Ben Levitas' racism allegation preposterous - POPCRU

Union says it stands in solidarity with Palestinian people against Israeli apartheid

POPCRU’s response to Ben Levitas’ claims that POPCRU is a racist union    

POPCRU finds it preposterous that the former Chairperson of an organisation that supported Apartheid South Africa now has the audacity to accuse us black trade unions of being racist.

In response to the PolitcsWeb article by Ben Levitas, former chairperson of the SA Zionist Federation (SAZF), POPCRU stands its ground: we are in solidarity with the Palestinian people and their progressive Jewish Israeli allies in their struggles against Israeli Apartheid. Our solidarity is borne out of a commitment to internationalism that nourishes our backing of all struggles including that of the people of Swaziland, Western Sahara, Cuba and Venezuela among others.

We as black South Africans painfully recall that the SAZF backed Apartheid South Africa during the 1980s, when the regime killed our people. We are disappointed that they and their supporters have taken a similar stance today in support of Israeli Apartheid. One would have thought that history would have taught them memorable lessons, and in the absence of learning, let us educate them with the hope of refreshing their minds;

Firstly, Israel is a state practicing apartheid, discrimination and racism as has been confirmed by various reports and studies. The United Nations (UN), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other bodies have issued statements and reports documenting Israel’s discriminatory practices and violations of international law. In addition, some of our most senior anti-apartheid icons and leaders, after travelling to Palestine-Israel, have come back to report that the conditions our Palestinian brothers and sisters are facing are not only similar to the conditions that we experienced, but in many instances far worse.

Let us be clear - the intended Israeli takeover of Clover is not a beneficial investment in or to our country. It's simply a buy-out that will result in a change of ownership. Our milk will now be in the hands of an Israeli company. If anything, if the Israeli deal proceeds, profits from our people will, firstly, leave the country instead of staying here in South Africa. And, secondly, profits from our daily purchases will be going towards the oppression of the Palestinian.

We take note of the false claim by some propagandists that an Israeli takeover will benefit workers and the working class of our country. The truth is that workers will lose jobs as has been the trend when international corporations take over our companies.

Finally, we would like to once and for all dispel the myth that Israel is a leading technology hub. This is false Israeli propaganda. According to data from Start-Up Nation Finder every year, about 80% of Israeli start-ups lead to failure. Furthermore, according to "Figures from Start-up Nation Central,” the number of Israeli start-ups has been shrinking since 2014.

According to a recent Bloomberg article "Behind Israel’s shiny reputation as a locus of innovation lies the low-tech reality of much of the country’s economy, which stilts growth by reducing productivity. Israel ranks 23rd out of 35 nations on the OECD’s productivity scale.” Israel is not the dream that gets sold to us by its propagandists like Levitas.

In an article titled “Debunking the 'Start-up Nation' Myth,” published last month, in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, journalist Meirav Arlosoroff states that: "Whereas in other developed countries international trade has been growing…Israel’s continues to diminish. The decline has accelerated over the last decade, with the current level of trade relative to GDP standing at half that of other OECD countries…Israel's image as a flourishing high-tech power is thus a deceptive one”.

Furthermore, she explains that some of the reasons for this are that, according to an international survey: "language, math and computer skills are particularly low in Israel.” She ends her article by adding that there is also "the problem [in Israel] of unprofessional management and a lack of interest among controlling shareholders to invest in their businesses”.

We don’t want companies that lie about their technology, countries that are failures or regimes that oppress people to have stakes in our companies. We definitely do not want Israel which is guilty of all three.

Having experienced apartheid as a country, we know too well that one of the ways to dismantle it is not to make it profitable, and for this we shall continue taking sides with the oppressed people of Palestine.

Issued by POPCRU, 28 February 2019