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Zuma, Mantashe send mixed messages on Israel

The schizophrenic relationship between SA & Israel was again highlighted last week after President Zuma & a senior government delegation met the Board & Fed & gave them his assurance that SA’s policy remained unchanged. 3 days later ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe made it clear much had. SA has joined the call for cultural, academic & education boycotts, banned travel for all members of government & officials, won’t do business with Capegate, G4Security & Caterpillar, boycott OT goods & develop comprehensive solidarity during a UN Month of Solidarity with Palestine.

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Israel

ANT KATZ
On Friday 19 September 2014 in “Leaders meet Zuma & team on threats to Jews” Jewish Report noted that President Jacob Zuma, three of his cabinet ministers and the DG in the Presidency had met a delegation of Jewish leaders from the Board & Fed the previous evening to discuss the sharp rise in anti-Semitic activity in SA.

These, said the Board, included threats and intimidation against the members of the community and the leadership. Zuma had unequivocally rejected anti-Semitism and all forms of intolerance, said the Board, and emphasised need for harmony between people of different backgrounds and opinions in SA. 

sara - Jack's productsThe President had reiterated that there was no change in the Government’s policy towards Israel on the evening of 18 September.

 

NEC Meeting

The very next day the ANC’s National Executive Committee held a three-day-long summit – from September 19 to 21. The following day a statement was issued and was clearly marked as being authored by Secretary General Gwede Mantashe.

Referring to discussions and decisions relating to international relations issues, Mantashe said in his September 22 statement, ”the NEC took the following decisions:”

Endorsement of the programme of solidarity with Palestine, in particular:

  • Intensification of engagement in multi-lateral institutions.
  • Joining the call for a cultural, academic and education boycott of Israel including travel bans for members and leaders of the ANC, the Alliance, Members of Cabinet, Members of Parliament and Government Officials.
  • Companies that do business in the occupied territory, such as Capegate, G4Security and Caterpillar must not be allowed to business with state.
  • Goods manufactured in the occupied territory should be boycotted.
  • The development of a comprehensive programme of solidarity during the UN Month of Solidarity with Palestine.

Mixed messages – which one is real?

For some time now the emergence of schizophrenic ANC positions on Israel has been emerging.

On the one hand there is the Luthuli House faction, the political arm of the ANC which chooses to take the populist view of Israel-bashing at every turn, making promises the anti-Israel forces, mandating them at congresses but unable to get their colleagues in Government to deliver on them.

And for good reason too. 

Because on the other side are the the ANC members who are in government and seem to be taking the pragmatic view that the relationship, which is this year likely to reach a two-way trade of around $1.5-bil, the fact that over half of the middle east tourist arrivals in SA are from Israel and other growing political and trade ties are here to stay. This camp also believes that SA could have a role to play in assisting in a negotiated two-state settlement.

 

The rancour goes back a long way

3-ANC face-offOn 15 October 2013 in Anti-Semitism causes clash of ANC big-wigs Jewish Report spoke to then-ANC veteran MP Ben Turok who had lodged a complaint with his party against W/Cape chair Marius Fransman for making anti-Semitic comments about the Jewish community.

Then came the twin issues of ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte issuing a statement on behalf of her party, saying, inter alia, that: “As we move towards the month of August and are reminded of the atrocities of Nazi Germany, surely we must ask the people of Israel has the term ‘lest we forget’ lost it meaning?”

This was followed shortly after by the party’s Western Cape social media communications manager, Rene Smit’s posting of a photograph of Hitler with the words “Yes man (Hitler) you were right” and “I could have killed all the Jews but I left some of them to let you know why I was killing them.”

Jewish Report’s Ant Katz held an extensive and exclusive interview with Mantashe that resulted in the stories: “ANC Okay with staffer posting Hitler analogies with Jews” published on July 15 in which Mantashe refused to take responsibility for Rene Smit’s Hitler posting. SAJBD national executive director Wendy Kahn was furious about the statement and Mantashe’s refusal to take responsibility or action.

On June 17 2014, Jewish Report published “ANC flatly refuses to remove blinkers” quoting from the same interview that Mantashe explained that “the ANC’s top-six had ‘instructed’ Ms Duarte to immediately take three weeks’ stress leave – as had most senior officials since the election,” he said at the time. Mantashe then promptly said he could not speak on behalf of Duarte.

