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Voices

Israel’s AU accreditation unchanged, what of SA govt?

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The African Union (AU) decided at its executive council meeting on 6 February to defer a debate on whether to withdraw Israel’s accreditation to the bloc until its next summit in 2023. Instead, a committee composed of eight heads of state and governments was set up to consult member states, build consensus on the matter, and present recommendations at the next meeting. The outcome was essentially positive.

Encouraged though we are by this outcome, it’s a lamentable reality that South Africa was one of the countries at the forefront of trying to get Israel’s accreditation revoked. In an unusually frank communication to President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Dr Naledi Pandor (which featured substantially in the Daily Maverick’s report on the issue), the Board denounced “the obsessive manner” in which South Africa was attempting to exclude Israel from the AU. Why, we asked, was the government bent on pursuing a policy so wholly inconsistent with the way it has approached other foreign disputes? Whereas this country generally sought to assist in conflict resolution by acting as an honest broker and using its own experiences of dialogue and negotiations to engage with all relevant parties, when it came to the Israel-Palestine question, such even-handedness and openness to hearing all sides was glaringly absent. Instead, South Africa was aligning itself with hardline anti-peace factions that rejected any kind of engagement with Israel. So far did this unreflecting hostility go that to express it, the government was even prepared to foster division and ill-feeling between AU member states, thereby undermining the very unity and co-operation that the organisation was set up to achieve.

That being said, however, a week is a long time in politics, and that’s particularly true in our own volatile political environment. With the question of Israel’s AU accreditation on the back-burner for the time being, it’s to be hoped that the government will reconsider its current approach and instead, recommit itself to a policy predicated on dialogue and engagement with all parties concerned.

South Africa a safer place after Thulsie verdict

This week, the extraordinarily prolonged trial of the Thulsie brothers finally concluded, with both receiving substantial prison sentences. The Thulsies were arrested in June 2016 on charges of planning to carry out Islamic State-inspired terrorist attacks in South Africa. Among those listed as possible targets were a Jewish school, the South African Zionist Federation, and “Jewish community events”. We commend our law-enforcement agencies on their effectiveness in detecting the threat and taking decisive action against those responsible. Likewise, credit is due to the National Prosecuting Authority for following this complex case through to a successful conclusion in spite of innumerable delays and stalling tactics on the part of the defence. Thanks to them, South Africa is a safer place, and the crucial information gained in the process will be of considerable help to the authorities in ensuring that it remains so.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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