feel depressed to say they're with Dutton. Like other white countries around the world, Australia will never embrace “multiculturalism” unless it means conforming to whiteness. This week makes me embarrassed to say I'm Australian.

Greg Nicolson

16 March 2018


Peter Dutton, as ever, doesn't know what he is talking about, and his racism does a great disservice to the government he is supposedly part of. I thought, in my innocence, that Julie Bishop was the foreign minister and Malcolm Turnbull was the prime minister, and it was therefore their portfolios which dictated foreign policy.

Dutton, of course, knows nothing about South Africa and its history, and why should he anyway when he is a minister in a racist apartheid state anyway.

What is pathetic is that he is offering white South African farmers a haven in Australia - many white South African and Zimbabwean (Rhodesian) farmers came to live in Australia to escape their black countries and to live in apartheid Australia anyway.

It is rather pathetic at a time in world history where there is so much upheaval and we have so much room to give people sanctuary from murderous regimes that when some of these people fleeing manage to get to Australia, this government sends them back to the countries they escaped from where they are more than likely to lose their lives, because - and wait for it - they are black, or brown, or some other colour which is not white.

Apartheid is odious, and as a South African who grew up in apartheid South Africa, lived there for 51 years, and then came to live in apartheid Australia for the last 40 years, thinking I had escaped apartheid in South Africa, only to discover it was very much alive and well and living in Australia, and now at 91 I am too old to go anywhere.

Australia being an apartheid state supports other apartheid states such as Israel, the USA, the UK and others because they have to support white regimes.

Dutton wishes to control Australia and become a petty dictator, and it is time Malcolm Turnbull shut him up. He is divisive and cruel and does harm at every turn. He needs to be removed from his position in the cabinet instead of having his portfolio going from strength to strength.

Enough is enough!

The following letters were in The Age newspaper on 16 March 2018:

Refugees: Tamils, living here as second-class citizens

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has offered to "fast track" applications from white farmers in South Africa to resettle in Australia. This seems a generous act which recognises that they are being murdered at the rate of one a week and are in danger of having their land confiscated. But how do we explain Mr Dutton's feelings for these white South Africans compared with his feelings for the darker skinned, Sri Lankan Tamils who also face deprivation of their land, torture and murder? Members of this group live as second-class citizens in Australia, in daily fear of the "KGB-style", 5am knock on their doors, and forced repatriation at the hands of our government to whatever fate awaits them.
Geraldine Moore, Bayside Refugee Advocacy & Support Association, Hampton

Illustration: Jim Pavlidis

Varying degrees of who deserves our protection

We keep asylum seekers languishing in offshore detention, turn a blind eye to Syrian refugees who are trapped in protracted unrest and fear, yet offer to fast track white, South African farmers. This is a new low for Peter Dutton and our standing as a society.
Lisa Blanch, North Balwyn

Illustration: Matt Golding

The Rohingya aren't white like the South Africans

Peter Dutton is keen to offer visas to white South African farmers who are facing violence and land seizures. What about the Rohingya farmers who also facing violence and land seizures? But they are not white, are they?
Tony Harris, Ocean Grove

Our double standard on who is an 'over stayer'

Let me get this right. A Tamil, asylum-seeking couple with two Australian-born children, residents for five years in a Queensland country town, are arrested in the dead of night and locked up to await forcible deportation, despite having received an assurance of renewed visas (Comment, 14/3). Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people on student and tourist visas "over stay" but are left in peace. It is gob-smacking. Bill Shorten, where are you?
Jill Sanguinetti, East Brunswick

Please, Minister, show us your human side for once

Dear Peter Dutton. With all respect, I must tell you that I am very worried about you. You must be extremely unhappy. Whenever you are plotting yet another drastic intervention, such as the one with the Tamil family this week, it must be so hard to sleep at night. Your actions, attitudes, and – here is that word again – values are disturbing and un-Australian. They are also inhumane. How these things must trouble you, as you reflect on the despair that you create in the lives of those who are already deeply traumatised.

I have an idea that might help you, sir. Did you know that a single act of compassion can put you in touch with your own humanity? No? Well, it really can. Many Australians yearn, indeed, pray for the day when you will try that simple thing. Just for once, show us the compassionate Peter Dutton.
Jacob de Ridder, Rosanna

Many of us will not look away from this cruelty

How did it come to this ("Family's treatment is our shame")? And who carries out these instructions from the government? Peter Dutton, how can you ask Australian citizens to behave in such cruel and insensitive ways? Thank you, Clementine Ford. We will not look away.
Geoff and Gillian Senior, Camperdown

Dutton's warped set of priorities

Peter Dutton offers white South Africans, who might lose their farms, safe haven, but blocks legitimate refugees who might lose their lives. It is good to see that he has his priorities sorted.
Jack Morris, Kennington

06 March 2018


Netanyahu’s Corruption: How Israeli Journalists Project Israel’s Crimes Onto Palestinians

In an article published in Al-Monitor without a single verifiable citation, Israeli journalist, Shlomi Eldar, went to unprecedented lengths to divert attention from the corruption in his country.

