Citizen. Speak. Amplify.

“Essa’s writing [on BDS] is not an oxymoron, just moronic”

Editor’s note: Because we don’t ban t-shirts in our own club, we are publishing a  response to Azad Essa’s column “Like active virgins, BDS-SA’s activism is an oxymoron”. You can read the original column here, and Essa’s own response to comments he received on the column here

Azad Essa’s attack on BDS (‘Like active virgins, BDS-SA’s activism is an oxymoron’) reminds me of the observation of the late social and political commentator, Christopher Hitchens: “there are all kinds of stupid people that annoy me but what annoys me most is a lazy argument”. By SHUAIB MANJRA

Comical or callow were the first choice words to describe Azad Essa’s piece. Of course, “critique” would be a misnomer because that would entail a position carefully reflected, well-articulated and based on historical antecedents, if not theoretical prescripts. His attempt to look clever, claim a corner as a critical commentator or as a “pseudo-radical” is overridden by his puerility, purposive ignorance or wilful dishonesty. That the Daily Vox would afford such prominence to mediocrity is understandable as Essa is the executive editor of the online magazine. But why would the Daily Maverick do so?

In a sweeping condemnation of BDS-SA Essa musters all the trendy banalities he could – including “career-activism” and “hackery”. Not only that, he also arrogates to himself a constituency when he pontificates: ‘But Desai and Co must know too that we aren’t fooled’. Granted, he may be using the royal plural. In a Freudian sense Essa projects his own middle-class guilt in condemning middle-class activism as some kind of guilt-balancing act, rather than seeing it for what it substantively is: a commitment by individuals against systemic oppression and promoting human rights and socio-economic transformation. He fetters such individuals by an historical accident wherefrom they inherit their class affiliation. As a simpleton he conflates class affiliation with class consciousness.

Essa is in deserved company amongst a range of liberals and reactionaries who have levelled such attacks against progressive activists using nebulous, but loaded terms such as “career activism” or “professional activists”. The subtext characterises such activists as being self-serving, seeking out causes to prolong their careers, using the subjects of their activism as cannon fodder, and raising large amounts of money to sustain their activism or bloated salaries. Of course in the main, none of this is true.

In a world of career politicians, career marketing men and women, career lobbyists and even career journalists, why does one want to begrudge activists who get paid for what they do – albeit far less than what the market would determine and working under extremely difficult conditions. In confronting the behemoth of capitalism, political power, and its ideological and repressive apparatus, are poor communities supposed to engage these epic battles only with volunteers and amateurism? New forms of power demand new forms of resistance. We should rather celebrate our activists who take on causes to advance the cause of the oppressed and marginalised. Unlike career journalists, who write without responsibility or self-censor to protect their careers.

BDS Virgin Active t-shirt saga [screenshot]

Essa works up a major sweat about BDS-SA coordinator, Muhammed Desai, exercising his option to a Virgin Active membership. For Essa that is too middle-class for a strugglista – who by Essa’s definition should only be exercising working class options. No bourgeois accoutrements accepted (or is it excepted) in Essa’s world. No to temples of capitalism: Virgin Active, Cavendish Square, Sandton Mall, Gateway or even Truth Café. For him it’s probably spaza shops and township culture which pass as working-class proclivities. Many of the most radical and principled activists find no contradiction in visiting such places, unlike the ascetic Essa who harbours juvenile conceptions of progressive politics.

In a wonderful essay titled Gramsci and Us, published in Marxism Today in 1987, Stuart Hall characterises this dilemma in the light of Thatcherism; the relevance is evident if we transpose capitalism for Thatcherism:

“It really is puzzling to say, in any simple way, whom Thatcherism represents. Here is the perplexing phenomenon of a petty-bourgeois ideology which ‘represents’, and is helping to reconstruct, both national and international capital. In the course of “representing” corporate capital, however, it wins the consent of very substantial sections of the subordinate and dominated classes. What is the nature of this ideology which can inscribe such a vast range of different positions and interests in it, and which seems to represent a little bit of everybody — including most of the readers of this essay! For, make no mistake, a tiny bit of all of us is also somewhere inside the Thatcherite project. Of course, we’re all 100% committed. But every now and then — Saturday mornings, perhaps, just before the demonstration — we go to Sainsbury’s and we’re just a tiny bit of a Thatcherite subject.”

