Friday, March 20, 2009

QPQ on YouTube

I have been using YouTube to post interviews with politicians, authors and social commentators over the last few months. Unfortunately I no longer have a dictaphone so I won't be doing any more of these for the foreseeable future. However, I thought it fitting to direct readers to Quid Pro Quo's YouTube account for the sake of posterity.

Click here to see my account. Its called QuidProQuoZA.

Here you can listen to interviews with Blade Nzimande, Helen Zille, Jeremy Gordin, Mo Shaik, Philip Dexter, Smuts Ngonyama, Dennis Davis, Mamphela Ramphele, Pippa Green and Jeremy Gordin. There are also a few video clips I took of politicians singing and dancing at various events, like the relaunch of the Democratic Aliance and the SA National Convention, the genesis of what is now known as the Congress of the People.

I initially started using YouTube as a way of bypassing the rather silly absence of an audio function on Blogger. Who would have thought that it would be so difficult to upload a simple mp3 on one's blog? I got around this little problem in five steps:

  1. Convert the audio file of the interview from .wav to .mp3
  2. Create a PowerPoint presentation with an image of the interviewee and implant the sound file in the presentation.
  3. Convert the Powerpoint presentation into a MPEG4 video.
  4. Upload this file to YouTube.
  5. Embed the code from the YouTube video into the html of my blogpost.
It sounds easy enough but it was actually a rather tedious thing to perform. But for anybody who was wondering how I did it, there it is. Another benefit of this method is that it increased the exposure of the material to YouTube users who would search for, say, "Mo Shaik", would see the 'video' then go to my site to read the interview transcript. Hopefully they would stick around and explore.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Robert Krause - Israel/Palestine: Reflections of South Africans

This article is in response to Anthony Posner's 'Freedom of Expression? Legitimate Criticism?' (9 March 2009). Both pieces form part of QPQ's ongoing dialogue that draws on the perspective of South Africans concerned with the conflict in the Middle East. For more in the series see here.

To crit is legit

By Robert Krause

In suggesting that the bulk of public criticism of Israel in South Africa falls outside the bounds of legitimate criticism, Anthony Posner relies on a number of premises. These can be divided into two groups: contentions of principle (what constitutes legitimate criticism) and factual claims (how the media covers the Israeli-Palestinian issue).

The first issue of principle is whether criticism of Zionism is legitimate. While Posner does not offer an account of what constitutes legitimate criticism of Israel, it is fair to surmise that he does not regard criticism of Israel that includes criticism of its official ideology to be legitimate. It is understandable that partisans of an ideology might want to shield their views from criticism. However in a democratic society no viewpoint should be shielded from criticism. Zionism is no exception.

Furthermore there is a clear tension between Zionism (at least in its present-day varieties) and contemporary ideals of an inclusive democracy (exemplified by the South African constitution). Whereas contemporary democracies identify themselves as belonging to all who reside in them (or at least all citizens) irrespective of ethnicity or religion, Israel defines itself as a state for a particular ethic/religious group, the Jews.

Thus while any Jew, no matter how tenuous their link to Israel, can become a citizen Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war many of whom still posses the keys to their home are still not allowed to return.

Secondly, Posner argues that it is unfair to ‘single out’ Israel when there are other states that have a track record of human rights violations. It should be a truism that regimes are to be held to the same human rights standard. Those, for example, who criticise Israeli abuses while excusing state repression by Zimbabwe or Iran are clearly hypocritical and prejudiced (though not necessarily anti-Semitic).

However the amount of oppression in the world (on the basis of gender, race, nationality etc) is so vast that demanding that one invest an equal amount of energy in opposing each injustice leads to paralysis and inaction (which suits violators of human rights rather than the oppressed).

The intensity and duration of Israeli oppression (its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is in its 42nd year) and the tensions it is fuelling between Islamic societies and the West warrant significant attention being paid to the conflict.

Posner paints a picture of a virulently anti-Zionist South African media, in which human rights concerns are mere covers for an attack on the legitimacy of Israel. The reality, I would suggest, is more nuanced. I agree with Posner that coverage of Israel in South Africa’s printed press is often critical. However criticism of Israeli policy does not automatically equate to criticism of Zionism let alone an endorsement of Israel’s destruction.

As a habitual reader of the mass circulation Cape Times, Sunday Times, Sunday Independent and Mail & Guardian, I’ve found the editorial lines to be critical of Israel’s settlement building and frequent excessive use of force (while also condemning Palestinian attacks on civilians) and supportive of a negotiated, 2-state, solution to the conflict. Of course there are many opinion pieces taking an anti-Zionist position. However, the Cape Times, for example has frequently published opinion pieces by pro-Zionist writers such as Joel Pollak and Milton Shain.

In seeking to present the South African media landscape as grotesquely anti-Israel the author launches a savage attack on the Freedom of Expression Institute (which is not the sole South African organisation committed to defending freedom of expression).

The past position of its Director of Operations in the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) together with its executive directors pro-Palestinian activism in her personal capacity is used, without further evidence, to call the institute ‘simply an adjunct to the Palestine Solidarity Committee).

