BDS is up to its old tricks again

by Ant Katz | Dec 22, 2013

The uber-spin-doctor


BDS-SA is back to its old tricks of selective memory to prey on the political and historical naïveté of its target audience with selective information that works for its failed playbook.

BDS Desai - longThe Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions against Israel in South Africa (BDS-SA) campaign issued a press statement late on Friday afternoon in what can only be described as trying to pick up lost ground in recruitment of membership and another poor attempt to embarrass Israel and have an impact on SA/Israel relations.

BDS-SA has been very quiet since their “Shoot the Jew” campaign backfired on them so badly some months back and seem to have engaged an old trick of theirs - ostensibly to gain mileage while Jewish communications practitioners are unable to respond to their manipulation of the truth until after Shabbos.

RIGHT: Muhammed Desai of BDS-SA

BDS’ old trick of issuing selective information will only resonate on the political and historical naïveté of what it seems to have decided is its target audience. Offering selective information that works well for its failed playbook certainly won’t pass muster with the inteligencia.

In a press statement on Friday afternoon claiming that “The Nelson Mandela Foundation has issued an official statement refuting allegations that Nelson Mandela had military interactions with Israeli operatives,” BDS has once again showed that it has no intention to recruit thinking South Africans.

Insulting peoples’ intelligence

BDS quotes an official press release from the Nelson Mandela Foundation refuting Israeli allegations (bold, italicised type to be questioned below) that Nelson Mandela was trained by Israeli "Mossad" operatives in Ethiopia - a claim being made in Israel and by Israeli media
BDS’ Muhammed Desai goes on to quote an article from JTA in 1990: “If one has to refer to any of the parties as a terrorist state, one might refer to the Israeli government, because they are the people who are slaughtering defenseless (sic) and innocent Arabs in the occupied [Palestinian] territories, and we don’t regard that as acceptable.”

BDS’ four huge ‘untruths’

Allow me, if you will, to expand on what I have chosen to mark in bold, italicised type above:

  • “Refuting Allegations” – The Nelson Mandela Foundation statement – for some strange reason referred to in the BDS statement on Friday with a link, but itself only posted on Saturday, simply says “it has not located any evidence” to this effect.
    • How could BDS have sent the link out on Friday for a statement dated Saturday?
    • Clearly, with the NM Foundation closing for the holidays on Friday and the Haaretz website’s Opinion piece having been posted on Friday morning, there would not be sufficient time to locate evidence one way or the other.
    • Without commenting on the veracity or otherwise of David Fachler’s Opinion piece, clearly Messrs Desai & Co of BDS must have had a hand in getting the NM Foundation to hastily give them a URL and issue a statement the following day.
  • “Israeli Allegations” – Desai is referring to a written in the clearly-marked opinion section of a single news website. In reality, that is tantamount to a letter to the editor of a newspaper. Desai’s implication (spin), on behalf of BDS-SA, is that these are allegations by the Israeli authorities. Just how naïve does Desai think his target audience is?
  • Israeli Media” – here again Desai, spin-doctor to the masses and laughing stock of the inteligencia, uses his craft to:
    • Give the impression that he is talking of the “media” in pluralistic terms, whereas his statement only refers to an op-ed piece in Haaretz;
    • Play to what he assumes is his target audience’s lack of understanding of the media. By trying to imply that an “Opinion” piece by a contributor, David Fachler, is in any way a factual news statement by Haaretz is really too much of an insult to his audience. He assumes their naïveté with regard to what is “News” and what is “Opinion” within the media.
  • “Mandela mis-Quote” - Finally, in quoting selectively from a 1990 JTA article, the uber-spin-doctor, refrains from mentioning the following statements in the exact same article he had linked to – again insulting the intelligence of his readers whom he hopes will either not read the full article or only check what he has said:
    • “Mandela meanwhile said he ‘unreservedly’ supported Zionism insofar as it meant a Jewish state within secure borders. But he opposed Zionism ‘when it meant deprivation of human rights in the occupied territories’,”
    • Mandela reached a truce with American Jewish leaders shortly before his visit to the United States. On that occasion, Mandela said he was sorry if any of his past statements on Israel had offended Jews. He said he hoped to visit Israel soon and looked forward to good relations between Israel and the new democratic state that would soon emerge in South Africa.
    • The JTA article goes on to say that “the Geneva meeting, described as ‘warm, friendly and cordial,’ was credited with averting protest demonstrations against Mandela by American Jewish groups during his US tour.”

