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The Jewish Report Editorial

Friends with benefits

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There’s a brutal war going on in this world in which civilians – including children – are being murdered. At the last count, close to 300 Ukrainians have died, and more than 50 000 have been injured.

There are 1.5 million displaced people in Ukraine, and more than 660 000 have fled the country since the war began.

The Russian army has infiltrated towns and cities, killing people, and more are on their way. Bombs rain down, devastating cities.

Am I stating the obvious because you know all this? I am, but with good reason.

It seems that there are some in South Africa who simply refuse to see the brutality on the side of the Russians and their leader, Vladimir Putin. It seems some – including our ruling party and government – seem to think that it would be better to focus on Israel, which is nowhere near the war.

And so, instead of standing up to the violence and the horror of what is befalling the Ukrainian people and anyone who happens to be in Ukraine – including South Africans – they persist in keeping their ire focused on Israel.

Israel on the other hand is focused on sending supplies, doctors, rescue experts, and anyone who can help to assist those in Ukraine.

In fact, Israel has gone all out not just to rescue Israelis or Jews there, but to repatriate Arabs back to their homes in the Middle East.

Alas, those who choose not to see this maintain their blinkers, and are saying little about the ongoing war. Initially, the minister of international affairs and cooperation put her foot down against Russia’s brutality, but soon backtracked because it wasn’t South African policy to do this.

I think I get it. So, we’re a country in which human rights are paramount, considering our history of apartheid. We don’t believe violence is the answer, and we do believe in our Bill of Rights, which ensures the upholding of genuine human rights.

However, to most of us around the world, it’s obvious that the human rights of the Ukrainians aren’t being upheld by the Russian government or army. The brutality and violence makes me sick to my stomach, but somehow our leadership refuses to see how bad it is.

Or worse, they are seeing what’s happening, but ignoring it because they have close ties to Russia and Russia was so good to them during the apartheid years. Many of our Umkhonto we Sizwe comrades were trained in Russia.

And South Africa and the African National Congress (ANC) doesn’t forget a friend, as my wise colleague, Steven Gruzd, said, not even long after the honeymoon is over.

It seems, they can forgive an oppressor, dictator, or any evil if they have a solid history with those responsible and that country or organisation sided with them during apartheid.

So, I guess it stands to reason that while the world is aghast at what’s happening in Ukraine at the hands of Russia, a number of South African leaders are deflecting the anger to little old Israel. I mean, why not? Israel isn’t going to fight them about it. In fact, Israel is too busy trying to help those hurt in Ukraine to worry about what’s being said about it in South Africa.

So, on Thursday, 3 March, a top-flight ANC march is scheduled to the Israeli embassy in Pretoria, where ANC National Chairperson Gwede Mantashe will be speaking. So too will Congress of South African Trade Unions President Zingiswa Losi, amongst other bigwigs. This has clearly been made into a priority march, considering who is speaking. Interestingly, even the poster that went out on social media doesn’t stipulate why they are marching to the embassy or what Israel is meant to have done this time.

Is it just smoke and mirrors? I think so, but then, I’m no politician.

Scour the Israeli press as I do, it’s full of the war in Eastern Europe. As is the world media, but here, our ruling party seems to think Israel is the villain no matter what. And if there’s something they don’t want to deal with, it’s best to focus anger and hatred on Israel, and all will be forgiven.

Interestingly, much like Russia was so good to the ANC during the struggle for freedom in South Africa, so too were Palestinian leaders. Hence, this undying kinship between the ANC and Palestinian leaders and the Palestinian cause, no matter who’s wrong or right.

Could it be that much like the Russians, the Palestinians are forgiven for anything they do, no matter how bad it is? And their enemies will never be the good guys because South Africa always sides with its friends.

I do believe in loyalty and love. I do believe in not stabbing a friend in the back. I do believe that you do what you can to help those you care about. I think that is a wonderful trait … up to a point.

If that dear, lifelong friend is a murderer and a despot, do you allow him or her to have free rein without any questions or censure?

I think not. I believe a friend deserves honesty, and it isn’t always helpful to support them when they need to be brought back to reality and stopped from doing wrong.

A true friend will stop you. A true friend will get help to stop you from continuing to commit crimes when they know it’s unacceptable.

Far be it for me to give lessons in friendship because I’m so far from perfect, but I do hope my friends will stop me before I do something wrong and, if I do, they will assist me in not perpetuating the evil I may have wrought.

Just a thought!

Shabbat Shalom!

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