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The Jewish Report Editorial

Two sides drowned out by noise



The anti-Israel hatred is getting louder and louder in South Africa, and it’s disconcerting to say the least.

In most cases, when something goes on and on, people switch off and stop thinking about it. Generally though, ignoring things doesn’t really help.

Crime is one of those issues that goes on and on in South Africa, seemingly getting worse not better. This week, the latest crime statistics were released, and we were told there was a 22% increase in the number of murders in the first three months of this year. This means that 6 083 people were killed, and the 22% rise equals 1 107 lives lost.

The number of children and women being murdered has skyrocketed by 37.2% and 70.5% respectively.

This is shocking, but where’s the uproar? Where are the activists on the street demanding justice? What’s the government doing about it? Where’s the anger and frustration?

Have people simply got tired of the constant battering of crime and nothing being done about it, and have accepted it?

Then, we have the war in Ukraine, which has been raging since 24 February. Almost two and a half months later, is anybody you know talking about this war?

So, no matter how painful the events or concerns, people appear to have only so much tolerance, and their memories are short.

I go back to the issue that, while certainly not more important than crime and the war in Ukraine, is personal for our community. That is the increasing anti-Israel noise.

I call it noise because if I say there’s an increase in anti-Israel sentiment, it implies that more and more people are supporting this cause, which I don’t believe to be true.

What I believe is that the so-called human-rights activists are creating more strategies and finding new ways to make their noise heard.

The unfortunate thing for them is that it does come across as noise, not much more. The only real issue for us, and it becomes more and more blatant every week, is that the ruling party and government are right behind them. The African National Congress (ANC) and government are somehow blinded by the anti-Israel lobby and their long-time friendship with the Palestinians. So much so, that they refuse to see that there are two very clear sides, and not just one side that’s wrong.

At the beginning of this month, a hugely respected and loved ANC stalwart, Reverend Frank Chikane, came back from a brief visit to the Middle East. He spent much time in the Palestinian areas and with Palestinian activists, hearing their side of the two-way dilemma.

Chikane is a highly educated person of great esteem, not just for being a man of the cloth and a leader. His experiences during apartheid have given him iconic status. During those days, former Police Minister Adriaan Vlok and Police Chief Johan van der Merwe were involved in an attempted assassination on Chikane by lacing his underwear with poison, almost killing him. The Reverend later humbly accepted Vlok’s apology by allowing him to wash his feet.

Chikane was an advisor to former President Thabo Mbeki and consulted to Jacob Zuma and Kgalema Motlanthe, thereby elevating his reputation before even considering his work in the church.

It’s so unfortunate that this great man didn’t make sure to find out the whole picture, and was once again given a one-sided view. I say that with respect, because I have no doubt that the people he met had awful stories to tell. Only, the Israeli-Palestinian issue is complicated, and there’s no clear-cut solution that will lead to peace.

Isn’t it obvious that no ordinary Israeli or Palestinian wants to keep fighting or hating. Surely, no open-minded person wants their loved ones to be living in a warzone or have to serve in an army? Too many lives have been lost. Too many families have been destroyed. Too much blood has been spilt, and too much pain has been felt to want this to continue.

I agree that there are many different political perspectives in Israel and in the diaspora. And there certainly is hatred, but there’s never going to be understanding or a solution if only one side of the story is told.

Making comparisons with apartheid, the war in Ukraine, and xenophobia isn’t helpful. It only adds to the hatred and noise.

It would be so much more helpful if learned and respected folk like Chikane went to Israel, spoke to people on all sides, and got a true reflection of what the problems were. Perhaps, just perhaps, he could then become part of the solution, not someone simply adding to the hatred.

He could then come back and share the real situation and bring the full picture to bear on the debate and discussion. This way, all South Africans within the ANC and those who have simply become distrustful of Israel because of the rhetoric could really dig into the issues. Perhaps, just perhaps, we might find a peaceful solution and become part of the answer, not exacerbate the problem.

The problem is that he would have to go there with an open mind, truly willing to hear all sides. While there’s no doubt that Chikane has the capacity for this, does he have the will?

Shabbat shalom!

Peta Krost


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