He spoke of Palestinian journalists – all speaking on condition of anonymity – who ‘applauded’ and ‘admired’ Israeli media coverage of corruption scandals surrounding the country’s rightwing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Eldar’s approach is underhanded and journalistically unsound.

The Israeli media, which has largely supported Netanyahu’s devastating wars on Gaza, continues to relentlessly defend the illegal occupation of Palestine and to serve as a shield for Israel’s stained reputation on the international stage. It is hardly praiseworthy, even if it arguably provides decent coverage for the Netanyahu investigations.

For an Israeli journalist to handpick a few Palestinians who, allegedly, praised the war crimes-apologist Israeli media is a remarkable event that surely cannot be satisfactorily addressed in anonymity.

But Eldar’s journalism aside, one would think that seeking Palestinian admiration for Israeli media should be the least urgent question to address at this time. Others are far more pressing. For example:

Is corruption among Israel’s political elite symptomatic of greater moral and other forms of corruption that have afflicted the entire society?

And, why is it that, while Netanyahu is being indicted for bri
bery, no Israeli official is ever indicted for war crimes against Palestinians?
In fact, well before Netanyahu’s corruption scandals included more serious charges – for instance, quid pro quo deals in which his advisors tried to manipulate media coverage in his favor and offering high political positions in exchange for favors – it included bribes pertaining to fancy cigars and expensive drinks.

What Israelis are trying to tell us is that, despite all of its problems, Israel is a good, transparent, law-abiding and democratic society.

This is precisely why Eldar wrote his article. The outcome was a familiar act of intellectual hubris that we have grown familiar with.

Eldar even cites a supposedly former Palestinian prisoner who told Al-Monitor that, while in prison, “we learned how the democratic election process works in Israel. The prisoners adopted the system in order to elect their leadership in a totally democratic fashion, while ensuring freedom of choice.”

Others cited their favorite Israeli journalist, some of whom have served and continue to serve as mouthpieces for official Israeli hasbara (propaganda).

Many of Israel’s friends in western governments and corporate media have also contributed to this opportunistic style of journalism; they come to the rescue when times are hard, to find ways to praise Israel and to chastise Palestinians and Arabs, even if the latter are not relevant to the discussion, whatsoever.

Who could ever forget US Senator John McCain’s criticism of his country’s torture of prisoners at the height of the so-called ‘war on terror’? His rationale was that such a war can be won without torture, because Israel ‘doesn’t torture’ and yet it is capable of combating ‘Palestinian terrorism’.

Thousands of Palestinians have been tortured, and hundreds were killed under duress in Israeli prisons, the last of whom was Yaseen Omar on the day when this article was written. Moreover, according to the Palestinians Prisoners’ Club, 60% of Palestinian children arrested by Israel are also tortured.

If Israeli media was truly honest in its depiction of Netanyahu’s corruption, it would have made a point of highlighting the extent to which corruption goes well beyond the prime minister, his wife and a few close confidantes, but this would pierce through the entire legal, political and business establishment rendering the system itself as rotten and corrupt.

Instead, the heart of the discussion is relocated somewhere else entirely. In Eldar’s article, for example, he quotes the anonymous Palestinian who speaks about how Palestinians prisoners “rejected the political systems of Arab states and opted for the one they had absorbed from the ‘Israeli enemy’.”

This Israeli obsession of diverting from the discussion is an old tactic. Whenever Israel is in the dock for whatever problem it has invited upon others or itself, it immediately fashions an Arab enemy to beat down, chastise and blame.

In the final analysis, somehow Israel maintains the upper hand and self-granted moral ascendency.

This is also why Israelis refer to their country as “the only democracy in the Middle East”. It is a defense mechanism to divert from the fact that apartheid, racially-structured political systems are inherently undemocratic. So, Israel resorts to belittling its neighbors to confirm its own self-worth.

When Israel facilitated and helped carry out the Sabra and Shatila Massacre in Lebanon in September 1982, it used the same logic to defend itself against media outrage.

The then Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, was quoted as saying “the goyim kill goyim, and they blame the Jews.” By ‘they’ he meant the media.
The bottom line is always this: Israel is blameless no matter the hideousness of the act; it is superior and more civilized, and, according to Eldar’s selective reporting, even Palestinians know it.

