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How Gaza won their war so well

In this, the first of a two-part sub-series on anti-Semitism, Ant Katz postulates that Israel, by no option or volition of its own, put Diaspora Jewry in peril by being goaded into losing Operation Protective Edge so badly to an enemy that wanted its blood and guts spilled as a means towards a strategic goal it was ready for… The Gazans and their masters got everything they wanted out of what would always become a horrible war, because that is exactly how they had planned it…






In dealing with violent anti-Semitism, Israel is severely challenged!

Eighteen months ago, the Israeli Government and the country’s huge NGO-sector (like JAFA and the WZO) came to a number of realisations which had massive implications for the country – and, more importantly – for all world Jewry.

I am personally aware of at least two initiatives that followed as I have attended two high-level conferences over the past seven months and been briefed on these.

Katz Ant tallBoth involved Israel going through a massive change-of-life.

Israel had always seen the Diaspora as a pond to fish in for olim and chequebooks. They admit that. This is not to say that they were not proactive when required, like at Entebbe and Ethiopia, but in essence, for too long, Israel saw the Gola as being responsible for it.

RIGHT: Ant Katz

To be sure, that is how Israel was built. And when things are not broken, we don’t even think of the need to fix them. Changing circumstances and opportunities pass us by. It is human.

Then, the epiphany – Israel realised that it had become the big brother and that it was “sh” who had to take responsibility for the Jews in the Diaspora, and not the other way around.

Israel realised 18n months ago that all it was bigger, better, smarter, and more safe and stable than all the rest of world Jewry put together. It was time for Israel to become the parent and the Gola to become the child in this relationship.

One of their epiphanies, was that European Jewry was under renewed threat of violent anti-Semitism – and that France was at the centre of it all. Israelis don’t sit on their butts – so they formed task teams and jumped into action. Things really started to happen. They even went as far as taking out their old dusty file on an evacuation plan for French Jewry, blew off the dust and updated it.

They hastily convened emergency meetings on combating violent anti-Semitism and held three such conferences in a year – the first, of course (but incorrectly as it turned out) in the US, the second in France and the third, which probably would have been held in France, in Belgium in December. This was a well-placed move to show solidarity with the embattled Belgians, and, as I can attest, it was warmly welcomed.

But it hasn’t helped at all

So where have the world’s smartest people gone wrong? Why have things gone so far south, so quickly? Could they have done things differently? Could they not have at least in some small way turned things around over this period?

In reality, Israel was seemingly sucker-punched by Hamas in July. They found themselves being goaded into an operation which became a war, and it surely cannot be called anything else in hindsight, that they had no option but to fight. Their enemies knew what the outcome would be as they continued to goad the Israelis on by firing ever-more rockets from the rooftops of hospitals and inside UN schools.

Israel was forced to act against a blood-thirsty enemy. But the blood that Hamas and their handlers were thirsty for was not Israeli blood. It was the blood of their own. They knew full-well the impact that this would have on the lives and property of their own people. They knew the hardship it would bring in the short-term to their citizenry.

But this is an enemy that has always been prepared to play the long game; that is prepared to suffer if it suits the cause.

As every drop of Gazan blood was spilled, each building flattened, each picture going out of hungry and frightened children, the leaders, their handlers and the Muslim world in general rubbed their hands together in glee.

The war Gazans wanted to lose, big!

They had no desire to stop this happening – because they knew how it was being perceived in the so-called civilised world. And so they goaded even more, broke promises of ceasefires, allowed, nay, encouraged more of their own blood to spill and property to be destroyed.

Blood can be replaced by new births. Others would rebuild for them. They did not want to win the war physically. They couldn’t. So they chose to lose, and lose very, very big. They won exactly what they wanted to.

And they were ready, willing and able to capitalise on the post-apocalyptic situation. How and why? Because they had planned for that long before they starting goading, the war that they seemed to lose but actually won was simply a strategic part of a bigger plan.

A plan that involved their forcing Israeli’s hand, and then capitalising on their own people’s misery. Their strategic objective, which required them to continue to not cry uncle so they could lose so very, very badly – worked a treat for them. Because that was their strategy all along.

