Who’s calling Mid-East policy shots

by Jewish Report | Jul 29, 2015

Sixteen of the ANC’s most senior young academics and business leaders from around SA visited Israel and Palestine in their personal capacities on an educational tour this month which has resulted in so much consternation that it again begs the question: Who sets SA’s political policy towards the Middle East?

So much panic did this cause in the anti-Israel ranks when they found out about the trip shortly before their departure, that a US-based NGO reportedly offered an inducement of R640,000 to get these future SA leaders not to go. None accepted – and now they face the wrath of ANC-aligned structures.

Needless to say, BDS yesterday denied they had made this offer – and then proceeded to blame the misunderstanding on the Zionists. But make it they did, say the sixteen rebels

Several high-ranking branch executives and chairs have been suspended pending hearings. But the gutsy youngsters refuse to apologise and are now demanding to know what their organisations are trying to hide from them.

15-bds ant toon remakeThe sixteen travelled in their personal capacities as guests of a programme entirely funded by SA Jews.

The apparent disconnect over SA/Israel policy between Gwede Mantashe’s ideologists at ANC headquarters, Luthuli House and Jacob Zuma’s ANC-led Government’s pragmatic approach has had every reason to widen over the past five years.

Yet, clearly, any discomfort between the two centres of power has been well-managed. The meteoric growth of trade and tourism with Israel, largely in SA’s favour, is clearly indicative of this.

While the ideologues have pacified groups like BDS-SA, the local arm of the US-based NGO Boycott, Divest and Sanction (Israel) campaign, by assuring them that the ANC and SA will adopt their anti-Israel policies as their own, the governing pragmatists haven’t bothered one iota with it.

This begs the question whether these internal differences are well-disciplined and managed, or whether they don’t exist and are merely stage-managed to placate as many voters as possible.

In reality, any change between SA and Mid-East ties since Zuma’s ascension have been positive. Both sides have upgraded the staffing at their embassies, business is booming and Israel is actively providing services in all of SA’s nine provinces.

In short, South Africa does not subscribe to BDS ideology. It does from Luthuli House – but is this by design to placate Muslim voters and donors?

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has made it quite clear to government on more than one visit to SA that the PA does not support BDS policies.

Furthermore, when Israel recently denied minister Blade Nzimande a visa to pass through Israel to visit Palestine, Mantashe was vocally furious while the Government stayed mum.


Luthuli House on latest developments

Pundits have long questioned whether the ANC Mid-East disconnect is a strategy to placate all sides, or a genuine case of schizophrenic policy-making? Israel’s government and SA organisational Jewry have wondered for five long years just what SA’s Mid-East policy actually is.

The hasty political reaction that has erupted over the sixteen future leaders’ trip to Israel has ripped open the veil of secrecy that had hidden these unanswered questions.

With no time to correlate responses, wild and uninformed official statements abounded from ANC-affiliated youth groups and branches. “Young people who went on this trip have risked their degrees, their lives and most importantly their dignity and ability to think,” said the sixteen in a widely-circulated media statement last week. But they have little doubt where the blame lies for the systemic confusion: with BDS. "Who is BDS to dictate,” ask the ostracised sixteen.

Luthuli House is understandably shaken by the latest developments. Whatever boat they are on, has been shaken. Having worked so hard to ensure affiliated structures do what that they must to attract the many Muslim and first-time voters as the 2016 local government elections draw close.

The awakening discussion among young ANC supporters over the Middle East would seem to have had its roots in a blowback reaction to BDS activities on campuses, for the most part UCT, Wits and Rhodes – where BDS-led intimidation has created such a toxic environment for them that many Jewish students elect to leave the question of their religion blank on enrolment documentation and funding from Jewish alumni has all-but dried up.


They hear one thing & see another

The born-frees on campuses, it would seem, have found it intolerable that they are expected to adopt BDS policy without question.

They see their government interacting freely with Israel while student leaders are asking them to join BDS marches against the country.

They see President Zuma sending his personal, high-ranking Middle East envoys, Aziz Pahad & Zola Skhweyiya back and forth to meet the Israeli minister of foreign affairs, and, most recently, the country’s director-general for foreign affairs – but they are told by BDS that the ANC has imposed a travel ban on its officials travelling to Israel.

