BDS miscalculates Young SA Leaders’ open minds

  • 2a-David Saks stats
Four participants in the recent “Young South African Leaders” visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, shared their experiences and insights with Gauteng Jewish leaders and community members at a report-back evening last Thursday.
by DAVID SAKS | Aug 05, 2015

The event, originally to have taken place at Investec in Sandton, in the end was held at the HOD Centre following indications that anti-Israel activists might try to disrupt the proceedings.

The day before the event, the organisers received a letter from BDS-SA saying that 35 “comrades” would be attending. When told that they could not do so, BDS issued a statement claiming its members had been “intimidated” merely for showing a willingness to “engage”.

In light of past disruptive tactics by BDS and its supporters, it was nevertheless decided to change the venue to one where the coming and going of visitors could be more easily controlled. In the end, no demonstrations were mounted, and the evening went ahead without incident.

The visit to Israel took place under the auspices of the South Africa-Israel Forum (SAIF), an organisation that brings South African leaders on focused programmes to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

In his introductory address, SAIF director Dan Brotman emphasised that the aim of such visits was not to make participants “pro-Israel”. Rather, the intention was simply to expose them to a different perspective from that provided by the local media by having them see Israel at first hand and learn about the on-the-ground realities there, by engaging with Israelis and Palestinians.

While each of the four participants had his or her particular perspective to share, certain common themes emerged in the course of their presentations, as well as on a video screened beforehand providing comments by others who had gone on the trip.

All stressed how, from their very arrival in Israel, they had been encouraged to continually ask questions and engage as widely as they could with people from across the political and ethnic spectrum.

How little prior exposure they had had to the Israeli point of view also became evident; each of the speakers had been thoroughly immersed in the BDS perspective, and indeed had themselves been active in anti-Israel activities on campus.

Nevertheless, this had not prevented them from accepting an invitation to visit Israel and hear another perspective, and far from dissuading them, the pressure exerted on them by BDS not to do so (including financial incentives) served only to heighten their curiosity as to what it was BDS was so anxious to prevent them from being exposed to.

With regard to the visit itself, each presenter remarked on how all the individuals they had spoken to, while having widely differing perspectives on certain issues, nevertheless all expressed a common desire to achieve peace and co-existence.

As a result, they had come away regarding themselves as being neither pro-Israel nor pro-Palestinian but rather pro-peace and with a strong desire to promote dialogue and educate people in South Africa as to ways in which this could be achieved.  

All four presenters also spoke about the intimidation and abuse that they had been subjected to, both before and after the trip, by BDS-SA, an organisation that promotes a comprehensive boycott of Israel by South Africa, and its supporters within the ANC.

They had several scathing things to say about BDS, not only about how its members had tried to bully them into withdrawing from the trip, but also for the way it went about depicting the Israel-Palestine issue.

Inter alia, BDS was criticised for suppressing intellectual debate in favour of invoking one-sided emotional responses, discouraging engagement with Jews on the basis that they had nothing worthwhile to say and for piggy-backing on the black liberation struggle to advance a personal agenda aimed not at bringing about peace, but at demonising and boycotting an entire nation.

It was suggested that BDS ultimately opposed anything that might promote peaceful engagement because their very funding and livelihoods were dependent on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remaining unresolved.


Israeli Deputy Ambassador Michael Freeman thanked and commended all those who had stood up to the threats and abuse by going to Israel to find out more about what was happening there.

There were those who wanted a negotiated, two-state solution aimed at achieving peaceful co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians, he said, and those seeking a one-state solution to be imposed following Israel’s destruction. The latter were on the wrong side of justice, and would be shown to be on the wrong side of history as well.


  1. 3 bds works 05 Aug
    PR Gone Wrong On Israeli Propaganda Trip, participant speaks out 
  2. 2 nat cheiman 06 Aug
    BDS offers more loot to the 16 to speak out on Israeli trip. Liars, and deceitful failures that pollute society .
    Surely, they should be trying desperately to outdo the Jews in the Nobel Prize stakes? No way!!!!! Destructive tendencies are much easier to pursue.
    What can they add to their name? LOSERS!
  3. 1 nat cheiman 11 Aug
    BDS doesn't work. May the Bet Hamikdash be rebuilt soon


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