Even as the fighting continued they were mobilising around the world. Sympathy started to turn their way, but enough for them to stop losing. They hadn’t caused enough harm to themselves yet. Their strategic need required even more of their blood to be spilled, even more of their property to be destroyed, and the balance of death and destruction on their side of the fence to still be so much more “disproportionate”. And so they continued to goad. To force Israel’s hand.

Israel knew that their brethren in the Diaspora would pay a price. But what conceivable option did they have?

Where Israel failed…

Israel’s failure, and their failure to their brethren outside, was being ill-prepared for the post-apocalyptic environment. Like George Bush-the-second, he took Iraq and then seemed to wonder what to do with it. His father stopped short of Baghdad.

WZO snails n oxtopus

LEFT – how I see Jews and anti-Semites as they face off against each other now

He knew he couldn’t run the country any more than Israel could halt the hate-fest it had unwittingly and unwillingly caused in the Diaspora.


 I believe that:

  • Israelis don’t seem to have a deep understanding of modern anti-Semitism because they don’t experience it;
  • They seem to think of the US as the representatives of the Diaspora, but it is just not true;
  • Every host nation is different, but the US is so much more different, in so many ways, that they maybe know less about world Jewry in general than Israel does;
  • Jews are operating like a disparate group of small snails, all in their own little groups and sub-groups, while anti-Semites are as one giant octopus, with a single head and long and strong tentacles
  • Something has to be done, and soon, and collectively. There is much, much more to come in this writing…

WZO Conference reads on SAJR.CO.ZA

Israel was on the mark but got off to a slow start. Can they beat this disease?

“Enough of anti-Semitic Violence! Increase legislation to combat anti-Semitism!”

publishes details of hundreds of violent anti-Semitic attacks worldwide in 2014

details how over a million Euro-Jews are sitting on their shpielkes, and why

 of German Fed – on how it feels like to be a Jew in Europe in 2014

, Survivor& head of Belgian Jewry, tells how tough it is on European Jews

Introduction to series on December conference of WZO attended & written by ANT KATZ

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  1. steve marks

    Jan 15, 2015 at 10:56 am

    ‘Great piece, makes good sense to me’

  2. Choni

    Jan 15, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    ‘To in any way imply that Israel is the cause of world wide anti-Semetism is an insult to the ultimate sacrifice 22000 soldiers and 2000 men woman and children murdered by terrorists, made for our country.
    \nDiaspora Jews have brought anti-Semtism on themselves long before the rebirth of Israel in 1948, and will continue to do so until they come to their senses, and leave their foreign homes.
    \nBlaming Israel is a chillul Hashem. Exile is a curse and a punishment, and is the only cause of anti-Semitism.



    Hi Choni, Firstly, I made no such implication. Israel’s hand was forced, of that there is no question. It had to do what it had to do. I am certain that I made that quite clear. What I did say, was that a consequence of what Israel had to do had led to an increase in violent anti-Semitism. They are aware of that. Diaspora Jewry is aware of that. We don’t feel Israel had a choice and Israel, too, understand that there have been ramifications around the globe about what they had to do.


    The high-ranking and intellectual WZO team dealing with countering anti-Semitism has, for the most part, done a great job. They certainly don’t “blame” Israel as being the cause of what has happened. They do, however, accept the reality that we are seeing the consequences of Israel having done what she had to do.


    I refer you to the ANTI-SEMITISM STATS 2014 story, and specifically to the ADL list at the bottom of that story, where it is clear how the July events (for which, I stress again, I have heard no Jewish person anywhere suggesting Israel had any other choice than to act as they did) significantly increased the violent anti-Semitic acts worldwide. That is undeniable. But, again, it was a consequence and not a cause.


    I have clearly stated my belief that Hamas forced Israel’s hand and that Hamas was are the guilty party in all this.


    Melanie Phillips’ incredible lecture: “Diaspora Jewry, paying the price for Gaza” is also clear on this point. “The intractable problem of Gaza has been exacerbated by the meddling incomprehension of a western world that just doesn’t grasp how ISLAMIST FANATICS play by entirely different rules.\” That was said before Protective Edge played out, but expressed the same notion. Israel has to act as she does. Hamas forces her to, and then plays the world for fools. Hamas and their masters and cronies are the “cause” that stoke the flames of violent anti-Semitic acts worldwide. 





