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Knesset members snubbed by SA government




I find distressing is the way the ANC government claims to strive for peace in our region, but they would happily host Hamas and not members of the Knesset,” Likud MP Amir Ohana told the SA Jewish Report on Monday, just hours before the delegations of five returned to Israel.

“They welcome people like Khaled Mashal – who is the terrorist leader – from an organisation whose covenant stipulates that it strives to kill all Jews, but they refuse to see us,” said Ohana, who was one of two Likud MPs on the week-long trip.

“The ANC government says it wants to build bridges, but instead it is trying to burn bridges.”

Zouheir Bahloul, who is an Israeli Arab MP, says: “I was very disappointed as I really hoped that South Africa could play a bridging role between Israel and the Palestinians. This country has the ability to convince the Israeli government to create a new way of solving conflict. But, that can’t happen if they refuse to have anything to do with us.”

Nachman Shai, Labour Party MP, who led the delegation, explained that there were attempts by the ANC to try and stop them even coming to South Africa. “We learnt a lot about South Africa and I am very optimistic about relations between the countries,” Shai said.

As for being rejected by the government, he said: “I couldn’t care less about that. What is the point? Why refuse to talk? We talk to everyone – to maintain dialogue, to understand each other – even our enemies and South Africa is not an enemy.

“We are trying to urge the Palestinians to come and talk to us. Boycott is not a way of living – boycott is just a big mistake.”

Although the delegation could not meet with the incumbent government, they did meet with influential politicians.

They sat down with presidential candidate Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and former President Kgalema Motlanthe. “We had polite and interesting meetings with them both,” said Shai. “We agreed and disagreed on various issues, but our meetings were in good spirit.”

 They talked about the Israel-Palestinian conflict, South Africa’s relations with Israel and this country’s fight for freedom and transition to a democracy.

They also had really constructive friendly discussions with DA leader Mmusi Maimane and Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba.

While in South Africa, they were taken to Langa township in Cape Town, which distressed the group. “I could not believe that people live like that,” said Nurit Koren, a Likud MP. Michal Biran, from the left-wing Zionist Camp, agreed, saying her strongest impression from South Africa was the image of people living in those conditions, which upset her so much.

“I was relieved to find out when we went out with Helen Lieberman [who runs a social services organisation] that the amazing work she does to uplift the lives of so many, she does because she is Jewish,” says Biran.

Koren says that comparing the way Palestinians live to the way people live in townships like Langa, is wrong. “It made me so upset – not even in the worst parts of Gaza do people live like that,” she says.

“People speak of apartheid in Israel, but it simply isn’t true. We certainly have our problems, but nobody lives like this there,” says Koren.

She says she is astounded that the hatred for Israel in these communities is so severe that when Israel offers help for nothing, they would rather suffer than accept it.

Shai says: We have a lot to offer South Africa and we have our problems, but we certainly are not an apartheid state. This belittles what we have in Israel.

“I know we have a lot to correct, but it is so frustrating when Israel could play a constructive role in South Africa as we have so much to give – free of charge – but we can’t.”

Bahloul says that while the Palestinians have a lot, what they don’t have is freedom. “We cannot exist like this forever. Israel needs to deal with this and soon. However, despite this serious issue, we still do not have anything like apartheid in our country.”

Biran agreed: “There is nothing more important than freedom – this is something we truly understand.

“For us, we want to accomplish the Jewish dream of living in peace within our borders and enabling Palestinians to have their own sovereignty.”

The delegation said they were inspired by the strength of ties between the community and Israel. “The Jewish youth here – unlike in many other countries – are so passionate about their Judaism and Israel. It is wonderful for us to see,” said Shai.

“We leave saddened that we were not able to engage with the government as such, but we leave the message that Israel is open to talk,” said Koren.

•           This was a joint delegation of the Knesset and Jewish Agency.

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  1. Russell Fig

    Aug 24, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    ‘It is whrong for the ANC not to meet with this delegation.Also most black South Africans don’t know anything about Israel. Yes Israel has it’s problems but the Arabs living there although maybe second class citizens certainly have more freedom then they woud have in the Arab world.

      It is whrong to paint Israel with the sme brush as Apartheid and black South Africans shoud remember the lare number of Jews who helded eradicate Apartheid including many who were and are members of the ANC.

      Where is the apreciation on the part of these miseguided blacks for the contribution Jews have made for eradicating past injustices?’

  2. josefa phasha

    Aug 25, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    ‘Our government should cut all ties with Israel until the the two state dream is realized. Just free Palestine then we will be all good.  ‘

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