Is South Africa’s democracy under threat?

June 25, 2018

The social fibre of our communities in South Africa is in a dangerous stage of unravelling and I believe the main stream media, social media and some community organisations and politicians are partly to blame for this unacceptable situation. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is brought to our communities by biased and sometimes gravely propagandistic reporting and actions, pitting sections of the community against each other.

The uncontrolled outbursts on social media and undisciplined statements and rhetoric by some politicians and leaders in government contributes to the stigmatizing and demonizing of people in our communities which has reached a dangerous level.

Freedom of expression enshrined in our constitution is threatened. The Shashi Naidoo debacle is a case in point. After expressing her view on social media, she received death threats. It seems that the Israel/Palestine conflict is used by anti-Israel proponents as a tool of division – if you do not support their narrative, you are an outcast and a target for persecution. What happened to our rainbow nation?

The same happened to Dr Mpho Phalatse, MMC at the Johannesburg City Council when she reiterated her support for Israel at the Friends for Israel Annual Conference. The EFF and ANC threatened that they will not allow the budget to pass if Dr Phalatse is not fired.

On Thursday, 21 June 2018, a man screamed anti-Semitic insults to Jewish passengers after landing at Oliver Tambo Airport from Israel. This happened in full view of tourists from other parts of the world.

If these multiple actors on the hate stage are transparent and their goal is to seek justice for the disenfranchised, they should be applauded. But, that is not the case and some pertinent questions should be asked. Why do they choose to ignore the status of women and public executions in Saudi-Arabia? Why are they silent on the grave atrocities in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Somalia and other countries where innocent people are murdered just because they don’t practice the same religion as the murder gangs? I find it very strange, to say the least.

South Africa is a multi-cultural, multi-faceted country consisting of various races, religions and creed. If we allow the current divisive actions to go unchecked, we will leave behind a shattered country no one of us wants to see our children and grandchildren living in.


The Gaza protests

May 22, 2018

It is human nature to react and afterwards regret our angry comments. The deadly Gaza protests are a case in point.

The mainstream media and social media blamed Israel of the massacre of innocent people. The killing of innocent people is indeed a serious matter, but what are the facts in this case?

On Wednesday 16 May, two days after the deadly protests, a member of Hamas’ Politburo, Salah Bardaweil admitted that out of the 60 deaths, 50 were indeed members of Hamas. It is clear that Hamas used women and children as fodder for their sick propaganda exercise.

Israel’s intelligence agencies knew that Hamas planned to storm the border fence and to infiltrate the border communities. Hamas as well as the population of Gaza were warned in advance what the operational methods of the security forces would be if they approached the border.

The Hamas leadership should know that it is a war crime to use women and children as human shields. They have much to explain to the families of the people who died in this unnecessary confrontation.

The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov verbalised the thoughts of many sober minded people: “We opposed these tactics” and he described it as “extremists” using civilians to spearhead anti-Israel protests that risk turning violent.

We need to avoid sensationalism and not falling into the trap set by radicals.

Israel at 70

May 1, 2018

The letter pages in newspapers often feature extremely critical views about Israel, sometimes lacking a basic understanding of the extremely complex situation in the Middle East. Even if we differ profusely from each other on certain issues, we should never ignore factuality.

The year 2018 is a very significant year for Israel. It is the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence and is the year in which Jerusalem is acknowledged as the capital of Israel by the United States. Moreover, the US will move its embassy to Jerusalem on 14 May 2018, exactly 70 years after David Ben-Gurion declared Israel as an independent state. More countries are considering moving their embassies or consulates to Jerusalem.

During these 70 years Israel has become a powerful player on the world stage. It is a country which has blessed the nations with medical, technological and agricultural breakthroughs. Their forebears were humiliated under Pharaoh in Egypt and persecuted in Europe, but the Jewish people were moulded in the desert to become the greatest nation this world has ever seen.

Benjamin Kerstein wrote in the Algemeiner: “Over the past several months, a series of Arab commentators have sought to explain why Israel appears so far ahead of the Arab world in politics, economics, and military power.”

Reda Abd Al-Salam, the former governor of Egypt’s Al-Sharqiya province and a lecturer at Mansoura University in Egypt, noted, “The Arab and Muslim peoples live under regimes that for decades have engaged not in developing their peoples and establishing themselves in economy, society, science, and democracy, but in establishing their [own] rule.”

