The Jewish Report Editorial

South African Jews are not the Israeli government!

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Pesach is about Freedom. Pesach is about learning not to cower when someone demeans you. Pesach is about getting out of a bad situation, as tough as that may be. Pesach is about standing up for your rights. Pesach is upon us and, as you can see from the myriad articles we have in this newspaper, there are so many things we can learn at this time of year.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Apr 18, 2019

Life is about learning from what we do and don’t do. And every Pesach, we learn something different in spite of reading the same book (the Haggadah) over and over.

In our country right now, we are faced with some tough lessons, ones that are very hard for our community to swallow.

Consider our own minister of international relations and cooperation, Lindiwe Sisulu’s, utterances. Two weeks ago, she declared at a media briefing that South Africa was already in the process of downgrading its embassy in Israel, and cutting ties with the Jewish state. Just like that.

Then, last Friday night, she went on to reiterate what she had said, claiming that no other country had human-rights abuses like Israel. If others were involved in human-rights abuses, she maintained, then South Africa would be cutting ties with those countries too. Really!

You don’t have to look very far to find many countries involved in horrific abuses of human rights. And, South Africa has wonderful relations with a fair number of them.

Syria, for one, is way up on the list of these countries, according to the latest Human Rights Watch World Report. As are Venezuela, China, and the global list goes on. As for Iran, a country which our government recently met to improve relations, its abuses are extensive. Israel isn’t on the global report list. However, our esteemed minister has done nothing to cut ties with these countries, has she?

Of course not. As much as I would like to believe that her impetus is 100% about her concern for human rights, it is becoming more and more apparent that this is not the case.

When she claimed at the same talk last Friday night that the University of the Witwatersrand was being heavily funded by the Israeli government, she took a turn that could take her to the point of no return.

You see, as most of us are aware, Israel has many other things to invest its money in, and the South African university – though still an iconic institution of learning – is not one of them. In fact, I cannot think of one reason she could possibly think Israel would want to invest in Wits. It has its own universities.

Who on earth would tell her this nonsense, and why would she simply believe them? Whoever it was could only have been up to mischief and hate-mongering, but they were certainly not telling the truth.

Or could they have been talking about all the money Jewish people have invested in Wits? Now, that would be true. I can’t tell you how much, but I do know this to be a fact.

So, then, did she confuse the Israeli government – because she specifically mentioned it – and South African Jews? If this is the case, why would she do this? We are a community, and Israel is a country.

Is it possible that in her mind we are one and the same thing? So, could it be that, to our minister, the Israeli government and Jews in South Africa are interchangeable and indistinguishable from one another.

Something is starting to make sense in a very disturbing way.

Remember how the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement is constantly saying that it is not anti-Semitic – in fact, there is a whole section on its website that goes on about how it isn’t – but anti-Israel. Meanwhile, its members so often get caught out doing or saying something anti-Semitic.

Well, the minister has on so many occasions made it clear that she is opposed to what Israel does and because of that, she wants our government to cut ties. She sees the Israeli government as oppressive and abusive. So, if Israel is all those bad things and she can confuse the Jewish state with local South African Jews, then what does that mean about how she feels about us?

In the context of what she was saying last Friday night, she was clearly intimating that this money from the Israeli government – which we assume now was in fact local Jews – is a problem for South Africa. Is she planning to stop Jews from donating money to South African universities?

What is she planning to replace it with – government money?

I have perhaps jumped a few steps here, and made assumptions that I hope are wrong. However, there is something really wrong with this situation.

Now, coming back to Pesach. As Jews, we have to stand up for our rights. We dare not cower. We dare not turn the other cheek. We must stand up and be counted.

We must not let this lie. We need to ask the right questions, get the right answers. This is one of the lessons we have learnt from Pesach.

The elections are almost upon us and, as we have learnt from Pesach, we need to follow the best leaders. We need to vote with our consciences. We need to vote for a party that will recognise our place in the sun.

So, as we sit down with our families this Pesach, let us remind ourselves of the importance of freedom. This is not just physical freedom, but freedom of religion, freedom of association, and so on.

Let us teach our children not to cower, but to hold their heads high, and fight for our rights.

Chag Pesach Sameach!

1 Comment

  1. 1 Mervyn S Skuy 19 Apr
    Heartiest congratulations on an absolutely  magnificent  Pesach edition of the paper!  I was hard-pressed to decide which articles to include in our seder.

    Mervyn Skuy (Miami)


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