In September, local anti-Israel activists made a presentation to the International Relations and Cooperation Portfolio Committee in Parliament. It was, predictably, an emotive and grossly selective account of how Palestinian homes were lost during the 1948 War of Independence , with SA Jewry being portrayed as the villains who established a forest over a destroyed Arab village. Last Friday a delegation from the Jewish community, led by the SAJBD, was given an opportunity of responding in the same forum. Part of this necessarily consisted of responding to some of the more blatant accusations made against Israel and our community. However, we also took the opportunity to encourage the government’s efforts to continue engaging with both parties with a view to encouraging a negotiated solution to the Israel /Palestine question and to draw attention to how the confrontational, inflammatory tactics of anti-Israel radicals results only in polarisation and quite frequently open antisemitism in our country without making any contribution whatsoever to advancing the prospects for peace. In adopting this position, we align ourselves with those working for a peaceful solution to the conflict, which includes our government, in contrast to those who dishonestly demonize one side while promoting the politics of boycott and disengagement in order to shut down any real constructive debate on the issues.
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies joins all South African in mourning the loss of Ahmed Kathrada, one of the founding fathers of our democracy and anti-Apartheid stalwart. The heroism and self-sacrifice that he showed in taking a stand against injustice will be his enduring legacy. Our condolences go to his family and friends.
All South Africans have an equal right to safety and security, regardless of where they might be living. This means that equal attention needs to be paid to addressing problems of crime and violence that occur outside the main urban areas.
Confronted with the charge that Israel is equivalent to Apartheid South Africa, it is tempting simply to retort that it is probably the only country in the Middle East that is not an apartheid state. One could further make an ostensibly compelling case as to why this is so. Take the example of Iran, where the only non-Muslims allowed to become Members of Parliament are those elected by their respective communities to the five seats reserved for religious minorities. Does this not call to mind the separate seats for ‘Bantu’ and ‘Coloured’ representatives elected on separate voters’ rolls in the apartheid parliament? In Yemen, there reportedly remain restrictions on Jews with regard to places of residence - Group Areas Act?