The African National Congress (ANC), as South Africa’s governing party, is opposing the tenets of its own impressive Constitution by proposing a downgrading the country’s Embassy in Israel.
Jews consider the land of Israel as the epicentre of their religious and cultural life. By denying full and free access to this epicentre, the ANC government would be denying a minority group its fundamental right to adequately practice aspects of its religious requirements, that is, to travel to Israel, it’s religious epicentre in a free and equal manner.
Freedom of religion is a fundamental part of the SA Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights emphasises equality before the law. Therefore, it can be argued that the ANC has taken a narrow view of the Middle East conflict, a partisan view and one that is based on a one-sided narrative with possible consequences that will effectively be denying equal access and full religious expression to a minority South African group. This amounts to being prejudicial under South African Constitutional law.
Likewise, many South African Christians will also be denied their equal religious expression under this aspect of the law as enshrined by the same-said Bill of Rights. If the Embassy in Tel Aviv is reduced to a liaison office, there is a significant possibility that Israel might also reduce its Embassy and/or Consular functions in Pretoria creating ruptures in trade, investment, technology and tourism resulting in considerable inconvenience for Jewish and Christian communities who have a strong spiritual connection to Israel. This turn of events could also negatively affect domestic investment decisions emanating from these influential South African communities; a drop in domestic investor confidence could result at a time that South Africa is needing to build investor optimism (Business Day, 15 November 2017).
With a possible, and in tandem Israeli Embassy downgrade in Pretoria, the ANC could be imposing on SA people of faith the prospect of having to travel to a neighbouring African state for visas to visit the Holy Land, consequently denying free and equitable access to many religious people who view Israel as the centre of two major faiths in South Africa.
Why does the ANC not advocate downgrading diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, the epicentre of the Muslim faith, country that is acknowledged by much of the world as guilty of many human rights violations? While the Saudi government is openly discriminatory against minorities by denying other faiths to display their religious symbols; all other religious practice is forbidden, the ANC has not expressed any intention to downgrade its relations with the Saudi Kingdom.
This is despite these infractions being against accepted South African democratic and international norms.
On another equally offensive note, women in the Kingdom are severely discriminated against, is this not objectionable as well to the gender-correct ANC? The list of Saudi infringement of human rights is endless.
In this instance, the SA Bill of Rights also states that gender rights like religious rights need to be protected as well. Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world rates Saudi Arabia as Not Free and rates Israel as Free.
Therefore, and in terms of this comparison, the ANC government’s stand in terms of Saudi Arabia’s abuse of human rights and “their view” of Israel is simply arbitrary, and not based on a fair and equal approach to an important rule of SA Constitutional Law. The ANC by denying equal access for the religious expression of all faiths are infringing upon a very important tenet of their own Constitution. Even though Saudi law is most offensive to people of other faiths, and therefore to most other fair-minded people, South African Muslims will still be allowed access to express their religious obligations by freely travelling to Saudi Arabia for their religious requirements. This shows that the ANC is favouring one SA religious group over two other religious groups in SA, and appears according to this SA Constitutional tenet of the law to be acting in a discriminatory fashion.
According to a Stockholm University study in 2011, the Holy Land acts as a focal point for the pilgrimages of the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and they visit the Holy Land to touch and see physical manifestations of their faith, confirm their beliefs in the holy context with collective excitation, and connect personally to the Holy Land. Therefore, this proposed ANC injunction will be potentially denying thousands of South African believers equal and unfettered access to the Holy Land.