  3. Stanley Friedman

    Jan 16, 2015 at 6:23 am

    ‘Hi Ant, You are right ↪ ????%!

  4. Choni

    Jan 16, 2015 at 7:40 am

    ‘Ant, So what exactly is the purpose of your column?

    Maybe the answer will be more clear in the second half.’

  5. Denis Solomons

    Jan 16, 2015 at 8:35 am

    ‘A miss-leading title; Gaza never won the war !

  6. nat cheiman

    Jan 16, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    ‘The world is in turmoil because of radical Islam. Not so with Israel. There are many incidents in Europe and USA that go unreported because they are onto these savages.

    Not so in Israel. The jews deal with these issues and sometimes the rest of the world doesn’t like it. Europe will learn quickly that it should not throw stones if they live in glass houses. I do not believe Israel is worse off because of Gaza. Gazans are worse off.On top of it all, Europe will learn from the Israeli’s how to deal with barbarism. There always was anti Semitism and always will be. All that the Gaza war has done is to create an excuse for anti semites . All the non jews that I have as friends and associates, know what the global problem is and the species of human being that commits these atrocities. These despicable people are not liked at all. Remember, that Christians understand that they are not free to practice their religions in Muslim countries. They are free in Israel. The Gaza war was good for Israel and the next Gaza war will be too.

    Thugs must be taught a lesson and a lesson they WILL LEARN .’

  7. Ant Katz

    Jan 18, 2015 at 4:15 am

    ‘Hi Dennis, thanks for your comment. What I am proffering is that Hamas achieved the strategic aims it set out to achieve. In Spades!

    I’m suggesting that this was never a military campaign by Hamas, but rather that the military component was a small part of their bigger strategy, the propaganda war it set out to achieve – and this it certainly won… that they wanted to lose the war and that they wanted do do so badly. 

    By thus doing, and (as it can, surely, only have anticipated), this was achieved at the expense of a considerable loss of blood and property to its own citizens to boot. For this, these leaders should face the ICC on murder charges, knowingly and unnecessarily having put in place a strategy that killed their own people’

    My reasoning will become apparent in my op-ed #2.

    Ant Katz’


    Jan 18, 2015 at 5:04 am

    ‘Hi Nat, thanks, too, for your very valid point. Israel is in a very different position
    \nto the diaspora and I hope that nothing I have written here indicates
    \notherwise. And Israel was forced to take the steps she did (in chess one calls
    \nit the ‘tempo’, where the gains the tempo by limiting the other party’s reaction to a small window of options to deal with an imminent threat).
    \nWhen you say: “I do not believe Israel is worse off because of
    \nGaza. Gazans are worse off”, 
    I couldn’t agree with you more.
    \nMy op-ed doesn’t touch on or dispute the post-war well-being of Israelis and Gazans, not at all. Of course it is radicalised, meshugenas Islamists who are at fault. There is no dissention between us on that point.
    \nBut Israel is left with huge debt and Gaza lies in blooded ruins.
    \nUnder the global microscope, the Gazan leadership, and, I cannot repeat this enough, has come out looking rosy (as in: “Shame, the poor Gazens”; and “Israel offends
    \nhuman rights, it kills civilian women and children”). Both Hamas and Israel have
    \naccrued huge debts from this operation. Gaza will be be rebuilt for them by others – Hamas knows that, Hamas was playing to a world stage here.
    \nI, suggest this to have been the strategy of the thugs who head Hamas and their masters, at the expense of their own people – and the blame has to be placed squarely on their shoulders.
    \nIsrael, however, is better off in some respects, and worse I others. They suffered a considerable cost of having to acquire and replace domestic and foreign weaponry,
    \nwhich it will be paying off for many years to come. And, while their injury and death-toll was moderately low, the incredible number of traumatised Israelis will require years and years of treatment. Some will even carry their emotional burden for life.
    \nThat said, the various components of the IDF, police, MDA and other state organisations has not had a ‘live drill’ of this magnitude since the 1971 Yom Kippur War. They have been restructuring their tactics and forces for some years. Whereas they were previously primarily configured to face conventional armies, they have been
    \nchanging their focus to deal with militants who are not under the wing of a state per se.
    \nThis recent war must have been a great learning curve for the IDF, to test their latest weapons-systems and personnel on the one hand, while having a chance to evaluate their enemies’ at the same time.
    \nYou say: “The Gaza war was good for Israel and the next Gaza war will be too. Thugs must be taught a lesson and a lesson they WILL LEARN”.
    \nOf course, on the battlefield, you are quite correct. Israel came out on top. But I hasten to make a seminal final point: This op-ed is not about the Israel/Hamas engagement. It is, sadly, about the collateral huge increase of anti-Semitism in the diaspora.
    \nI use the word ‘collateral’ as (while I wouldn’t put it past them), I am postulating that
    \nHamas’ strategy all along was to damage Israel’s global image and enhance the
    \nparable of how Israel “kills Palestinian women and children” in a willy-nilly, uncaring manner.
    \nThis, I am sure you will agree, worked very well for them outside Israel (never mind their women and children had to die to make the point). This is borne out by the fact
    \nthat the PA has achieved much world sympathy anti-Israel protests have become more frequent and larger; and that acts of violent anti-Semitism have increased considerably.
    \nAnt Katz