The Daily Vox executive editor’s gripe with middle-class activists and activism is not a new phenomenon. Historically those who consider themselves true revolutionaries have suffered such infantile disorders, described as such by none other than that other middle-class activist Vladimir Lenin, who was inspired by another middle-class theoretician, Karl Marx. Part of Lenin’s critique was targeted against those who criticised collaboration with those who they considered to the political right of them, or participation in what they termed bourgeois institutions such as parliament (where ironically workers were in some case voting for right wing parties). The point is that only those not involved in struggle engage in such irrelevant semantics or as that other famous middle-class revolutionary, Leon Trotsky characterised it: “These creatures are very much inclined to spout ultra-radical phrases beneath which is concealed a wretched and contemptible fatalism.”

Commitment to real change requires a broad progressive vision; defining and realising the aims and objectives of political struggle, working out a clear plan for the most effective strategy and tactics, forming broad coalitions with a range of constituencies to advance this struggle, and recruiting activists who have a certain consciousness, commitment and ability to collaborate within a collective. Of course some of these are developed within the crucible of struggle. The class extraction of individuals is meaningless – as conscious and committed activists hailing from the middle-classes have led and participated in many, if not most progressive revolutions in the world. On the other hand there is no higher virtue to simply being working class – which has produced its own fair share of reactionaries or who are too engaged in multiple jobs eking out an existence to participate in any of these campaigns. Essa seems to be trapped in an archaic paradigm, confusing class and consciousness, and I recommend he reads Goran Therborn’s insightful exploration of the changing dynamic of class and class struggles in Class in the 21st Century, published in the New Left Review (2012).

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RELATED: Like active virgins, BDS-SA’s activism is an oxymoron 
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Political and human rights struggles are a struggle for hegemony – challenging the narrative, the assumptions, and importantly the power that is both concentrated and diffused throughout society – and I daresay throughout the world. The site of this struggle is manifold and multi-levelled, depending on objective conditions –and may include Virgin Active or Woolworths. To assume that this is a one trick pony is a false analysis about the nature of power and consequently the nature of resistance. Anyone engaged in political struggle would understand that it is not a linear process that takes you from one point to the next, without deviations, contradictory impulses, strategic and tactical blunders, successes and failures, and incidents of indiscipline among your ranks. These are part of the dialectic of struggle. But only those disengaged from the dynamics of struggles would remain untainted and can preach any sense of puritanism or self-righteousness. In fact some use their self-righteousness to disengage from the very struggles they pay lip service to.

This is pithily expressed by, ironically a bourgeois President, Theodore Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Politics after all is the art of the possible. In deciding tactics struggles are always going to be selective based on practical considerations, the ability to mobilise people, the odds of victory and the impact factor. Universal struggles begin with selective and local struggles. No movement can take on countless struggles without diluting its focus and effectiveness. Of course any struggle must ensure popular participation and participatory democracy.

Moving on from his obsession with class, Essa then inveighs about the limitations of this middle-class agenda with a sweeping statement: “Why is an understanding of systemic oppression and a true commitment to political change so limited in middle-class activist circles’ he asks. The question says more about the groups within which Essa fraternises then about actual activists committed to such struggles. The activists that I work with combine political clarity, a superb strategic sense and an amazing sense of commitment, combined with an empowering ethic.

Let me provide a simple example: in the quest for safety, security, sanitation, housing and basic services for people living in Khayelitsha, would the cause be advanced any better if we stand on our soap boxes and condemn capitalism and call for a socialist society? What really advances the peoples cause is utilising the instruments available to ensure democratic participation in budgeting processes, for example, and using legal instruments, popular mobilisation and local empowerment to achieve a better quality of life for all citizens and holding the government to account on its constitutional obligations. That does not mean that we do not understand the fact that both capitalism and apartheid have given rise to this skewed social geography and the reproduction of poverty. These platforms are used to build social movements which will elevate, enhance and upscale our struggle based on organic leadership.