But where is the outrage by Eldar and his Israeli media champions as thousands of black men and women are being caged in by Israeli police, ready for deportation, for committing the mortal sin of daring to escape war in their countries and seeking refuge in Israel?

How about the millions of besieged and subjugated Palestinians living a bitter existence under an inhumane military occupation?

Should not the Israeli media be targeting the very legal and political structures in their country that makes it okay to imprison a whole nation in defiance of international and human rights law?

In some strange way, corruption is one of few things that is truly normal about Israel, for it is a shared quality with every single country in the world.

What is not normal, and should never be normalized, is that Israel is the only country in the world that continues to practice Apartheid, many years after it was disbanded in South Africa.

Israeli media would rather delay that discussion indefinitely, a cowardly act that is neither admirable nor praiseworthy.
More articles by:
Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

26 February 2018



This item comes from Chris Graham in New Matilda on 25 FEBRUARY 2018, and shows that despite the marriage equality vote last year, homophobia is alive and well and living in all parts of Australia near you.

Here's the full text of a column McCormack wrote in 1993, for a local newspaper. This guy is about to be the second most powerful leader in the country.

Dear readers,

A week never goes by anymore that homosexuals and their sordid behaviour don’t become further entrenched in society.

Unfortunately gays are here and, if the disease their unnatural acts helped spread doesn’t wipe out humanity, they’re here to stay.

On Monday hundreds of thousands of homosexuals marched through Washington in a demonstration intended to show their demands for equal rights and an end to discrimination should no longer be ignored or denied.

How can these people call for rights when they’re responsible for the greatest medical dilemma known to man — Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome?

AIDS shows no discrimination.

It claims thousands upon thousands of innocent people’s lives every year.

On the very night of the homosexuals’ march that pompous critic Stuart Littlemore on Media Watch on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation had the gall to criticise various newspaper editors across Australia for “gay bashing”.

He ridiculed them for showing some moral backbone and condemning homosexuality.

It’s just as well some newspapers are speaking up and acting as watchdogs on moral issues. If it was left up to the likes of Littlemore, heaven knows some of the all-embracing attitudes society would be told it was OK to accept.

24 February 2018


More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced

As soon as Virgin Atlantic Airlines introduced a couscous-style salad “inspired by the flavours of Palestine”, a controversy ensued. Israel’s supporters ignited a social media storm and sent many complaints to the company, obliging the airline to remove the reference to Palestine.

In the Zionist narrative, Palestine does not exist – nor is it allowed to exist – even if merely as a cultural conception.

The sad irony is that, while Israel appropriated Palestinian-Arabic couscous (the Palestinian dish, in particular, is known as ‘maftoul’), branding and marketing it in western countries as ‘Israeli couscous’, its supporters go to every extent possible to erase any reference that may validate Palestinian Arab culture, whether Muslim or Christian.

This is an old habit, an endemic practice that dates back to the destruction of nearly 600 Palestinian villages and localities in 1947-48. Palestinians refer to these earth-shattering events as the ‘Nakba’, or catastrophe. Tellingly, Israel outlaws the use of the term or the commemoration of the tragic event in any way.

From claiming Palestinian Arab culinary culture as their own, to ‘Judaized’ Arabic street names to rewriting history, Israel and its supporters are relentless.

Israel fears a Palestinian narrative because the Israeli government understands, and rightly so, that it is the collective Palestinian narrative that has compelled resistance, in all of its forms for over 70 years.

All attempts have failed, until recently.

The 1993 Oslo Accord is a critical juncture that shattered the cohesiveness of Palestinian discourse and weakened and divided the Palestinian people. However, it is not too late to remedy this through decisive and concentrated efforts that overcome the challenge of a Palestinian political viewpoint beholden to self-seeking political aspirations and competing factions.

In the absence of a Palestinian leadership populated by the Palestinian people themselves, intellectuals must safeguard and present the Palestinian story to the world with authenticity and balance. The clarity and integrity of the Palestinian story has been damaged and divided by Palestinian Authority (PA) tactics which remove Palestinian refugees’ right of return from their political platform.

Essentially, the story of Palestine is the story of the Palestinian people, for they are the victims of oppression and the main channel of Resistance, starting with the creation of Israel on the ruins of Palestinian villages. If Palestinians had not resisted, their story would have concluded right there and then and they, too, would have disappeared.

Those who admonish Palestinian Resistance, armed or otherwise, have little understanding of the psychological ramifications of resistance, such as a sense of collective empowerment and hope amongst the people. In his introduction to Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth”, Jean-Paul Sartre describes violent resistance as a process through which “a man is re-creating himself”.

