‘Zionist Lobby’ unfairly tarnished as a bogeyman
What’s wrong with a Zionist lobby anyway? It’s the Arab lobby that exerts negative influence and use underhand tactics due to the weakness of their case writes STEVE APFEL
That favourite bogeyman the “Zionist lobby” resonates like a conspiracy out of some tract like the Protocols. Is it really improper for Diaspora Jewry to sway public policy or opinion favourably towards Israel?
Is a Zionist lobby not simply doing what other special interest groups do, doing it sometimes better or sometimes worse than for example the anti-Zionist lobby?
Conducted in the open as it ought to be in a democratic system, lobbying is nothing new or inherently sinister. After all, what is it but an act of advocacy to swing the political climate in favour of, in our case, Israel.
Given that the Middle East conflict dominates world agendas, and has done so for a long time, lobbies – pro, anti and powerful – are bound to be active volcanoes. In the American context everyone knows about the Israel lobby, AIPAC.
“There is a big bad lobby that distorts US foreign policy… way out of proportion to its actual support by the American public. But the offending lobby is not AIPAC but rather the Arab lobby, which opposes the Jewish State.” So wrote Mitchell Bard in a book titled, The Arab lobby: the invisible alliance…
Looking today at Barack Obama’s envoy John Kerry and his unequal treatment of the parties in the new peace process, at the way he forced Israel to make concessions and allowed the Palestinians to make demands, it’s not difficult to hazard which of the lobby groups wields the greater power in America – Jewish or Arab.
How they wield power is a different matter. An unhealthy lobby, Bard says, is one that tries with unlimited money to buy what it cannot win on the merits of its case… Which Bard views to be the distinguishing mark of the American Arab lobby.
In South Africa two lobby groups, one pro- the other anti-Israel, vie to sway government policy and public opinion. The Anti-Zionist boycott lobby, under the umbrella of BDS, vies with a pro-Zionist lobby under the umbrella of a pair of communal bodies: the Jewish Board and Zionist Federation.
In a democratic country both lobby groups are legitimate. Why then pillory only the Zionist lobby? A small but economically powerful Jewish minority surely has a perfect right to try its hand at some arm-twisting.
How a lobby goes about twisting arms is another matter. Is it more open than covert? Does it respect human rights and liberties? No lobby will have a perfect scorecard. Just because it operates in a democratic system, don’t expect a lobby to be democratic.
The Zionist lobby is no exception. Communal bodies, remember, are not Jewish parliaments. Office-holders are not elected on a democratic ticket. There is no such thing as a Jewish ballot.
As you’d expect in that case, office-holders can be self-perpetuating kingpins, holding sway over resources and making decisions for which they are not accountable. So, expect to find the regular systemic bugs: cronyism, misappropriation, infighting, vested interest, bad decision-making and all.
Jewish philanthropists are generally a patient long-suffering breed, but even they eventually tire of wheeling and dealing within communal bodies. Who knows, but similar plots might play out in anti-Zionist lobby halls.
How effective has, the Zionist lobby in South Africa been? In twisting the government’s arm to do its bidding, the jury is well and truly unanimous: outgunned and outplayed by its counterpart.
Take the labelling of products from so-called Palestinian territories. The boycotters won that big battle without having to draw weapons. Given the non-too subtle backing of the government itself, perhaps the outcome was inevitable. Indeed, by any intelligent guess the government and its alliance partners would be funding the anti-Zionist lobby, and by extension the satellite NGOs.
Last month one of these satellites, Open Shuhada Street, used this money to pay an Israeli to enjoy the delights of Cape Town in return for spinning his yarns about Israel’s “wicked military”.
If the Zionist lobby has been hopeless in twisting the government’s arm, what impact has it made on public opinion? Here the Zionist lobby has made quite good strides. Some well executed strategies appear to be paying dividends. A recently formed body named Fairplay courts and recruits Christians to the Zionist cause by sending church leaders to Israel.
Acquainted with the “realities” they return to herd their church flock on board the blessed ark, Zionism. Now here’s the thing: if the Zionist lobby continues to grow this support base, especially among black Christians, it could well make the government sit up and take notice.
The time is not too far off, remember, when the nation will go to the polls (next year).
And that surely is what lobbying is all about: asking policymakers to pay a price by confronting them with a credible threat.
Steve Apfel is director of the School of Management Accounting, Johannesburg. He is the author of the book ‘Hadrian’s Echo: The whys and wherefores of Israel’s critics’ (2012) and a contributor to, “War by other means.” (Israel Affairs, 2012). His articles and blogs are published in several foreign journals and his new work, ‘How the West was won’ is due out next year
Largest-ever pro Israel rally in Africa draws over 10 000 in Johannesburg
A pro-Israel rally under the auspices of the South African Zionist Federation, in Johannesburg on Sunday afternoon drew over 10 000 people, reportedly the largest pro-Israel rally ever to have taken place in the African continent.