So on what basis does Essa assume that BDS-SA lacks a commitment to ending systemic oppression? BDS-SA is one among a few of pro-Palestinian advocacy groups, that does not have a membership, but draws its activists from a range of progressive organisations who are committed to local and international struggles and in transforming society. BDS-SA works in alliance with a number of progressive forces including trade unions, political organisations, progressive churches, and civil society groupings including COSATU, the ANCYL, YCL and COSAS. While we may not agree with the current state of these organisations we cannot discount their organic and progressive roots.

Essa’s third gripe concerns the merits of boycotting Woolworths. Of course this is a vexed issue. However it is a democratic decision arrived at by a broad coalition of Palestinian solidarity organisations after much discussion and debate. The decision is one based on an underlying logic, which Essa may be ignorant of. One can certainly question its merits, but it behooves activists and other constituents to advance leadership decisions. Without that any struggle will lack focus, coherence, leadership and impact; it will become a free for all and defeat the campaign and dent the broader struggle. That is not to suggest in any way that any strategy or tactics are not open to critique and discussion provided they are done within the appropriate avenues in an honest and engaged way – not sniping in a conceited, churlish and condescending way.

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RELATED: Pretzels, pomegranates and figs: a Zionist conspiracy 

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Woolworths may well have been an easy target compared to other large retailers. However a focused campaign cannot overwhelm itself by taking on too many targets at the same time. Paradoxically the very reasons Essa cites for Woolworths as not being an ideal target, actually makes it one. The reputational damage and disruption that Woolworths faced for procuring such a small part of their merchandise from Israel makes one think whether it was worth their while stocking such products. It tests the credibility of such companies who are wont to project an image of fair-trade, ethical practice and respect for human rights. Woolworths failed that test. Woolworths are obviously in a Gordian Knot: giving in to one constituency would only encourage others, they would argue in their boardrooms; and placating the pro-Palestinian constituency would alienate a large section of their affluent Zionist customer and shareholder base.

However, by simply focusing on one issue Essa misses the bigger picture. In political struggle, victory is not defined simply by achieving the set objective; in fact in some cases it is anticipated that victory would not be immediate, with the realisation that this would be a war of attrition. Boycotts against companies doing business with the Apartheid state in South Africa took decades to be effective. Admittedly the objective is to use these non-violent initiatives to pressure Woolworths to stop supporting Israeli companies and those who benefit from the occupation, in order to weaken the Israeli economy and strip it of any moral veneer. This would hopefully create the necessary pressure to force the recalcitrant Zionist State to ensure justice, restitution and human rights to Palestinians.

However there are constant and significant victories along the way, which we cannot ignore. This campaign has caught the public imagination and has created a specific narrative that has gone far beyond traditional constituencies. BDS has embedded itself significantly in the South African lexicon and in people’s conscience. Secondly it created a consciousness among many where none previously existed. Furthermore it serves as a passive mode of activism for many who lack the appetite for more vigorous activity. It mobilised a new cadre of activists who have played an important part in building the movement.

Woolworths Somerset Mall [Wikimedia]

BDS tested its ability to launch, motivate and sustain this campaign. The role of social media in this campaign gripped the public imagination – particularly the Pharrell Williams spoofs. Importantly, The campaign created a consciousness regarding ethical shopping among communities; and last but certainly not least it changed shopping patterns among middle-class households, who sought out alternate sources of product, and in many cases procured them from smaller shops, hawkers, and street traders – doing exactly what Essa seems to encourage. I speak from personal experience. Furthermore, the action against Woolworths would force circumspection among other companies supporting Israel. Another significant victory cannot be ignored: Woolworths has unequivocally stated that they do not procure products from the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

In one of those statements that at first glance sound profound, but on closer inspection is pure nonsense, Essa claims that the Woolworths boycott is “exclusionary by nature because it has no chance of becoming universal”. Boycotting any specific store or product is going to be exclusionary; in fact boycotting Israeli products (Ahava or Soda Stream for example) is exclusionary since few people can afford to purchase them. If you shop at store A or use product B, then boycotting them would be exclusionary to those who stop at store X and use product Y. Universality is achieved by creating a consciousness towards ethical shopping and fair-trade including boycotting all Israeli products and institutions. Of course one cannot argue against the need for creating a popular and grassroots momentum for the campaign.