The interview came in the wake of the very offensive Holocaust remarks made by “MS JESSE DUARTE” which the Board and Fed referred a in a no-holds-barred response as a VENOMOUS & INSULTING STATEMENT likening Israel to Hitler’s Nazis. 

Writing from Jerusalem at the time, SA Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein didn’t mince his words either, demanding that the ANC and Duarte: “PUT UP OR SHUT UP!“ was the headline of the Jewish Report’s story quoting the Chief rabbi to “Retract or debate me!”. Needless to say, neither happened.

 

Business Day

Reporting on a SAPA statement, Business day’s headlines screamed: MANTASHE TELLS ANC OFFICIALS TO BOYCOTT ISRAEL early this week. ANC members and leaders should not travel to Israel as the party is in solidarity with the people of Palestine, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said. “(We are) joining the call for (a) cultural, academic and education boycott of Israel, including travel bans for members and leaders of the ANC, the alliance, members of Cabinet, Members of Parliament and government officials,” Mr Mantashe told reporters in Johannesburg.

“Companies that do business in the occupied territory, such as Cape Gate, G4Security and Caterpillar, must not be allowed to do business with the state. Goods manufactured in the occupied territory should be boycotted.”

The schizophrenic relationship between SA & Israel was again highlighted last week after President Zuma & a senior government delegation met the Board & Fed & gave them his assurance that SA’s policy remained unchanged. 3 days later ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe made it clear much had. SA has joined the call for cultural, academic & education boycotts, banned travel for all members of government & officials, won’t do business with Capegate, G4Security & Caterpillar, boycott OT goods & develop comprehensive solidarity during a UN Month of Solidarity with Palestine.

 

On Friday 19 September 2014 in “Leaders meet Zuma & team on threats to Jews” Jewish Report noted that President Jacob Zuma, three of his cabinet ministers and the DG in the Presidency had met a delegation of Jewish leaders from the Board & Fed the previous evening to discuss the sharp rise in anti-Semitic activity in SA. These, said the Board, included threats and intimidation against the members of the community and the leadership. Zuma had unequivocally rejected anti-Semitism and all forms of intolerance, said the Board, and emphasised need for harmony between people of different backgrounds and opinions in SA.

The President had reiterated that there was no change in the Government’s policy towards Israel on the evening of 18 September.

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Israel

Israel’s status on agenda of AU executive

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On the eve of the meeting of the Executive Council of the African Union (AU) this week, there has been much speculation about whether Israel’s recent granting of observer status will be debated, and if calls for the decision to be rescinded will be heard.

The announcement in July that Israel had been granted observer status at the AU drew sharp reaction from several countries on the continent, including South Africa.

Last week, International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) Minister Naledi Pandor met her Palestinian counterpart, Riad Malki, and again expressed dissatisfaction with Israel’s status. (See story on page 1.)

During the official bilateral talks held at Dirco, Pandor said South Africa wasn’t party to the AU’s “shocking” decision to grant Israel observer status.

In July, Pretoria moved swiftly to lobby other Southern African Development Community states against the decision.

Many said the decision had been taken unilaterally by AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, and expressed solidarity with Palestine.

Out of 55 member states, 46 enjoy diplomatic relations with Israel. There are about 17 member countries opposing observer status.

It’s understood that the matter was placed on the agenda of the AU executive council following complaints by some member states.

Professor Hussein Solomon of the University of the Free State wrote recently that South Africa was “out of sync” with the views of most African heads of state. “Isolating Israel won’t work in promoting the well-being of Palestinians. This was tried for decades by Arab countries and has failed.”

Jean-Pierre Alumba Lukamba, the international director of the African Diaspora for Development, (ADD), told the SA Jewish Report this week that according to the guiding principles of the AU, Israel should be at the opening of the AU’s executive council meeting this week as an observer member for the first time in nearly 20 years.

The ADD has reiterated its call to African heads of state to maintain unanimously the admission of the state of Israel as an observer member.

