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BDS golf-day antics led to cancelling charity event

  • Foodforthesoul
The Houghton Golf Club has stepped up security in the wake of cancelling a Muslim charity golf day last week that was believed to have been sabotaged by Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions South Africa (BDS SA).
by NICOLA MILTZ | Nov 08, 2018

Last Wednesday, BDS SA invited people on several social media platforms to join it at the annual golf fundraiser at this club hosted by a Muslim charity organisation called Food for the Soul.

The Houghton Golf Club is made up of members from every community, having both a large Jewish and Muslim membership. It is a popular venue for functions, including weddings, Barmitzvahs and Batmitzvahs, amongst others.

Food for the Soul held its annual fundraiser at the club last year. It is a non-profit organisation that purports on its website to promote peace and cultural and religious cohesiveness. Food for the Soul is made up of young Muslims who raise money for numerous causes including Palestinians, beleaguered Syria, and local Muslim charities including one for the disabled.

On 31 October, BDS tweeted, “The sun will be out to play and so shall we! Pass by our stall on 11 November at the upcoming charity golf day taking place at the Houghton Golf Course organised by Food for the Soul. Support the Palestinian struggle and BDS boycott of Israel! More details on the poster.” Attached to this is a colourful BDS poster advertising the golf day and boldly displaying its logo.

It sent shock waves through the community, with many club members and non-members alike turning to social media. As news of it spread, so too did the vitriol on Twitter and Facebook.

One person posted on Facebook: “Slap in the face to all Jewish golfers at Houghton. Should cancel membership.”

One Johannesburg Jewish site even went so far as to block and delete further comments because they were so vicious and inflammatory.

Adrian Diamond, the President of the club, and other committee members were inundated with calls from around the world from curious, troubled, and irate members demanding to know how this could be.

A WhatsApp voice note that circulated on social media added fuel to the fire, sending further ripples through suburbia.

The voice note tries to assure people that “it is not a BDS golf day”, and that the BDS “snuck into the golf day”, and they did so “without anybody knowing”.

This prompted the BDS to issue a press alert. It declared that the WhatsApp voice note was “disturbing”, insisting that it had been invited to participate, and had not sneaked in.

It said it had “accepted an invitation to sponsor and participate in the golf day... BDS South Africa paid for a sponsorship of Hole 9 as well as signed a contract with the organisers of the golf day confirming our participation.”

To sponsor a hole at the Food for the Soul golf day costs between R5 500 and R8 500, and includes a free four ball. According to the Food for the Soul flyer, all proceeds from the golf day were to be donated to Syria.

It said that the sponsorship entitled it to set up a stall.

BDS went on to state that it was engaging legal counsel as it felt the club had discriminated against the organisation.

Jewish communal leadership has also been in contact with the golf club.

Behind the scenes, frantic meetings were held between Food for the Soul and the Houghton Golf Club in a desperate bid to save the golf day.

With pressure from all sides, the club eventually put out an urgent notice to all its members on 1 November cancelling the golf day, and explaining what had happened.

It said that it had come to the club’s attention that BDS “had engaged in an extensive social media campaign suggesting that the golf day was held under the aegis of the organisation [BDS], furthermore, that BDS invited members of the public to attend the golf course in support of its aims and objectives”.

“The organisation has certain supporters who have historically engaged in acts of violence, including property damage, and as such, the Houghton Golf Club Committee cannot permit the event to take place.”

The statement went on to say that the club had engaged extensively with Food for the Soul, and had suggested that BDS not participate.

“Sadly, despite the best efforts of the officials of Food for the Soul, they have been unable to obtain the requisite commitment from the organisation [BDS], to the satisfaction of the Houghton Golf Club Committee.

“The committee has accordingly made a decision to cancel the golf day to ensure the safety of its members and the security of its property.”

Diamond told the SA Jewish Report this week that the whole incident had been “very painful”. The club and its committee have not commented further.

Food for the Soul said, “As a small charity fundraiser, we would like to be respectful to all parties and reserve our comment.”

This week, patrons of the prestigious golf course, one of South Africa’s premier golfing venues, are facing extra security checks upon entering the club. Organisers of golf days are having to provide client lists for security purposes at the gate.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies said it was “encouraged by the decision of the Houghton Golf Club not to surrender to the crass intimidation and unscrupulous misrepresentations on the part of BDS SA”.

National Chairperson Wendy Kahn said, “Its typically underhand tactic of representing itself as the organiser of the golf day in its social media posts again highlights the shameless dishonesty of this organisation, which was so brazen as to display its logo on the advertisement for the event, concealing the name of the real organiser by printing its own name over it.

“This flagrant misrepresentation should be exposed as yet another of its manipulative attempts to attract attention regardless of whether a bona fide charitable or human-rights cause is undermined in the process.

She said the board had for years publicised the “aggressive, abusive, and cynically dishonest manner” in which BDS acted against members of the community, and “anyone else who declines to endorse its radical anti-Israel ideology”.

“The saddest thing about this debacle is that worthy recipients of this golf day have been deprived of the prospect of receiving much-needed funding,” Kahn said.

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