Tired of BDS’ antics, like asking them to assist in thuggery on and off campuses, expected to join chanting of “Shoot the Jew” and consumer boycotts that make no sense, expected to spy for BDS of Jewish staff and students, and even seeing public funds for students being, possibly illegally, diverted to fund BDS activities, student leaders have simply become gatvol.

BDS, say the sixteen, is “a danger to our democratic principles.” They know nothing about the revolution of an African child, they say. “Propaganda is the story BDS continues to spread about people they differ with, instead of engaging in a peace processes.”

Young leaders blame BDS and not ANC

As the crème de la crème of intellectual young South Africans, Their aim was to get real information which was being denied to them in SA.

The brave band of young activists who dared to confound conventional wisdom and go to see for themselves what Israeli and Palestinian life is like on the ground, could by no measure be accused of tokenism. At least seven are currently active in senior positions in the executives of the ANC and affiliated structures; four are primarily student activists; while four others are primarily business transformers.

In a widely-distributed media statement last week, the sixteen students claimed that “BDS-SA has threatened those affiliated (to) Sasco, ANCYL and YCLSA, and those in the ANC, not to go on the trip,” they said. BDS had tried to justify this “by resolutions which support the BDS movement,” they added.

“The ANC has never resolved to ban any member from traveling to Israel. The government continues to enjoy diplomatic ties with Israel meaning that dialogue between two nations is important,” added the sixteen emphatically.

When Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas came for an official visit recently, he spent more time with the SA Jewish leadership than with so-called “Palestinian solidarity” groups. He repeated his call made when he attended Madiba’s funeral that the PA does not agree with BDS policies.

“Who do BDS account to,” they ask, “it certainly is not the Palestinian because there is no BDS structure in Palestine. It is not all Muslims in South Africa because we only see them in wealthy Muslims communities. Why is this? Where does the money we collect as volunteers go to? Is BDS a liberation movement for the people of Palestine? Or it is just an NPO that seeks to bread and butter of individuals who saw an opportunity of swelling the ranks.”


Fundamental shift as BDS refuse to engage

In their media statement, the sixteen rebels challenge BDS to a debate. “Is BDS also willing to disclose to all South Africans as where they get funding from?” they ask. “In a democratic country like SA, is it fair to threaten citizens as to where they should travel all in the name of brainwashing?

“We therefore remain resolute and dismiss all those who do not want peace in the Palestine/Israel conflict. The tactics of threatening individuals and promising incentives for rejecting the trip goes to prove that BDS is not based on principles but it is based on solidarity which seeks to undermine peaceful processes between the two people,” says the statement by the sixteen who, despite censure from their organisations, are sticking to their guns.

BDS has all-but refused to comment on the matter, despite the enormity of the accusations being thrown at them. Neither has the government, with the exception of deputy minister in the Presidency Obed Bopela, who promised the youngsters would be disciplined.

And even he, after a few days, changed his attribution from his government to his ANC position.

SA Zionist Federation chair Ben Swartz said it was indicative of good governance and democracy when a strong majority party such as the ANC can take one view as a party, and another as a government.

The sixteen students also raised this in their statement, saying that the ANC “knows how to distinguish between the ANC as a political party and the government as a diplomatic tool,” they said. Why, then, they ask angrily, “is it difficult for BDS to distinguish the difference between South Africans travelling in their personal capacity compared to political representation?”

Still, the sixteen believe they have to justify themselves. “We remain resolute, they say, “and we have proof that this trip was (undertaken) in our personal capacities as South Africans and not in any way to undermine our political affiliations.”

And they lay the blame at a single door: The “revolutionary blackmail and (im)morality” of BDS.  The sixteen have publically challenged BDS to a debate.

15-BDS 'toon. FULLjpg
BDS is being called out about it's half-truths  


  1. 2 Corwin 05 Oct
    Steady and amazing which we oblige you so i think as much it is by and large gainful and orchestrated. I may need to thank you for the ponderings. I am tiring the same best work from me later on besides.
  2. 1 GeraldLevin 30 Dec
    Egy[t needs to administer the Gaza strip for internal security reasons. The African Union support for this proposal will be stronger if South Africa supports Egyptian security above the formation of a potential ISIS "Bantustan" in the Gaza trip.  


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