The dirty business of politics and friendship

  • GeoffEditorial
Amid the hot air sprouted by politicians during this December/January break, US President Donald Trump took the cake for something significant for South African Jews who consider themselves both Zionist and African.
by GEOFF SIFRIN | Jan 18, 2018

This story goes back to January last year, when Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent the newly inaugurated Trump a warm message: “Congratulations to my friend, President Trump.” Here was a man, said Netanyahu and Israeli rightists, who would unequivocally support Israel, including West Bank settlements, and was not afraid to stand up to the Palestinians and the Muslim world – a welcome contrast to his predecessor, Barack Obama. Conservative Jews, including South Africans, backed Trump, particularly among the Orthodox, hoping he would strengthen Israel’s right wing.

He pleased them further last month by announcing that the US recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, upending decades of established US policy, and would begin moving the American embassy there. Delighted Israelis decided to name a planned railway station after him near the Old City. Photos of Trump standing at the Kotel caused Jews worldwide to think he was their friend.

But be careful who you call your friend. Michael Wolff, celebrated author of the bombshell new book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, exposing the White House’s disastrous inner workings, has said in interviews that Trump is racist, xenophobic and sexist, views women in “as transactional a way as he thinks about everything” and is “aware of who is Jewish in a way that feels creepy”, although not saying he is anti-Semitic. Trump denies it all.

Never one to disappoint, Trump dropped a new bombshell last week in a meeting with lawmakers at the Oval Office on immigration reform, calling African nations “shithole countries”, provoking outrage worldwide.

Netanyahu boldly declared recently that Israel is “coming back to Africa”, amid high-profile visits to African countries to strengthen ties. Does he have the courage to criticise his “friend” Trump for his comments about Africa? Trump is child-like, and one day when he is piqued by something Israel does, will use a similar slur for it.

What do conservative South African Jews think? Will they continue applauding Trump because he supports Israel and Jerusalem as its capital? Or will they broadcast disgust for his comments about their African home?

They cannot hide behind the notion that it is not their affair what the American president does in relation to other countries. Trump’s words are gutter-level politics which dehumanise Africans. Jews have a long history of being dehumanised by such politics, prior to being attacked ­- by Nazis or others.

The African Union (AU), representing the continent’s countries, condemned Trump. Will SA Jews stand with the AU, or refrain because some AU countries are anti-Israel? A group of 54 African countries at the UN denounced “the continuing and growing trend from the US administration toward Africa and people of African descent to denigrate the continent and people of colour”. Will Israel and Netanyahu support them against Trump?

At its recent national elective conference, the ANC resolved to downgrade South Africa’s embassy in Israel. Jewish community organisations showed Israel loyalty by protesting and sending mass mailings to members. What about their loyalty to Africa? They may be Zionists, but they are also African.

A Jewish public statement denouncing Trump for insulting Africa could be appropriate. It might also gain credit for them in ANC ranks, or be an opportunity to agree, for once, with someone like ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, who is no friend of Israel, but publically denounced Trump.

Cavorting with people like Trump may serve short-term goals for Israel, as perceived by Netanyahu, but it generally comes back to haunt. Israel was built with the help of many Jews from those “shithole” African countries, including from South Africa.


Read Geoff Sifrin’s regular columns on his blog



  1. 2 nat cheiman 18 Jan
    Clearly Mr Sifrin misinterprets President Trump's "sh*thole countries". This view is skewed and typically liberal ( and dangerous)
    President Trump is a friend of Israel and the JEWS ( and Christians). Lest you forget that..
    Trump refers to the quagmire which is Africa, and not to the Jews or Christians.
    Africa and the third world have had decades to educate themselves out of impoverishment but have failed because they do not wish to. The begging bowl is an easier option.
    Trump has seen through this facade and has put his foot down.
    Unesco, UNHRW and other agencies have received billions from the USA. NO MORE FREEBIES.
    Mr Trump is quite correct. America pays and Africa votes for rogue states against the US.
    Jews and Christians from "sh*thole countries"will always be welcome in the US.
  2. 1 Gary Selikow 18 Jan
    Siffrin is so incredibly one sided. He only attacks the 'right', and Zionists. Never a word of codemnation of the hard left of Islamic extremists. He has a one track mind. the man is nauseating.
    What has he to say about his ANC's decision to cut ties with Israel?


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