Ironically Essa’s paper the Daily Vox is exclusionary by its nature because of its language and content and is only accessible to middle-classes with internet access. In another contradictory impulse, while decrying the BDS boycott of Woolworths, Essa suggests action against Cape Union Mart and G4S. Cape Union Mart of course is a far more niche store than Woolworths and G4S generally protects the wealthy and their corporate assets: would boycotting them not also be exclusionary? Perhaps he is ignorant of the fact that BDS-SA has already issued a statement on the Cape Union Mart issue indicating that they are evaluating the principles regarding a boycott, and has long and successfully campaigned against G4S, including pressuring government institutions to exclude them from tenders.

I agree entirely with Camalita Naicker, whom Essa quotes at length, when she says that solidarity with Palestinians “must be rooted in the principles of equality, justice and freedom … in non-racialism, and in solidarity with all people especially people who face oppression every day”. These principles are essential if our politics is to be driven by ideas, ideology and idealism – not by the politics of partisanship and identity. But her sweeping statement that BDS-SA does not conform to those principles is simply unsustainable, even if Essa chooses to quote her as an authoritative voice.

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RELATED: Pigs’ heads in Woolies: Cosas’s piss-poor shock tactics

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Furthermore the canard of anti-Semitism that detractors seems to attach to BDS, by both its adversaries and its critics is disconcerting. I believe that there is no evidence of any embedded anti-Semitism within BDS-SA despite condemnable actions by individuals hailing from other fraternal organisations (the ANCYL and COSAS) in putting a pigs head in the food section at Woolworths (in the halaal section, by the way) or using the slogan “Dubula e juda” at Wits. These actions should be unequivocally condemned as being in bad taste and insulting to Jews and others – but I need to be convinced that they are reflective of a broad anti-Semitism – no less than the slogan “Shoot the boer” is reflective of widespread racism within the ANCYL. Others have argued otherwise and I am respectful of their positions.

Another wanton red-herring thrown at Palestinian solidarity is what-about-ery: what about this struggle, why don’t you take on this struggle, or issue a statement on this. No other struggle has had to endure as much what-about-ery as the Palestinian one – simply because it is a convenient distraction. Why can’t we simply engage the Palestinian struggle on its own merits as one of self-determination and enforcement of their national rights?

There is much more in Essa’s piece that is either patently erroneous or simply irksome, but without getting personal I will conclude with the telling words, ironically of another revolutionary Marx – Groucho – who said: “He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot but don’t let that fool you. He really is an idiot.” That fits in perfectly with Christopher Hitchens abhorrence of the lazy argument.

Shuaib Manjra is a social activist involved in a range of NGOs. He writes in his personal capacity.

– Featured image: by Ra’eesa Pather, image of Woolworths store at Somerset West: via Wikimedia Commons, additional image: screenshot of Muhammad Desai at Virgin Active gym
35 Comments
  1. Fatima Gabru says

    A well-written criticism of an article that was poorly researched and arrogantly written. Azad Essa would do well to actually take part in some activism (working or middle-class) beyond his laptop.

    1. Ana says

      I dont know hey, seems like you smoking something. Im with Aasia on this one. Well written with no point.

  2. Aasia
    Aasia says

    I learnt nothing by this piece. Well worded and flowery at best. But not much learnt. Herein lies my issue with these academic critics who slight because they can. You miss the whole point. Bds remains a middle class playground who chooses its fights poorly and would rather try to dismantle the writer theb address the criticisms leveled at it. Well done on fancy shmancy article.

    1. edris hlongwane says

      Aasia you will go far in life. Its good to praise the boss! You do work for The Daily Vox? You should join Iqbal Surve’s Independent Group – he like people singing his praises.