And for seven decades, Palestinians have embarked on this journey of the recreation of the “self”. They have resisted, and their resistance in all forms has moulded a sense of collective unity, despite the numerous divisions that have been erected amongst them.

Relentless resistance, a notion now embodied in the very fabric of Palestinian society, denied the oppressor the opportunity to emasculate Palestinians, or to reduce them to helpless victims and hapless refugees. The collective memory of the Palestinian people must focus on what it means to be Palestinian, defining the Palestinian people, what they stand for as a nation, and why they have resisted for years.

A new articulation of the Palestinian narrative is necessary, now more than ever before. The elitist interpretation of Palestine has failed, and is as worthless as the Oslo Accords. It is no more than a tired exercise in empty clichés, aimed at sustaining American political dominance in Palestine as well as in the rest of the Middle East.

The peace process is dead, but the Palestinian people are still resisting; unsurprisingly, the people are mightier than a group of self-centred individuals. Grassroots resistance is not constrained by the frivolous politicking of PA leader, Mahmoud Abbas, or any other actors.

Abbas and his men have not only muzzled the political will of the Palestinian people and falsely claimed to represent all Palestinians, they have also robbed Palestinians of their narrative, one that actually unites the ‘fellahin’ (peasants) and the refugees, the occupied and the ‘shattat’ (diaspora), into one distinct nation.

It is only when the Palestinian intellectual is able to repossess that collective narrative that the confines placed on the Palestinian voice can be finally broken. Only then can Palestinians truly confront the Israeli Hasbara and US-Western corporate media propaganda and, at long last, speak unhindered.

But there are obstacles, leading amongst them is the ruthless attempt by Zionist historians and institutions to replace the Palestinian historical narrative with their own. The story of the Palestinian cuisine on an airline menu may appear trivial in the greater scheme of things but it is significant, nonetheless.

In the Zionist Israeli narrative, Palestinians, if relevant at all, are depicted as drifting nomads, without a culture or tradition of their own, an inconvenience that hinders the path of progress – a duplicate narrative to the one that defined the relationship between every western colonial power and the resisting natives, always.

From the Zionist point of view, Palestinian existence is an inconvenience that was meant to be only temporary. “We must expel Arabs and take their places,” wrote Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion.

Assigning the Palestinian people the role of dislocated, disinherited and nomadic people without caring about the ethical and political implications of such false representations has erroneously presented Palestinians as a docile and submissive collective, to be wiped out by those more powerful.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and Palestinian resistance is the unremitting example of the strength and resilience of the Palestinian people. Palestinian culture is rooted, like the olive trees and mountains of Galilee.

Yes, the fight has been an arduous one. Between the rock of Israeli occupation and Hasbara and the hard place of Palestinian leadership acquiescence and failure, Palestine, Palestinians and their story have been trapped and misconstrued.

It is time for us to step up. We, as Palestinian writers, historians and journalists, assume the responsibility of reinterpreting Palestinian history and internalizing and communicating Palestinian voices, so that the rest of the world can, for once, appreciate the story as told by wounded, but tenacious, victors.

More articles by:
Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

18 February 2018


The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on

Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

October 13, 2017

 Marienna Pope-Weidemann is War on Want's press officer. @MariennaPW

The women of Sikhala Sonke. Photo: Sikhala Sonke
The fatal police shooting of 37 striking workers at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine in August 2012 was the worst recorded instance of police violence in post-apartheid South Africa. Five years on, there have been no prosecutions and no real improvements – no compensation for the families living in grief and dire poverty.

There has also been no apology, although staggeringly Lonmin has created a commercial out of the incident. But as always with the Marikana story, the most important characters were left out.

A few weeks after the massacre there was another death in the community. Amidst a brutal crackdown Paulina Masuhlo, a powerful community leader, died after being shot by police. Paulina’s death helped galvanise the birth of Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana.

As well as demanding criminal prosecution for the killings and compensation for the families, Sikhala Sonke also carries forward the demands those workers died for: a living wage and dignified conditions.

We cry together

It’s anyone’s guess how Lonmin accumulated its impressive collection of corporate social responsibility awards. More than ten years after signing a legal obligation to build 5,500 homes in exchange for mining rights, the world’s third-largest platinum producer has erected just three show homes, while the families of its workers live in shacks without electricity or running water. This despite a staggering $15million loan from the International Finance Corporation solely for the social development of Marikana.

