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The Jewish Report Editorial

Time to stand up and be counted

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Hearing a woman tell me that she and her family “feel so at home and comfortable with Jewish people” was quite astonishing for me, especially as she is Christian, and has no obvious ties to the community. I had known her from a distance, but she came to chat to me at a function. She went on to tell me that she really wants her son to go to King David School.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Jun 14, 2018

She listed why she was so fond of us as a community. For a moment, I wondered whether she was trying to impress me for some reason. It turns out she wasn’t. She was 100% genuine.

I am not used to people liking us that much. Instead, I have become quite used to people being wary of us because we support the State of Israel.

So, it is incredibly heart-warming when about 1 500 people from all walks of life take time out of their weekend to celebrate Israel and their support for the South African Jewish community. This was at the South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) conference last Sunday.

It is especially welcome when we are being lambasted for being on the wrong side of the anti-Israel trend that has pervaded the ruling party, EFF, and various other groupings.

We are certainly at an unpleasant impasse in this country, where being anti-Israel is among the top trends. And boy, even if you aren’t looking, many people want to share negative accounts about Israel with you. Few bother to gather both sides of the story. It is all or nothing, and it seems that if you are anti-Israel, you are part of the IN crowd. If you believe in the state of Israel, you are seriously uncool, and anything you say will result in you being lambasted by the trendoids. Hence, many people are nervous about giving their views on social media.

Because of this, the SAFI conference, and the warmth that flows from the vast Christian and other organisations who support us and Israel is extraordinary. I find it all the more amazing that those who were there were, in many cases, were representing likeminded people who couldn’t make it.

My question is: If we have so many friends who vehemently support Israel, why don’t they have any impact politically? Many of these supporters support political parties and may be fairly influential. So, why then have they not used their influence to sway the extremely one-sided political views in the ruling party or the EFF?

I don’t understand that. And while I have been told that most of our friends prefer to keep their religion and politics separate, it doesn’t make sense. I am sorry, but if you really support the state of Israel – and our SAFI friends definitely do – then surely it doesnt go away when your political allies are condemning Israel?

I don’t have the answers to that. However, I ask – no, I plead with them – to please help us in the very lopsided battle we appear to be fighting on the political front.

On Sunday, the fervour in support of Israel was huge, and among those who pledged their allegiance was Johannesburg Health and Social Development MMC Mpho Phalatse. She not only reiterated her support, but that of the City of Johannesburg.

It didn’t take long before the EFF and ANC pounced, calling for her to be fired from the city council. Mayor Herman Mashaba suspended her (Read page 1).

This made it clear – if it wasn’t already – that the knives are out for anyone who publically supports Israel. I don’t believe I have ever seen the climate as heated and divisive as it is right now.

So, all those people who support the existence of the State of Israel must speak up now. It is time to stand up.

In the light of all this hatred towards Israel, I went back to Mandela’s view of the Israeli-Palestinian situation, not least of all because the anti-Israel lobby always use him in their battle. Mandela said in December 1997: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians, without the resolution of conflicts in East Timor, the Sudan, and other parts of the world.” The anti-Israel lobby uses this all the time, leaving out any reference to anyone other than the Palestinians. Also, it ignores the context of his speech, which is about negotiations and finding a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians. He was calling on the South African government not to condemn Israel, but to take its place at the negotiating table to broker peace.

How far are we from that! Today, any mention of supporting Israel as a state – not what its army does or how it deals with situations – leads to a witchhunt and people being punished.

This has got to stop. Once again, I call on those who support the state of Israel and others who are rational and understand that Israel is a multi-faceted country with many different political and social views. Come forward, and help end this impasse so that we can move towards helping to achieve peace.

Shabbat Shalom, Happy Father’s Day, and enjoy Youth Day!

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