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« Israel's World Cup 2010 campaign | Main | Crossing Swords Part 5: Doron Isaac's closing remarks »

October 15, 2008


Religious Fundamentalist 1

If it's a free country, it should make no difference.

But politics is politics and we've spent 2000 yrs in obsequity, it's a strategy that hasn't worked well, but better than anything else.

Go Zev! pucker up.


The businessmen met with government or with the ANC? We need to always try build relations with government, whoever they may be.

zev krengel

Your post of 15 October (“SA Jews must not pick sides in ANC fight”) is critical of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies for allegedly “openly aligning the [Jewish] community with the Motlanthe/Zuma/Malema camp”. Such an interpretation is highly misleading, not to say alarmist.

From the outset, it must be stressed that the SAJBD is not a political party. Its primary mandate is to safeguard the Jewish way of life in South Africa, while at the same time leading the Jewish community in being a role player in the development of South Africa. This aim we pursue through networking and building relationships with the government of the day, and with other political parties, different faith groups and NGOs. We will not, indeed cannot, take sides in political disputes.

The Board’s recent engagement with government and the ruling African National Congress in no way means that it is “taking sides”. In fact, the Board meets with political parties from rights across the political spectrum. This year, for example, we have met with the leadership of the Democratic Alliance, Inkatha Freedom Party and African Christian Democratic Party. In the event of a new political party being formed by disaffected ANC members, we will certainly seek to meet with them as well.

Yet again, we see the same tired comparisons being made with the Jewish leadership of bygone years and its relationship with the old Nationalist government and that of today. This, too, is incorrect as well as unfair. During the apartheid era, the Board was compelled by the circumstances of the day to deal with a minority government that had no legitimacy, either amongst the great majority of the population or internationally. This is diametrically opposed to the situation as it exists today. We have a democratically elected government, a constitution that safeguards human rights at the highest level, an independent judiciary and an equally independent media, amongst other democratic safeguards.

It is true that any signs of incipient totalitarianism is something we all need to be extremely vigilant about, and certain recent developments are indeed a cause for concern. For all that, however, South African democracy remains vibrant and healthy. The fact that we have seen a regime change take place swiftly, bloodlessly and entirely in accordance with democratic procedures is surely proof of this. So far as criticizing the government of the day goes, our record shows that we have been willing do so, and strenuously, particularly where Israel is concerned.

In conclusion, promoting Jewish civil rights and working to ensure Jewish security, the Board often has to walk a difficult tightrope. Lobbying does not just mean talking to your friends but also trying to influence those who hold different views. On certain occasions, it does become appropriate for the Board to speak out on contentious issues, and our record shows that we have frequently done so. At other times, however, quiet diplomacy is often the preferable course of action. Whichever route we choose to go, it is always taken only after carefully assessing each situation on its merits and deciding which response is the most appropriate.

I would also like to point out that, contrary to what was implied in the above post, Kgalema Motlanthe was not a recent Shabbat guest at my home. This, in fact, took place three years ago.

SA Jewish Board of Deputies

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