Dear Community Member
Last week, a "Solidarity Conference in support of the people of Palestine, Cuba and Western Sahara" took place in Parliament under the auspices of the International Relations and Cooperation Portfolio Committee. Regrettably, this proved to be little more than a stage managed show trial, one in which Israel was as usual tried, condemned and sentenced in absentia.
It was disappointing to note that of all the opposition parties present, only the African Christian Democratic Party spoke out against this flagrant hijacking of the Parliamentary process by special interest groups. We commend the ACDP for taking the principled stand that they did (see Gareth van Onselen's article on the DA's stance in BDLive).
Neither the Israeli Embassy nor the Jewish communal leadership were invited to provide an Israeli perspective. Instead, the entire discussion around the Israeli-Palestinian question was so framed as to provide an exclusive platform for anti-Israel activists. Without exception, those chosen to speak or moderate the sessions are well known for having extreme anti-Israel views, with a number who are involved full-time in actively promoting an international boycott of the Jewish State.
In addition, a number of those on the programme have a record of overtly antisemitic hate speech. Fatima Hajaig is notorious for having publicly asserted that the United States and other Western countries are controlled by ‘Jewish money power'. Bongani Masuku was found guilty of hate speech by the Human Rights Commission for, inter alia, saying that Jews who supported Israel should be forced to leave the country and that his organisation, COSATU, would "make their lives hell". Marius Fransman, in the course of the past year has generated across-the-board outrage for, amongst other things, alleging that Jews are unfairly benefiting economically at the expense of Muslims and non-white people in general and that its leadership is disloyal to South Africa. In the case of Muhammed Desai, he is on record as having justified the chanting of the slogan "Shoot the Jew" by supporters of his organisation, saying that this was a legitimate part of the country's culture of anti-apartheid activism.
A striking feature of the conference was the complete absence of any expression of support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. None of the speakers explored ways in which the conflict might be peacefully resolved; instead, speaker after speaker took the opportunity to level a string of damning, hateful and distorted charges against Israel, secure in the knowledge that nothing they said would be challenged.
The SAJBD is in the process of following up this matter with government and the various political parties involved. In addition to conveying our deepest outrage over what we regard as a flagrant abuse of the Parliamentary process, we will be seeking clarity as to how it was allowed to come about and what implications, if any, it has for South Africa's policy regarding the Middle East question and its relations with the State of Israel.
Avrom Krengel Mary Kluk
SA Zionist Federation SA Jewish Board of Deputies
This item first appeared on the SAJBD's Facebook page.
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