In a statement, the ADD said, “The African people will derive great benefit from the state of Israel, which has notably established agricultural co-operatives, youth training centres, and medical facilities in countries such as Ghana, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, and Côte d’Ivoire.

“Israel supported the use of technology for the sustainable development of Africa in accordance with a resolution adopted by the United Nations,” it said, and it was “convinced” that admission to the AU of Israel would help to advance the African continent towards a better future for the well-being of African people.

The ADD joined its voice to those of other civil society organisations, and asked the African heads of state to include it on its agenda this week.

Earlier this week, the ADD held a peaceful rally in Abuja in support of Israel’s observer status.

Olubunmi Fagbuyiro, the Economic Community of West African States representative of the ADD, said that there was still concern about countries who opposed this observer status. “The AU should embrace Israel, as the country has already demonstrated its willingness for fruitful partnership with Africa,” Fagbuyiro said.

He said Israel had been pivotal in the provision of green energy, health infrastructure, and infrastructure for sustainable water supply in many countries on the continent. He noted Israel’s contribution to the fight against Ebola in Africa.

“It’s our view that the AU can play an important role in bringing about peace between Israel and Palestine, drawing on lessons from the African nationalist movements and the experiences of decolonisation and reconciliation following various conflicts can be used to inspire negotiation and peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

Meanwhile, the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) has joined various African civil society organisations from across the continent in their call for African heads of state to reaffirm unanimously Israel’s admission as an observer member of the AU.

“Israel has had a mutually beneficial relationship with African states for more than 70 years. It has been at the forefront of efforts to help solve some of the most important developmental challenges on the continent. These include the areas of health, agriculture, youth development, water, education, and energy.

“The admission of Israel as an observer to the African Union, alongside more than 70 other countries, is a historic and welcome development. It should be celebrated and not undermined by those who aren’t interested in peace and prosperity on the continent,” it said.

The SAZF called on other organisations connected to Africa and its diaspora to sign a letter of support to the AU.

The letter is signed by prominent progressive international African organisations, companies, leaders, activists, youth movements, and trade unions. It says Israel’s admission seeks to “enhance the work of Israeli African co-operation on development programmes at bilateral and multilateral levels. Admittance is in the interests of peace and dialogue.”

Faki Mahamat accepted the credentials of Aleligne Admasu, Israel’s ambassador to Ethiopia, on 22 July.

He said at the time that he hoped the move would contribute to the “intensification of the advocacy of the AU for the fulfilment of the principle of two states and the restoration of peace between Israel and Palestine” and reiterated the “unflinching commitment” of the AU to the fundamental rights of the Palestinians.

This included their “right to establish an independent national state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, within the framework of a global, fair, and definitive peace between Israel and Palestine.”

Faki Mahamat said the reservations expressed by “a few members” about this decision justified his intention to include it on the agenda of this week’s session of the executive council.

Israel obtained AU observer status after 20 years of diplomatic efforts. It had previously held the role at the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), but was long thwarted in its attempts to regain it after the OAU was disbanded in 2002 and replaced by the AU.

Apart from South Africa, other countries opposing Israel’s member status include Algeria, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.

Most other countries on the continent have sought closer ties with Israel, such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Uganda, and have secured Israeli help, expertise, and investment in many areas from water and agriculture to tech start-ups.

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Arab-Israeli gangsterism a massive security threat

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The current violence in Arab-Israeli cities is a greater threat to the state of Israel than Hamas and Hezbollah. The comparison might sound dramatic, but since stating it earlier this week, Israeli Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar has only reinforced his concerns.

As many as half-a-million illegal weapons are estimated to be in the hands of the Israeli-Arab sector. Their prevalence is widely attributed to the killing of more than 90 Arab citizens since the start of this year in shootings and stabbings. Though some of these deaths have been the result of warfare before mafia families, others involved unlucky bystanders struck by a stray bullet or female victims of domestic violence. Of these cases, less than a quarter have been solved so far, compared with more than 70% in the Jewish community.

Many Arab Israelis say the identities of killers and crime families are well-known to residents and authorities. They complain that the lack of arrests reflects a double standard when it comes to Israeli police dealing with Arab communities.