      1. Aasia
        Aasia says

        Yessis Edris, I didn’t lie about what I do. I could have responded anonymously. but hey. That article is wordporn, regardless of who my “boss is”

  3. Moosa says

    There were some problems with Azad’s pieces on BDS-SA but no one has yet to really address them. And this was really a weak response. What a lot of a word porn and im left so dissatisfied. Shuaib himself sounds very confused and also seems like one of those career activist, who goes to a protest because all his friends are there. I really don’t think this BDS-SA crew know what they doing if this is their defense!

    1. Ana says

      So why dont you tell us what was wrong with essa’s article inn the first place?

  4. edris hlongwane says

    Essa’s article lacked logical argumentation; it was half baked; faulty reasoning; host of contradictions and plainly stupid. if one reads his so called satire on daily vox, one realizes immediately that he is still a juvenile trying to box in the heavyweight division.

    manjra has landed a knock out blow – but then that was easy because it was a mismatch in the first place.

  5. Nadine says

    I didn’t understand Essa’s piece, and I certainly don’t understand this one. Wish South Africans would get more heated about their own issues rather than Palestine!

  6. nadya petersen says

    Since so many seem confused by this correspondence, this is a good summary on a discussion list that I am part of:

    Dear Comrades,

    For want of a better phrase, the recent adolescent muttering masquerading as an opinion piece by Azad Essa (Daily Vox) attempting to trivialise the work of BDS and the erudite deconstruction thereof in a detailed riposte by Shuaib Manjra touched on some of fundamental issues facing the solidarity movement against Israeli Apartheid.

    For some who may be less informed of the subtleties and nuances of the issues underpinning the Palestinian solidarity movement, it is worth re-visiting the perspectives articulated by Essa and in Manjra’s response.

    Essa’s points of contention may be summarized thus:

    * His starting point is that the ‘South African chapter of the global BDS movement is little more than a joke’.

    * The BDS-SA boycott of Woolworths is ‘the all-in-one lazy man’s dream world’ without any internal logic but rather a product of ‘middle-class activism …. about winning political points’.

    *Muhammad Desai being kicked out of Virgin Active Gym is evidence of a ‘disconnect of BDS-SA from a project of radical love for Palestinians, or indeed all marginalized people’

    *BDS-SA should rather act against Cape Union Mart and G4S.

    *There is no radicalism to BDS-SA but rather ‘top-down hackery that rest on, at worst career-activism, and at best, selective activism’. *The constant thread running through his article is a criticism of middle-class activism.

    *That a ‘radical BDS-SA should be highly ethical, principled and be categorically rooted in the economic and political struggles of this country. It would go out of its way to root out anti-Semitism even as it fights Zionism..’.

    In essence, his target is BDS-SA as a middle-class hobby, with a lack of radicalism, without organic roots in local struggles, with poor strategic sense and a lack of principles.

    Manjra countered thus:

    * A challenge to Essa’s aversion to middle-class activism, what he terms ‘career-activism’ and his antiquated notions of class.

    * In situating the framework of the strategy for BDS-SA, he broadly sketches an approach to political struggle and then challenge Essa’s assertion that BDS-SA is not rooted in local struggles

    * The Woolworths boycott is afforded significant attention and victories achieved that are not apparent when one only looks at a single end-point (as Essa does).

    * In is article, Essa misrepresented the long-standing BDS approach to G4S and Cape Union Mart and Manjra’s response would have served his (Essa’s) edification on these particular issues.

    *Some of the contradictions in Essa’s approach were also highlighted.

    In summary, Manjra challenges the notion that BDS-SA is unprincipled, that it does not take anti-Semitism seriously, and ‘what-about-ery’ that is the hallmark of critics of the Palestinian solidarity movement.

    If one followed the subsequent exchanges on Twitter, especially noting Essa’s choice of intemperate lexicon, it is quite apparent that Essa appears averse to a critique of his online posts.

