Party stops for Farber-Cohen as ANC kowtows to Hamas
Three days before Gabriella Farber-Cohen resigned from the African National Congress (ANC), she was still hoping the party would say something meaningful about the massacre of Jews in Israel on 7 October.
“At this time of such great grief and trauma, I was hoping my own party would show a level of compassion to what I and my Jewish community were experiencing and condemn those responsible,” said Farber-Cohen on 16 October, then the spokesperson for the provincial executive committee of the ANC Women’s League.
“For a whole week, I waited. I engaged with my structures and political leadership, explaining the hurt and pain that I, as a Jew, felt in the face of such savagery and hatred towards Jews. Time and time again, I stressed that condemning Hamas’ atrocities wouldn’t in any way sell out the ANC’s support for the Palestinian cause. I asked why the ANC, a party that stands for human rights, refuses to recognise the painful violation of my people. However, no answer was given,” she wrote in a public statement that day.
After three days, it became clear to her that the ruling party wasn’t going to budge. And so the only Jewish office bearer in the ruling party resigned, a party which once had numerous Jews in the hierarchy, among them Ruth First, Albie Sachs, Arthur Goldreich, Harold Wolpe, and Gill Marcus.
“It has become starkly clear that the organisation is unable to stand with the Jewish people during this time, engage faithfully and fairly with both parties, or see my – the Jewish – side of the story. Thus, it has been made clear to me that there’s no space for a proud Jew to belong in the ANC, no matter how hard I try,” Farber-Cohen said.
She told the SA Jewish Report, “I felt joining the ANC was an incredible opportunity and privilege. The Jewish community can be somewhat of a bubble. I didn’t feel like I was a part of the South African community because I would see only a small portion of the country. I felt like I was contributing to the African project as a part of the ANC.
“Up until recently, my views were aligned with the ANC policy on Israel. The ANC was supportive of a two-state solution in which Palestinians and Israelis have the right to self-determination and to live side by side in peace. I could understand why the ANC would support the Palestinian cause and have a relationship with the Palestine Liberation Organization.”
Farber-Cohen stood by her decision to be a part of the ANC in spite of criticism from all sides. “I believe it’s important to work within an organisation, especially when you see that there are problems with the organisation. When you know that you’re doing the right thing, you can get through it no matter what people say,” Farber-Cohen told the SA Jewish Report.
“I knew I was doing the right thing for myself and my community. The hatred was extreme. I never expected it to be that way. I received criticism from within the ANC when I started with the Progressive Youth Alliance at Wits [University of the Witwatersrand]. I was criticised for being white, for being Jewish, for my connection to Israel, and for being young. The more I got involved, the more I understood why I got this criticism. I felt that it was because the Jewish community never fully engaged with the ANC,” Farber-Cohen said.
The animosity didn’t end with the ANC. Farber-Cohen said she was also criticised by members of the Jewish community. “People couldn’t understand why I would join an organisation so hostile to the Jewish community and white people, and filled with corruption. People couldn’t understand why I would advocate for something that people believed had ruined South Africa.”
What made her question her alliance with the ANC, Farber-Cohen said, was the fact that “President [Cyril Ramaphosa] couldn’t condemn Hamas’ brutal and inhumane mass killing, slaughtering of babies and children, and raping of women in an unequivocal and meaningful way. I could no longer understand the ANC’s position. I could no longer believe that this organisation advocated for human rights, peace, and negotiation. It became clear to me that it didn’t respect the Jewish community. I tried to talk to members, and they refused to engage with me as an equal. It was all about them and their opinions, without them having a part in the story. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t you want to hear from someone who has a connection to the land?’” Farber-Cohen said.
“The last straw was when I saw that they couldn’t respect my views. I sacrificed so much for this organisation. I sacrificed my physical and mental health as well as my academics for the ANC. I even sacrificed some of my relationships for the organisation, yet it couldn’t respect me as a Jewish person.
“The way the ANC condemned Hamas was disgraceful. By stating in the very next sentence after its condemnation, that Israel was causing a genocide in Gaza, while the very word ‘genocide’ originates from the Holocaust, is offensive in describing the situation in Gaza. It’s hurtful and degrading. If this is the way it condemns inhumane killing, then what would it say about my life? I realised that it didn’t respect me as an individual and a life worth defending,” Farber-Cohen said.
“I see now that the ANC is unwilling to listen to other opinions. It will stand with Hamas, and it will throw its comrade, who has stood by it, who has advocated for it, who has fought for it, and who has committed herself to it, to the dogs. It doesn’t want peace, it doesn’t want negotiations. I therefore cannot be a part of this organisation anymore,” Farber-Cohen said.
“I naively thought that the ANC advocated for human rights, and was inclusive of all walks of life and races. This has been the hardest decision of my life. I hoped and believed that it respected me and I was a part of the organisation. I called it my home, my friends, my family, but instead it threw me and the Jewish people to the dogs.”
When the SA Jewish Report contacted the ANC Women’s League for comment, Teliswa Mgweba, the league’s spokesperson, said, “Gabi joined us voluntarily, and leaves voluntarily.”
Asked why her organisation wouldn’t seriously condemn the massacre, she said, “We have a long standing resolution to support the Palestinians, and will continue to do so.” On explaining that it wasn’t ordinary Palestinians that committed this atrocity, but Hamas terrorists, she said she couldn’t comment, other than to repeat, “We support the Palestinians.”