…..See photographs below the story
The rally, which included a wide spectrum of political views and cultures, evoked enthusiastic comments about its “overwhelming success”. The sheer size of the multiracial crowd represented a broad slice of South African society. The rousing speeches indicated, said a speaker, that support for Israel was much stronger than it seemed in the face of the hostile public domain. “Let the government take note,” he said, “that millions of South Africans love Israel!”
There were smile and warm embraces aplenty as Jewish supporters of Israel, black African Christian groups who were bused in in their hundreds, representatives of three South African political parties, and various other Israel supporters mingled together. The rally was at Huddle Park in Linksfield, a municipal golf course and function venue.
Responding to fears about a repeat of incidents of violence from anti-Israel elements like BDS in European cities, security was extremely tight. Police were present in large numbers, as well as Jewish community security, and many of those arriving were asked for identity documents. The pre-publicity for the event had repeatedly assured people that “excellent security will be provided”. As it happened, there were no violent incidents or confrontations.
“We are living today in an upside down world, where the villains are regarded as heroes and the victims are called the villains,” said Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, addressing the cheering crowd waving thousands of Israeli and South African flags. “But we are not afraid… Israel was promised to the Jewish people some 4 000 years ago, and it is the land which belongs to the Jews.”
Ben Shwartz, an organiser, welcomed onto the stage the charismatic Olga Meshoe, daughter of Kenneth Meshoe, the leader of the African Christian Democratic Party, which has an openly pro-Israel policy as part of its basic platform. Meshoe has created an organisation called Deisi whose specific mandate is to support Israel.
She proclaimed loudly, to enthusiastic applause, that “Israel is not alone, and the Jewish people are not alone… And to the Jewish students studying at universities across South Africa who feel afraid to say they support Israel in the anti-Israel atmosphere on the campuses, I say to you, we have your back, we are with you! You are not alone!”
See more photographs below…
Adding to the diversity, black members of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) arrived dressed in Zulu attire, performing traditional dances waving Israeli and South African flags – joined by several Jewish “dancers” who mimicked them fondly. The leader of the IFP in Gauteng brought official greetings from the party and its leader, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. The IFP has long been friendly towards Israel.
They were joined by members of the Impact of Christ Ministry and other groups. At one point, dancers from the Shembe Church came onto the stage, performing their own tribal dance.
In the SA political landscape, supporting Israel makes it likely a party will lose the important Muslim vote. Yet another party, Cope, sent a representative, to the surprise of many. People among the crowd noted sarcastically that no-one from the ANC would come.
Explicit support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a recurring theme, and that Israel wanted peace with its Palestinian neighbours. Several hundred white doves were released during the singing of a Hebrew song about Jerusalem. They circled above the gathering for several minutes before flying off, as if they had been choreographed – but it was pure chance.
Left-wing SA Jews outside of the mainstream who differ in attitudes towards the conflict often complain about being ostracised for dissenting. A small group of 30 from an organisation called Jewish Voice for a Just Peace, gathered across the road to the park’s entrance, calling themselves “Joburg Jews” in opposition to “Israel’s war on civilians”. During the traffic jam at the beginning of the rally, a convoy drove past hooting to this group, waving Palestinian flags, and calling out to “Our Jewish brothers who support us!”
When SAJBD President Zev Krengel thanked President Jacob Zuma for his “balanced” approach to the crisis in Israel and Gaza and for being willing to listen to both sides, his comment touched a raw nerve among South African Jews.
The government is regarded as basically hostile to Israel, illustrated by recent negative statements by senior ANC officials such as deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, comparing Israel’s actions to the Nazis. There have been anti-Semitic tweets doing the rounds from ANC bodies commenting about Hitler being right in his attitude to Jews. The SAJBD responded by issuing damning press statements, sending a protest letter to Zuma, and even lodging a hate speech complaint to the SA Human Rights Commission.
The gathering ended on a high note after three hours, with the South African national anthem and the Israeli one. Whether this rally amounted to the converted talking to the converted, or will have a wider impact, remains to be seen.
BDS is planning more rallies of its own, and if the killing in Gaza is still ongoing, the horrendous images coming out of Gaza and Israel, will provide it with more ammunition.
Double-dose of Bev’s best reads this week!
SA Jewry’s doyen of Zionist communications, Bev Goldman, trolls the web to bring SAJR Online users the top Zionist reads of the week. Unfortunately, we let you down last week and didn’t get to post them – as many regular users reminded us. So here’s a double-dose for you – 20 great reads. Download those that appeal to you most, they make the perfect Shabbos read.
Opinion and Analysis
As usual, Bev serves up a spread of different media, multiple countries and various opinions of Zionism to choose from. The good, the bad and the ugly!