    But the acid test came later … when one Ejaz Khan of Radio Islam invited both Essa and Manjra to a live radio debate on the merits of the issues at hand. Essa declined the invite ostensibly because of “other commitments” but curiously offers no alternative date/time for such a debate to take place. It begs the question: why? … is it more comfortable merely to post online without the responsibility of having to answer your critics? or is this a new breed of bloggers/cyber journos/social critics who prefer the pleasure of playing with themselves? (no pun intended) ….

    Below, for your reference and information, I’ve copied the invite by Ejaz Khan to a Iive radio debate to both Essa and Manjra … notice who recoils from the challenge. Makes you think … doesn’t it? Cometh the hour …. where is the man?

    Regards,

    Nadya

    1. Azad Essa
      Azad Essa says

      Dear Nadya, I said was on assignment, not “other commitments”. So if you going to quote me, do so properly. On assignment means I have better things to do and am under no obligation to change my plans to pander to you or others. You act as if a 15-min radio show would have altered the discussion.

  7. nadya petersen says

    Dear Azad

    All I did was post from another site in order to clarify issues people were confused about. I cannot see why you are attacking the messenger. you sound too defensive and insecure, even in your apparent cockiness.

    I’m sure that the radio stations will give you much more time should you wish, in order to explore the issues to a greater extent.

    1. Azad Essa
      Azad Essa says

      Dear Nadya, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t your writing. Which of course makes sense why I responded to you directly. Also, for those who were confused, there was a follow-up piece that sought to clarify the misunderstandings (before Shuaib wrote his piece). You can pass on my comments + link to the relevant person if you so wish, since you are just the messenger after all.

    2. Ana says

      How can you accuse the writer of being insecure after the daily vox (which essa edits!) published this piece attacking him in the first place. Its more than what you get elsewhere!

  8. edris hlongwane says

    Azad, for your erudition, “on assignment” means, according to the Cambridge Dictionaries Online, means “doing a ​job, ​especially a ​job in which you are ​reporting ​news for a ​newspaper, ​television ​station, etc.”. You are indeed ignorant of your own profession, if what you do can be called that.

    You are just another tiny, shallow, loud mouth who runs away from his own infantile convictions. You are the archetypal arm chair critic who lacks a spine when challenged.

    You shame the Daily Vox with your juvenile rantings. Do us a favour and fire yourself from the Daily Vox.

    1. Azad Essa
      Azad Essa says

      Edris, who is running? I am right here, in full name and view. Responding to comments directly. So I am not completely sure what you mean. BTW its good you have a dictionary, it will help you figure out what you are trying to say.

      1. edris hlongwane says

        So you have time to reply but are not willing to debate face to face on radio. Now if thats not running than i wonder what is? You are thick as a whale omelette!

        You are a gutless individual with not a scrap of integrity. You attack an individual like Muhammad Desai but when you are confronted you take cover online – like you are doing now. You want to respond, then phone Radio Islam and accept the debate. Or on any other radio station of your choice.

        1. Azad Essa
          Azad Essa says

          Face to face eh. Okay “Idris Hlongwane”. Ciao.

          1. edris hlongwane says

            And a typical nonsense response from you. It is no surprise that you shy away from debating Manjra. Why not debate Muhammad Desai or anyone from BDS?

            You can hide behind the veil of an online publication but it is only a matter of time when you will be challenged by your own inadequacies – shyster and intellectual coward.

            Put on some big boy pants and stand your ground and dont skulk away like a snivelling bully who gets beaten at the playground.

          2. edris hlongwane says

            And a typical nonsense response from you. It is no surprise that you shy away from debating Manjra. Why not debate Muhammad Desai or anyone from BDS?

            You can hide behind the veil of an online publication but it is only a matter of time when you will be challenged by your own inadequacies – shyster and intellectual coward.

            Put on some big boy pants and stand your ground and dont skulk away like a snivelling bully who gets beaten at the playground.

    2. Ana says

      Sounds like a personal vendetta Edris. I am pretty sure you lap up everything else azad writes about considering how fickle you Muslims are.

      1. edris hlongwane says

        Hi Ana. so nice of you to respond. Now this is an adult conversation, so move along and take your racists views to some other website. And are you some poorly paid clairvoyant who is able to see whether i read trashy stuff? if so, can you please pass me this sunday’s lotto numbers?

