Ed Ryan Lecture on Israel Held On Campus

Micah Preston, Features Editor

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Benjamin Pogrund was brought up in Cape Town. He began a career as a journalist in 1958, writing for the Rand Daily Mail in Johannesburg, where he eventually became deputy-editor. The Rand Daily Mail was the only newspaper in South Africa at that time to report on events in black South Africa townships. In the course of his work, he came to know the major players in the Apartheid struggle and gained the respect and confidence of leaders such as Nelson Mandela.
Pogrund was a reporter at the Sharpeville massacre on 21 March 1960. He was author of a 1965 series on beating and torture of black inmates and maltreatment of white political priosners. During his career reporting on apartheid in South Africa, he was put on trial several times, put in prison once, had his passport revoked and was investigated as a threat to the state by security police.” Pogrund immigrated to Israel in 1997. He settled in Jerusalem with his wife Anne, an artist. He is the founder of Yakar’s Centre for Social Concern. He was a member of the Israeli delegation to the United Nations World Conference against Racism in Durban.
Pogrund recently attended Kentucky Wesleyan College to give a speech about everything that has been going on in the Middle East, especially with the recent elections in Israel. He gave the speech in front of large crowd in Rogers Hall as he gave out important information to concerned listeners. “Living in apartheid South Africa, as I did, was easy in moral terms. Living in Israel, as I do now, is difficult,” said, pogrund.
In apartheid South Africa the choice was clear and beyond escape: It was good versus evil. Apartheid, apartness, which meant racial segregation and discrimination enforced by the white minority on the country’s black, colored and Asian peoples, was wrong and inhuman, denying freedom and stunting and destroying lives. The problem for concerned people was not merely to do the obvious thing and reject apartheid, but to decide what to do about it. That is, how far to go in opposing it against an increasingly tyrannous government: from being a passive bystander to imperiling your liberty, even life.
In Israel, the moral choices are many and complex and are a daily challenge. Each of the two main competing groups, Jews and Arabs, has right on its side, through history, land, religion, geography, and tradition. The dilemma is how to satisfy their separate demands and aspirations for a tiny piece of land. The problem is bedevilled because in the long struggle between them, neither side has always behaved well, inflicting death and destruction on the other.
Each side believes that it is in the right and each side fears and rejects the other. Jews and Arabs are a mirror image of each other: each believes that force is the only language that the
other understands; each believes that the other is trying to wipe it out. That there is some truth in these beliefs on both sides adds to the complexities. “I have had to struggle to relate the image of the pure and beautiful Zionism with which I grew up to the reality of Jewish behavior, which at times is inhumane and beyond toleration and which has grown worse with Israel’s occupation of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria and the spread of settlements, said, Pogrund.”
The ugly reality must not be denied, as some do from the standpoint that Israel can do no wrong or that it must be defended at all costs against its enemies. Anti-Semitism is certainly a factor behind some of the attacks on Israel, but it must not be overstated, as some do, as a means of counterattacking. The Holocaust is inextricably bound up with Israel’s existence, but it must not be misused, as some do, as an emotional weapon to silence genuine critics.
Thank you to all the students and faculty that came out to listen to and enjoy the speech.

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Ed Ryan Lecture on Israel Held On Campus