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.
One of the considerations that will need to be taken, when the ANC International Relations Committee meets again at the elective conference, is whether the decision to downgrade the SA Embassy in Tel Aviv, is in fact constitutional.
By downgrading its embassy in Israel, South Africa would in all likelihood undermine the important trade, tourist and scientific-technological ties between the two countries while doing nothing to advance the cause of Palestinian statehood.
The Gala Dinner held at the Lookout on the Waterfront provided an opportunity for the global Jewish leaders to interact with South African Jewish community leaders, government, parliamentarians, political parties, business people, academics and media.