I resorted to Google in order to try and make some sense of the ANC and the South African government’s approach to Israel and to South African Jews in general. And as it happened, I found my answer.
Apparently we no longer refer to the condition as Multiple Personality Disorder but rather to Dissociative Personality Disorder (who knew) when we speak of a “mental disorder characterized by at least two distinct identities and relatively enduring personalities, and is accompanied by memory impairment for important information not explained by ordinary forgetfulness. These symptoms are not accounted for by substance abuse, other medical conditions, or by imaginative play in children. “ Sound familiar? Wikepedia might well have answered this perplexing conundrum with a stroke of a definition.
The past few weeks have highlighted these issues in a significant way. Just before Rosh Hashana this year, September 18th, President Jacob Zuma along with three Cabinet Members met with leaders of the South African Jewish community in order to discuss numerous issues including anti-Semitism and racial tolerance. He assured the community that there was no change in policy toward Israel, which includes open trade and full diplomatic relationships. Following this meeting sent his wishes to the Jews of his country and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. Sadly the reprieve was short lived.
The next day, the very next day, the morning after the night before, the ANC began it National executive meeting which lasted 3 days and emerged with a policy decision that might well have been written by Muhammad Desai of the BDS. The new policy includes a travel ban to Israel for ANC leadership, members of parliament and government officials, cultural and academic boycotts, boycotts of goods produced in the “occupied territories” and even goes so far as to list companies that will no longer be allowed to work with the South African Government as “they carry on business” in these so called areas. All this without even meeting with the companies listed and engaging on any issue whatsoever with them.
And all we can do is shake our head in wonderment. Is this the same government who the night before assured us of no policy change? Is this the same government, which has through its silence condoned the abuse of power in its neighboring Zimbabwe where Mugabe has all but decimated the breadbasket of Africa along with any form of liberty or basic human rights? But they have a cogent argument for that and that is simply that Government policy is not to interfere in the internal affairs of another State. Really? Which ANC is that – the one who is Israel obsessed? The same government who condones anti semitism from within its ranks, or the one who loves its citizens equally, the one who values the contribution of its Jewish community to the struggle against apartheid, to commerce and industry to medicine and to science? This is the same Government who has done impressively little to deal with appalling Islamic radicalism on its own continent. This is the very same government who will not stand up for the oppressed in Tibet and refuses entry to the Dalai Lama because of its worship of China trade and the same government who daily stands accused of scandal after scandal after scandal and where we no longer read articles on corruption as its simply no longer news? The point being, that moral high ground is not something this government has any claim over.
There is good reason that we are so perplexed. The ANC is suffering from Dissociative Personality Disorder and we simply don’t know with whom we are dealing at any given time. The Duarte, Mantashe, Fransman and Smit component of the ANC spew their vitriolic hatred at any opportunity while others struggle to hold onto the impressive vision of the rainbow nation, as animosity and racism cause it to slip further and further and further out of their grasp.
It needs to be said that the policies adopted at the ANC NEC meeting the morning after the night before have not come in to play and there is still opportunity to engage and prevent it from becoming law. My hope is that the ANC will indeed get a grip, focuses on eradicating that illness that is destroying it along with its magnificent country, so that real engagement, lasting engagement and real dialogue actually become an option.