Pandor redoubles her attack on Israel
Since the outcome of the South African government’s case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was announced, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Dr Naledi Pandor has doubled down on condemning Israel and the Jewish community, and has backed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s conspiracy theory of a “fight back” from Israel and other nations.
“The obsessive zeal displayed by the minister and her department in the diplomatic war being conducted against Israel is in large part aimed at resurrecting an international-relations track record in tatters,” says South African Jewish Board of Deputies National Director Wendy Kahn.
“Pandor has exploited the ongoing tragic conflict as a way of covering up the hypocrisy, double standards, and embarrassing foreign policy missteps of recent years. We continue to point out that there’s one set of principles for how South Africa generally relates to conflict zones, where it tries to facilitate and support dialogue, and another when it comes to Israel, which is overtly partisan and punitive.”
On 3 February, Pandor said she was “shocked” by “how much the Zionist Federation in South Africa [SAZF] is attached to Israel, and to the same thinking as Israel”. She implied that the SAZF didn’t care about the democratic principles of South Africa’s Constitution and the historical experiences of South Africans.
Benji Shulman, the director of diplomacy and public policy at the SAZF, says, “The African National Congress [ANC] government continues to traffic in conspiracy theories to explain its support for Hamas. At the beginning of the war, it claimed that the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] had fired on a Gazan hospital, when in fact it was Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It has yet to retract this statement.
“Pandor has also defended UNRWA [the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees] instead of condemning the role it plays in furthering the conflict, its attacks on Israel, and its support of Hamas. This is in line with the way that the ANC continues to aid Iran and Hamas as part of its proxy campaign against Israel and the democratic world.
“The SAZF is the oldest Jewish community organisation in the country, far older than the ANC, and doesn’t need civic lessons from a corrupt and failing movement whose senior officials and their government representatives meet with war-rapists like Hamas,” says Shulman. “Unfortunately, the only people who suffer from this distorted worldview are South Africans, who stand to lose out on life-affirming technology from Israel, including more than one million who get water thanks to the Jewish state.”
Regarding Ramaphosa’s conspiracy theory, Pandor said, “The president was in a realistic manner alerting the ANC leadership and the alliance to be aware that there will be this kind of mischief – we have seen it elsewhere. He said it may even straddle our own national processes in the country, so we need to be alert.” She said she had spoken to Police Minister Bheki Cele because she was concerned about her safety.
At the Masjidul Quds Mosque in Cape Town, campaigning on the last election registration weekend, Pandor portrayed South Africa as a saviour that had uncovered Israel as a sinister force by taking it to the ICJ. “Having failed to deflect attention from its crimes or justify its unfolding genocide, it’s now naked to the world for the first time,” she said. “For the first time in 75 years, Israel is held accountable by an institution and by the global community. We have now, as South Africa, broken a dangerous culture of impunity that has characterised the illegal occupation of Palestine. For the first time, we’ve opened up for the world to see. We, South Africa.”
At that event, Pandor also said, “There’s a law which prohibits South Africans from engaging in a conflict in another country. I alerted South Africans that are conducting themselves in that way that it’s the intention of the justice department that action will be taken in terms of the Act that prohibits South Africans from participating in mercenary activities. The government must identify these people and take action.”
This follows a statement made by the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) on 18 December last year, that “the South African government is gravely concerned by reports that some South African citizens and permanent residents have joined or are considering joining the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] in the war in Gaza and other occupied Palestinian territories.
“Such action can potentially contribute to the violation of international law and the commission of further international crimes, thus making them liable for prosecution in South Africa,” the statement read. “In terms of the Regulation of the Foreign Military Assistance Act, 1998 [Act No. 15 of 1998], any person wishing to render foreign military assistance in Israel must first apply to the National Conventional Arms Control Committee [NCACC] which will make a recommendation to the minister of defence and military veterans that such an application be granted or refused.
“Any person joining the IDF without the necessary permission of the NCACC is breaking the law and can be prosecuted,” read the statement. “In addition, the South African Citizenship Act, 1995 [Act No. 88 of 1995] provides that any person who obtained South African citizenship by naturalisation in terms of that Act shall cease to be a South African citizen if he or she engages under the flag of another country in a war that the republic doesn’t support or agree with.
“It’s in this context that South African citizens should be made aware of the consequences of joining the IDF or any foreign armed forces involved in conflicts with a view to preventing inadvertent complicity in international crimes or violations of domestic law,” concluded the statement.
As Pandor flew back and forth to The Hague and other destinations, the Democratic Alliance (DA) noted on 15 January that her department had spent more than R47 million on luxury travel since 2019.
Emma Louise Powell, a member of Parliament and the DA Shadow Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, said “a reply to a DA parliamentary question by the minister of international relations and cooperation, Naledi Pandor, has revealed that together with her staff, they have blown more than R47 million in travel, accommodation, and related costs since 2019.
“This staggering figure equates to travel and accommodation spending of close to R1 million per month over the past five years. The return on investment for the South African taxpayer on this out-of-control spending is non-existent,” said Powell. “The question is why South Africans should continue to spend tens of millions of taxpayers’ rands flying and accommodating Pandor and her staff in expensive hotels when the ANC’s stewardship of the country’s foreign policy is single-handedly focused on propping up rogue regimes.”
Pandor also denied allegations that Iran had financed South Africa’s legal battle against Israel, describing it as “fake news”. She implied that this and the questions about UNRWA were part of the “fight-back” campaign espoused by Ramaphosa.
She also twisted Jewish history against Israel, saying, “The Genocide Convention was enacted following the Second World War, and its intention was to ensure that never again would we see the atrocities that were part of the Holocaust against the Jewish people in Europe. Those who were to be the beneficiaries of the convention are today the ones we believe are committing genocide.”
The minister brushed off the fact that a few Israeli supermarkets had decided to stop buying South African grapes. “Let’s look at other trade partners, let’s look at East Asia for example, and use it as a platform for expanding trade,” she said.