Genocide, libel, criminal charges – Pandor’s sour relations
As Israel’s war on Hamas intensified this week, so too did the one-sidedness of the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) against Israel and the Jews.
This time, it called on Israel to be tried internationally for the crime of genocide. It called for an international force to protect Palestinians. It also got personal, accusing Zev Krengel, the vice-president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), of lying.
Dirco’s statement, issued on 30 October, said, “Mr Krengel has repeated discredited information related to the beheading of children in Israel. This disinformation is part of the arsenal of dehumanisation tactics used to justify a ‘by any means necessary’ approach to dealing with Hamas, which has resulted in the huge casualties we see today. He also misled the South African public about the nature and process of Minister Naledi Pandor’s call from Hamas, and of her official visit as an envoy to Iran.”
Krengel told the SA Jewish Report, “Pandor has been exposed for who she is. She takes instructions from Hamas and Iran. She doesn’t mention a word about the hostages, including the South Africans being held [by Hamas in Gaza].”
The SAJBD retorted, “Minister Pandor, the beheading of Jewish babies is confirmed. It was documented by Hamas itself. The grotesque footage is readily available. However, the accusation feels reminiscent of Holocaust deniers requiring that the Jewish community provide proof that six million really did die during the Holocaust.”
Dirco’s statement on 30 October said, “Israel doesn’t have the ‘right to defend itself’ using military means as Israel is an occupying power. This is a fact, not an allegation. It has been confirmed by the International Court of Justice. As the occupying power, Israel can use tools applicable to the rule of law, including policing powers to deal with criminal actions. An occupying state cannot exercise control over territory it occupies and simultaneously militarily attack that territory on the claim that it is ‘foreign’ and poses an exogenous national security threat.”
Then the statement gets personal: “It’s in the light of these atrocities that the unethical way (sic) the deputy head (sic) of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, Mr Zev Krengel’s, commentary on South Africa’s stance on this matter should be condemned … Given the potential libellous nature of his utterances, more commentary on this will be done at a later stage. It’s important to raise it as Krengel and the organisation on whose behalf he represented these views are out of step with the views of most South Africans and people across the world. This includes scores of Jewish people in South Africa and across the world who have called out the actions of Hamas and the government of Israel.”
In response, the SAJBD issued a hard-hitting statement on 31 October. “Minister Pandor lashes out at the SAJBD, threatening us and one of our leaders. Why? Because we dare to challenge her. Hamas, in addition to brutally murdering 1 400 Israelis in one day, is currently holding 239 hostages. Instead of campaigning for Hamas to release these hostages, something that could make a ceasefire possible, Minister Pandor has attacked the South African Jewish community, singling out our vice-president, Zev Krengel. She accuses him of lying. This is an age-old antisemitic trope implying that Jews cannot be trusted.
“Dirco is clearly out of touch. The free world, including countless ordinary South Africans, recognise Hamas as an ISIS style jihadist organisation that needs to release the hostages and be held accountable for its crimes.
“Minister Pandor refers to a tiny, fringe minority of Jews, who she alludes to as the ‘good Jews’, just as the apartheid South African government paraded a minority of black South Africans who supported its Bantustan system. If her attack on the Jewish community is intended to silence and intimidate us, it will not work. Her communication with Hamas and her visit to Iran would be laughable if it didn’t have such serious international implications and consequences for our country. Dirco’s twisted statement is as indicative of its contempt for its own Jewish citizens as it is reinforcement of her inappropriate support for Hamas.”
Krengel said that it was most likely an interview he gave on eNCA that put him into Dirco’s sights.
“I have been quite vocal,” he said. “[Pandor] feels nothing for Jews. She’s fully captured by the Islamic Republic of Iran [which she visited before flying to New York for the United Nations General Assembly] and the terrorist organisation Hamas [whom she spoke to by phone]. It’s disgraceful in a constitutional democracy to be attacked for challenging the government. She has hated-filled, blatant antisemitism. She doesn’t like people talking truth to power when her government has messed up. She has tried to mask her true intentions. She has never shown any sympathy for Jews. The government has chosen her to represent us on the world stage. It‘s sad.”
He did acknowledge that some elements of the African National Congress have tried to be more balanced in recent days.
Krengel isn’t personally worried about this attack. “I live in a constitutional democracy. Intimidation won’t work on me.”
Citing figures from Save the Children, the Dirco statement deplored the killing of children in this conflict. The statement said: “All of these children killed since 7 October are non-combatants and those responsible for their deaths must be held accountable for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and in the case of the scale of the deaths in Gaza and increasingly in the West Bank, the crime of genocide must also be investigated.”
The statement also said, “The ICC [International Criminal Court] has charged Russian President Vladimir Putin with unlawfully taking children out of Ukraine to Russia. Consequently, the wilful killing of children in Gaza surely requires the ICC prosecutor to use his independent powers to initiate prosecutions urgently. Failure to do so will serve to exacerbate the growing cynicism that international criminal law is applied selectively for political purposes.”
Introducing a new element, the Dirco statement said, “South Africa also calls on the United Nations to deploy a rapid protection force to protect the civilian population from further bombardment.” How this could happen is left unsaid.