Instead of blaming Israel for everything under the sun, the Arab and Muslim world will do well to focus on their own myriad of problems. The Palestinian leadership will even do better if they work on the uplifting of their own people instead of a futile and never-ending confrontational posture towards Israel.

Ironically, those organisations and groups in South Africa, who are so extremely critical about Israel, are silent in the face of high levels of corruption and crime in South Africa, which impacts the people of South Africa directly. By the same token, these groups are also silent about the corruption in the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza.

The Palestinian leadership, both in the West Bank and Gaza, receives millions in aid from foreign governments and NGO’s on an annual basis. Instead of investing this money to the benefit of their people, Hamas in Gaza squander it on the building of underground tunnels and the manufacturing of weapons to confront Israel. In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority built a luxurious palace for Mahmoud Abbas.

Any person with a conscience will be able to sympathise with people suffering at the hand of dictators and militants and even so-called democratic governments neglecting its people.

Are the anti-Israel advocates not barking at the wrong door? Should they not hold the despots and militant leaders accountable for misleading their people to believe that Israel is the demon and the cause of all ills in the Middle East?

The Israel-Apartheid Narrative

April 5, 2018

With a history of apartheid, it seems suitable that South Africa will be the platform to spearhead the Israel-Apartheid narrative and activists, Anti-Zionists and propagandists certainly use the hard earned democratic freedom to portray themselves as a beacon of righteousness shining from a free South Africa.

I have great respect for people standing up against injustice, but we often see justice not been served due to an imbalanced view which create more injustice.

Apartheid was an inhumane system, it is therefore appropriate to honour the legacy of the freedom fighters by honestly and soberly analysing the two scenarios, Israel and Apartheid South Africa.  To bluntly and without factual background compare Israel to Apartheid South Africa is to trivialize the legacy of those who fight for freedom in South Africa.

It is thus important to analyse the elements of the South African Apartheid system to be able to make a fair and just comparison with the current situation in Israel.

Some of the basic elements of the South African Apartheid system:

  • Non-whites, classified as Bantu (Black), coloured (mixed), or Indian, did not share full rights of citizenship with the white minority.
  • Black people could not vote in Parliamentary elections
  • Many public facilities and institutions were restricted to the use of one race only
  • Black national states were established
  • All blacks over the age of 16 had to carry identity documents
  • Separate transport and other public facilities for non-whites
  • The population was segregated into different areas on the basis of ethnic background
  • The establishment of “ethnic universities” and the banning of non-white students from all other universities
  • Organizations opposed to Apartheid were banned.

Some of the basic elements of the so called Israeli “Apartheid system”

  • Palestinians living in Israel have full citizenship
  • Israeli Arabs (Palestinians) have representatives in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) and thus have full voting rights
  • Public facilities and institutions are open for all
  • Palestinians demand their own state. (A future Palestinian state will be free of Jews (Pres. Mahmoud Abbas), Palestinian President
  • Security checkpoints between Israel and Palestinian territories are the result of violence against Jewish citizens.
  • Jews and Palestinians share the same public transport and other public facilities. Jews and Palestinian doctors work side by side in Israeli hospitals
  • Segregated areas based on demographic, political and religious reasons
  • Israeli universities are open to all
  • Freedom of speech is protected by law.

Based on these few comparisons, and there are many more, it is difficult to see how Israel can be labelled as an Apartheid state.  It is thus ironic that the same activists and others, who launched the Apartheid campaign against Israel, are not concerned about the situation in some Arab countries including Gaza, where:

  • Women are not allowed to drive a car
  • Women and men are not allowed to work together in an office
  • Jews are not allowed to live or buy property
  • Christian churches are not allowed to be built
  • Christians are persecuted, even Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem.

Before branding Israel as an Apartheid state, let us be honest with ourselves by taking all the facts into consideration and let us not be fooled by unsubstantiated propaganda.

Yom Hazikaron (Day of Remembrance)

April 19, 2016

Yom Hazikaron or Day of Remembrance is a special day on the calendar for every Israeli and it should also be for every Jewish person living in the Diaspora. It is a day in which the brave fallen soldiers and people of Israel who lost their lives in terror attacks are remembered. A nation who remembers it’s fallen is a strong nation.

Since the stabbing and ramming attacks started during September 2015, many soldiers and citizens either lost their lives or were seriously injured. As Christian and staunch supporter of Israel, I also feel duty-bound to remember the soldiers who gave their lives for their country and also to those who just went on with their daily lives as ordinary citizens, but lost it at the hands of terrorists.

