Deciding who to vote for

  • Howard Feldman 2018
It’s going to get ugly. It always does. Anywhere in the world, an election year unleashes a tsunami of negativity, as each party does their best to show why the other would make a very poor choice.
by HOWARD FELDMAN | Feb 07, 2019

Social media, fake news, and the scars left by the deep and unhealed wounds of apartheid, will serve to complicate the situation. One thing that we can be certain of, is that is it not going to be that pleasant.

For South African Jews, it is even more complicated.

  • Even though there is a general approval of Cyril Ramaphosa himself, his party has been a key component of the corruption that has led to the economic woes of the country. We are in the midst of a state-capture enquiry that has left us speechless on the one hand, but also indicates that there is a clear intention to expose the horrors of the past few years and perhaps deal with them.
  • Although no doubt a friend to the Jewish community in some areas, the African National Congress has an appalling track record with regard to its flagrant anti-Israel bias. It has gone so far as to sign a memorandum of understanding with Hamas, a designated terror organisation, whose charter openly calls for the murder and removal of all Jews from Israel.

    South Africa is one of the few countries that allows Hamas to travel to the country and even open an office here. It has legitimised a genocidal and racist pariah.

  • The Democratic Alliance, long the choice for South African Jews even prior to its current format, has shown significant cracks in its structure. Its communication on the Cape Town drought, the Patricia de Lille debacle, and its inability to curtail Helen Zille, are cause for concern among Jewish voters.

    Although the party is aligned to the values of many in the Jewish community, and the organisation is populated by members with the best of intentions, it currently does not inspire voter confidence.

  • The party most loyal to the community and to Israel is undoubtedly the ACDP, led by Reverend Kenneth Meshoe. It continues to stand firm on its support, not only for Israel but for South African Jews. That said, whether it is multifaceted enough to present a viable alternative is something that I am not yet convinced about.
  • The Economic Freedom Fighters is an interesting party. Julius Malema is undoubtedly one of the smartest politicians on the circuit. He values education, and is no doubt a lot more measured than his persona displays. He is also a marketing genius. I continue (perhaps naively) to feel that some of his (anti-Semitic) and other rhetoric is just that, and that beneath the populist approach is a practical and shrewd leader. In spite of this, until more is known about his followers and policies, the community needs to proceed with caution.

A common accusation levelled at the Jewish community is that it views politics and candidates in terms of their impact on Jews and Israel. There is nothing wrong with this. It’s time that we stopped apologising for it.

How a country treats its Jews and its attitude to Israel is deeply relevant, as it reflects its prejudice, how it interrogates and understands global politics, and who its bed-fellows are.

The next few months are going to be scratchy. We are going to be bombarded with negativity and noise. It is going to be vital to assess what we hear carefully, and make decisions that are best for the country and the community. We need to make peace with the fact that the field is an imperfect one. But we still need to decide who plays.


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