The end of Zionism as we know it

Today marks five weeks since Hamas’ bloody rampage through the Israeli towns, villages and military bases surrounding the Gaza Strip. It’s Saturday, the Jewish day of rest. The streets of Tel Aviv are quiet; coffee bars are crowded but less so than normal. Couples with young kids throng the swings and slides in the park near my home.

Eighty kilometres south of here, Israeli forces have closed their stranglehold on al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest, with thousands of patients, medical staff and refugees trapped inside. The hospital’s operating theatres are dark, due to a lack of electricity, medical supplies and clean water.


Jeremy Gordin: A wordsmith with abundant personality, dry-as-ice sense of humour and a febrile intellect

Tributes pour in for the retired journalist who was murdered in his Parkview home

“So what do u think?” Jeremy Gordin messaged me last Friday night. “Did I capture Bibi and Israel in 1,300 words?”

He was referring to his Politicsweb column, published overnight, which dealt with the current turmoil over democracy in my adopted homeland.

“Yes, you did,” I replied on Saturday morning. “The space allotted to you doesn’t allow for deeper consideration of the complexities.


A big heart, a good person, and occasionally a pain in the …

Roy Isacowitz looks back over his six decades of friendship with Jeremy Gordin

 Jeremy Gordin, journalist, poet, author and long-time Politicsweb columnist, was killed at his home in Johannesburg over the weekend.

It was the summer of 1965. I was at Temple Shalom synagogue, next door to the Doll’s House on Louis Botha Avenue, which, despite its vocation, was the regular scene of Saturday night socials.


When Greater Russia Meets Greater Israel

If there’s one thing that all democratic countries and institutions appear to agree on it is that Russia ought to be comprehensively sanctioned for its invasion of Ukraine; that Putin and his housetrained oligarchs should be hit where it hurts – in their pockets, their businesses, their luxury travel, their numerous homes away from home, their football clubs, their floating palaces and so on.

All democratic countries except for one, that is.

Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem-based Holocaust memorial and research institute, is currently lobbying the US Administration to make an exception for one, pet oligarch, Chelsea Football Club owner and general oligarch-about-town Roman Abramovich, who just last week donated what has been described as “tens of millions of shekels” to the museum.


How Yitzhak Rabin Rates on the De Klerk Scale

Several readers of my previous column have asked why I made no mention of Yitzhak Rabin when writing about Israel’s need for a redemptive figure like South Africa’s F.W. de Klerk. The short answer is that it didn’t occur to me. The longer answer is given below.

In order to compare the motivations and actions of Rabin with those of De Klerk, I have identified five factors which, I believe, were essential to De Klerk’s dramatic reversal of direction in 1990 – the qualities that defined his decisive role in history.

Firstly, he came from the heart of the Afrikaner people and, for most of his life, he shared its ideological commitment to white racial domination. Had he been an Afrikaner pariah, like Breyten Breytenbach, say, his transformation would have been less dramatic and a lot less potent.


F.W. de Klerk’s Message for Israelis

Theunis Christiaan de Klerk, an ancestor of former South African president F.W. De Klerk, was hanged by the British in 1815 for his role in the so-called Slagtersnek Rebellion. Another ancestor, Lourens de Klerk, was killed by the impis of Zulu king Dingaan in 1838, one of about 100 people to die in a brutal massacre.

The former president’s grandfather fought against the British in the Boer War, one of his uncles was J.G. Strijdom, South Africa’s fifth prime minister, and his father Johannes de Klerk, was a senator representing the apartheid National Party who served as a cabinet minister for fifteen years under three prime ministers.

One of his earliest memories, F.W. wrote in his biography, was sitting on his father’s shoulders during the emotional cornerstone laying ceremony for the Vootrekker Monument (arguably South Africa’s Wailing Wall) outside Pretoria in 1938. He was three at the time.


Between Witch-Burners & Identity Zealots: The Liberal Dilemma

With witch-burners and flat-earthers on the one side and dour identity absolutists on the other, it is becoming difficult to maintain one’s moral equilibrium. Concepts and designations that I once thought immutable – left-wing, progressive, humanist – have now become porous and threatening.

The conservatives, whose myth-based self-images, fears and prejudices have led them to knowledge-denial and irrational flights of fancy, are not my concern here. Not that I doubt the danger they pose – their idiocy could well lead us to climate catastrophe and other nightmarish scenarios – but there is nothing about them that causes me to question my own values.


The Apocalyptic Peter Wilhelm

Many of us, I suspect, have been flirting with apocalyptic anxiety over the past 18 months, in the face of both the Covid pandemic and the contemporaneous worsening of the global climate. For my generation, that dual whammy has been the first real wake-up call after decades of post-WWII stability, growth and relative peace. All of a sudden, in our old age, we are having to contemplate the possibility of the end of the world.

One person who didn’t need an epidemic poke-in-the-ribs to begin concerning himself with the Apocalypse was the journalist, author and poet Peter Wilhelm – my mentor and friend – who spent the past three decades conjuring up extraordinary visions of a dystopian future and the post-apocalyptic world that might follow.


EXCLUSIVE: New Government Caps Successful Clinical Trial

The creation of a new government in Israel was the successful outcome of a clinical trial conducted over the past few months, The Kibbitzer has learned.

The trial, conducted by a wide spectrum of mental health experts, tested the efficacy and safety of social interaction methodologies and group emotional support sessions in treating patients suffering from PBSD, a rare syndrome found only in Israel.

“We weren’t certain that it would work,” Prof. Yair Lapid, the trial’s convenor, told The Kibbitzer.

“Post-Bibi Stress Disorder is a mental disorder provoked by exposure to severe Bibi trauma. Normal treatment methods have had only limited success. But I had an inkling that if PBSD sufferers spent enough time with each other, sparks would begin to fly.”

The Kibbitzer understands that the initial trial group comprised a number of severe PBSD cases – among them a former general, a former settlement leader and high-tech whizz and a former Moldovan bouncer – with others who were not suffering from PBSD but were able to empathize.

There was also a control group convened by Dr. R. Rivlin, which used the same clinical methodologies but was unsuccessful in forming a government.

“I don’t want to give the impression that PBSD has been cured,” Prof Lapid cautioned. “Many people are still vulnerable to the trauma. But I think we can say we’ve come up with a successful treatment.”



Gaza and Warsaw: The Iron Fist in Action

On a visit Tuesday to the mixed Arab-Jewish town of Acre, where Palestinian rioters had torched Jewish property the previous day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the incidents reminded him of “sights from our people’s past, and we cannot accept that.”

I understand him. When I see TV clips of Gaza going up in flames from Israeli bombardment – foreign news clips, to be clear; Israeli TV is entirely focused on Jewish suffering – I am also reminded of sights from the Jewish past.

I see the burning buildings and wailing children of the Warsaw Ghetto during the Jewish revolt of April-May 1943 – the savage, sadistic German response to a futile rebellion by desperate people who had no future and were prepared to sacrifice their lives to preserve whatever scraps remained of their own dignity.