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Nothing foreign about Lamola’s views on Israel

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If the Jewish community and its supporters were hoping for a more Israel-friendly minister of international relations and cooperation than Dr Naledi Pandor, they might be disappointed.

A full month after South Africans went to the polls, President Cyril Ramaphosa finally announced his new Cabinet for the Government of National Unity (GNU) on 30 June. Speculation was rife that Pandor might continue in her role in spite of publicly announcing her desire to retire in January, and not making it into Parliament for the African National Congress (ANC). In the end, Ramaphosa plumped for former minister of justice and constitutional development, Ronald Lamola. While he may be a new face, he’s no fan of Israel either.

Lamola’s tenure in the justice ministry was mostly out of the public eye. He did, however, appear on the Jewish community’s radar as a leader of South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In January, he said that Nelson Mandela would be smiling in his grave due to South Africa’s exploits in The Hague.

Later, he told the BBC that there was no antisemitism in South Africa, drawing a sharp rebuke from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD). The Board collects statistics on antisemitism, and has reported a strong uptick in incidents in South Africa since the 7 October 2023 attack on Israel by Hamas.

Deputy Minister Alvin Botes – also notorious for his anti-Israel positions – will continue in his role. The relatively unknown and young Thandi Moraka, who was previously in the Limpopo provincial legislature, has been appointed as a second deputy minister. She was a former deputy secretary-general of the ANC Youth League from 2015 to 2019.

Community leaders remain cautiously hopeful. SAJBD President Zev Krengel said, “It’s just unbelievable to see the end of Pandor, who most probably was the most antisemitic minister we have seen in this country, ever. So to see her gone is a great thing for the community. Minister Lamola has made some very unpleasant comments, but my view is that he’s more of a listener. He’s younger. He doesn’t always preach, lecture, and scold as Pandor used to do. And maybe there can be some form of understanding that South Africa’s best contribution to the Middle East conflict is to be a peace partner that sees both sides and doesn’t take one side against another. So I’m cautiously optimistic. The GNU is a great thing for South Africa. To have many pro-Israel ministers around the table, it’s the first time we’ve actually seen that since 1994.”

Krengel said it was “highly unlikely” that there would be a major policy shift with regard to Israel, but “there could be a surprise for us all”.

Rolene Marks, the spokesperson for the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF), said Pandor’s departure “represents a positive development. Her tenure was marked by engagements with regimes that sponsor global terrorism such as Iran, cordial relations with autocratic leaders, and an obsession with bashing Israel on the international stage. However, the appointment of Ronald Lamola … raises concerns that the anti-Israel stance of the previous administration will persist. As minister of justice, Lamola supported South Africa’s case at the ICJ, which included unsubstantiated allegations against Israel. It’s therefore unlikely that the new government will withdraw this unfounded case.

“Despite these apprehensions,” Marks said, the SAZF noted that the new coalition “includes ministers from the Patriotic Alliance and the Inkatha Freedom Party, both of which have demonstrated a more balanced or supportive stance towards Israel. The SAZF is hopeful that this diverse representation will lead to improved relations and a reduction in the hostility that characterised Pandor’s tenure.”

Analysts are predicting continuity in the GNU. “I don’t see any drastic changes in foreign policy” said Gustavo de Carvalho, senior researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs, including strong support for the Palestinians. “Historically this was one of the [issues] where there was little deviation. It has been a consistent position for the past 30 years, arguably the most critical non-African foreign policy file in South Africa.”

Professor Hussein Solomon at the University of the Free State agreed. “Lamola has already made it clear that he will continue in terms of foreign policy,” he said. “He was also there at the ICJ, so I don’t expect a change in terms of the Middle East policy. My sense is this GNU isn’t going to work, frankly. Let’s see if it’s still around in December.”

“I anticipate the potential for increased clarity in South Africa’s foreign policy positions and relations,” said De Carvalho. “Unlike the previous administration, which could afford to present more ambiguous positions on certain topics, the current political landscape demands a more transparent approach. The ANC will have less capacity to determine foreign policy priorities entirely on its own. This means probably giving more autonomy to the department of international relations and cooperation [DIRCO]. And Parliament should become more involved, primarily through the International Relations [IR] Committee. It will be interesting to see whether the IR portfolio in Parliament will be given to another party.”

