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An open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa

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Letters/Discussion Forums

Dear Mr President

We know you have so much on your plate, and that you have tried to look after the people of the country as if they are your own children. We are so thankful for the way you have led our country.

However, there is an act that requires immediate execution, an entrepreneurial flair, and a passion and vision last seen in 1994 when we extricated the country out from under the oppressors and fought for a free and fair South Africa.

We have another moment that beckons like that, Mr President. We need to distribute the vaccine in record time.

In 1994, ballots reached every city and farm, rural settlement, kraal, or pondokkie. We stood together, patiently, in queues that snaked around streets and hills. We opened schools, churches, each and every available building and space. It was an astonishing achievement.

We are ready to do the same.

We cannot be dismissed from the world’s attention as a poorer country. We are the homeland from which Nelson Mandela become an icon for good across the globe. We are the Rainbow Nation that rises again and again from the darkest storm clouds.

We know you know all this. But it’s time to tell you what perhaps you didn’t know: you aren’t alone. The government isn’t alone.

I’m not a spokesperson for any group, nor do I hold any significant office. Moreover, I’m aware that the big issues of sourcing and financing the vaccine stand as critical challenges. However, I have no doubt that within the magnitude of the task, we, the people of South Africa, stand ready. We want to help in any way we can. We offer our services. We’re ready to take action.

Practically, it would be my greatest honour and privilege to assist through my organisation in the following areas:

1.    Any administrative support;

2.    Accounting and booking assistance;

3.    The provision of call-centre infrastructure, including staffing; and

4.    Any “menial” task to free up time for the experts/specialists.

We are willing to do whatever it takes to bring South Africa to safety. Whether it’s the big-picture logistical and administrative tasks, offering the use of communal spaces, or the smallest of gestures of gratitude to frontline health workers.

I have no doubt that we can assist, and that our willingness to do so is pervasive. Our diversity here is truly our greatest strength, for together, we can offer every imaginable skill needed.

We did it in 1994. We can do it again.

We are your army of volunteers.

Thuma mina – send me.

May G-d bless you, your family, and all the people of South Africa. – Benjy Porter, Johannesburg

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Letters/Discussion Forums

Introspection on Trump long overdue

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So, Howard Feldman thinks maybe it’s time for introspection by the Jewish community on its love affair with Donald Trump. Long past, in my opinion, although many are still at it, warbling – or should I say parroting: “He tells it is it is”; “Biden is a communist”; or “good economy”.

And when Poplak said, “but he was good for Israel” did Feldman see that Poplak was satirising those who (1) believed Trump was good for anything apart from himself; and (2) thought that throwing a few symbolic crumbs to Israel (while at the same time glorifying fascist antisemites at Charlottesville and regularly) was a good enough reason to tolerate a loutish nihilist who recognised neither laws, norms, or respect for others (in other words everything that makes us civilised), and who from early on displayed all the tenancies that led to authoritarianism and the Kristallnacht dénouement when a mob of despicables was sent by its cult leader on an orgy of violence and destruction.

Those who still defend Trump would have plenty to say if it happened here, particularly if we were the target.

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Letters/Discussion Forums

Knowledge the best weapon to fight prejudice on campus

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It saddened me to read Shimshon Fisher’s article about his negative experience of being a Jew on the campus of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).

It’s eye-opening to venture out of the Jewish bubble at a mere 18 years old, and then meet new “Muslim friends” who intimidate you.

Without knowing the intricacies of the situation, I would offer that in a similar situation in which a group of “Muslim friends” hiss, “You’re not a Zionist, are you?” an option would be to pose another question, “What’s a Zionist?” Clarify what being a Zionist means to them, and to you.

If being a Zionist means that the Jewish people have a right to their historic homeland where Judaism is practiced, then one can also point out the many countries where Islam isn’t only the practiced religion of the majority, but also the official religion of government. The key is to be as knowledgeable as possible.

I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the article about the “infamous campus rabble rouser and Fees Must Fall student activist Mcebo Dlamini”. From firing vitriol against the Jewish community and stubbornly not apologising, he has made a turnaround.

Dlamini visited the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre, where he “was introduced to the horrors of the Holocaust”. Before this, he couldn’t comprehend how offensive his remarks were. That’s why education is so important.

According to Dlamini, “There’s a dominant pro-Palestinian narrative, which I realise is biased and one-sided.” He now understands it’s a highly complicated issue. Perhaps Dlamini would engage with fellow students at Wits to educate them on the complexities of the conflict? Maybe then, Jewish students wouldn’t have their “friends” hiss at them, asking if they’re Zionists.

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Letters/Discussion Forums

Double standard on Israel vaccination policy reveals antisemitism

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Once again, Israel is being demonised with the usual apartheid slights, this time relating to the COVID-19 vaccine and the country’s success first in obtaining the drugs timeously, and second, in distributing it almost to the entire population.

Some newspapers and the head of the United Nations Human Rights Council find reason to condemn something positive – no anything positive – from Israel or a Jew. Another well publicised fact was that the scientific results of Israel’s efficient vaccination programme would be shared with the manufacturers of the drugs, something vitally important in measuring if such a programme will reduce the rapid infection rate, which will be of invaluable benefit to the rest of the world.

The fact that the vaccine was offered to the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been widely published but ignored by those intent on finding fault and maligning anything from Israel.

It must be the first duty of Israel to immunise its own population, including its Palestinian citizens comprising more than 20% of the population. Clearly it’s not Israel’s responsibility to provide Palestine with the drug. Most civic functions including healthcare fall under the PA in terms of the Oslo Accord, but this is ignored by Israel’s critics.

Why is it Israel’s responsibility to look after its neighbours but not that of wealthy European states, who managed to monopolise sufficient supplies of the vaccine, to look after poorer African countries? Double standards abound when Israel is doing good. Just how obvious are these vicious attacks of blatant racism and hatred of Jews when it’s common knowledge that the chief executive of Pfizer is a Jew, the chief executive of Moderna is a Jew from Israel, and the actual developer of the vaccine is also a Jew? These hate filled people can’t do anything but perpetuate antisemitism in whatever form they see fit.

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