Isie Maisels, BDS and the SAJBD: A reply

Roshan Dadoo says David P Kramer and David Saks have their history wrong about her father

The recent spate of similarly worded pieces by David P Kramer in a letter to Business Day on 21 April (see here) and by David Saks published the day before in Politicsweb (see here) referring to a previous ‘post’ by David Kramer are shoddily researched and tendentious to say the least.

They claim it is ironic that I was a signature to the SA BDS Coalition’s letter to the Judicial Service Commission objecting to the potential appointment of David Unterhalter to the Constitutional Court. Our objection was on the grounds of his position on the SAJBD - which he only vacated the month prior to his interview.

They state that Isie Maisel, a Jewish lawyer, defended my father, Dr Yusuf Dadoo, amongst the 156 Treason Trial defendants in 1956. Maisel also served on the SAJBDS and SAZF. The ‘irony’, according to Saks and Kramer, is that I would therefore have similarly objected to the man that helped ensure an acquittal for my father and the other detainees and saved them from the death sentence.

Had Saks and Kramer bothered to verify the information they probably found on Wikipedia they would have discovered that my father was not a defendant in the Treason Trial. He was under a banning order and was not able to openly attend the 1955 Congress of the People (CoP) which formed the key evidence leading to the raids and arrests the following year.

His mother Fatima (my grandmother) was present at the CoP to accept on his behalf the Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe, the highest honour of the ANC, then also awarded to Chief Albert Luthuli and Father Trevor Huddleston. It is believed my father contravened his banning order and did attend illegally, under cover, for part of the proceedings but he managed to evade the security police.

What is ironic, however, is that my mother’s maiden name was Kramer so maybe David P Kramer and I are long-lost cousins! She, a South African Jew, was like my father a lifelong anti-apartheid activist in the South African Communist Party and thus an internationalist and anti-Zionist.

Both my parents understood that Israel, like apartheid South Africa, is a settler colonial state founded on the forced expulsion of the Palestinian people and theft of their land. Following the 1967 war they vehemently opposed the further occupation of Palestinian land and the ongoing oppression and persecution of the Palestinians.

I make this point to demonstrate exactly what the SAJBD does not accept – that not all Jews are Zionists. If the SAJBD is truly representative of the entire South African Jewish community and not only those that support the state of Israel then I would like to know who on the Board is representing the significant anti-Zionist Jewish community in our country?

This week Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a damning report demonstrating that Israel’s actions against the Palestinians constitutes apartheid (see here). The UN Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid defines this crime against humanity as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” The HRW report examines concretely how Israel fits this definition.

This is not a new revelation - eminent Palestinians, solidarity activists and organisations like the SA BDS Coalition and international legal experts such as our own John Dugard have repeatedly made this point. However, it is extremely significant that both HRW, a globally renowned NGO, as well as the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem have this year come out clearly against Israeli apartheid. The narrative has moved substantially towards characterising Israeli actions as crimes against humanity in terms of international law. 

David Saks notes the bravery of Advocate Isie Maisel in defending members of our liberation movement against the apartheid state even though this impacted negatively on an otherwise distinguished legal career. I very much hope that Maisel, had he been alive today, would have been brave enough to once again stand on the right side of history and join the jurists prepared to speak out against Israeli apartheid.

I am proud that my parents actively supported the struggles for liberation in South Africa and Palestine and publicly opposed the increasingly brutal system of repression and subjugation of apartheid until the end of their lives. If Messrs. Saks and Kramer understand the meaning of irony, they will concur that there is nothing ironic in me doing likewise.

Roshan Dadoo
SA BDS Coalition Convener in her personal capacity