I’m a bit late on this one, nevertheless it is still worthy of serious attention. Last week, in response to celebrations of Israel’s 60th anniversary of independence a huge, ANC endorsed, paid-for advert demonising Israel appeared in at least two local newspapers (the Citizen and then the Mail & Guardian).
The letter entitled “We fought apartheid; we see no reason to celebrate it in Israel now!” angers me on so many levels, but none more so than the official endorsement of the letter by the ANC. (The letter is also riddled with lies, spreading the myth for example, that 93% of the land in Israel is reserved for Jewish use.)
That the ruling political party in South Africa should stoop to these childish levels of incitement should be a concern to all South Africans; not just Jews. By officially equating Israel with the evils of apartheid the ANC is questioning the ideological legitimacy of the overwhelming majority of Jews in South Africa. Without that legitimacy, can we expect the ANC to deal with us fairly and equitably?
Ironically, the letter fails in what it sets out to achieve. I can count less than 20 top ANC members who have signed the letter, many of them resigned to the post-Polokwane political wilderness. I imagine that all senior ANC members were asked to sign their name to the letter; most of them obviously refused. Also, public intellectuals such as Adam Habib were contacted. Habib signed – but few others joined him. The problem with petitions and signed letters is that, on your side you only have the names on your list! All in all they only managed to get 57 names and this includes the lobbyists themselves, like Kasrils, Jeenah and Jassat.
Still, the ANC has officially endorsed the letter and this implicates all their members, even though only 3 of the 80 National Executive Committee members agreed to sign.
The first name on the letter is of course no surprise - South African Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils.
The name that disappoints me most is Andre Zaaiman. He is (or was?) a member of the Presidential Support Unit which advises the Presidency on international conflict areas. He spoke at the SA Jewish Board of Deputies Biennial Conference in 2004 (see: South African Foreign Policy on Israel). He took a question from me where he bemoaned the radically and overzealous stance adopted by the ANC Youth League against Israel. What hypocrisy.
Another name that surprised me is Minister of Safety and Security Mosioua "Terror" Lekota. He spoke at the Jewish Board of Deputies Conference last year and didn’t come across as so hateful and hostile. I guess it just shows how easy it is for our leaders to pull the wool over our eyes. Both Lekota and Andre Zaaiman should have had the courage to tell us to our faces how they feel about the Zionists in their midst.
The logic is quite simple. The ANC (rightly) hates supporters of South African apartheid. If they believe that Israel is an apartheid state then they will hate Israel and its supporters. So if you are a Zionist, let it be known, the ANC officially hates you and would probably prefer it if you left South Africa. If there was no affluence in the local Jewish community, I wonder whether we would still have our place in the South African sun?
Perhaps my alarmist attitude here is slanted by my fury at the way the ANC continues to support the Muslim lobby in their efforts to, not only delegitimise Israel; but to demonise its supporters in this country lending legitimacy to incidents like the recent hateful graffiti at Wits. Is my concern misplaced? Use the comments to let me know. It’s not the first time the ANC has taken this public stance.
As an aside, the ANC should take a long hard look at their friends in the lobby and consider the current xenophobic crisis we are experiencing. In 2001 we had a chance to discuss and analyse these issues at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban. Instead the lobby hijacked the event and turned it into an anti-Semitic hate-fest. Local xenophobic issues were not given the attention they deserved and 7 years later we are all paying the price.
NB: Organisational affiliations above are for identification purposes only and do not necessarily reflect organisational endorsement