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Parliamentary opposition leaders defend their Israel trip

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BENJI SHULMAN

Despite concerted attempts at intimidation by anti-peace groups these parliamentary leaders have stuck to their guns and say they are happy they visited Israel and remain firm friends and supporters of the South African Friends of Israel.

The trip which was organised by SAFI, exposed the MPs to various aspects of Israeli life including a visit to the West Bank, meetings with high-level officials and a session in the Knesset.

“It was important that we allowed our guests to speak to all sides and see for themselves that the reality in Israel is very different to the propaganda that the world and South Africa in particular is constantly being bombarded with,” said Ben Swartz, SAZF president.

Buthelezi, an icon of the apartheid Struggle praised his Jewish comrades who fought against the apartheid regime, putting themselves and their families at risk. He recounted how many Jewish homes became his place of refuge during those dark days, keeping him out of danger from the security police.

He spoke of his friendship with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and how sad he was that he could not attend Sharon’s funeral last year. Buthelezi gave special praise to the contribution Israel has made on improving the livelihoods of the rural subsistence farmers in KwaZulu-Natal.

Mosiuoa Lekota was passionate about his praise for the democratic institutions of Israel, noting that he was surprised when visiting the Knesset and found representatives from Jews, Druze and Arab communities all participating and debating.

He also blew apart the propaganda myth of the “apartheid analogy” saying: “I can say authoritatively that whatever the weaknesses of Israel are, to compare it to apartheid is simply wrong; I know what apartheid was all about!”.

 Lekota said that since he had returned from this trip, he felt it his duty to dispel this “gross misrepresentation” being propagated by enemies like Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions and others with a similar anti-Semitic agenda. He encouraged the community to speak out and spread the good that Israel does in the world and not be scared to host debates in public forums in order to get truth out there. 

Rev Meshoe, a long-standing friend of the community and also leader of DEISI, said he was concerned that without honesty there was no solid basis for negotiations to succeed in Israel. He felt that the Palestinian Authority and Hamas were not acting in the interests of peace because they were not being honest about their intentions.

He believes that the two- state solution is at risk when Abbas makes statements that “all Israel is Palestine” and Israel is removed from the maps in children’s textbooks, not to mention the fact that the Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Israel with no room for negotiation.

All speakers echoed the words of Buthelezi when he said: “We were shocked that they (ANC) could invite what has been widely regarded as a terrorist organisation to South Africa,” referring to the Hamas visit.

Lekota reminded the audience that he once spoke to Nelson Mandela whom he was with on Robben Island about the best way to make peace.

Mandela said: “Even if the PLO have been our friends until now, the only way we can help them is to encourage them and the Israelis to talk to each other, to find each other, and systematically go along until we settle the problems.”

Lekota stressed that he would continue to call on the South African government to be a credible mediator in the process and to focus on important issues affecting South Africans, such as water security and employment.

“The South African Friends of Israel will continue to reach out and expand our friendship network in order to strengthen support for Israel. We look forward to the community’s support of this project,” said Nicci Raz, newly-appointed National Executive 

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