On 14 September 2015, Alexander Levlovitz (64) lost control of his vehicle and crashed while on the way home from celebrating Rosh Hashanah with his family. The injuries claimed his life while 2 passengers were seriously injured.

On October 1, 2015, Eitam Henkin and his wife Naama, both in their 30’s were ambushed by Palestinian gunman as they drove with their four children in Judea and Samaria (West Bank). The children, all under the age of 10, were only slightly injured. The tragedy is that they will grow up without their mother and father.

On October 3, 2015, a Palestinian man approached a group of Israeli’s in Jerusalem’s old city and began stabbing, killing Nahmia Lavi (23) and Aaron Bennet (24) and injured a women and her baby.

On October 13, 2015, Rabbi Yeshayahu Krishevsky (60), Haim Haviv (78), Alon Govberg (59) and Richard Lakin (76) were killed in a stabbing and shooting attack on a bus in Southern Jerusalem. Fifteen were injured in the same attack.

On October 18, 2015, Omri Levy, a 19 year old IDF soldier were killed by a Palestinian assailant.

On November 4, 2015, Staff Sergeant  Benjamin Yaakovovich (19) died four days later of his wounds after a Palestinian terrorist rammed his car into him.

On November 13, 2015 Rabbi Yaakov Litman (40) and his son Netanel Litman (18) were shot to death by a Palestinian gunman who opened fire on their vehicle near the Otniel Junction.

On November 19, 2015,  Reuven Aviram (51), Rabbi Aharon Yesiab (32), Yaakov Don (51) and Ezra Schwartz (18) were killed by Palestinian terrorists.

On November 23,2015, Hadar Buchris, a 21-year old women were killed in a stabbing attack at a bus stop and a 20-year old Israeli soldier, Ziv Mizrahi stabbed to death at a gas station.

Genadi Kaufman (40) died of his wounds on December 7, 2015 three weeks after a stabbing attack at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

On December 23, 2015, Rabbi Rueven Birmajer (45) was stabbed and killed outside Jaffa gate in Jerusalem.

On January 1, 2016, Alon Bakal (26) and Shimon Ruimi (30) were killed by an Arab-Israeli at a New Year’s celebration.

On January 17, 2016, Dafna Meir (38) was killed in her kitchen by a knife-wielding Palestinian terrorist. This barbaric attack left six children without a mother.

On January 25, 2016, Shlomit Krigman (38) went to the market and was attacked and killed by a terrorist.

On February 3, 2016, three terrorists armed with knives, guns, and explosives, attacked a group of IDF soldiers at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, killing Hadar Cohen (19).

On February 18, 2016, an off duty IDF soldier 21-year old Sergeant Tuvia Yanai Weissman, was killed in a stabbing attack.

On Remembrance Day (Yom Hazikaron) 10 May 2016, we need to reflect and honour the lives of these precious people. It is the least we can do and never stop to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. It is now more relevant than ever.

The annual BDS campaign

March 7, 2016

The silly season has started.  The annual worldwide BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign is in full swing during the month of March. The various programs are cleverly designed in an effort to brand Israel as an Apartheid state.

The disingenuousness of these efforts are reflected in the counter-initiatives of governments, institutions, organizations and ordinary people who have had enough of the false claims of the BDS advocates.

In February the Canadian government passed a motion to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both in Canada and abroad. France and the United Kingdom took similar actions. Seven US states have now passed laws condemning or forbidden “BDS-type actions.”

State legislation targeting BDS continues to spread to more countries. A lawmaker in Georgia recently introduced a bill that mirrors legislation pending in six other states in an effort to outlaw government contracts with businesses that boycott Israel.

Martin Ritzmaier, spokesman for the mayor of Vienna, Austria, said on 26 February 2016: “We would like a cancellation” of the BDS events in the city-subsidized Amerlinghaus building. Ritzmaier added: “The city of Vienna rejects boycott calls against the State of Israel and BDS-Austria receives no funding from the city of Vienna.”

The counter-BDS movement grew significantly in the past year. So much so that BDS advocates felt the heat and started to employ intimidation tactics. On 19 February 2016, Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist from East Jerusalem was heckled and threatened by students and anti-Israel protesters at the University of Chicago for his opposition to boycott Israel.

On 6 March 2016, the Algemeiner published an extract of the “Fall 2015 Campus Trends Report,” produced by Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC). One of the most significant points is that there are signs of growing internal fractures within the anti-Israel camp. That is in line with my own perception while studying developments regarding pro-BDS and anti-BDS.