  9. Choni

    Jan 18, 2015 at 7:25 am

    ‘Wrong … 


    \nSorry, Choni, completely omitted because you are boring us all with the same old, same old. Please stop spamming as we have neither the time and patience for it, and our users regularly complain about it. If you do not have an interest in anyone else having the right to an opinion, please do not read them – or at least do not comment on them unless you have something to contribute beyond your three stock answers. If you really disagree with someone, tell them why – instead simply insulting their opinion.
    \nANT KATZ,



  10. nat cheiman

    Jan 18, 2015 at 11:31 am

    ‘Hi Ant, of course you are correct in asserting that there was collateral damage to jews and Israel. Perhaps in my enthusiasm, I overlooked the fact that generally, in the diaspora, many people hate or dislike jews. It may also be that people dislike muslims and arabs but jews are easier to dislike because we don’t bomb or have jihads etc. So YES!!! everytime Israel retaliates, Europe and especially the Scandinavian countries become vocal about DISPROPORTIONATE use of force. Never mind that Jews die and are savagely killed. Off the record, I truly wish I could attend a decent military college so that I can full understand the use of disproportionate force during warfare. And also learn how other countries would react if someone fired rockets at their cities. However, I deviate. Whether or not there is a settlement in Gaza and whether or not ABBAS recognizes Israels right to exist, The world will always dislike the Jews. We are a people that will forever have to watch our backs. Unfortunate but true.

    Win or lose, Israel has a huge propaganda mountain to climb.

    I think, by the way, the Israeli’s need to employ media friendly/clever types whenever there is a crisis because guys like Peter Lerner and the Ozzie guy, in my opinion just don’t cut it.  ‘

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Teen vaccinate, or not teen vaccinate? Not a question, say doctors



As the news broke that South Africa would allow children aged 12 and up to get vaccinated with a first Pfizer shot, some parents were thrilled but others expressed fear, uncertainty, even anger.

“As the daughter of a polio survivor and the mother of an asthmatic child, I feel strongly that we need to get vaccinated, not just for ourselves, but for others,” says Vanessa Levenstein, a copywriter at Fine Music Radio in Cape Town. “My son, Sammy, is 14 and my daughter, Safra, is 17, and this past Shabbat, we all said how grateful we were that the vaccine was now available to them. I feel we are privileged to have it.”

Her husband, Jonathan Musikanth, an attorney, agrees. “We look forward to giving our children some sort of normality again,” he says. Levenstein adds, “We’re living in a society with huge social inequalities: someone living in a crowded Manenberg flat cannot self-isolate if they get infected. The only way to stop the spread is through the vaccine roll-out. ‘If I’m not for myself, who will be for me? And being only for myself, what am I?’ The words of Hillel still ring true.’”

