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Op-eds

Embassy downgrade pointless and self-defeating

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev
In recent years, we have seen regular attempts by BDS sympathisers within the ruling party to push for South Africa to break its ties with Israel. The most recent initiative was the adoption for further discussion of a proposal, introduced at the ANC’s policy conference in July, that the SA embassy in Tel Aviv be downgraded.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Nov 23, 2017

A decision on whether or not to adopt the proposal as party policy, will be taken at the upcoming ANC elective conference in December. If the proposal is adopted, it would not automatically mean that it would become government policy, but it might well pave the way towards its becoming so in the future.

The chairperson of the ANC’s International Relations Portfolio Committee, Edna Molewa, stated her intention to involve the SAJBD in their risk analysis process and we have since had the opportunity of engaging with her and members of the committee.

We have devoted much effort to conveying to the ANC why such a move would not only be harmful to South Africa’s own interests, but would hinder rather than help the cause of achieving Palestinian statehood.

Last week, we hosted two high-profile public events to bring to wider attention the negative implications of a downgrade.

The first focused on the possible economic impact. Dr Peter Draper, MD of Tutwa Consulting, presented a report on the possible economic implications. Respondents were Fani Titi, chairman, Investec, and Marc Lubner, chairman, SA-Israel Chamber of Commerce and CEO Afrika Tikkun.

The second looked at the likely social-psychological consequences of a downgrade, for Christian supporters of Israel as well as the Jewish community. Speakers were Rabbi Dovid Hazdan, Apostle Linda Goboda, Cultural Religious & Linguistic Commission Chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi Xaluva and clinical psychologist Leonard Carr, while the Board’s national director, Wendy Kahn, gave the introduction and contextualisation.

In terms of insight and content, all the presentations were on a very high level. Opposition to a downgrade was expressed from a range of perspectives, including such potential problems as a negative impact on both Jewish and Christian rights in terms of the ability to travel to and from Israel, a detrimental effect on bilateral trade, restricted access to Israeli technological services and know-how, discouragement of tourism and, from a diplomatic point of view, counter-productive to South Africa’s oft-stated wish to play a role in furthering peace efforts in the Middle East.

 According to Ms Xaluva, such a move might even be unconstitutional, on the grounds that it would unfairly impact on the cultural and religious rights of the Jewish community. Members of the media were present, and reports have since appeared in various mainstream print and electronic publications.

The SAJBD has also provided the ANC International Relations Committee with various submissions and documents outlining our concerns regarding the serious consequences that a step of this nature may result in.

At this stage, it is difficult to predict what the final outcome will be, but I can say that we are making progress in getting across the message that a downgrade would both run counter to South Africa’s practical interests and result in its effectively excluding itself from playing any meaningful part in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

 

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