SA government needs to show leadership and acknowledge suffering on both sides
16 May 2021
The images coming out of the current conflict between Israel and Gaza are causing emotions to run deep. It is not surprising that sentiment is running high as the conflict is both polarising and divisive.
There has nonetheless got to be an acknowledgement, that there is suffering by ordinary civilians on both sides of this conflict. This includes the recognition that, since the start of this war, there have been almost 3000 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli cities, of which approximately 450 failed launches fell in the Gaza Strip (often resulting in civilian deaths of Palestinians). Almost all rockets are fired from civilian areas in Gaza into Israel with the deplorable goal of maximising Israeli civilian deaths.
Enter here, Dirco. It is commendable that the Government is concerned about innocent civilians. However, it is a pity that that concern is only for those on the Palestinian side. Having set up a 24-hour hotline to assist South Africans to make contact with Gaza, the South African Government forgets the fears that South African Jewish citizens have for their families who have been indiscriminately targeted by Hamas and their rockets.
Furthermore, Dirco’s statement wanting Israel’s conduct referred to International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, again reveals its own blinkered obsession with Israel. This is the same Government that deliberately failed to present former Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir, to the ICC when he was here and SA was obligated to do so as a state party to the Rome Statute. This is the same Government that cannot decide whether or not it even wants to be part of the ICC. Not to mention our Government’s silence on the genocide in Tigray, Ethiopia. The double-standards of our Government, and the way it chooses to treat Israel differently from any other country needs to be called out.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is looking increasingly intractable and we can anticipate that emotions are going to continue to rise. Our Government has a choice. It can either play a meaningful role or it can continue issuing one-sided statements that simply serve to inflame the situation and alienate its Jewish citizens. Whether your allegiance is with Palestinians or Israelis, our very humanity is eroded if we are indifferent to the suffering of others. We call on our Government to show leadership and ensure that the hateful rhetoric that is emerging in response to the way in which Israel has been demonised is condemned.
Issued by Wendy Kahn, SA Jewish Board of Deputies and Rowan Polovin, SA Zionist Federation on 16 May 2021