The SA Jewish Report asked parents on Facebook what they thought, and a mother responded, “The judgement and anger towards people who don’t want to be vaccinated is extreme and frightening.” For this reason, she asked to be quoted anonymously.

“My children are healthy and have been exposed to COVID-19 and didn’t have any symptoms,” she said. “I don’t feel that I need to vaccinate them against something that I feel isn’t dangerous to them. They didn’t have any symptoms, so I don’t feel I need to protect them from dying. The fact is that nobody in the world knows the long-term effects of this vaccine. I’m not willing to risk it.

“It’s all well and good saying we should do it for herd immunity, but I won’t allow my children to get vaccinated to protect others when they don’t need the protection themselves,” she said. “Also, I don’t feel that 12 year olds are old enough to make a decision about this. My kids would agree.”

Asked how she felt about her children navigating a post-COVID-19 world unvaccinated, she said it was “a huge concern”.

“I’m concerned that their freedom will be taken away because of this. However, is that a good enough reason to go against what I wholeheartedly believe to be the truth about the vaccine?” she asked. “I don’t believe that by not vaccinating kids, I’m putting anyone else’s life in danger.”

Johannesburg pulmonologist and parent Dr Anton Meyberg told the SA Jewish Report, “This is definitely a scary and emotive time in our lives as parents. It’s one thing to vaccinate ourselves, the adults, but now we are being asked to trust science with our own children. Whereas we know that children definitely don’t get as sick as adults, they definitely can still get sick [from COVID-19]. And some get severe multisystem inflammatory syndrome while others can suffer from ‘long COVID’.

“There are so many myths and misconceptions about vaccination and they need to be dispelled,” he says. “As a doctor on the frontline, it’s a ‘no brainer’ to me that my daughter and children over the age of 12 should be vaccinated. As parents, we have the responsibility of safekeeping and caring for our children, and vaccinating them allows us to do this. No doubt by vaccinating our teens, we’re protecting their parents and grandparents, but we’re also making sure that schools can remain open and our children can lead almost normal lives.

“The most documented side effect in children after the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, mainly in boys 16 to 30 years of age, is myocarditis [inflammation of the heart muscle],” Meyberg says. “Males aged 12 to 17 are more likely to develop myocarditis within three months of catching COVID-19 at a rate of 450 per million infections. This compares with 67 per million after the vaccine. The condition is self-limiting and easily treatable, and it’s crucial to avoid exercise for up to a week post vaccination in order to decrease the chances of its occurrence. Widespread vaccination is a critical tool to help stop this pandemic. The question shouldn’t be if you’ll vaccinate, but rather when.”

Jeffrey Dorfman, associate professor in medical virology at Stellenbosch University, says “the arguments for vaccinating children are very strong in countries such as South Africa and the United States where there’s still a lot of COVID-19 transmission and the potential for more waves. Children may be at lower risk of severe COVID-19 disease than adults, but not zero. In the United States, more than 63 000 children have been hospitalised since August 2020, and more than 500 have died. More than 4 000 have been diagnosed with multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which is dangerous.

“Additionally, the vaccines in use prevent many COVID-19 infections – not 100%, as we all know about breakthrough infections, but even for the Delta variant, vaccination prevents about 70% of infections based upon current studies,” he says. “That’s enough to matter to the people around children who are vaccinated, and may be enough to stop or reduce school outbreaks. Vaccination will certainly reduce the risk of a child bringing a COVID-19 infection home to vulnerable adults. It’s certainly not unheard of for children to bring an infection home from school resulting in the death of a caregiver, and this is tragic and preventable.

“Additionally, I know of cases of children who were asymptomatically infected and had to move away from vulnerable grandparents,” he says. “It was scary for the people involved. The children had no symptoms and were tested only because they had a COVID-19 positive contact. Were the contact not known, they would have continued to live with the grandparents, who would have been at risk. Even children who have had COVID-19 can have it again, and a large study from Kentucky in the United States shows that vaccination further reduces the risk of COVID-19 re-infection. We aren’t going to get on top of COVID-19 unless we use the tools at our disposal. As a society, we can’t afford serious lockdowns and have to use less disruptive tools. Vaccines should be high on everyone’s list.”

