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Only ‘good Jew’ is seen as ‘anti-Zionist Jew’

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DAVID SAKS

This was the first time, at least that I can remember, that a Board gathering with a specifically Jewish rather than Zionist-themed agenda, was picketed. There was nothing specifically related to Israel on the conference programme. Rather, the main theme was on 20 years of democracy in South Africa, with an additional focus on the recent upsurge in anti-Semitism in the country.

This evidently made no difference to those taking part in the protest, which took place under the auspices of the ANC Youth League. For them the SAJBD, as an avowedly Zionist-supporting organisation, is a legitimate target for “the people” at large to rally against, regardless of what it might actually be engaged in at the time.

There have been other moves in recent years to exclude Jewish organisations from participating in public events. There was a case of SAUJS at Wits being snubbed when it wanted to sign on to a campaign against human rights violations in Swaziland, and last year an attempt – unsuccessful – was made to exclude the SAJBD from participating in the annual Gandhi Walk in Lenasia.

In both these, and other similar cases, the defence is always that it is not Jews per se who are being boycotted, but “Zionists”. If necessary, the names of those Jews who have come out against Israel will be trotted out to stymie charges of anti-Semitism. Boycotting such people would indeed – heaven forbid – be racist and anti-Semitic, according to this view.

However, it is quite justifiable to boycott the other kind of Jews – those who support the racist, criminal State of Israel – at least until they see the error of their ways and recant. The only good Jew, in other words, is an anti-Zionist Jew. 

The message all this is sending, with the youth wing of the ruling party and (Cosatu) the powerful trade union component of government having now come on board in a big way, is that the participation of organised Jewry as identifying components of the greater national culture is henceforth conditional on its ceasing to express support for Israel.

It may well be that in the future, even remaining silent on that score will not be enough and a formal denunciation of Israel will be required of Jewish organisations if they are to be allowed to participate on public forums. Such a scenario is by no means far-fetched. Already at two reputable universities, resolutions have been put forward making the future invitation of Israeli academics conditional on the latter making a prior statement condemning alleged human rights violations by their own government.

A large majority of the humanities faculty of Rhodes (things there have changed a little since I studied under those auspices) passed such a resolution, which the Senate declined to adopt in the end.

None of this is remotely rational. How is that professional academics can, without the slightest sense of irony, dictate to others solely on the basis of their nationality what interpretation of events they are required to endorse in order to be heard and claim to be doing so in order to further the cause of democracy and human rights?

Academics are not as a rule overly courageous when it comes to opposing the (apparent) consensus view of their colleagues, but given the sheer egregiousness of this piece of neo-Stalinistic bullying, one would expect even from them something of a backlash.

There have been some honourable exceptions, but in the end most have been afraid to speak out, fearing that they will be smeared with the Zionist brush and ostracised. There can be little doubt that this same timidity and group-think is at work in the mainstream media, in the NGO environment and probably in many other contexts, such is the witch-hunting fury that the anti-Israel hate lobby has been able to generate.  

Almost without exception, Jewish communal organisations in South Africa are de facto Zionistic organisations. That Zionism is explicit in the policies and programmes not just of the SAZF and its many affiliates and the SAJBD, but of the Board of Jewish Education, the UOS, the Union of Jewish Women, SAUJS, the Jewish media and a host of educational, fundraising and cultural groupings.

Only welfare organisations arguably have no explicit Zionist platform, and even there no-one doubts the loyalties and affiliations of those who belong to them. As a result, boycotting “Zionists” and boycotting Jews is inevitably one and the same thing.

For the moment, those who are maligning the Jewish establishment and seeking to exclude them from participating in the larger national discourse are a fringe element, but they are steadily gaining ground.

A great deal of courage and determination will be required of our community in the coming years to stand up to these threats. Our challenge is to continue to assert, without compromising, our steadfast support for Israel and the Zionist ideal while at the same time continuing to play our part as c

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. P Mahlangu

    Sep 23, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    ‘Israel have got rights to protect herself against the terorists Anc,boko haram,janjaweed,al qaeda,alshabab etc’

  2. Gary Selikow

    Sep 24, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    ‘Then Ill have to be a ‘BAd Jew’ because I am a Zionist until death!!!’

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