A browse through their publications and press statements reveals that the institute is currently supporting the campaign against the Film and Publications board’s censorship of a film about an intersexed youth and has published books on topics such as the state of the SABC, media in the SADC region, hate speech and pornography. All in all the output of an organisation concerned with freedom of expression not a front for a pro-Palestine group.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Anthony Posner - Israel/Palestine: Reflections of South Africans

This article is a guest appearance in line with the Israel/Palestine: Reflections of South Africans series. To read more articles and contributor guidelines see here and here. The views expressed below are not shared by the author of QPQ but are published in the interest of debate.

Freedom of Expression? Legitimate Criticism?

by Anthony Posner (aka The Blacklisted Dictator)

Let me lay my cards on the Quid Pro Quo blog table. I am an anti-anti-zionist. Not quite the same as a Zionist. If I was, I'd be living in Israel and not in South Africa.

Over the past couple of years, I have in one way or another, been discussing mainly on the internet two important issues in relation to the conflict in the Middle East. The first has been how freedom of expression impinges on the debate. The second is what constitutes legitimate criticism of Israel. With regard to them both, I have been discussing it within the South African context.

My eyes were first opened when I found out that The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) was really just an adjunct to The Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC). Up until recently, its Director of Operations, Na'eem Jeenah, was also the spokesperson for The PSC.

I also found out that Jane Duncan (exec director of The FXI) had signed South African Academics Supporting the PACBI Call for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions.

When I wrote to Jane Duncan asking whether she thought that boycotting Israeli academics furthered freedom of expression, I received no reply. I also asked her which other academics the FXI believed should be boycotted. Zimbabwean? Burmese? Chinese? Iranian? Sudanese? Saudi Arabian? Syrian? etc. And, of course, this was also met by silence.

Interesting to ponder that virtually nobody in South Africa makes any fuss about The FXI's position regarding Israel and the wider Middle East. Of course if The FXI was run by The South African Zionist Federation there would be uproar from the editor of the Mail & Guardian and virtually every other main stream South African newspaper. But that is how the world works and even more so in SA.

So there is no level playing field when Israel pops up in The SA press. The framework proscribing how freedom of expression relates to the complex debate is clearly biased. Propaganda, and not proper analysis rules the day.

The South African Human Rights Delegation (SAHRD), fronted by Doron Isaacs and Nathan Geffen, has more recently forced me to consider what constitutes legitimate criticism of Israel.

Firstly , it is important to realize that the main stream media is so anti-zionist that critiques of their SAHRD views rarely see the light of day. As a result, one of the biggest obstacles confronting us is to actually debate the issues. Israel’s accusers are carte blanching 24/7 in the SA media; they can quite literally write what they like and get away with it.

Secondly, is it legitimate criticism to single Israel out for criticism and to keep silent about various Islamic regimes?

Thirdly, is it legitimate criticsm when the complex history and political dynamics in the Middle East are ignored?

Fourthly, is it legitimate criticsm when the terms “human rights”, “anti-racism”, “anti colonialist” etc are fashionably used as weapons to attack Israel’s legitimacy?

Fifthly, is it legitimate criticsm when Jews who write such criticsm know that their views will gain wider currency, because it is much harder to allege that Jewish “legitimate criticsm” of Israel may be unfair or antisemitic?

And finally, is it “legitimate criticism” when people who “legtitimately criticize” Israel are unwilling to publicly debate precisely what consitutes “legitimate criticsm” in the South African context?

With regard to my last question, I sincerely hope that I am proven wrong and that my article will provoke a detailed and interesting debate on Quid Pro Quo!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Where has the time gone?

I've been a stranger to the blogosphere for a while now. Appy-polly-logies for the muteness but I have been working as an intern in the news department at Classic FM in Joburg for about two months. I have been involved in almost the entire spectrum of radio broadcasting and news production and it has been a incredible priviledge. My duties included:

  • Writing radio news stories
  • Editing print (wire) stories for radio usage
  • Diary formulation and lead generation
  • Researching and interviewing for lead stories
  • Audio editing of sound bites.
  • Sports news writing and reading.
  • Field reporting.
  • Transferring news copy and audio to web.

Working at Classic has been an amazing experience but it has left me utterly exhausted at the end of the day (especially after hours of sitting in traffic). It is difficult to appreciate the speed with which news is produced and the effort required to present contemporary events in a fair and accurate manner until you are required to do so yourself.

So forgive me if the last thing I wanted to see upon my return home is a back-lit LCD screen.

Good news for bloggers out there is that all your ceaseless typing can pay off sometimes. Quid Pro Quo helped to get me noticed in the media world and was also a dry-run for the type of work I ended up doing in my formal journalism.

I am still working at the station as a part-time sports reader (my nerd credentials have taken a major knock). You can listen to me on 102.7 fm in the Joburg Metropolitan area or online at

I'm on at 16h30 and 17h30 tomorrow and Friday.