The Jewish Report Editorial

Knowing who is on your side… and who clearly isn’t

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In our edition last week, we ran a story about Tokyo Sexwale, who was scheduled to deliver the keynote speech at the gala dinner at the World Jewish Congress’s gala dinner in Cape Town last week. He was invited to speak to some of the most important leaders in the Jewish world. Yes, I said Jewish world, not Zionist world, because that is the case.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Nov 02, 2017

My guess is he was invited to speak because he is a leading figure in South Africa, having been Premier of Gauteng, Minister of Home Affairs, an ANC anti-apartheid activist and a top businessman. I am sure that his present fascinating position of Fifa’s head of Israel/Palestine monitoring committee, cinched his attraction for the World Jewish Congress.

In the latter role, he does hold a precarious position, because both Israeli and Palestinians want him to favour them. So, when I heard he wasn't actually at the event, I can’t say I was terribly surprised - albeit that he gave a decent notice that he couldn't make it and agreed to a fair alternative. This was a pre-recorded interview with the intrepid investigative journalist Mandy Wiener.

But even Wiener - whose skills at getting the hardest nut to crack are legendary - got a fairly tepid interview. Again, Sexwale is a politician and is well aware of the Catch22 situation he is in.

He was so careful with his words. He was extremely cautious about not taking sides. He even called on Jews to put pressure on Israel to work with the Palestinians. He asked the World Jewish Congress to use soccer to bring Israelis and Arabs together. His message was about peace.

Here’s the rub: No sooner had our newspaper hit the streets than BDS was calling for his resignation from his Fifa position.

They claim - using our newspaper as ammunition - that Sexwale “reduced Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine to a disagreement between Jews and Muslims” et cetera et cetera. They insist that he had “complete disregard, for example, of the indigenous Palestinian Christians and the larger question of Palestinian self-determination in the face of Israel’s illegal occupation”.

I read and reread what we published and was astounded that they could read that into what he said.

My question is: Was there anything that Sexwale could have said at that event or in the interview that wouldn't have got the same reaction? Is this about Israel or is this about Jews? I would like to believe that BDS’s issues are strictly about Israel, but we keep seeing evidence to the contrary. This is a perfect example.

Sexwale was so careful not to upset either side, to the point that the interview was beyond vanilla. He said nothing of real consequence because he sat on the fence, so as not to upset anyone.

In fact, if he chose a side, it was the Palestinian one because he was calling on Jews to pressure Israel. I can’t say I blame him. He was not in an easy situation.

However, clearly BDS wasn't terribly interested in the effort he made not to upset anyone. They appeared to have a mission. They were going to find something to turn against him, no matter what he said. Why? Could it be simply because he accepted an invitation to speak to a room full of Jews?

Marching to Pretoria

On the flipside, while the Economic Freedom Fighters chose to take to the streets to protest the 100-year-old Balfour Declaration, by marching to the Israeli embassy, there is another group who - in their thousands - made a similar decision to show their allegiance and support of Israel.

They aren’t Israelis, nor are they even Jewish - they are devout South African Christians. Holding their bibles in their hands, for the sheer love of Israel, they chose to show their allegiance for and protect the Israeli embassy from the EFF.

They are taking time out of their busy lives and time off work to do this, which could potentially be dangerous.

They are unashamedly supportive of Israel and chose to do this off their own bat. In the light of the anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment that is so evident in this country and the world, it is a welcome relief to know that we have brave and supportive friends in this country. They are friends indeed!

Shabbat shalom!



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