Many in the Jewish community were hoping for change and perhaps even someone from another party, but this ministry was too important to the ANC to compromise. The new DIRCO team should be given a chance, but expectations for a radical turnaround on Israel policy are unrealistic.

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  1. Gary

    July 4, 2024 at 11:55 am

    all of the ANC from the President down to every last member are viciously anti-Israel and therefore anti Semitic,

  2. Shereen Mills

    July 4, 2024 at 8:17 pm

    Dear Sir,
    Minister Naledi Pandor is not anti-Semitic. It must be clear to you by now that being anti-Zionist is not the same as being anti-Semitic.
    Minister Pandor is and has been pro- the oppressed people of Palestine, a commitment strongly espoused by our late President Nelson Mandela.
    Being pro-Palestine in effect means being opposed to genocide, illegal occupation and apartheid and does not amount to antisemitism, nor it is ‘viciously’ anti-Israel
    If Zionist Israel:
    1. stopped treating Palestinians like animals, and
    2. accorded them justice and HUMAN rights;
    3. if their ministers stopped calling for a genocide, and
    4. put an end to illegal settlement of Palestinian land (what little there is left of it), there would not be any international moral outrage.
    Your comments amount to slander of our Honourable Minister (and slander of Tata Mandela, and there is no contemporary leader of greater moral stature than him).
    I believe that an expeditious apology to our Honourable Minister Pandor is not only in order, but necessary.

    It is my opinion that your article does not honour the spirit of co-operation which we should all be striving for as a GNU, and amounts to bad faith on your part.
    In any event, should you attempt to use your powerful lobby to influence our new young Minister on the issue of Palestine, I think that you will find that he is not as complaisant as you imply.
    What is needed now is a just, fair solution, that takes account of the rights of both parties, not one that further denigrates and decimates the people of Palestine, as the current right wing Zionist government is doing.
    Thank you.

  3. Gary

    July 5, 2024 at 6:42 pm


    You come across as very bitter and yes vicious
    Anti-Zionism IS Anti-semitism because it Israel is the object of the hate of “anti-Zionists”, Anti-Zionism is hatred of Israel and its people and not an ideology. In Israel you find the largest Jewish community in the world – 40 per cent of world Jewry.

    Leftwing anti-Semitism revolves around the denial of Jewish nationhood and therefore of Israel’s right to exist, leading to a hatred of all Jews who affirm Jewish nationhood and particularly of all Jews who live in the Jewish homeland.

    It also involves a gross Orwellianism whereby Israel is accused of genocide, when in fact the truth is that the Arabs and their allies are the ones pushing for the destruction of Israel and thereby a second Holocaust against Jews.

    One possible reason why people isolate Israel from all the countries of the world, to deny it its right to exist, is because Israel is a Jewish state. Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.

    Because anti-Zionism’s goal would lead to a second Holocaust against five million Jews, it cannot be distinguished from anti-Semitism.

    We saw what your Hamas heroes did on October 7 , raping raping girls to death and burning children alive = carrying out the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust and you defend this. In fact the woman you are championing Naledi Pandor phoned Hamas the next day to congratulate them on what they had done. While Hamas vowed to do this again and again with the applause of those who scream ”We are anti-Zionist but not anti-Semitic
    As regards anti-Zionist Jews like SA Jews for a Free Palestine (which celebrated the Hamas massacre the Monday after it took place with their Islamist friends) ient times the Jews have always been vulnerable to betrayal by the least satisfied people in their own ranks, seeking revenge on their own people for real and imagined slights.

    From the collaborators who worked with the Greeks and Romans during the occupation of Israel by their empires, to the Yevsektsia in the Soviet Union and the Judenrat during the Holocaust, to the Jew-hating Jews of today with their bottomless hatred of Israel and its people, and their efforts to do Israel harm and encourage its genocidal foes like Hamas, Hezbollah and the Iranian and Syrian regimes.

    (To rival the Bund and the Zionists, the Soviets created the Yevsektsia of the Bolshevik party. Judenrat – German for Jewish Council – were administrative bodies during the Second World War that the Germans required Jews to form in the German occupied territories.)

    One of the most unfortunate developments in the exile was the loathsome moser (informer), the negative counterpart of the shtadlan (intercessor) who intercedes with the authorities, who speak for the Jews to those in power. “The Jewish community was always hostage to its unhappiest members who stood to gain by serving the powers that be.”

    Israelis are also entitled to huamn rights.

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