The problem is further compounded by the lack of faith many Arabs have in the Israeli police’s will and ability to address the problem. A recent survey found that only 17.4% of Israeli Arabs said they trusted the police. The result is a Catch-22, as this lack of faith leads to fewer people being willing to risk co-operating with the police, who in turn have a more difficult time enforcing law and order.

For months now, the Israeli government has been trying to get a grip on the deteriorating security situation. Even the head of the United Arab List, parliamentarian Mansour Abbas, this week again stressed his concern about crime and violence in Arab communities.

But how to deal with it has created problems, with Arabs divided over Jerusalem’s recent announcement that it plans to involve the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) in assisting the Israeli police. While some Arabs firmly oppose the idea, others are desperate for any solution that could help quell the escalating violence.

It’s difficult trying to gauge opinion on the Arab street. Most people I approach are afraid to comment. Should they be seen to support the Shin Bet, they could face reprisals in their communities; and should they be seen to publicly oppose its involvement, they could – they tell me – be targeted by Israeli security authorities. The best answer, encapsulating what most people feel, is what one elderly man told me, “I’m doomed if I support the move, and I’m doomed if I don’t!”

As for the Shin Bet itself, its officials say they prefer not to be involved in anything beyond their more regular counter-terrorism missions. These are usually across the Green Line, in Palestinian territories, where suspects can be held for years without charge and prevented from meeting with lawyers.

Jerusalem has consistently argued that such measures are necessary to prevent Palestinian terror attacks, but implementing them against Israeli citizens, albeit against those who are engaged in criminal activity, is a completely different ball game. The major concern, for Jews and Arabs alike, is that it could turn Israel into a police state. Many also question how a technologically advanced country like Israel, that was recently able to catch six escaped Palestinian prisoners within a week, has been unable to break up a few local criminal gangs. Some Arab citizens even suspect the government of deliberately letting the violence run amok in order to weaken the Arab minority in the country.

Several Israeli officials have expressed a popular view among the Israeli political right that “as long as they are killing each other, that’s their problem”. But this violence often spills over into Jewish neighbourhoods, often into nationalistic crimes, as was witnessed in May this year.

At the time, I visited mixed Arab-Israeli cities in the heart of the country that resembled battlegrounds. Car tyres were burning on the streets, shops and homes were barricaded, and many Arab citizens walked around armed. The concern was that those weapons, often stolen from the Israeli military, or smuggled across the border from Jordan, or manufactured in the West Bank, could be turned against the Israeli public. The police were quick to quell the unrest as quickly as it unfolded, leaving many to point out that when the security forces really wanted to deal with the violence, they could.

The new government insists it’s prioritising dealing with the situation. It says it has a detailed plan to improve access and trust in Arab communities that it is ready to put into action after the state budget is passed in November. It calls for recruiting an additional 1 100 police officers, legislative changes to deal more efficiently with economic crime, more use of technology, and an improved witness-protection programme.

The situation has become so bad that in some cases, police are afraid to enter neighbourhoods. The hashtag #ArabLivesMatter has caught on, inspired by the #BlackLivesMatter movement and among those embracing the hashtag is the country’s public security minister who faced stormy protests outside his home after seven shooting incidents rattled the Arab community in a single week. But although there’s growing public awareness of the problem, it won’t easily disappear. It’s been around for a long time, and will take some time to dissipate.

  • Paula Slier is the Middle East bureau chief of RT, the founder and chief executive of Newshound Media International, and the inaugural winner of the Europcar Women in Leadership Award of the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards.

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Telfed under strain from SA aliyah wave

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Telfed, the South African Zionist Federation in Israel, has resorted to a fundraiser as its resources come under strain because of the volume of people making aliyah from South Africa.

“We have a situation on our hands. Last month, Telfed welcomed the highest number of South African immigrants to Israel in one month in 44 years [since 1977]. Our resources are under intense strain,” said Telfed Chief Executive Dorron Kline in the fundraiser message.

Kline told the SA Jewish Report, “We are a small team dealing with a large wave of South African aliyah, which we are delighted about. People need a lot more assistance due to corona[virus], and we have limited resources. As our community grows, we have more people to assist. There’s an increase in the number of South African olim applying for Telfed’s financial assistance.”

