The Jewish Report Editorial

Does Paris change the way we see ourselves

  • Vanessa
By the end of last week, a fresh sense of doom about South Africa’s future had set in like a dark, suffocating cloud.
by VANESSA VALKIN | Nov 18, 2015

In Johannesburg, the overpowering heat, the dysfunctional traffic lights, the garbage and graffiti-littered streets – all gave one the sense that we had finally cut our ties with the First World. 

Then came news of SAA Chairman Dudu Myeni’s ridiculous flouting of her fiduciary responsibilities regarding the airline’s turnaround plan; stories of drought and dying animals, water restrictions and treatment plant mismanagement...

It all smacked of government incompetence, maladministration, and squandering of our municipalities and our state-owned entities and a disregard for our citizens who also received news that despite all, their president was getting a new multi-billion rand jet.

It was one of those weeks where that same old “emmigration conversation” resurfaced in the minds of Jewish South Africans like an uncomfortable migraine. And reflecting, not just on the week, but on the last few months – of student protests, government corruption, a flailing rand, unemployment, police brutality, uncontrolled crime and more – some of us might even have got ourselves into a state of self-reproach that we had not emigrated already – when we were younger, richer (or poorer), or more courageous.

We may even have looked on with envy at safe, sophisticated Europe or in awe of efficient and trail-blazing North America and wished we had made the move or, for some of us, never come back.

Then a world tragedy occurred last Friday night in Paris that again shifted the parameters of our assessments. And as the days pass from Friday, November 13, and the names of the victims of the attacks in Paris flash across our TV screens and facts about the terrorists are uncovered, and the world reels from the horror of it all – we cannot help but think what this means for South Africa. 

And luckily – for now at least – it appears to mean very little. We are a comparatively irrelevant country with no part in the growing global fight against ISIS terror. South Africa has not joined a US coalition targeting the Islamic State with airstrikes in eastern Syria and northern Iraq. Nor have we sided with the Western powers in labelling and banning Middle East terror groups. 

In fact, we welcomed one group – Hamas – into our midst with open arms last month. And as horrific as it was for South African Jewry to fathom our government cosying up to a known terrorist organisation, this quiet departure from Western opinion, may inadvertently protect us from groups like ISIS bringing their terror here. 

While France’s leaders mourned its dead on the weekend and the US revved up intelligence and security as fear mounted about potential terror attacks, our South African leaders – in the spirit of positivity and hope – were meeting with the BRIC nations at the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey talking about opportunities for growth and mutually beneficial co-operation. 

And although we have refugees from neighbouring countries at our borders, we are far away from the turmoil of fleeing Syrians flocking to our shores. 

Yes, we have huge, internal problems but poverty, corruption, poor leadership and no jobs are not the result of outside forces which Europe now faces and may have to go to war to confront; they are really of our own doing or undoing. 

We showed in 1994 that we could overturn unworkable political systems and reinvent ourselves. Perhaps we can again transform and lift the bar. 

The lessons of Paris are that all nations face obstacles, but at least, with the right leadership, we have the precedent, the constitutional freedoms and, hopefully, the resources to tackle them. 


                                     – Vanessa Valkin, Editor


1 Comment

  1. 1 Denis Solomons 18 Nov
    All does seem pretty bleak with no solution in sight.
    Poverty, drought and unemployment are the order of the day  while the President seems to be only interested in his new billion rand jet.
    It's like let the masses eat cake if there is no bread; the country is burning while the politicians are partying and frolicking at the beaches.
    How does one get out and escape the mallay ; prozac seems to be the order of the day .
    All doom and gloom and no light at the end of the tunnel !


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