      2. Moosa says

        Idris, how is that an intelligent activist like you defends an argument as verbose as Shuaib’s? He quotes Christopher Hitchens – the most rabid of Islamophobes if there ever was one! I can’t for one take anyone – who quotes Hitchens – seriously, and I know you don’t too. Which makes me think: you are just performing.

        1. shuaib manjra says

          Wow Moosa – you must be really bright – since the only criticism you can label against my article is the quote from Christopher Hitchens and its ‘verbosity’.

          CH was a very bright man, despite his pandering to the neo-cons towards the end of his life. Read him, when you can stray away from only reading those you agree with, and perhaps you will learn something.

          The length of the article is meant to simply it for folks like you. Read it against and perhaps you will glean even an ounce of knowledge.

  9. nadya petersen says

    Wow Ana – that’s an Islamophobic and ignorant comment. you must be racist too. and possibly homophobic.

  10. nadya petersen says

    Edris, I think it is Azad Essa’s right to duck a debate if he wants to – and he clearly is ducking. but can we not just be polite in our discourse.

    1. edris hlongwane says

      Nadya, you are quite correct. Pardon me for my indiscretion. In future i shall be more temperate in my language and avoid using terms like idiot, clairvoyant, duck, debate and big boy pants. But instead of duck can i use the term Quayle (pronunciation similar to feathered family member) which refers to former US Vice President Dan Quayle? Now everyone knows he is a total fool!

    2. Azad Essa
      Azad Essa says

      Hello Nadya. I accepted two invitations to discuss this matter (one for TV and one radio). Both were canceled at the last moment (once by me for work-related reasons and once by the radio station for running out of time i think).

      But knowing there were many questions: I then went on to write a response to the comments/criticism/questions. here is the piece: http://www.thedailyvox.co.za/pretzels-pomegranates-and-figs-a-zionist-conspiracy/

      Since then I have written around 15 pieces (for Vox/and others) – so while fans of BDS-SA might want to talk about this issue till Kingdom, the rest of us have moved on to more important things.

      As far as I am concerned, I have already addressed most of the points that Shuaib brought up in his piece – even before he brought them up – because they were issues raised by others already. So to have a debate now will only be an attempt to satiate the trolls – who are hardly interested in real debate – as evidenced above. It is not something I will amend my schedule for.

      As I told another radio station this morning, I have no problem debating the issue again at a later stage, because this is not a topic that will go away.

      It is remarkable thing – to see trolls – how alike they are on both side of the coin. Pure bullies. Anonymity gives rise to splendid wit – but thats’ where it stops.

      Put a name/photo/ and the discussion becomes quite another.

      Thanks for your engagement.

  11. Sam says

    I must say for someone who is reassuring us that he’s not getting personal, he put a lot of effort and research into fancy words and profound quotes just to say…Azad Essa is a moron. Could have saved us readers a lot of trouble!

    I must say I was quite pro BDS and pro Woolworths boycott since June last year during the Gaza attacks. Since then BDS hasn’t accomplished much (in terms of rallying people to the cause) aside from forcing me to unlike their facebook page after realising this very important campaign has been turned into a joke. I can’t take them seriously when they are embarrassing the cause by picking on Woolworths IT systems not working, or posting pics of frogs or photoshopped rats found in Woolworths food..what does any of that have to do with Apartheid Israel?? Social media are full of impressionable users (like me) so well done BDS SA for killing the credibilty and sanctity of the message you try hard to put across. As Manjra said “any struggle must ensure popular participation”, well, my beef is that by victimising Woolworths ridiculously, for so long, BDS has just done the opposite. Slow clap.

    And as for Daily Vox existing exclusively for us middle class..what’s wrong with having the people who live fairly cushy lives being made aware of some of the issues going on around us, especially amongst a struggling population we tend to ignore or forget exist? Maybe awareness would make us complain less and start to take more responsibility for our country’s woes, I don’t know.

