Jessie Duarte, Rene Smit, Tony Ehrenreich, and now Gwede Mantashe. And we the Jews of South Africa know where we stand. Gwede Mantashe, Secretary General of the ANC, issued a statement, as part of the Alliance Secretariat, stating that the establishment of the State of Israel was a crime against humanity – not the West Bank, not Gaza, not the so-called occupation but the very establishment of the State of Israel.
And I, as a proud third generation South African, with a deep love for my country, but an equally deep love for Israel, the home of the Jewish people, am at a total loss as to how to respond. I have spent the last 14 years, since Durban 1 (the so-called conference against racism that became a veritable hate –fest against Israel and Jews) fighting for justice for the State of Israel. But never have I felt so desperate and so angry.
The Jews have had a presence in the land of Israel for close on 4000 years, when G-d gave the entire land of Canaan to the Jewish people. Even through the periods of Roman Exile there remained a Jewish presence in Israel. Throughout the times cities such as Hebron, Jerusalem, Sfat and Tiberius always had Jews living in them. By the 1860’s there was once again a Jewish majority in Jerusalem. Three times a day, when we pray, we face East towards Jerusalem. We break a glass under the marriage canopy to remember the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by the Romans and we recite the words: “If I forget thee, oh Jerusalem, may my right hand be cut off.”
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire the entire Middle East was divided into mandates, to be administered by Western powers in preparation for the formation of new countries for the local populations. At a resolution passed at the San Remo Conference in April 1920, the Balfour Declaration of 1917 was accepted in its entirety, entrenching it in International Law. The Balfour Declaration recognized the historical link of the Jews to the land of Palestine and promised to reconstitute their ancient homeland in the entire area of British Mandatory Palestine, both sides of the Jordan River. The resolution passed at the San Remo Conference obligated Britain to enforce the Balfour Declaration, as did the 51 member countries of the League of Nations (the precursor to the Security Council) on July 24 1922, when the conference’s decisions were reconfirmed in Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations. Neither the resolution passed at the San Remo Conference nor that of the League of Nations has ever been abrogated. Thus the legality of the establishment of the State of Israel is unquestionable – question it and you question the establishment of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon – all founded as a result of the same mandate system.
The Middle East is burning. 191,000 people have been killed in the last 3 years in the civil war in Syria, more than double killed in the entire Israel-Arab conflict since 1948. Christian children are having their heads cut off because their parents refuse to convert to Islam. Christian women are raped and then beheaded, their bodies bled and their heads put on stakes. In the last month we have witnessed on our televisions, the brutal beheading of 2 innocent journalists and this week that of an aid worker. Hamas dug tunnels underground into Israel and used little children to assist in the digging of these tunnels. According to Palestinian sources 160 Gazan children died while building the tunnels. Post Operation Protective Edge, Hamas publicly executed 26 Gazan citizens without a trial, suspected of collaborating with Israel.
And yet, under the heading of “On the Middle East” Gwede Mantashe and his fellow members of the Alliance Secretariat could only mention Israel and the fact that she is a ‘state founded on the basis of apartheid’ and is therefore ‘a crime against humanity.’ Israel, the one and only Jewish State in the world (there are 56 Moslem states). Israel, whose land comprises 1/6 of 1% the landmass of the Arab world. Israel, into whom Hamas indiscriminately fires thousands of rockets, aimed at murdering Israeli men, women and children. Israel, under whose borders Hamas digs tunnels with the intention of kidnapping and murdering Israeli men, women and children. Israel, sworn to annihilation by the Hamas Charter (as am I, my children and grandchildren, simply because we were born Jewish). Israel, who opens a field hospital on the Syrian border to help Syrians wounded in the civil war. Israel, into whose territory a young, badly wounded, orphaned, Syrian boy rode, sitting on a donkey, to be saved in an Israeli hospital by Israeli doctors. Israel, who opened up a field hospital on the Gazan border to assist those Gazan civilians hurt in the conflict. Israel, who holds a “Pear Challenge” each year to encourage Israelis to invent something that will help the developing world. Israel, where every citizen, irrespective of race or religion, has the vote. Israel, where every citizen, irrespective of race or religion, is equal before the law. Israel, the only country in the Middle East, where every citizen freely practices the religion of his choice. Israel, the only country in the Middle East where the Christian population has grown. Israel, whose Arab population has grown from 159,000 in 1949 to 1,694,000 in the 66 years since her establishment.
“A state founded on apartheid.” Why? Every Arab citizen living in Israel in 1949 was given full Israeli citizenship. Every Arab living in East Jerusalem was offered full Israeli citizenship after the 6 Day War and Israel’s conquest of East Jerusalem. All nation states are based on some common aspect, be it religion, language, shared heritage or culture. Why is only Israel censured in this manner? Why is the partition of India into India (Hindu) and Pakistan (Moslem) not seen as apartheid? Why is Saudi Arabia that disallows Jews entry and forbids Christian religious artifacts not given the appellation of an apartheid state by Gwede Mantashe?
And finally, Mr. Mantashe must realize that Israel is the only country in the world that will offer me a safe haven when the point is reached that his statements cause life to become unbearable for me in this my beloved country. History has taught us the painful message that all actions are preceded by words and messages. If this is his choice then he is on the right path.