A third mother expressed mixed feelings about vaccinating her teenage sons. However, after reading a letter by Johannesburg family physician Dr Sheri Fanaroff, she has decided to go ahead with it. In the letter, Fanaroff laid out all the questions and concerns to show that “the risk of getting COVID-19 infection far outweighs the risk of vaccination in teenagers. I can say without hesitation that I will be relieved to have my own teenagers at the front of the queue to get vaccinated this week so that they can return to a more normal lifestyle.”

She explained amongst other points that “vaccination reduces the risk of teenagers dying: the virus was the fourth leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 24 and the sixth leading cause for those aged five to 14”.

Fanaroff also explained that “vaccination reduces the risk of severe infections, hospitalisation, and the need for oxygen and intensive care in teenagers. Recent figures from the US show that the hospitalisation rate among unvaccinated adolescents was ten times higher than that among fully vaccinated adolescents.

“There’s no biological reason or proof that a COVID-19 vaccine can interfere with the progression of puberty. There’s also no biological mechanism whereby hormones associated with puberty can have an impact on immune responses to COVID-19 vaccines. There’s no evidence that the vaccine has any impact on fertility.”

During the health department briefing on Friday, 15 October, acting Director General of Health Dr Nicholas Crisp stated that based on the Children’s Act that allows children aged 12 to 17 to consent to medical treatment, children in this age group don’t require their parents’ consent to have a COVID-19 vaccine. Teens can register and consent to being vaccinated without permission.

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SA warmly welcomes Palestinian foreign minister



Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Dr Naledi Pandor, warmly welcomed the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the State of Palestine Dr Riad Malki to South Africa last week – hospitality certainly not offered to Israelis.

Malki was in the country from 7 to 9 October, and was hosted by Pandor on 8 October for bilateral talks, according to a media statement made by department of international relations and cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela.

In reiterating their commitment to each other’s causes, “both sides agreed to exert joint efforts aimed at reversing the decision to admit Israel as an observer member to the African Union”, according to a joint post-talks communiqué. The ministers also agreed to a planned a state visit in which South Africa would host Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

South Africa is also going to host a conference for Palestinian heads of missions in Africa this year to deliberate Palestine’s policy towards Africa.

“South Africa attaches great importance to its relationship with Palestine, which is underpinned by historic bonds of solidarity, friendship, and co-operation. South Africa’s support for the Palestinian cause conforms with the basic tenets of its foreign policy,” Monyela said.

“The international community has an obligation to find a comprehensive and just resolution to the Palestinian issue,” he said. “South Africa calls for international support and increased efforts for the just cause of the Palestinian people to address their legitimate demand for an independent state alongside a peaceful state of Israel. The visit aims to further strengthen the relationship between South Africa and Palestine.”

In their joint communiqué, the ministers “expressed their satisfaction with the cordial relations that exist between the two countries, which is to be further augmented by Abbas’s visit and the Palestinian leaders’ conference to be held in Cape Town in November this year”.

The South African government committed its support for initiatives that would refocus the international agenda on Palestine and the Middle East peace process. South Africa reiterated its support for a two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The two ministers agreed that “they would continue to work to achieve peace for the Palestinian people”, and “in the absence of sustainable peace in the region, there could be no global peace, stability, and economic prosperity”.

In their communiqué, the ministers insisted that “security and stability in the Middle East is being undermined by continued occupation of Palestinian territories and the aggressive actions of the Israeli regime”. Having said that, they called on the international community to “further strengthen their support for the return of all parties to the negotiation table without pre-conditions”.

They agreed to “exert joint efforts aimed at reversing the decision to admit Israel as an observer member to the African Union”. They also expressed support for “the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action” which they say “remains a clarion call for anti-racism advocacy and action worldwide”.

The Durban Declaration was the document that emerged out of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, also known as the infamous “Durban Conference” held in South Africa in 2001.

According to the Embassy of the State of Palestine in South Africa Facebook page, Malki also met with a group of African National Congress leaders in Pretoria, and Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) groups Africa4Palestine, Palestinian Solidarity Alliance, and the South African BDS Coalition, amongst other meetings.

