Story-ideas-1011172

Exposing young minds to fresh Mideast narrative

  • SAIF ANC Bafana HOME
Bafana Modise, pictured in Israel, left SA hoping he and his 14 ranking ANCYL and BDS colleagues would come home alive from their SAIF-hosted Mideast educational visit last month. Now, he says, having seen the reality vs. the SA media portrayal they had faced, he would feel quite safe and comfortable to travel to Israel and/or the Palestinian territories alone. Ironically, the travellers went just weeks after President Zuma had called on ANC members for the first time not to travel to Israel. The problems are religious, said several of the party afterwards, not political
by ANT KATZ | Mar 02, 2016

“I just hope that I come home alive,” was the overriding thought in the mind of Bafana Modise, 22, one of 15 young ANC-affiliated political leaders who recently went on an educational trip with the South Africa-Israel Forum (SAIF) to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

“South African media run so many religious war stories,” he says, to the extent that he was expecting “fighting” in the streets. “Also, I was expecting to find more religious people - many more religious people.”

What he discovered was so different. “The media can influence one in such a way...” he told Jewish Report, leaving the rest unsaid.

The trip was, in a sense, a coup for SAIF, a privately funded organisation that aims to educate people on the Middle East. It included some heavyweight BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) activists, to Israel and, significantly, took place in the wake of President Jacob Zuma’s first-ever (January 8) call on party members not to travel to Israel. Yet it did not result in a single cancellation among the 15 SAIF tour members.

Saif ANC HookaBy the time they returned, says the SA Zionist Federation’s Benji Shulman who hooked up with the group in Israel, not one of the 15 was in favour of any sort of boycott of Israel.


RIGHT: Lebogang Zulu enjoys a traditional puff on a hooka 

Part of the victory, says Shulman, was that “BDS seems to no longer be willing to have a fight” with its members going on educational tours. After the previous tour of ANC youth leaders, late in 2015, ANCYL, BDS and Cosas all had a lot to say to their members, including temporary suspensions and threats of disciplinary hearings. That process became a damp squib and petered out. This time nobody had said anything, despite losing members and support.

“It was a perception changer for me,” says Lebogang Zulu, 28, who hails from Durban and is successful in the construction industry. He feels the media don’t fully understand the story and simply reduce its complexities to a “very one-sided twisted narrative of the oppressor and the oppressed”.

He sees the situation as being “so multi-layered” that it is easier for the media to “distort the story… it becomes easier to reduce it to right and wrong as it is easier to tell.”

Modise, who hails from Krugersdorp where he is very active in the ANC Youth League, said that a friend of his had been on the earlier tour and had recommended he contact SAIF about going to see the “real” Israel. He returned a lot wiser, and more than a little embarrassed that he had wondered if he would get back to South Africa alive.

“During our first few days there we all looked at it from an ‘apartheid’ point of view,” he explains. And, in fact, he says that he had “found some places where we could not go. But then I found out why those controls exist”. He says he learned that Israelis want to look out for themselves. They are not asking anyone for anything.

It worries him that there are young boys there who are prepared to die for what they believe to be their religious rights.

“The conflict is more a religious one - but it is portrayed from a political point of view in the media.” He says, given what he had now experienced, he would be quite comfortable to go to Israel or the Palestinian territories on his own. “I felt very welcome in both,” he said.

“To be honest, I had some initial doubts as to what I would see and experience (on the) educational tour to Israel and the Palestinian territories,” says another senior delegate, Lesiba Bapela, WITS SRC’s “All Faculty chairman” and an ANC Youth League member.

However, he says, the tour “turned into one of the most remarkable revelations to new and different cultures, enabling me, with the information I gained and the accompanying balanced and fair exposure, to better distinguish between the Israeli and Palestinian narratives.

“I also came to realise that the purpose of the tour was not to make me and my fellow young leaders pro-Israel, but rather to allow us to see and hear for ourselves, and somehow participate in, a narrative that is seldom - if ever - heard in South Africa.”

The group was hosted by SAIF’s Dan Brotman and Natan Pollack.


Related reads on JR Online:

ANC SPEWING AFTER YOUNG LEADERS VISIT ISRAEL
A monumental brouhaha erupted last July in the wake of another SAIF study tour by a group of highly influential young South Africans. Delegates included three of the Wits 11 radicals who had previously disrupted Israeli performers on campus and COSAS’ Wits branch chair. Read how members of the delegation had been offered R40,000 not to go by BDS, and what they thought about BDS on their return.

16-HOME


BDS MISCALCULATES YOUNG SA LEADERS’ OPEN MINDS 
Read SAJBD director David Saks’ story in which four of the participants in the same “Young South African Leaders” visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories shared their experiences and insights with Gauteng Jewish leaders and community members at a report-back evening last August.


WHO WERE THE DEFIANT SIXTEEN FUTURE LEADERS?
Although the Sixteen ANC-affiliated young leaders from around SA had visited Israel and the Palestinian territories in their personal capacities last July, the top-notch group, the crème de la crème of intellectual young South Africans, each one a student or business leader in their own right. Yet they were admonished, suspended and threatened with disciplinary charges on their return. The threatd turned into a non-event. All 16 have had a sea-change in attitude. They love their ANC-affiliated organisations and hate what BDS is doing.

No formal charges were ever brought, and, says the Fed’s Benji Shulman of last month's even higher-level tour: “BDS seems to no longer be willing to have a fight” with its members going on educational tours.

SAIF ANC Logo FULL


The SAIF logo 

1 Comment

  1. 1 nat cheiman 02 Mar
    A great win for Israel 

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