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The Jewish Report Editorial

Pro-Israel camp wins the match

  • Vanessa
Last week was a good one for the pro-Israel camp in South Africa and it could have been bad. After all it was the now ubiquitous Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) on university campuses across the country.
by VANESSA VALKIN | Mar 16, 2016

But IAW did not get off to a very good start last Tuesday morning when two black mannequins were found hanging naked from trees on the Wits campus. The Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) had hung the mannequins with Arabic clothes, keffiyehs and tape over their mouths to highlight the oppression of the Palestinian people, they said, and the stifling of students who speak out on human rights issues.

But the PSC had a lot of apologising to do after the mannequins were found stripped of their clothes. As PSC conceded, it evoked “a historically grotesque experience of the lynching of black people under colonialism and slavery”.

Other hiccups on the part of Israel Apartheid Week organisers included articles on the Daily Vox new site by columnist and professor Steven Friedman who called BDS “incompetent” and another from Minhaj Jeenah, chairman of the Muslim Youth Movement Western Cape region, who said that BDS’ targeting of Woolworths and a few “airy-fairy” events were not doing justice to the cause.

When Daily Vox asked BDS to respond on their site, BDS called Daily Vox’s response “f***** malicious” and accused Daily Vox, historically a big IAW supporter, of having a “vendetta” against BDS director Muhammad Desai.

Embarrassingly for BDS, Daily Vox got hold of an e-mail trail between Desai and Prof Farid Esack, Head of Religious Studies at the University of Johannesburg, where Esack told Desai to get Daily Vox “off our backs”.

And then, as if things weren’t going badly enough, later in the week, an IAW protest outside the offices of Investec and Discovery in Sandton was cancelled (although the organisers said “postponed”) for unknown reasons. But one could guess it was due to insufficient support.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the “fence”, supporters of Israel Awareness Week, led by the South African Union of Jewish Students, produced a highly effective campaign of catchy posters, cleverly worded graffiti walls and social media postings with messages about fighting racism, #SeeIsraelForYourSelf and co-existence.

Also, rallies opposing racism, anti-Semitism and the targeting of Jewish-owned businesses, held by pro-Israel groups outside Parliament in Cape Town and outside the Gauteng legislature in Johannesburg at the end of last week, had huge turnouts from both Jewish supporters and Christian Zionists.

And then it got even better for the pro-Israel camp when the very first official visit in over a decade by an Israeli foreign ministry official was made to South Africa at the end of the week. Israel’s Ambassador Dore Gold met with Dirco (Department of International Relations and Co-operation) Director Ambassador Jerry Matjile, in Pretoria to talk about greater co-operation on national priority issues such as water, agriculture, trade, science and technology.

BDS was unsurprisingly irked by the meetings and pushed off angry press releases, creating headlines in the local press this week demanding that Dirco clarify what these co-operation talks were about, and how it would affect ANC sympathies towards the Palestinian cause. Nonetheless, it was a very positive step forward for Israel in what has been a fairly frosty relationship between the two countries in recent years.

The tensions have been characterised by South Africa’s policy of discouraging visits to Israel by Cabinet ministers as a show of support for the Palestinians; the welcoming of Hamas terrorist leaders like Khaled Meshaal to South Africa despite angry reactions from Israel and Israel’s refusal of an entry visa for Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande to go through Israel on his way to visit some academic institutions in Ramallah.

Israel’s Ambassador to South Africa Arthur Lenk could also attest to the difficulties he has faced to gain access to the halls of power and to be made welcome at the Union Buildings.

This official visit at South Africa’s invitation and the hope for greater co-operation that will follow could be heralding in a whole new era. May the good times continue…

1 Comment

  1. 1 nat cheiman 16 Mar
    BDS was always on a hiding to nothing. Their problems are; Malice, hatred, and stupidity.
    Most of which is incurable.

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