Local political analyst Steven Gruzd says the visit shows that South Africa’s support for the Palestinians “continues to be vocal and loyal. The hot issue, however, is the granting of Israel’s observer status at the African Union. The two pledged to work together to overturn it. Relations with Israel will remain tense. There has been no change from South Africa towards the [Naftali] Bennett government.”

He says the visit “reinforces ties [with the Palestinians] and puts South Africa squarely in the Palestinian camp. It has shed all pretensions of being an ‘honest broker’ in this conflict, and for a long time, has chosen sides. The key thing to watch is what happens at the African Union. Israel has its fair share of African opponents, but also many African friends. Will they stick their necks out for Israel? We will see. South Africa has been lobbying against the [observer status] decision, and has influenced southern African states to oppose it.”

Gruzd maintains there’s “virtually no chance” of Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid being invited for a similar visit. “Relations remain tense, and South Africa won’t be seen to reward Israel for its policies and practices,” he said.

Wendy Kahn, the national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), says, “The SAJBD believes that for South Africa to play a meaningful role towards a peaceful outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian situation, it would need to engage with both Israelis and Palestinians. Without speaking to the Israeli leadership, it’s not possible to truly understand the situation and to gain trust in order to bring the parties to the negotiating table.

“The dogged campaign by South Africa to exclude Israel from the African Union is antithetical to our international-relations policies of conflict resolution through negotiation and talking,” she says. “This action only seeks to push peace building and the attainment of a sustainable two-state solution even further away.”

“The South African Zionist Federation [SAZF] has noted the comments of Minister Pandor and Palestinian Minister Malki. It seems the entire focus of the engagement was to undermine Israel’s admission as an observer to the African Union,” says SAZF National Chairperson Rowan Polovin. “We believe this is a foolhardy and hypocritical approach to international relations.

“Israel has had a mutually beneficial relationship with African states for more than 70 years. It has been at the forefront of efforts to help solve some of the most important developmental challenges on our continent, including in the areas of health, agriculture, youth development, water, education, and energy,” Polovin says.

“The admission of Israel as an observer to the AU, alongside more than 70 other countries, is a historic and welcome development. The South African government remains out of step with the rest of the continent who are moving swiftly ahead with relations with Israel,” he says.

“The new Israeli government’s prime minister and foreign minister have been warmly welcomed in the major capitals of Europe, the United States, Africa, and the Arab world. It’s not Israel, but South Africa, that’s the odd one out. We would encourage the South African government to take the opportunity to reach out to Israel to engage for the mutual benefit of both nations and as a means of making a positive, proactive contribution to finding further peace in the region.”

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Unterhalter’s bid for Concourt thwarted again



It was a case of action replay for esteemed Judge David Unterhalter this week at the re-run of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) Constitutional Court judge interviews. The internationally renowned lawyer was yet again grilled about his brief charitable association with the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) during the pandemic.

Never mind his years of pro bono work, mentorship, and dedication to academia, as well as his global expertise gleaned from serving on the World Trade Organisation’s Appellate Body, it appeared to many commentators that his gender, race, and possibly even his faith stood firmly in his way of being included on a shortlist for possible appointments to the apex court.

He was again excluded from the latest JSC shortlist for two vacancies.

The JSC was forced to re-run its highly controversial and heavily politicised April 2021 Constitutional Court interview process after the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) challenged its lawfulness in the High Court.

Casac accused several members of the JSC, including Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, of “political grandstanding”, and argued that “party political considerations and political agendas should play no role in the JSC’s decisions and processes”.

During the first round of interviews, Unterhalter was interrogated about his association with the SAJBD after his candidacy was vehemently opposed by the South African Boycott Divestment Sanctions Coalition and the Black Lawyers Association.

Unterhalter briefly assisted the SAJBD with the upliftment and welfare of the Jewish and broader community during the direst phase of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. He resigned from the SAJBD because he recognised that it sometimes litigates in the Constitutional Court which might cause conflicts.