Disclaimer - this is a blog 

For the information of readers, this is a personal Opinion piece and not a factual news story.

David Fachler’s Friday Opinion piece in HAARETZ:

Mandela and the Mossad: How Israel courted Black Africa. The unknown story of how Israel secretly trained anti-apartheid activists in 'judo, sabotage and weaponry,' including Nelson Mandela himself.

By David Fachler | Dec. 20, 2013 | 1:00 AM | 3

In all the exhaustive coverage of Nelson Mandela’s death and his equivocal attitude towards the Jewish State, one episode that sheds new light on this relationship has been waiting in Israel's National Archive to be told.

We need to go back to the early 1960s. Israel was keen to court the recently decolonized African states and so went out of its way to show solidarity with the latter by consistently voting in UN resolutions condemning the apartheid state and the regime behind it.

This was not without consequence for the South African Jewish community, who found themselves the recipients of the wrath of Prime Minister Verwoerd and his Foreign Minister Eric Louw, yet it did endear Israel to the anti-apartheid movements. The ANC itself, then led by Oliver Tambo, penned a letter from London to Israel’s President Yitzhak Ben Zvi thanking him for Israel’s actions at the United Nations.

Roughly three months before Tambo dispatched this letter, on 11 October, 1962, a letter was sent from what is likely to be a Mossad operative, Y. Ben Ari at Israel’s embassy in Ethiopia to the Israeli Foreign Office Africa desk containing the following information:

As you may recall, three months ago we discussed the case of a trainee who arrived at the [Israeli] embassy in] Ethiopia by the name of David Mobsari who came from Rhodesia. The aforementioned received training from the Ethiopian [Israeli embassy staff, almost certainly Mossad agents] in judo, sabotage and weaponry.

He greeted our men with “Shalom”, was familiar with the problems of Jewry and of Israel and gave the impression of being an intellectual. The staff tried to make him into a Zionist.

It now emerges from photographs that have been published in the press about the arrest in South Africa of the “Black Pimpernel” that the trainee from Rhodesia used an alias, and the two men are one and the same.

BDS - bugger offBefore coming to Ethiopia he was in Accra (where he met Nkrumah and his advisors), Lagos and Tanganyika. In Ethiopia he was trained in various kinds of light weaponry (including Israeli). In conversations with him he expressed socialist worldviews, and at times created the impression that he leaned towards communism.

He showed an interest in the methods of the Haganah and other Israeli underground movements.

In response, 13 days later, the Foreign Ministry confirmed that the 'Black Pimpernel' was in fact Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who the year before had arranged a nationwide strike and thereafter went into hiding. 'Black Pimpernel' was the code name for Nelson Mandela used by the South African authorities who were hunting him. Curiously they also mention that he was considered by ANC supporters and many others as the most important person in his movement, despite the fact that Albert Luthuli was still the elected president-general of the ANC.

So, Nelson Mandela, under an alias, learnt weapons and sabotage techniques from embassy staff who were likely Mossad agents, whilst being gently prompted to become a supporter of the Jewish state.

This episode is remarkable for a number of reasons. First of all, Mandela was in no way a lone participant in a covert Israeli training program: Israel had established ties with various movements considered subversive by the South African government. A number of Israeli embassies stationed in Africa provided training, advice and transport vehicles to members of the Pan Africanist Congress, including Potlkako Leballo, the head of its militant Poqo wing. Since the PAC was considered anti-Communist and not aligned with the Soviet Union, they were more attractive for a prospect for Israel to deal with than the ANC. Yet what makes this tentative contact with the pre-incarcerated Mandela so fascinating is his willingness to engage with these Israelis in the first place.

The golden era of cooperation between Israel and African liberation movements continued through the 1960s. Golda Meir, as Foreign Minister and ardent admirer of black Africa, called for leniency in the Rivonia trial and for the commutation of any death sentence.

The Israeli National Archives' public relations office, and the Israeli press in its wake, have been careful to point out Golda Meir's actions and the public face of Israel's support for anti-apartheid activists. While this is an admirable instance of humanitarian activism, however, it hardly tells the whole story. Israel's history with South Africa is marked not only by cultivating relationships with those opposed to apartheid, but also by exacerbating tensions with these very same groups and individuals after the Israel: liberation movements' honeymoon came to an end.

