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Op-eds

A week to commemorate Suzman and Bizos

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev
​Over the weekend, representatives of the SAJBD attended an event where the renowned human rights lawyer George Bizos was honoured by the Hellenic Federation of South Africa.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Nov 09, 2017

This week further provided another opportunity of remembering and paying tribute to one of the legendary figures in the anti-apartheid struggle, this time coming from the ranks of our own community.

Tuesday marked the centenary of the birth of the great liberal parliamentarian Helen Suzman, who tirelessly and with unflinching courage exposed the myriad injustices of the apartheid system in the House of Assembly. It made her a household name in South Africa and in due course gained her international renown.

Parallel to his professional work, Advocate Bizos has involved himself in communal work on behalf of his own community of origin, including being instrumental in the establishment of Saheti School. 

It is appropriate that he should be associated with this fine institution in view of the inspiring example that he has set for the youth of the Greek community to emulate.

Likewise, the pride that we feel in Helen Suzman, and indeed all of the many doughty fighters for justice that have emerged from the ranks of our community over the decades, is something that can motivate our own young people when it comes to working for a better society for all.

Last month, the SA Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) elected its new national committee to take the organisation forward during the next 12 months. I congratulate newly-elected National Chairperson Rachel Raff and her team, both on their election and on their willingness in the first instance to take on this demanding leadership role on behalf of Jewish students around the country.

As has frequently been pointed out by my predecessors, our students in many ways find themselves at the coalface of fighting the Jewish cause in the public arena, particularly when it comes to countering efforts by extremist factions to demonise and delegitimise the State of Israel.

Earlier this year SAUJS, with the involvement of the Board and SAZF, spearheaded an effective counter-campaign against the annual “Israel Apartheid Week” travesty. At the University of Cape Town, its members further confronted those pushing for the university to impose an academic boycott against Israel, eloquently putting forward the case against such a proposal in what was a very hostile and intimidating environment.

The SAJBD has forged a very important working relationship with SAUJS, and we look forward to building on this with the new leadership in the year to come. 

Some more good news this week was the visit of Israeli Minister of Regional Co-operation Tzachi Hanegbi. This came just two months after that of a Knesset delegation, which met with political leaders from across the spectrum during their stay.

The two initiatives constitute the most significant governmental-level interaction between South Africa and Israel in a long time. When one adds to this the recent ground-breaking visit to Israel of the Zion Christian Church, southern Africa’s largest Christian movement, we can feel encouraged that despite the incendiary anti-Israel rhetoric emanating from certain quarters, dialogue and engagement between the two countries is continuing.

•         Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM every Friday 12:00 - 13:00

 

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