The issue was raised yet again this week. JSC commissioner Advocate Thandazani Griffiths Madonsela, one of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s candidates on the JSC, rehashed the now stale objections to his candidacy and persistently probed him about his time at the Board.

The Board criticised the JSC interview process describing it as “Groundhog Day for the Jewish community”.

“Once again, a Jewish candidate for the Constitutional Court, Judge Unterhalter, was targeted for his association with the democratically elected representative body of the Jewish community,” it said in a statement, adding “Once again, bias was evident.”

The Board maintained, “In a series of four questions, Commissioner Madonsela’s political agenda was distinctly evident, particularly his comment, ‘It seems to me that the fundamental premise of the objection is the assertion that the SAJBD is a body that is pro-Zionist and that is in fact bullying all their people and organisations who are objecting to the Israeli establishment in the Palestine region’.”

Unterhalter denied this, saying, “Members of the Jewish community in this country, as in many other countries, hold a very wide variety of views about Zionism and the state of Israel. That’s why people who are Zionists subscribe to organisations that bear that name and seek to pursue that particular political agenda.

“The Jewish Board of Deputies is a body that existed long before the state of Israel was ever created, and has its roots in the 19th century in this country, where it’s simply founded to look after the interests of a particular community, in this instance the Jewish community, and largely to take care of its welfare as many community organisations representing many different parts of our society do,” said the esteemed judge.

Unterhalter said that it was on this premise that during the COVID-19 pandemic, when there were “peculiarly large demands” placed on the welfare not just of the Jewish community but also in respect of its charitable work with other communities, he accepted a position on the Board thinking that it could be of some service to the community and the work it did.

The SAJBD said the depiction of the Board as a “bullying” organisation was “a baseless and highly offensive smear against an organisation whose mandate is to protect South African Jews’ civil rights”.

“If anyone should be accused of bullying, it’s Commissioner Madonsela, whose factually inaccurate, prejudicial, and irresponsible assertions have no place in an interview to assess judicial competence. The SAJBD objects strenuously to this vile characterisation of our organisation.”

It said it found it “indefensible” that a person’s association with a body that protects Jews’ human rights in South Africa could preclude them from public office.

Advocate Mark Oppenheimer said the question from Madonsela about Unterhalter’s affiliation with the SAJBD “showed an extreme prejudice against the Jewish community”.

“It tries to insinuate strongly that Zionism is an unconstitutional project, and that it’s a sinister belief system and anything even adjacent to it taints one so thoroughly, that one cannot sit as a judge on the Constitutional Court. I think that borders on a blood libel, and the question should have been interrupted by the chair.

“It’s clear that that series of questions which were there during the first series of interviews were inappropriate, and it’s also clear from the Judicial Services Act that judges have every right to participate in charitable work which Judge Unterhalter was doing when he was at the SAJBD.”

Oppenheimer said many of the other questions faced by Unterhalter were pertinent, addressing his career.

“Anyone watching the interviews would be awed at the breadth of the work that he has done,” he said.

Casac’s Lawson Naidoo told News24 that it was crucial that the JSC explained its reasons for excluding Unterhalter and Advocate Alan Dodson.

There are currently no white judges on the Bench.

Their exclusion from the shortlist has raised eyebrows in the legal fraternity over whether the JSC is taking seriously its responsibilities in terms of Section 174(2) of the Constitution, which says that the judiciary must broadly reflect the demographics of South Africa in terms of race and gender.

Said Oppenheimer, “There’s an impression that has been created by the JSC that your race, gender, and possibly your faith can be factors which can permanently exclude you from the Court. It would be a pity to exclude eligible Jews from the apex court, given the fact that they have played such an important role, which should not be forgotten.”

Unterhalter and Dodson, both internationally renowned legal minds, were pressed about their race and gender.

After a full day of interviews and deliberations, the JSC reaffirmed its April 2021 shortlist, producing exactly the same list as it had done before.

The list of candidates on the shortlist include Constitutional Court Justice Rammaka Mathopo, former Free State Judge President Mahube Molemela, and High Court Judges Jody Kollapen, Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane, and Bashier Vally. Their names will be forwarded to President Ramaphosa to select two to fill vacancies.

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