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The Jewish Report Editorial

Follow in the footsteps of an icon

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Can I say that if I had a surname with the status of Mandela, I hope I would use it for good? I would like to think I would follow the example of my iconic elder and help the world to forgive, encourage negotiations and peace.

But instead, Zwelivelile (Mandla) Mandela has become the face of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement in South Africa and frankly, he does the organisation no favours. Though BDS is constantly proclaiming that it’s not antisemitic (and I reserve judgement on that), Mandela rides roughshod over that notion, coming across as the stormtrooper for antisemitism.

The things he says – you can see for yourself on page 1 – are astonishing in their racist nature. He clearly doesn’t care that he comes across as an antisemite. And if we doubted our opinion on this, Tali Feinberg spoke to at least three global experts who were equally astounded at how blatant he was in his derision of Jews.

Unlike many others, he doesn’t even try and couch his feeling about Jewish people in anti-Israel rhetoric. He just vomits out his hatred, and I have to wonder why.

Surely, as the face of the anti-Israel lobby, he should be a tad more circumspect or even perhaps cautious in his public displays of hatred. Either those within his organisation support his sentiments and have veered off the path of trying to steer clear of being openly antisemitic, or he’s simply a loose cannon and does as he wants.

Suffice to say, I can only imagine that his grandfather, the great Nelson Mandela, is turning in his grave because he was so far from being racist or prejudiced. He was the antithesis of that.

But who exactly is Mandla Mandela, and what has he done to deserve any credibility or acclaim? From what I can tell, the only thing positive he has going for him is his grandfather’s name, and he uses it to promote everything I believe his grandfather would hate.

Ironically, I was introduced to his iconic grandfather by the then Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Alon Liel, at the time of the first democratic election. They were friends. It was during Mandela’s first visit to the Sea Point – Green Point Shul (commonly known as the Marais Road Shul). There was a brocha for Mandela after he spoke in shul and the ambassador managed to get me in as his guest and introduce me to this world icon. I was tongue tied, probably for the first and last time in my life, but then it was hard to think of anything to say when this great statesman was in front of me.

I remember being so amazed at how he treated the chief rabbi, ambassadors, and the cleaning staff in exactly the same way – with respect and dignity.

I so remember how he thanked the South African Jewish community for its contribution to the development of the country, and how he called on those of us who had left for anywhere other than Israel to come home. He understood the kinship we have for Israel and our love of South Africa. He also respected us – clearly not something his grandson has learnt.

I can’t help but wonder why Mandela junior has taken on this particular cause. Why not fight for the rights of the hungry and desperate in South Africa? Why not make it his business to find employment for those unemployed and destitute? There are so many vital masts he could pin his colours (or name) to and do good, rather than do his damnedest to run down the Jewish State and the people in this country who hold it dear.

I’m sure some of you might question why we put the story about Mandela junior on the front page, seeing it as giving this dastardly man a platform. I see your point.

However, I’ll be damned if I allow someone, particularly as high profile as a Mandela, to say the things that he has said and not challenge him on it. I don’t believe that those who spew antisemitism should be allowed to ride roughshod over us.

Antisemitism doesn’t just go away if we say nothing and let people get away with it. Antisemitism is like a festering wound. It gets worse and worse until it is cauterised and cleaned, so that it can heal and be diffused.

Now, if we allow the Mandela juniors of the world to get away with ugly antisemitic rhetoric, we give them permission to do it. Well, I won’t sit by and allow antisemitism. I know I’m not alone.

And to those who do their best to couch their antisemitism in Israel hatred, we’re not blind.

So, be assured that while we choose not to give you a public platform to grandstand, we won’t give you free rein to run us down.

We may be a small community on the southern tip of Africa, but we pack a mean punch when we need to. Ask Bongani Masuku. He’ll tell you, our community doesn’t back down.

Meanwhile, as people like Mandela junior go on about us, war is raging in Eastern Europe, and Russia continues to devastate Ukraine and its people.

In fact, this week, one of those killed in a Russian airstrike on Kharkiv in Ukraine was a 96-year-old non-Jewish Holocaust survivor who had spent time at four different concentration camps. The Ukrainian foreign minister tweeted of Borys Romanchenko this week, “Survived Hitler, murdered by Putin.”

We must do everything in our power to stop the war, as is made clear on page 4 by the Ukrainian ambassador to South Africa. So, join us at the SA Jewish Report this week and until the war ends by lighting an extra Shabbos candle for the Ukrainians. This is such a small thing, but it’s something to keep their flame alive.

Shabbat Shalom!

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Andrew Leibowitz

    Mar 25, 2022 at 1:34 pm

    Great editorial,
    What I find concerning is that there appears to be a growing anti – Israeli sentiment and what worries me the most is that this attitude is being promoted by high profile people in their official capacities.

    These are people that we place our trust in and expect them to be a lot more pragmatic.

    Unfortunately the Israeli / Palestine conflict has become an easy target for people looking for a platform to gain attention and it doesn’t matter what facts you put before them, or how many holes you expose in their reasoning, they will not stop.

    I suppose you can never win an argument with an idiot.

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