It’s time to grow a pair!
A few weeks ago, I was sitting at a lavish dinner celebrating a remarkable family who had donated yet another borehole, solar panels, and pumping system to a rural village which had never experienced clean water before. The project was secret because it was delivered by an Israeli nongovernmental organisation (NGO) using Israeli technology. Today, close to 500 000 South Africans, whom government forgot, get their clean drinking water and irrigation systems courtesy of this Israeli NGO. No-one will talk about it for fear that if it was revealed that fresh drinking water was being provided to impoverished South Africans by Israel, the South African government would end the project.
On Tuesday, 7 March, the National Assembly of the parliament of South Africa convened to vote on a motion to further downgrade the South African embassy in Tel Aviv to the status of a minor liaison office. The motion was supported by the African National Congress (ANC), the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), and a few, mostly irrelevant, parties that litter the halls of parliament. The vote passed overwhelmingly.
The vote means little to Israel, which views the ANC as a criminal kleptocracy that has brought South Africa to the brink of disaster. The latest public opinion polls show the ANC polling at less than 40%.
But the vote to downgrade the South African embassy in Tel Aviv is the third slap in the face targeting Israel in a few weeks. In February, at the urging of South Africa and Algeria, the accredited Israeli observer at the African Union (AU) was summarily escorted from a meeting of the AU in Ethiopia by security guards.
This followed the cancellation of an invitation issued by SA Rugby to the Tel Aviv Heat rugby team to participate in the Mzansi Challenge, reportedly at the urging of the South African minister of sport. As minor as these actions are, each humiliation has an accumulative effect.
There are some in the Israeli foreign affairs ministry who have simply had enough of South Africa. For them, our country is a minor irritation, but ultimately irrelevant. It holds no sway in international politics, it’s irrelevant in mediating the dispute between Israel and Palestinians, and South Africa’s fast deteriorating economy supplies nothing that Israel couldn’t easily source elsewhere. They support Jerusalem downgrading its relationship with Pretoria and recalling its ambassador.
The other camp in the ministry believes that Israel downgrading relations with South Africa would be a deep psychological blow to South African Jewry, for whom the presence of ambassadors in both countries is a red line, already crossed. The real victim of the parliamentary vote was the South African Jewish community.
Further downgrading of relations would be a devastating blow to a community, already burdened by constant electricity blackouts, regular water cuts, wholesale government criminality, high crime levels, and a failing economy. Jews migrate from countries where they don’t feel welcome or where their concerns are simply dismissed as irrelevant, and when we do, we take with us our knowledge, expertise, and entrepreneurial spirit, which has historically built South Africa.
There’s little doubt that South Africa needs Israel much more than Israel needs South Africa. Besides water, Israeli drip irrigation, farming techniques, and seeds, feed millions of South Africans. Many thousands of mining jobs depend on Israeli imports. Israeli technology protects most of the banks and, at a time when most of the beaches of KwaZulu-Natal are closed because of untreated sewage, Israel is providing a number of municipalities around the country with sewage and water purification technology. The South African chapters of Israeli NGOs are working on environmental protection and teaching maths, science, and computers in South African schools.
One cannot expect Israel to offer unrequited love. Isn’t it time for Israel to hear the voice of the ANC and state, “We have no desire, any longer, to feed your people, protect your financial institutions, educate your students, clean your water, or save you from disease, thirst, and malnutrition. Let us take our solar panels, our water pumps, our textbooks. Let’s fill the boreholes we have dug, let’s rip out our irrigation. It’s time to recall our advisors, and turn off our software license.”
While South Africa sits in darkness, Israel has built the largest solar fields in Africa. Israeli teams bring sight to the blind in Africa, created the avocado industry in Ethiopia – today one of the country’s greatest exports – and have brought water, sanitation, and food to millions of Africans.
Israel has diplomatic relations with 42 of the 44 sub-Saharan African states. Quite simply, South Africa doesn’t deserve the enormous benefits that Israel can bring to the country. Maybe South Africa can replace its loss with the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, which has so far brought nothing but death threats, intimidation, and cool Palestinian scarves for its “woke” politicians to wear.
It hasn’t escaped me that the ANC wouldn’t care. As a government it has repeatedly demonstrated that it’s deaf to the needs of all South Africans, it has made corruption, maladministration, and incompetence the new core South African values.
Of course, as a loyal, patriotic South African who has spent his entire life fighting for freedom and democracy in South Africa, I’m horrified at the thought that South Africans will suffer and may even die as a result of this action. But does Israel have a choice if it no longer wishes to be a party to this abusive relationship?
Many of the projects which Israel has rolled out in South Africa have been funded and promoted by members of the South African Jewish community. We need to proclaim our presence, our identity, and our beliefs proudly in this country.
Many of these donors were the same people who believed that Cyril Ramaphosa should be given a chance to mend our broken nation. But Ramaphosa has proven to be a dithering Nero, fiddling as South Africa burns. He has proven indecisive, incompetent, and tolerant of corruption. Under his leadership, the rand has lost 50% of its value.
It’s time for South African Jewry to tell the ANC that we have had enough! We don’t want it at our conferences or our dinners, we don’t want to donate to its failing political party, and we don’t care for its antiquated, Marxist, Cold War beliefs that have hollowed out our nation and stolen its future.
The very survival of our community and of South Africa depends on our ability to unseat the ANC and its corrupt, corpulent, criminal mafia from power.
If you believe you can sit on the sidelines and do nothing, watch as the ANC and the EFF form an alliance with Paul Mashatile and Julius Malema as our new leaders. If that happens, I’ll see you at OR Tambo International Airport as we depart the country and turn off the lights – as if there were still lights to turn off.
Or, we can get off our butts and do something! Join a political party, volunteer your time, donate money, provide resources, protest in the streets, write letters to newspapers, use social media. We need to fight for the future of South Africa and the future of our community before it’s lost forever.
There, I’ve said the unspeakable. I’ve said what was in your head all this time, and now you can crucify me. I won’t be the first over-opinionated Jew to be hung from a cross.
- The views in this piece are those of the writer, and aren’t necessarily held by the SA Jewish Report.