David Saks


At the biennial conference of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies Gauteng Council next week, Gauteng Jewry will have the first opportunity of engaging directly with President Ramaphosa since his assumption of the presidency earlier this year. Rather than delivering the traditional keynote address, Mr Ramaphosa will be exchanging views with eminent business leader Stephen Koseff on challenges currently facing South Africa, what the Jewish community is (or could be) doing to help address them and how each sees the future of the country and its people. In other words, it is not about what this country should be doing to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian, or any other foreign policy issue, but is framed as being a South African conversation between fellow South Africans on South African issues.

For Iqbal Jassat of the Media Review Network (MRN), this is apparently not good enough. Rather he asserts (‘Ramaphosa’s Jewish Board meeting key’, 13 November) that President Ramaphosa use the occasion to propagate the MRN’s own prejudiced views on the Israeli state and its relationship with its neighbours. Ever since the democratic transition in 1994, in fact, the MRN has clamoured for government to adopt as official policy its radical agenda, regardless of whether or not this is in the interests of South Africa, of furthering peace prospects in the Middle East or even, indeed, of the Palestinians themselves. Like all ideological fanatics, its members are incapable of seeing the conflict in anything but stark black-and-white terms. For the MRN, Israel can be no more than a repressive, racist, rapacious and fundamentally illegal entity, while conversely the Palestinians will always be depicted as blameless, suffering innocents fighting for their rights. That South Africa, while hardly adopting a friendly stance towards Israel, has to date failed to model its policies along such caricatured lines has no doubt been a great source of frustration to them.

The really objectionable aspect of Jassat’s screed, however, is not his trotting out of the usual baseless - and by now thoroughly boring - invective against Israel (“apartheid regime”, “colonial enterprise”, flouters of international law, etc.). Rather, it is the clear inference that Jewish community gatherings should be seen not as a coming together of South African citizens of Jewish faith and ethnicity, but as forums in which to convey a hostile, condemnatory message against Israel. Put another way Jewish South Africans, instead of being regarded as full and equal citizens who no less than anyone else have a stake and role to play in their country, should instead be treated as proxies for a foreign state which their own government has a problem with. This simply highlights yet again how anti-Israel extremists have no compunction in fostering ill-feeling, division and distrust amongst fellow South Africans, even at a time when achieving a unity of vision in addressing the many grave challenges facing this country has arguably never been more pressing.

See the online article here.

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