Noah Pollak, executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel accurately described the reality, which began to emerge in the ranks of the BDS activists: “Radical political movements for years operate in obscurity, slowly building, organizing and growing through trial and error. Then they burst into the open and experience a thrilling period of rapid growth and notoriety. Their enemies are caught off guard and unprepared, and their activists feel strong, confident and on the winning side of history. Crucially, the radicals start to believe, emotionally and intellectually, that their victory is inevitable. But then the victories do not come. The enemy not only does not surrender, but also reorganizes, rearms and counter-attacks – and then it dawns on the radicals they are in for a long, bloody fight. What is likely occurring in the ranks of the BDS movement is the beginning of this phase, and the accompanying internal debate about strategy.”

Where does South Africa fit into the latest developments? The BDS movement in South Africa is active and very vocal. With their slogans and rhetoric they charm some ANC politicians, trade unions and even the South African Council of Churches in supporting their cause.

However, I see some positive signs in the South African scenario. Although some individuals in the ANC support the BDS movement, the government of South Africa refrains from publicly supporting them. In fact, the government never stopped trade relations with Israel.

I also see a more realistic attitude at University campuses in South Africa regarding the BDS phenomenon. It could be that University management are sensitive for more aggression during Israel Apartheid Week (IAW), due to the “Fees Must Fall” campaign, but I am quite confident that some academics are beginning to realize that BDS is built on half-truths and falsehoods. It is rather discomforting that those academics took so long to do the necessary research.

My sincere hope is that we are beginning to see the early signs of implosion of the BDS movement. If not, we need to relentlessly expose them for what they really are.

Israel Apartheid Week 2016

February 17, 2016

It is that time of the year again. From 7 to 13 March 2016 anti-Israel propagandists in South Africa will be in full force with an array of antics to demonize and delegitimize Israel during a week-long campaign, which they call Israel Apartheid Week. The BDS campaigners certainly have no lack of creative ideas to enforce their flawed view of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

While South Africa is faced with the worst drought in decades and the government is struggling with proper water management, the country which is uniquely positioned to assist in these areas, are boycotted by BDS’S to satisfy their hate for Israel. For them it is OK for their countrymen to suffer as long as they can satisfy themselves.

A conference on equitable and sustainable water management for poverty alleviation, organised by the Mail & Guardian for 26 February was cancelled after it attracted criticism for including the Israeli Ambassador to South Africa as a panellist. BDS might see it as a victory, but only small minds ignore a hand of help in a time of crisis.

While BDS claims successes in their so-called Israel Apartheid campaign, the other side is not often published in the mainstream media. Recently, more governments, companies and institutions started to either withdraw their support for BDS or legalised against it.

The Munich-based DAB bank is slated to discontinue the account of one of the top BDS campaign websites in Germany. The BDS website lists DAB bank Munich as the financial institution for electronic money transfers.

The City Council of Paris adopted two nonbinding resolutions condemning attempts to boycott Israel, which is illegal in France. One of the resolutions said the City of Paris “opposes publicly all attempts to isolate Israel from the collective of nations,” and also reaffirmed the city’s “commitment to the promotion of a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict.”

The multi-talented star Jennifer Lopez will be having her debut performance in Israel despite pressure from the the BDS movement to cancel.

To frustrate BDS even more, Beyonce wore a fabulous gown designed by the Israeli designer Inbal Dror. Her jewellery was also by an Israeli designer, Keren Wolf.

A princess from the Islamic country of Bahrain chose to receive life-saving treatment in Israel after she was given the chance to undergo the necessary operation in the US. Logic dictates that the princess would not have made such a decision if she regarded Israel as an Apartheid State.

Israel Apartheid Week 2016 will be no different than the previous years. The BDS supporters will once again be vocal in their efforts to brand Israel as an Apartheid State, but better-informed people will watch this spectacle from a distance, sometimes laughing, sometimes even emotional for the stupidity people are able to come up with. The sad reality is that most of the BDS supporters have never visited Israel or have an in-depth knowledge of the Middle East to understand the intricate situation Israel finds itself in.

Be it as it may, but branding Israel as an Apartheid State is so ridiculous, it is no wonder that a princess of Bahrain trusted Israel to perform a specialised operation, Jennifer Lopez ignored BDS to perform in Israel, DAB bank discontinued BDS’s website in Germany and the City of Paris adopted resolutions against BDS.

Unfortunately, South Africa lost the opportunity of any future involvement in the Israel-Palestinian issue.