IAW is destructive and anti-South African - SAJBD

Wendy Kahn says ANC DSG Jessie Duarte once again displaying an obsessive hostility towards Israel

IAW is destructive and anti-South African

Once again, ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte’s obsessive hostility towards the State of Israel has seen her, on behalf of the ruling party, align herself with a movement that routinely promotes hatred not merely against Israel, but against the Jewish community in South Africa. The annual propaganda circus known as “Israel Apartheid Week” (IAW) has consistently shown that it its aim is not to be pro-peace or even pro-Palestinian, but simply to be viscerally anti-Israel. There is nothing wrong with this country showing solidarity with the Palestinian people, but this need not take the kind of radical anti-Israel, and frequently antisemitic, form that characterises IAW campaigns.

Duarte’s hostile rhetoric and unadulterated prejudice towards Israel is out of synch with the President’s commitment to South Africa playing a role in the resolution of the conflict, as well as former President Mandela’s commitment to continuously dialogue in areas of conflict. If South Africa is to play a meaningful role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, it must be in helping persuade all sides to commit themselves to constructive, final status negotiations aimed at achieving peaceful co-existence between the two peoples living alongside one another in their own sovereign states. It cannot do so by endorsing negative and counter-productive boycott actions.

We are witnessing mounting instances of anti-Israel rhetoric crossing over into overt antisemitism, particularly on the university campuses. Last week, attempts were made to disrupt a religious learning session for Wits Jewish students, with the speaker being rudely interrupted and participants subjected to offensive verbal abuse (such as that “Jewish money” controls the university). We have witnessed many incidents of intimidation, incitement and threats against Jewish students on South African university campuses over the past few years during the IAW campaign.

We believe that these statements are irresponsible, provocative and dangerous. They serve to import a fraught and highly divisive foreign conflict at a time when there is a particularly pressing need to promote a culture of national unity and tolerance in our country. It further comes at a time when a volatile situation prevails on our university campuses, significantly contributing to prevailing tensions and heightening the risk of further explosive confrontations.

Rather than supporting this hate-filled IAW week, we appeal to Duarte to support instead a week of dialogue, learning, exposure to different perspective and, ultimately, of reconciliation. This, surely, is the true South African way.

Statement issued by Wendy Kahn, SA Jewish Board of Deputies, 7 March 2016