Bev brings them all. Download what you like for your relaxed Shabbos reading – many users tell us they do.
Opinion & Analysis, week ending 15 May 2014
1. Fighting terror the Israeli way
No one understands terrorists’ motivations, and knows how to counter them, better than the Israelis. And the sooner Kenya taps into Israeli counter-terror knowhow, big time, the faster this country and region will begin the long journey to becoming a virtually terror-free zone.
2. How Israel’s dusty Zionist bureaucracy survives
Jobs for cronies — and ties to a deep-pocketed generous diaspora
3. Apartheid? Blame the Geneva Convention
All occupying powers have given their own citizens more rights than the occupied noncitizens, from the British in India through the French in Algeria to the Americans in Iraq; yet none of these were ever labelled apartheid. Why should Israel be any different?
4. Palestinian Magical Thinking
The campaign to place pressure on Israel through activism on the international stage is the latest example.
5. UN replaces notorious Richard Falk – don’t expect changes
No UN rapporteur on Israel could be independent. The 1993 U.N. job description says the mandate holder must investigate only Israel’s human rights violations. Investigating Palestinians is off limits.
6. BDS movement: Barbarians at the Gate – Part l
The Nazis invented the Jewish boycott — and went on from there to the Holocaust. One might well ask if the boycotters’ real concern is the welfare of the Palestinian or actually, as it clearly appears, the obliteration of Israel. It is the wrong boycott in the wrong place at the wrong time.
7. BDS movement: Barbarians inside the Gates – Part ll
These politically correct activists are all supposed to be anti-racists and multiculturalists. Yet when artists are banned just because they happened to be born in Israel, it tears apart the very basis of both anti-racism and multiculturalism.
8. Happy 66th birthday, Israel!
I have enormous admiration for Israel – for its resolve, resilience, courage, and ingenuity. What it has achieved in the past 66 years is breath-taking: the rebirth of a state with a rock-solid democratic foundation; the ingathering of millions of refugees and immigrants from just about every corner of the world; the creation of a world-class economy; the building of a first-rate army; and a determination to overcome one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after another.
9. The right way to press Iran
The Obama administration should focus on three factors: conducting intrusive inspections, designing a mechanism to easily re-impose sanctions if Iran cheats, and extending the duration of the agreement.
10. The Muslim Brotherhood and terrorist organisations
“[T]he organization of the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization, and anyone who asks either to reconcile with them, to join them or to ally with them is himself a terrorist.” — Refaat Saïd, leader of Egypt’s Socialist party, al-Tagammu’, and previously close friend of former Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide, Mahdi Akef.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the motto of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis is also the verse singled out by Hassan al Banna: “Fight them until there is no fitnah [discord], and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah.” [Qur’an, Sura VIII, verse 39]
The link between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas is clear, and confirmed by Article 2 of the Charter of Hamas, which reads: “The Islamic Resistance movement is one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine”.
11. Why it is hypocritical to boycott Israel
Later this month, I am planning to travel to Israel to appear in the Jerusalem literary festival. As surely as night follows day, I have received an “open letter” from a group of 71 activists calling themselves the British Writers in Support of Palestine (BWIP). They were, I was informed, “extremely disappointed” by my decision, and “respectfully encouraged” me to boycott the event. But I am honoured to have been invited to Israel, and will be proud to attend.
Opinion & Analysis, week ending 6 May 2014
1. Memorial Day in Israel
Friends, I wrote this a few years back, and I can’t think of a single word I’d add. I share it with you again. Every blessing, Naomi
2. Why (Israeli-Palestinian) negotiations collapsed
Recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is, for Abbas and the Palestinian leadership, if not the majority of Palestinians, a declaration that Jews have historic rights as a nation and a people, not simply a religion. Such a declaration would end the conflict once and for all by mandating that a Jewish nation-state may stand alongside a Palestinian state. And for those reasons it was out of the question.
3. The tragic history of the two-state solution
The Palestinians, and their appointed (or un-appointed) Arab representatives, have passed up numerous opportunities over an almost 80-year period to divide Palestine among its two native peoples, Arabs and Jews.
4. The heavens shine on Israel
My net assessment of Israel’s strategic and internal situation is astonishingly optimistic. In overall perspective, Israel is stronger than any of its enemies. Neither the perpetual Palestinian conundrum, nor the acute Iranian threat to Israel, nor the unstable regional situation make me a pessimist. Nor do Kerry’s miserable prophesies
5. Note to the USA: We’re not children
The dispute between the Arabs and the Jews, between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and the story of the return of the Jewish people to their homeland, is unique and unparalleled in human history. The fact that the two sides are finding it difficult to reach a compromise and make the necessary “tough decisions,” to quote the U.S. president, should therefore come as no surprise.