Like many killings in black communities, wherever they occur, the horror is not easily absorbed by white society. It will be a stretch for many in the UK to imagine that a British mining company would rather let employees be shot and killed than pay a fair wage. But is it any more unimaginable than cutting corners to cut costs on the Grenfell tower blocks? Or fighting wars for oil even as our dependence on them threatens millions of lives with climate chaos? It becomes clearer every day that we live in a system fuelled by the unimaginable.

Marikana might be far away, in a country very different from our own, but the struggle at the heart of Sikhala Sonke is one we should be able to identify with: the struggle of those hurt most by a powerful corporation to hold it accountable for its crimes. In Britain too, we are searching for ways to take back control of our lives and country from elite interests that see us as expendable.

The documentary Strike A Rock tells the Marikana women’s story

In August I met and talked with two of Sikhala Sonke’s leading figures, Primrose Sonti and Thumeka Magwangqana. They explained that for five years, the women of Sikhala Sonke have had to ‘fight with two hands’. With one, they fight Lonmin on behalf of their community. With the other, they have had to fight for their place within that community, to be recognised as social justice leaders by a male-dominated union movement.

Sikhala Sonke means ‘we cry together’ and the name speaks to a pain older and deeper than the massacre itself. Far from transcending the yawning inequalities of the apartheid era, South Africa has now become the most unequal country in the world. Though less than 10 percent of the population, white South Africans still control the vast majority of the nation’s wealth.

As well as being highly racialised, this inequality is also highly gendered. A third of women in poor households are survivors of gendered violence and young women are eight times more likely to be affected by HIV/AIDS. They are far more likely to be in low-paid and unpaid work, while in Marikana, the only compensation offered to grieving women is to take up the jobs of their dead in the dark labyrinth of mines, where they live under the constant threat of rape and assault. Look deeper, to where racism and patriarchy intersect, and it is black women who bear the brunt of oppression in modern South Africa and around the world.

The erasure of black women from political struggle began long before Marikana. While much is said of men who had to leave their families to work in mines and cities or resist apartheid, what is less visible is the contribution of women, both to the family and to the cause. Every dead or absent father leaves a mother to carry the family alone: a lifetime of unpaid labour alongside paid work to make ends meet. And while media coverage of the commission into the massacre cast the women of Marikana as grieving widows, that is only where their story began.

Keeping hope alive

In an economic system that sees value only in a wage, this inequality is embedded in the logic of the system. The profoundly political nature of unpaid family and movement support, without which no anti-apartheid movement in South Africa or strike in Marikana would be possible, fades into the background – along with the indispensable role played by women of colour in the movement for global justice.

Black women live each day on the intersection of racial, patriarchal and class oppression. In this much complained about ‘age of identity politics’, which is more broadly recognised amongst progressive circles in the global north, it has become ‘polite’ to concede that women of colour have a powerful role to play in movements for social change – but all too often this is mere lip service, paid in the interests of meeting diversity quotas or meant as ‘compensation’ for their experience, as though a slot on a speaking panel could redress generations of oppression.

But beneath all that is a simple truth: that like all the most painful experiences in life, oppression can be a great teacher. Being born on the intersection is not an enviable position. However, as those of us lucky enough to have learned from brave and brilliant women of colour in social justice work will know, that pain can develop into a profound sensitivity towards unjust applications of power; the sort that sneak up on those without the eyes to see them and collapse our efforts towards equality from the inside. This kind of leadership, too concerned with power over others, stifles the oxygen needed to spark real change from below.

It is from intersections like this that our most powerful stories, inspiring ideas and promising leaders emerge. Recognising that means stepping back to seed spaces for that leadership but it does not mean stepping out. Allies too have a vital role to play and the difference between recognising leadership from those most oppressed and reinforcing oppressive hierarchies by leaving them to all that labour alone, is about whether we are prepared to stay connected and above all, to listen.

Sikhala Sonke describe Lonmin and the ANC government as ‘twins’, both responsible for the situation in Marikana. And now is a vital moment because both are on thinning ice. Lonmin’s share price is at an all-time low and last year, a five-month miners’ strike forced a basic pay rise of 20 percent. Meanwhile the ANC, which has ruled South Africa since apartheid, is losing its majority as the next generation of South Africans feel they have sold out to white economic interests. It is hard to think of a place where this is clearer than Marikana.

Exploited by Lonmin and abandoned by their government, the women of Sikhala Sonke have kept the faith by refusing to abandon each other. It is that solidarity, they say, that keeps hope alive.

War on Want has partnered with Sikhala Sonke to support their work. Click here to find out more and help get the word out by joining our Thunderclap. This marks the start of a renewed campaign supporting Sikhala Sonke here in the UK. The campaign is in memory of Marikana woman Paulinah Masuhlo, who died in September 2012 after being shot by South African police.


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Preston, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm