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Just asking for true democracy




We have had a great start to what is potentially a phenomenal year – there is so much hope and anticipation around the new ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa’s reign. The rand is in a much healthier position than it was towards the end of last year and generally, things are looking up.

However, as upbeat as we may be about the future of this country, there are serious issues concerning South Africa and its relationship with Israel that don’t augur well for the immediate future.

Let me explain: At the end of last year, we were concerned about the potential decision by the ANC to downgrade the South African embassy in Israel to a liaison office.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) did what it believed it needed to do to show why the downgrade was a bad idea. It put a great deal of work into showing what the impact and implications such a downgrade would have. 

The Zulu king, religious leaders and other influential people told the ANC not to take this step for numerous reasons. (See page 2.)

But at the end of the day, they all might as well not have bothered. The decision was a slam-dunk on December 20 at the ANC’s elective conference.

It appears that no space was accorded for hearing our opposition to the proposed downgrade, nor for listening to other alternative views. The opinions given were one-sided and vicious against Israel.

It was evidently clear this was a result of “BDS state capture”. Following the announcement that the ANC had chosen to downgrade the embassy, there was no talk in the media about how the decision was made. It was simply a fait accompli.

Presumably, the country was not meant to know how undemocratic and ugly this scenario was. Presumably, we were meant to just accept it.

Fortunately, Zev Krengel – who has been a Jewish communal leader for many years and has always had the best interest of our community in mind – was there. With guest-status only, he watched what was clearly a putrid show of disregard for any opposition to the downgrade.

All the work that the SAJBD had done was not even there to throw out the window. (See the full story on page 3.)

The SAJBD and Jews who were involved in trying to stop the downgrade feel totally betrayed. If the ANC had given all sides a fair hearing and then made a conscious and well researched decision, so be it. But this did not happen.

I believe the ANC of old would be ashamed of what happened.

There are many in South Africa who disregard BDS as being full of hot air and nothing to be concerned about. I beg to differ, with December 20 serving as a clear example of just how manipulative (and powerful, in that) the BDS movement is.

Its members managed to persuade many powerful people in the ANC leadership that Israel is all bad. They have somehow got the ANC to disregard all the countries where human rights abuses are rife and focus all their international attention on this tiny country in the Middle East.

Those who made this decision haven’t given any time or effort to being fair and actually seeing what goes on in Israel.

Israel is not perfect, but it is not even close to the portrait that BDS and those anti-Israel figures paint. 

It is time that the powers-that-be in South Africa stop listening to this constant indoctrination, go with an open mind to Israel, and see the situation for themselves.

Truth is, as I have said before, downgrading the embassy will not harm Israel. Israel doesn’t need South Africa. It will harm South Africa more, particularly the local Jews and Christians.

You may ask just how it will affect us.

To be honest, I am not au fait with the exact financial, social, economic and other effects. Much has been said, but much of it seems to be conjecture. 

But even if there isn’t a hugely tangible impact on South Africa, it will bear down heavily on our psyche as Jews.

Our relationship to Israel is a religious one, which is deeply embedded in our sense of identity and belonging. It is not about right or wrong as such; it is about Israel being a Jewish state that was founded because of Jews needing a homeland, a place that would never turn on them.

South Africa is our home, but surely what harms us as Jews is also relevant and important to our government. We appeal to it not to give in to the pressure to downgrade, without first doing genuine research. Do things in a democratic way – in the way that will make us all proud.

Heres to a wonderful 20-Chai.

Shabbat Shalom!







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