A historian should not hypothesize as to what would have happened had Mandela not been caught and tried by the South African authorities. Nor what would have been the consequences had Israel, following its abandonment by Black Africa in the 1970s, not fostered such warm ties with the Apartheid regime. Yet this episode does go some way in showing that the tensions that now exist were not inescapable.

Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 placed Israel in a quandary. After almost two decades of actively supporting the apartheid regime it had to come to terms with the fact that South Africa was reversing course and was undergoing a transitional phase which would inevitably lead to the end of white rule in the Republic.

Yet Israel's ambassador to South Africa at the time, Zvi Gov-Ari, appeared to be ill-equipped to adjust himself to the new situation. Thus instead of trying to cultivate ties with the recently unbanned ANC, Israel’s representative in Pretoria made the double faux pas of criticizing Mandela, the movement’s de facto leader, while at the same time expressing a preference for Mangosuthu Buthelezi, widely perceived as a black puppet for the Nationalist Government. It is perhaps no wonder that Israel Maisels, a major Jewish and Zionist leader and one of the lead defense attorneys in the Rivonia trial, did not think highly of the ambassador, referring to him as that “bloody stupid fellow” (quoted in Cutting through the Mountain: Interviews with South African Jewish Activists [1997], edited by Immanuel Sutner).

Back in Israel, the venerable English-language Jerusalem Post, which at that time was doing its best to show how loyal it was to the Likud government, was probably reflecting the government's opinion when it predicted on June 25, 1991 that “if ANC leader Nelson Mandela assumes power in South Africa it will certainly not be a democracy…If he or his like rule South Africa, the country will be an unmitigated totalitarian disaster and an economic basket case." Further underlining its dire predictions, the newspaper declared:

 “If full, non-segregated political equality is achieved in South Africa, it will not be the violent ANC, whose membership is 300,000, that will rule. The Zulus and their followers, numbering six million; the three million coloreds (people of mixed blood) who have been alienated by the ANC's Communist ideas; the million Indians, and the five million whites will probably form the ruling coalition one day. Only then is there a chance that South Africa will be both free and prosperous”.

No one knows whether Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and his cabinet honestly thought that Mandela had no political future in South Africa, but its persistent backing of the old regime only came to an end with the ascension to power of Yitzhak Rabin and his Labor Party. With the appointment of Dr. Alon Liel, a seasoned diplomat and close ally of Yossi Beilin, one of Israel’s most vociferous critics of the white regime, Israel managed to salvage some of the damage by cultivating ties with the ANC.

Indeed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process of 1993 provided Israel with an even greater opportunity to reconcile itself with an ANC now in government which was both supportive and thankful for the prospects of a peaceful resolution between the Jewish State and its Palestinian counterpart. Sadly, as the Oslo process fell apart, relations between Israel and the Republic continued to be strained, as they do to this day.

With Mandela’s death, Israel once again had the opportunity of mending at least some of the damage it had caused in the past, by sending a top-level delegation which would include at least the head of government or the head of state. It failed, opting instead to send the Knesset's speaker. Unfortunately Israel has shown, more from folly than malice, that it serially misunderstands the new South Africa, and the repercussions will be felt not only in the international diplomatic arena but also by the Jewish community of South Africa itself.

  • David Fachler has a Masters in Law from South Africa (LLM) and a Masters in Contemporary Jewry from Hebrew University, Jerusalem (MA).He is contactable at [email protected]


The NM Foundation STATEMENT issued Saturday:

Nelson Mandela and Alleged Interaction with Israeli Operative

21 December 2013

Media have picked up on a story alleging that in 1962 Nelson Mandela interacted with an Israeli operative in Ethiopia.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation can confirm that it has not located any evidence in Nelson Mandela's private archive (which includes his 1962 diary and notebook) that he interacted with an Israeli operative during his tour of African countries in that year. Both the diary and the notebook were used as evidence against him in the 1963-1964 Rivonia Trial for sabotage.

In 1962 Mr Mandela received military training from Algerian freedom fighters in Morocco and from the Ethiopian Riot Battalion at Kolfe outside Addis Ababa, before returning to South Africa in July 1962. In 2009 the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s senior researcher travelled to Ethiopia and interviewed the surviving men who assisted in Mandela’s training – no evidence emerged of an Israeli connection.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Joshua Grigst 22 Dec
    These guys are a joke. Wat befuddles me is how academics can take them seriously althouh i think they muast have lost a lot of that support over the Shoot the Jew episode. I also got this media releace and I noticed that Desai doeasn't have a title anymore


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