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He-said-she-said to and fro

“SA’s relationship with Palestine is weakening and its relationship with Israel is strengthening in terms of Trade and other relations..." wrote SAJR last week. “I have been misquoted; I did not say the first part of what the (article) claims I said,” says Na’eem Jeenah (pictured). “What I posted on Facebook while listening to the presentations is on record … Na'eem can refute it and I will stand by it,” says Cheryllyn Dudley. Read what this argy-bargy, and more, is all about…
by ANT KATZ | May 21, 2014

In “Political realities carry the day at ‘Palestine seminar’” last week, Jewish Report quoted the ACDP’s Cheryllyn Dudley as stating that Na’eem Jeenah had told the meeting: “SA’s relationship with Palestine is weakening and its relationship with Israel is strengthening in terms of trade and other relations..."

Jeenah (pictured above) objected: “I have been misquoted; I did not say the first part of what the (article) claims I said.” Jeenah also pointed out that some of those mentioned in the article as being present at the meeting were, in fact, not.

Dudley rebutted: “What I posted on Facebook while listening to the presentations is on record… Na'eem can refute it and I will stand by it.”

The article itself read, inter alia…

“SA’s relationship with Palestine is weakening and its relationship with Israel is strengthening in terms of trade and other relations..." so said Na'eem Jeenah, the executive director of the Afro Middle East Centre to a “Public Seminar on Palestine” hosted by the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) in Cape Town five days before the election.

The guest of honour at the May 2 seminar was Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki and speakers included Marius Fransman (deputy minister of International Relations and ANC Western Cape chairman); Hargreaves Tisetso Magama (chairman of previous Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Co-operation); and Muhammed Desai (co-ordinator of BDS South Africa).

Although not invited as such, Cheryllyn Dudley of the ACDP attended the meeting.

Dudley told SAJR that speakers at the conference called on South Africans and the South African government to take a stronger stance and to fully back the BDS campaign to cripple Israel financially.

“The department was definitely trying to show efforts of solidarity by interacting with civil society in this way - especially since government will be under enormous pressure from them on these issues,” Dudley told SAJR afterwards.

Definitely an improved situation

Dudley - CheryllynDIRCO had been “very diplomatic in its response, assuring pro-Palestinian groups of their solidarity but also pointing out a few realities in terms of international relations and making no rash promises”, she said. This, she added, was “definitely an improved situation”.

Pictured right: the ACDP's Cheryllyn Dudley

The comments regarding the stronger relationships with Israel are good, says Dudley, because they are the truth. “But this is said to shame government and put pressure on them.”

All of this, she says, is merely “a diplomatic dance.” She says it is not easy for government “but they seem, in my opinion, to be less inclined to knee-jerk reactions and are determined to consider what is best for South Africa.”

Jeenah’s comment

“Two things:

“1) I have been misquoted; I did not say the first part of what the claims I said.

“2) More importantly, it's really important that a 'newspaper' gets its facts straight before it publishes anything. Riad Malki was NOT at the seminar. It's amazing that you actually have quotations from him when he was not even in the province at the time. Also, Marius Fransman was not at the seminar either. Oh, and while we are at it, Hargreaves Tisetso Magama was also definitely not at the seminar. I know; I was there.

“If you can't such basic facts correct, how can you expect your readers to trust what you publish?”

ONLINE EDITOR Ant Katz responded: “Thank you, Mr Jeenah, for taking the trouble to clarify your position. You are obviously a regular reader of this website and as such will be aware that this is the first time in six months of publishing that a rebuttal of this type has ever occurred on sajr.co.za. That said, and given that your politics and that of the vast majority of SA Jewry are diametrically opposed, we will investigate and I undertake to respond, and if needs be, apologise.

“This item was submitted by a correspondent, late yesterday, and second-sourced with someone who had attended the conference. Had we had contact details for you we would have checked with you too.

We take your claim most seriously as we pride ourselves on honest journalism and assure you we will immediately send this response to you by e-mail and blind copy the correspondent and the other source to fast-track the investigation. Please send me by reply e-mail you telephone number so that I can call you personally to discuss the matter.”

On investigation

After a great deal of investigation regarding who exactly was at the conference, multiple mails and phone calls with all parties, here’s the tachlis:

“I was misquoted, and I stand by that. I also pointed out that you published incorrect information in your article. The misquoting, in my opinion, was not serious enough that it will cause any reputational harm to me.” was the last correspondence with Jeenah.

With regard to what seemed to have been a hastily-organised conference, what follows are some of the sources of published information on who attended the “Open Seminar”:

What’s on the web…?

On April 29 in a story posted on AWQAF: “SPEAKERS: Marius Fransman (Deputy Foreign Affairs of Minister and ANC Western Cape Chairperson); Ebrahim Ebrahim (Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister); Riyad al-Malki (Palestinian Foreign Minister and Member of the PLO); Hargreaves Tisetso Magama (Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Co-operation); Muhammed Desai (Co-ordinator of BDS South Africa) and others.”

On April 30 the DIRCO WEBSITE posted the following “Media Advisory”: “Deputy Minister Fransman to address Palestinian Solidarity Seminar: International Relations and Co-operation Deputy Minister Marius Fransman is scheduled to address a Palestinian Solidarity Seminar in Cape Town under the theme: ‘Reflections on 20 Years of International Solidarity with Palestine: SA-Palestine Relations.’

“The seminar will be hosted by DIRCO… The event coincides with the visit to South Africa by a high-level delegation of Palestinian officials led by the Minister of the State of Palestine, Dr Raid Malki, and includes Palestinian diplomats accredited to other African countries.”

On May 1 WN.com posted an article headlined “Deputy Minister Fransman to address Palestinian Solidarity Seminar”. The article quoted DIRCO as the source and went on to say: “Deputy Minister Fransman to address Palestinian Solidarity Seminar International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Marius Fransman is scheduled to address a Palestinian Solidarity Seminar in Cape Town under the theme: "Reflections on 20 Years of International Solidarity with Palestine: SA-Palestine Relations."

On May 2 Muslim radio station VOCFM.co.za ran a story headlined “Pal solidarity seminar in city” which, inter alia, stated: “(The seminar) comes at the end of the official state visit by the Palestinian foreign affairs minister and Palestinian ambassadors in Africa to mark South Africa’s 20 years of freedom… Speakers and participants at the seminar include several SA and Palestinian Government Ministers, senior South African and Palestinian officials, academics, religious leaders, Palestinian solidarity groups, human rights organizations and other members of civil society. Speakers include the deputy-ministers of International Relations Marius Fransman and Ebrahim Ebrahim; Palestinian Foreign Minister and Member of the PLO, Dr Riyad al-Malki, the chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation, Tisetso Magama and BDS-SA coordinator Muhammed Desai.”

On 19 May the DIRCO website’s HOME PAGE was still flagging the news story Fransman to address Palestinian Solidarity Seminar.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Victor Gordon 21 May
    If it looks like a duck, if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck ....

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