Whither the Jewish left on ISIS?

  • Sifrin Geoff HOME
It would be nice to hear the voice of BDS-SA right now, stating their concern for Palestinian human rights. This time concerning another “villain” rather than Israel, however.
by Geoff Sifrin | Apr 09, 2015

BDS South Africa and its leader Muhammed Desai, have shouted loud and clear their accusations of human rights abuses against Palestinians by Israel and been heard by many South Africans.

At their flashmob in Woolworths in the Rosebank Mall a while ago, they chanted songs about Israel’s “barbarism” and how “disgusting” it is for Woolworths to sell Israeli goods. They have repeated their refrain countrywide. Anti-apartheid struggle songs have been co-opted to echo the Palestinian plight.

Some members of South African Jewry who don’t think Israel is innocent, identify with their message. Organisations like Jewish Voices for a Just Peace - and similar groups elsewhere in the world - confront the Jewish mainstream about bad Israeli treatment of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. BDS’ epithet, “Apartheid Israel”, has found wide acceptance in certain South African political circles. Condemnation of Israel is “politically correct” and Israel’s supporters are on the defensive.

In the chaotic Middle East of today, however, the Palestinians and thousands of others - including Muslims and Christians - are being massacred by attackers emanating directly from the Arab and Muslim world as a scourge of barbarity engulfs the region.

During Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in July 2014 against Hamas’ raining of rockets from Gaza onto Israeli civilians, 500 South African Jews placed an ad in the Sunday Times protesting Israeli “atrocities” against the Palestinians. Many of those Jews are eminent, respected figures whose sentiments cannot be simply dismissed out of hand.

Wouldn’t this be a good time for moral outrage to be vented by them condemning what ISIS and the Muslim world are perpetrating - not just against the Palestinians, but the entire Middle East, and increasingly in African countries and elsewhere? Media reports in the past week indicate that ISIS is now also recruiting new fighters in South Africa.

Where is the moral voice of BDS members and Jewish organisations on the left condemning ISIS? And also condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for bombarding the Palestinians in Yarmouk, not far from Damascus, for two years?

The Yarmouk district - initially a refugee camp dating from the flight of Palestinians from Israel in the 1948 War of Independence - once contained over 100 000 people. Four years ago it became one of the battlegrounds in the Syrian civil war.

Now ISIS has invaded Yarmouk, occupying about 90 per cent. Over 1 000 Palestinians have reportedly been killed. Some 18 000 are left - starving, living in lethal crossfire and facing the awful prospect of ISIS rule.

Aid workers struggle to deliver food, water and medicine to the inhabitants. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has stated that this situation is “a test of the entire international system”. It is being described as one of the world's most critical humanitarian disasters.

The situation is so bad that Israeli Arab Knesset member Ahmed Tibi - a leader of the Joint List party which garnered the third highest number of seats in the recent Israeli elections - said on Monday: "What’s happening in the Yarmouk camp is a crime against humanity.”

Tibi pointed the finger directly at Arab countries and the international community, saying they should be ashamed for what is happening. “ISIS is a fascist movement… There is a moral double standard. If other people were the victims, not Palestinians, it would be different.”

The Jewish left has to ask itself: Does our concern for Palestinians’ human rights stretch no further than how Israel treats them? The barbarity going on in the Arab and Muslim world as Sunnis and Shi’ites slaughter each other and drag thousands of others into the mayhem, is of a scale that cannot be ignored.

Israel is not the reason for it. If the left cannot find it in themselves to loudly condemn it - without simultaneously blaming Israel - their viewpoint will become irrelevant. The left’s voice has been far too silent on ISIS and radical Islam.

Geoff Sifrin is former editor of the SAJR. He writes this column in his personal capacity.



  1. 3 Gary Selikow 09 Apr
    Bwcause BDS, SA Jewish Voices for a  Judenrein Palestine and the 500 quislings are motivated not by concern for the human rights of the Palestinians or of anyone else but by a genocidal venomous hatred of Israel
  2. 2 Choni 09 Apr
    Why criticise the left on the ISIS issue only.
    The left, including the SAZF, strongly favours a two state solution. How long before ISIS will control this new state?
  3. 1 Jonni 14 Apr
    Believing in



      The Loony Left have always behaved this way. Why are we surprised.It started with The Bundists in the 19th century and their views have not changed SINCE.


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