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The Jewish Report Editorial

Our tax money is for our country

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I take offence to the money I diligently hand over every month in taxes being spent on a foreign embassy when so many of our fellow citizens are starving.

When almost R9 million from government coffers – in other words, your and my hard-earned taxpaying money – is going to keep up the Palestinian embassy in South Africa, there’s something very wrong with the decisions being made in government.

This money should, without question, be going to the upkeep of our own people and country. Why isn’t it?

Why are we paying – over and above that amount – for training in the Palestinian embassy? What’s that about? How about paying for training our own people for jobs in our own country?

It’s so obvious by both the vitriol that Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor spewed at the Palestinian Heads of Mission in Africa Conference on Tuesday (page 5) and the news that the government is supporting the Palestinian embassy in South Africa (page 1), that this is far more than just a problem.

I take umbrage that this money is being spent on this particular embassy because all it does is spend time engendering more hatred towards Israel. However, the reality is that we shouldn’t be paying for anybody else’s embassies but our own.

Surely all those people who bust a gut to feed people who have absolutely no income should also be enraged? That money could be used to help our own people, but isn’t and our own people so desperately need it. That money could have been used to build industry, create jobs, feed the masses, or even house people.

Today, as I was doing the early morning school run, I saw a number of indigent people sleeping on grass verges just off the main roads. They had absolutely no shelter to protect them from the cold. I wondered how they would feel if they knew that our government was giving away millions to an embassy from another country.

Surely someone in government needs to take a stand against this? Surely, as a country, we should do something about this? We have to think about the welfare of our own country long before that of the Palestinians.

The truth is, it’s not just the Palestinian embassy that’s being funded, the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic’s embassy gets almost R2 million a year.

I don’t know what goes into deciding how government budget is spent in a country where our economy is shot, we have massive unemployment, and people are starving, but it seems to be confused.

I understand that this particular money is from the department of international relations and cooperation’s budget and not the budget that generally feeds or employs South Africans, but it comes from the same pockets. Ours. And it should be going to improve the situation in our country, not “Palestine” or the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic. We need it!

But somehow, there’s a warped perception that it’s more important to throw money at the Palestinian embassy. Could it be that the Palestinian cause has become the South African government’s most important focus, at least when looking abroad?

I don’t have a problem with South Africa supporting solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis because it needs a solution, but that’s clearly not the plan of our foreign affairs minister. But there’s no way that you can assisting in solving a problem when you have taken 100% of one side.

The minister made it clear in her speech at the conference that she always felt the need to call for a two-state solution because if she didn’t, she was called “antisemitic”.

Minister, for the record, if you didn’t call for a two-state solution to this situation, you wouldn’t be following official government policy. Perhaps that should be foremost on your mind rather than how far you can go in lambasting Israel for simply surviving. Don’t just pay lip service to a two-state solution while clearly taking another bow out of your quiver and aiming it at Israel. And another. And another.

Talk is cheap. Please don’t claim that you support a two-state solution when all you do is attack Israel. Let’s not kid ourselves, there is only one state whose future you care about and it isn’t Israel. That viewpoint is not very diplomatic, nor is it relationship building. But then, is relationship building between countries even on your agenda?

It’s time for our government to do some real soul-searching and consider what’s really important. It seems to spend an inordinate amount of time Israel-bashing rather than South Africa building.

It’s time to refocus on sorting out our internal issues. To end corruption and jail corrupt politicians. To actively sort out our electricity issues, and sort out our economy so that other countries want to invest here.

There’s so much that needs to be done. It requires a huge refocus away from things that aren’t that relevant to this country and toward a better South Africa.

Reading the opinion of financial expert David Shapiro (on this page), it’s clear that we have a tough road ahead. However, he clearly sees a future, which will take a lot of work. We just need to hunker down and make it happen.

The government needs to focus on what’s important and get together with private business and civil society and go full steam ahead.

Stop spending money on other embassies and wanting to give money to other countries, like Cuba. Let’s rebuild our own country.

I hear people talk about leaving, and I understand, but in all honesty, the grass isn’t greener elsewhere. We live in the most beautiful country, within the best Jewish community in the world, and the truth is, we have a great life. Let’s make it work!

Shabbat Shalom!

Peta Krost

Editor

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