6. Palestinian Unity: An awkward product of Israel’s indifference
My best bet is that the challenges confronting a unity government, lack of any real trust and the ongoing internecine competition for power will torpedo these efforts. We and the antagonists will be stuck with the no war/no peace reality that has perpetually dogged relations between Israelis and Palestinians and from which there seems no way out.
7. Moving beyond the doomed ‘peace process’
The demand for a return to pre-1967 borders is bizarre, to say the least. In 1967, there were no borders, just ceasefire lines drawn in 1948 — lines that symbolized an unstable status quo that led to two wars. Going back to them means returning to a situation that breeds war, not peace.
8. Israel, Kerry is one of your best friends
Friends of Israel should start by thanking Kerry for his commitment to Israel and supporting him as he seeks to break the present impasse in negotiations.
9. Palestinian-Israeli talks: time for a “time-out”
Given the importance that the exercise of leverage will assume in any successful recalibration of America’s approach, none of this will succeed without President Obama deciding that this is really a top priority.
The Views expressed here are not
necessarily those of the SAZF
The best Zionism reads of the week
SA Jewry’s communications doyen Bev’ Goldman’s top picks of Zionist writings over the past week. Print your choice of these Op-Ed pieces, they make the perfect Shabbos read…
Bev Goldman is the doyen of South African Zionist communicators – having spent almost a decade at the helm of the SAZF’s communications department, producing the FedSpeak newspaper and running Media Team Israel.
To keep Report readers current, Bev scans dozens of op-ed pieces in SA and the world media on Zionism so that she can offer us her weekly pick of the best and most interesting, challenging and positive Zionist reading. Bev is also deeply involved in Zionist education.
Opinion & Analysis, Week ending 19 March
1. Israel’s character as a “Jewish state”
BICOM Briefing, BICOM, 18 March 2014
Most Israeli Jews wish to preserve Israel’s current character as a democratic state with a Jewish majority; a state that allows Jews to express the universal legal right to national self-determination, but which also protects fully the rights of non-Jewish minorities.
2. The woman who saved Syria’s Jews
Three decades ago, Judy Feld Carr started smuggling members of Syria’s minority Jewish community out of the country. She talks to The Daily Beast about her secret work saving people from slaughter under Assad.
3. Putin, Ukraine and the Jews
It is clearly in our national interest, without being under any idealistic illusions, to nurture ties with a Russia whose leader seems to have dramatically broken with centuries of Tsarist and Bolshevik anti-Semitism and now displays friendship towards the Jewish people.
4. The Cape Town Declaration: Dead in the Water?
Ant Katz, PoliticsWeb, 17 March 2014
The Cape Town Declaration is dead in the water, says ACDP MP Cheryllyn Dudley. “This is huge,” she says, “it’s been a great victory for everyone who has been working for common sense to prevail.” The Cape Town Declaration will not be tabled before this or any other Parliament.
5. The debate is about our right to exist
No Arab state recognizes our right as Jews to any part of the region. They obscure the issue and talk about “recognizing Israel,” since the desire is to perpetuate the conflict even after a diplomatic treaty is signed, when the false claim will be that the Arab minority in Israel is suffering under “apartheid” and should have autonomy, since they belong to the Palestinian people who have been here since the dawn of creation.
6. Eight crucial questions for Abbas (and one for President Obama)
There seems to be a double-standard when it comes to how Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestinian Authority’s erstwhile President, Mahmoud Abbas — now in the tenth year of his four-year term — are treated by the Obama White House, as well as by many journalists.
7. Putin’s terrifying warmongering
On March 8th, some 15,000 women and children lined the roads of Crimea, and Kherson Province to its north, in protest against President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian women didn’t come out in force just because it happened to be International Women’s Day. They were also responding to Putin’s threat to implicate them and their children in further acts of war against Ukraine.
8. Iran: Kurds tortured and hanged
Shadi Paveh, Gatestone Institute, 13 March 2014
198 people have been hanged so far in 2014 — a period of only two and a half months. “The court told me, ‘You are an enemy of God. You must be hanged very soon.’ That was the sum of my entire court process. I don’t have any lawyer to defend me,” said Ms. Zainab Jalalian. Iran’s grotesque human rights violations, the rise in executions, or the fate of three Americans — Amir Hekmati, Pastor Saeed Abedini and Robert Levinson — held as political prisoners inside Iran, were not even discussed during the historic negotiations between the United States and Iran in late 2013.
9. To fight anti-Semitism we must define it
For all its ubiquity, there is no constructive discussion taking place about anti-Semitism. We accuse and they deny. There is no common ground.
10. Picking sides on the ‘world stage’
Some of the world’s most notorious gangsters, mass murderers and torturers will be having their affairs attended to and their interests minded with the most assiduous attention to decorum and manners with the opening of the annual sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
NOTE: The views expressed in certain articles are not necessarily those of the South African Zionist Federation