Don’t let BDS set the agenda, says Freeman

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Yvonne Jawitz, immediate past president of WIZO SA, with Michael Freeman Israel’s deputy ambassador to South Africa.
by STEVEN GRUZD | Jul 29, 2015

The South African Jewish media gives too much attention and publicity to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS-SA) movement which has urged the imposition of sanctions on Israel, said Israel Deputy Ambassador to South Africa Michael Freeman.

“We let them set the agenda”, said Freeman, speaking at the WIZO Monthly Forum on Tuesday at Beyachad, on “Unlocking the Boycott: Is Israel on the Road to Isolation?”

“I don’t like talking on this topic,” Freeman said, “because I really believe we are giving fuel to BDS.”

He noted that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently said he did not support BDS and that Israel was the PA’s partner. “In that case, who is BDS speaking for?” Freeman asked.

And if BDS was so concerned about Palestinian rights, why had it not uttered a word about the 20 000 Palestinians murdered in Syria?

He also outlined BDS’ inherent anti-Semitism, including the notorious singing of “Shoot the Jew”, their contention that anti-Semitism was “overstated and not a major issue”, and the call for expulsion of all Jews from the Durban University of Technology (and retraction the next day, saying they meant “all Zionists”).

He pointed out that Zionism and a love for Israel is a fundamental tenet of Judaism, found in prayer, festivals and in religious rituals from weddings to bensching.

Freeman pointed to the backlash over the 16 black South African student leaders who recently visited Israel, and how BDS tried to pay them R40 000 each not to fly to Israel (a claim BDS denies).

“Their biggest nightmare is that activists would want to go to Israel and see for themselves,” he said. “They saw how BDS had been lying to them. Calling Israel an apartheid state is an insult to the real anti-apartheid struggle.”

He also strongly denied any cultural boycott of Israel by South Africa. On the contrary, the Israeli Embassy can barely cope with all the requests for Israeli artists, authors and entertainers to appear at the many South African festivals, including Oppikoppi and Joy of Jazz, he said.

Israel-South Africa trade grew seven per cent last year to over a billion dollars and tourism figures are up. “Although they are great at PR and the media, and have a huge budget, BDS is just not having a significant effect on the ground. We are not seeing any serious impact,” Freeman said.

“BDS thrives on publicity, and we keep giving it to them, especially in the Jewish media! Why give them the space?” he asked. “I am not saying ignore them, but put them on the back foot.

“Yes, they stopped a small recital by pianist Yossi Reshef, but Wits then promoted a concert by the Daniel Zamir Quartet that filled the Great Hall! Who’s really winning?

“My message is: Don’t let BDS set the agenda - they don’t get to decide who we are. We have so many great stories to tell about Israel and its creativity. The more we set the agenda, the more they get alienated, and are exposed as radical, anti-Semitic extremists.”

1 Comment

  1. 1 nat cheiman 29 Jul
    I wholeheartedly agree with Mr Freeman.
    BDS is like garbage. Don't cling to it


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