    1. shuaib manjra says

      Sam – no political campaign is perfect. of course unless you want to start one. I say that not to be facetious but to point to personal agency. it is just too easy to sit back and criticize and a completely different matter being at the coal-face formulating a campaign, mobilizing, executing, managing, controlling, etc.

      Get involved and improve things if you really care.

      I have no beef with middle-class activism. azad essa seems to have, so just responded to his aversion to this group being politically active.

      The merits of boycott generally, and the woolworths one specifically requires a long debate . my beef is not the criticism – it just how nasty is was, how vacuous its content and how arrogant and pontificating it sounded.

      I grew up in an era to dynamic political critique and loved it – between liberals and Marxists; within Marxist tendencies; nationalist and Marxists; islamists and conservative/traditionalists. This dialectic informed my understanding and an appreciation of critique in broader society.

      I am currently reading Steven Friedman’s book on Harold Wolpe which clearly brings through this dialectic of debate in the 70s and 80s.

      The struggle is bigger than all of us and our commitment to it should not hinge or flounder on tactical differences.

      Regards

  12. shuaib manjra says

    Dear Azad

    Having read all of your missives, I must admit the more I read, the more unconvinced I become. Here is my response to your latest attempt at a response:

    https://bullshitbasher.wordpress.com/2015/09/06/a-further-response-to-azad-essa-whose-foolishness-knows-no-bounds/

    QED.

    Shuaib Manjra

    1. Azad Essa
      Azad Essa says

      Dear Shuaib,

      This is getting rather boring.

      You do realize that it was myself and Khadija Patel that approved your article for publication on The Daily Vox. I cannot be scared of something that I approved for publication. I know you know it, because I know my colleague Khadija has told you as much. And its pretty sad that you are making me spell it out to you again, here.

      You made it clear to us that you did not represent BDS. You were an activist involved with a range of NGOs, you said. BDS have not approached us in any way to take the discussion forward, so remind us, who are you and why are you in my face? We have ushered an open invite to them. It is their call to make.

      We did give you your space to comment/all 3000+ words or so (we made an exception for you in terms of length). And of course, you can ask for further discussion, but we don’t need to listen/or be the platform for that. Neither do we need to engage you any further if we feel its a waste of our time.

      As we understand, you sent your piece to the Daily Maverick and they didn’t publish it (and I believe it was with good reason they didn’t. They are known to have higher standards than us; but seen a different way, we at The Daily Vox are heavily invested in the Palestine issue. We published your piece in the interests of transparency + debate; unlike any other news publication in the country, we have an editorial stance on the Palestine issue. We are not afraid to take a position, and we not afraid to call it as we see it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean we will be uncritical about the issues we care deeply about.

      The fancy words may have impressed the listservs, but they failed to titillate us. It’s time you took your fight elsewhere.

      For the record: I could not debate you last week (because I was traveling and on an assignment; if “busy” is a euphemism for “avoidance” for you, please don’t make your problems mine). But I won’t debate you now, at this point, even now that I am able to commit to an appointment, because Shuaib, you have nothing to say that I need to hear.

      It’s okay to agree to disagree Shuaib. There is no shame in that. But even then. you make it quite clear above in your last comment – that you don’t even necessarily disagree with my criticism of the Woolies boycott, you just think I was “nasty” in my original article. That is a remarkable admission. See, unlike you, I stand by everything I say, even how I said it.

      But sure, I will consider “the nastiness” the next time I go after something. Perhaps the next time your feelings are hurt, you can try to keep it to five words rather than 3500, and just get to the point.

      We declare comments closed for this article.

      Best,
      Azad Essa
      Exec Ed @ The Daily Vox

  13. nadya petersen says

    well put shuaib, and there is no doubt that azad is running scared. but again I implore you not to be insulting. can we not just have an honest, respectful debate.

  14. […] that when we have taken on BDS-SA previously, we were only too happy to allow its supporters to write back and label me a moron, among other things. Never mind the same author, in the comments section, as well in person, told […]

  15. […] that when we have taken on BDS-SA previously, we were only too happy to allow its supporters to write back and label me a moron, among other things. Never mind the same author, in the comments section, as well in person, told […]

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