Mbete says BDS must give ‘direction’ to South Africa
Mbete confirmed to the SA Jewish Report this week that the “us” she was referring to in the message was the South African government, saying that the “comments” were definitely “the position of the government”.
“In my contextualisation, the highlight is about finding a solution, and a peaceful solution,” she said by way of further explanation.
In her message to the conference, she also said, “The Palestinian struggle is our struggle, we come from the same trenches, and we share the same values… South Africans stand shoulder to shoulder with you, the Cubans, and all oppressed peoples of the world.
“South Africans under the ANC government are consistent and unequivocal in our support for the Palestinians since our democratic dispensation. Our president recently confirmed our position of a downgraded embassy in Tel Aviv. We know that more needs to be done, and we will continue to stick to our anti-imperialist stance until a truly free Palestine is realised.”
The SA Jewish Report pointed out that most of the South African Jewish community is strongly Zionist, and asked if she believes that the community’s views and identity as Jews and Zionists are welcome in this country. She responded that, “South Africa is a democratic country founded on the principles of non-racism, non-sexism, and no discrimination. These values are underpinned by and protected by the Constitution, and we adhere to that.”
Says political analyst Daniel Silke, “The line taken by Mbete largely mirrors the resolutions from successive ANC conferences. South Africa has increasingly fully subsumed its Middle-East policy and rhetoric within the broader ideological positioning of BDS and the Palestinian state.
“By doing this, the ANC might have ingratiated itself with BDS, but has, by implication, also removed itself as an impartial – or at least credible – interlocutor to attempt to resolve the Israel/Palestinian impasse.”
Having said that, Silke thinks there might be increasing friction within the Ramaphosa-aligned faction and others within the ANC over the increasingly vitriolic rhetoric largely directed at Israel.
“There may be a greater sympathy for a more balanced approach centred on Ramaphosa. But given the resolutions taken at the ANC policy conference in December 2017 together with an election campaign in which being anti-Israel might be regarded as an electoral asset for the ANC, particularly in the Western Cape, this type of rhetoric is bound to take centre-stage,” he says.
Ben Swartz, the National Chairman of the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF), says the organisation is disturbed by the continued “state capture” of the ANC’s foreign policy by BDS.
“It is especially concerning,” he says, “considering that the vast majority of South Africans are supportive of Israel, and the potential for the growth and development of our country with the only democracy in the Middle East. We call on the ANC to help bring the parties to the table and to use its history of negotiation to pursue a path of peace not partisanship driven by factionalists.”
Shaun Zagnoev, the Chairman of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) agreed, saying, “Apart from the equation with the Israeli-Palestinian dispute being demonstrably false, by reportedly endorsing the racist BDS agenda, the speaker contradicts the stated policy of the South African government, which is to promote dialogue between all the relevant parties aimed at achieving a peaceful, negotiated solution to the conflict.
“By boycotting one side, South Africa undermines any credibility it might have in helping to further this process, while playing into the hands of anti-Israel extremists who oppose any settlement that would recognise Israel’s legitimacy.”
Dan Diker, the former Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress and senior research fellow Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, says that “Speaker Baleka Mbete’s message is a tragedy for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
“The tragedy is that her message supports, legitimises, and incentivises deadly acts of terror against innocent Israelis of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim descent by Iranian-regime-backed Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and PFLP [the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine], and under the guise of ‘human rights’. Speaker Mbete must understand that her message is an anti-Semitic diatribe against the self-determination of the Jewish people.”
Says Diker, “She claims that ‘South Africans stand shoulder to shoulder with you [Palestinians], the Cubans and all oppressed peoples of the world.’ She apparently has forgotten that Jews, more than any other people in history, suffered murder and genocide as persecuted minorities in countries all over the world for millennia until miraculously, they gained their sovereign independence.
“On the eve of elections in Israel, where the Arab political parties constitute the third largest political force in Parliament and enjoy the exact same civil religious and economic rights, protected by law as Jewish citizens, Mbete’s message assaults the important normalisation that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis who work together demand.
“It dishonours and disfigures beyond recognition the real apartheid that black South Africans endured for half a century. It is my hope that Mbete and other South African officials will join the tens of millions of South Africans who support the Jewish state,” Diker concludes.