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Suffer the Saffer who travels to Israel



I recall the embarrassment of being a South African when travelling abroad during the apartheid era, especially during the 1980s. Many of us would hide our face or identity when people asked where we were from.

We would respond apologetically that we were from South Africa, with a quick and ready explanation of how we hated the system of apartheid and fought against it, hoping our answer would be believed as we still lived here.

Travelling to Israel this month, I once again experienced those evil looks and turned heads. This is something I would never have thought would happen again as a South African after Nelson Mandela was freed and we had our first democratic elections.

After that momentous time, we could proudly announce to the world that we were South African and proud of the “Rainbow Nation”. All that ended with Nelson Mandela’s death, allowing moral decay to gain hold of the country.

The African National Congress (ANC) government taking Israel to the International Court of Justice on trumped-up charges of genocide, as dictated by Iran – the new Guptas – and the Israel and Jew haters, has derailed the welcome of South Africans in Israel.

South Africans, in lieu of the ANC government, are now considered an enemy collaborating with terrorist organisation Hamas, with Dr Naledi Pandor, the minister of international relations and cooperation, taking directives from Iran.

I have to say, travelling in Israel was embarrassing.

One evening, we went to a wine bar in Ramat Gan close to the nearly non-functioning South African embassy.

We were speaking English to our friends, and when the waiter came by and asked where we were from, we said South Africa. Time froze. You could feel the stabbing stares. We had to explain our position – that we were totally ashamed of our government’s behaviour.

Sadly, at this wine bar, all South African wines had been removed from the list. The wine sommelier said they would no longer stock any wine from South Africa, no matter how good it was.

Some food chains have started to identify South African products.

Some people have started cancelling trips to South Africa, which is equally sad because Africa needs tourism, likely to be the country’s biggest source of foreign capital.

One question posed to me while travelling in Israel was why a failed state that hadn’t delivered for its own people basic rights like electricity and water had the audacity to take on Israel.

My answer was that it probably boiled down to money for South Africa, and a lot of clever acting to show that it was concerned.

Sadly, boycotts affect the wrong groups of people – like the Cape wine growers, who depend on selling every single bottle of wine, and our farmers, who depend on exports of agricultural products.

Western democracies especially the United States and some European countries watch how South Africa has taken the wrong turn in international policy, and may also punish the country for it. The result would affect all South Africans, as opposed to just the ANC.

The South African government’s outrageous foreign-affairs games may well have an impact on South Africans not just in Israel but in countries in the West.

So, once again, travelling as a South African abroad, isn’t easy unless you have a pre-prepared apology for our captured government.

Except if you’re travelling in Iran, that is.

  • Ilan Ossendryver is the photographer for the SA Jewish Report.
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