Telfed provides two types of services: klita (absorption) and social welfare. These include financial assistance and “food cards” for more than 400 needy South African olim every month, social-work counselling, and higher-education bursaries – the organisation receives more than 1 000 applications every year. Klita services include pre and post-aliyah advice from a klita advisor and social worker, employment counselling, subsidised rental apartments, and social events.

In the fundraiser, members of Telfed said there had been a “300% increase in the number of South Africans wanting to move to Israel”. Elaborating on this, Kline says “the 300% relates to the rise in aliyah enquiries that Telfed received over the past 1.5 years. Liat Amar Arran from the South African Israel Centre also spoke about a dramatic increase in opening aliyah files – from 300 to 1 000. In addition, the Kaplan Centre report from 2019 highlighted growing interest in aliyah.”

They also describe a “10% increase in the number of South African immigrants battling to make ends meet in Israel”. Kline explains that “the cost of living in Israel is high, and it’s unreasonable for most to replicate the standard of living that they had in South Africa. Yes, education and healthcare are comparatively inexpensive, but salaries in Israel can be lower. Our South African olim deal with an unfavourable exchange rate, and property prices are significantly higher in Israel. We want those who are making aliyah to have a realistic expectation of what lies ahead.

“Israel is a wonderful country, and the advantages of living here are significant, but it’s expensive,” he says. “As long as people know what to expect, they can prepare accordingly. Sadly, some olim take out loans that they cannot repay or they haven’t saved up for an unexpected expense. Some have fallen ill, and aren’t able to work. Some have left unhealthy marriages, or are dealing with mental-health issues.

“Telfed doesn’t replace the financial assistance provided by the Israeli government and municipality; we augment it,” he says. “We have limited means, so we carefully assess each case before deciding how best to help. In many cases, we will provide financial planning to help ensure that olim won’t fall into the same position again. We try to empower our olim with the skills to be self-sufficient. Sometimes, all they need is a little extra guidance.”

The fundraiser also mentions that there is a 50% increase (70 families) on the waiting list for housing in Telfed community buildings. “Telfed’s subsidised rental housing is available for South African olim who wish to live in either Tel Aviv or Ra’anana,” says Kline. “We give priority to new olim and former lone soldiers. The apartments are appealing because the tenants live in a community of olim with the same background. Tel Aviv and Ra’anana are highly sought-after locations. The olim deal with an English speaking property and maintenance manager. These seem like small advantages, but when one arrives in a new country with limited language skills, it makes settling in so much easier.

“Seventy percent of rental income is used to assist olim with their absorption and to help those in financial need. Thirty percent is used for building maintenance, renovation, and upkeep. The increase in the waiting list is as a result of the rise in the number of aliyah applications and new olim,” he says. “Olim will rent apartments on the open market until the Telfed apartments become available. Olim may live in Telfed subsidised rental housing for up to three years.”

There is an urgent tone to Telfed’s campaign, and it feels like an unprecedented situation. Kline says “all non-profit organisations have felt the impact of the pandemic, and the need for our services has grown. Up until now, we haven’t highlighted the welfare role that Telfed plays. The primary reason for this is because our community is small, and confidentiality is imperative. For decades, we have provided emergency support to those in dire need.

“Telfed received generous funding from the Jewish Agency for many years, but it stopped in the late 1990s, and the need for our services didn’t. We are here to assist olim, but we do need to cover our operating costs. In addition, there is a greater need amongst olim for financial help.”

Kline emphasises that “South Africans should come here because of their love of Israel and not because they are running away. Israel isn’t always an easy place to live. We want South African Jews to move for the right reasons.

“We have a significant number of committees [comprised of dedicated volunteers] and professionals who ensure that we can best assist those who need our assistance and guidance. For more than 70 years, we have had South African trained lawyers, accountants, and businesspeople onboard to ensure good governance and transparency,” Kline says.

“Our next most significant project is constructing a new Telfed subsidised rental housing unit in Tel Aviv. We will build 74 new rental apartments to provide for the dramatic increase in South African aliyah. It is a 100 million shekel (R442.2 million) building project, and we need to raise the funds from generous donors,” Kline says.

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