Martine Alperstein

An Open Letter to South African Jewry, and Bibi Netanyahu

My initial reaction to the 52 signatories of Jewish Decent published in the Cape Times, to Josh Broomberg’s so-called statement, to the petition titled ‘Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, End the Assault on Gaza’ with the opening statement ‘We, as South African Jews, are appalled and devastated by Israel’s assault on Gaza that began on 6th July 2014’, to Habonim Dror Southern Africa and to the 500 signatories published in the Sunday Newspaper, was that of outrage.

How a Jew could openly criticize the actions of those that are living, fighting and dying to protect their very right to exist, was beyond me.

After a few very deep breaths, I began wading through the 500 Jewish names who found the need to publically announce how appalled and devastated they are by Israel’s attack on Gaza, when one name jumped out at me. This was not just some random person. This was not just a vague acquaintance. This is someone that I was very close to for many years. Someone with the hugest heart. Someone who identifies strongly with being a South African and with being a Jew. Someone who is very involved in many charitable organisations. Someone, who most of all, prides herself on being a real person. Someone, who really loves and really cares. And then I realized.These people really do not have a clue. They don’t have a proper understanding of what it is they are supporting. They have probably never set foot in Israel or Gaza, and for sure not in recent years.

I can understand supporters of peace, appealing to both sides to put down their weapons and talk, negotiate and work it out. I can understand those trying for a 2 state solution. I can understand the socially conscious who truly believe that people are people.  But donning a kafiyeh, or signing a petition calling for the Israeli government to end their assault on Gaza is not supporting an end to war, nor does it support peace. It is taking sides, making a choice to support the very faction whose sole purpose, determination and fight is to deny your very right to exist and to annihilate you and yours from this earth.

So were did it all go wrong?

Where does the responsibility lie?

Is it with the South African Jewish Board of Education? The Jewish Day School’s themselves? Is it with the parents? Or the communities? Why is it not understood that with so called Freedom of Speech comes a responsibility? A moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that you fully understand both sides of the equation, before you speak out. A responsibility to consider the fruit (or rotten vegetables) of your actions. A responsibility to consider the impact your speech will have on the community  and a responsibility to understand exactly what your freedom to speak is actually saying. How did we become so arrogant and so lazy?

Donning a kafiyeh means that you are not a Zionist, it means you are choosing not to support the State of Israel. It means that you have chosen to support the Palestinian cause, Hamas and with that the total annihilation of the Jewish race. How does a Vice Head Boy of an affluent Jewish Day School not understand that?  If Josh Broomberg really supported peace and the peace process, he would have carried symbols of both Israel and Palestine. If the 500 signatories in the Sunday paper had properly understood this, they would have called out to both sides to end the blood shed and talk.  If Habonim Dror South Africa would fully understand it, they would market their 2 state solution and social consciousness differently. I went through the movement. I spent many a very happy summer at the campsite in Onrust. I am a bogeret of Machon and I did my stint in the Habo office.  Habonim was always pro peace, pro tolerance, pro the right of the Palestinians to exist and pro a 2 state solution. But what Habonim never was, was anti- Zionist. Our Habonim olim proudly served in the IDF. They understood the need to first and foremost defend our right to a Jewish Homeland.

It seems we have somehow gotten lost and confused. What should be clear is somewhat muddy.

There is not much praise to be bestowed on Hamas. They represent everything sick and warped in this world. But their skill in public relations and use of mainstream and social medias, is admirable. Granted, they abuse it in a nauseating, warped and inhuman manner, but are extremely successful never-the-less.

We (Israel – MKs, IPublic Relations, Jewish Agency, Citizens) and the Jewish Schools, Youth Movements and Organisations in South Africa and the rest of the world, need to take responsibility for the part we have played in the World’s misconception of this war and the situation in Israel in general. We need to rethink, regroup and redesign.  We need to stop defending our actions and our right to exist. We need to focus our energy differently. We need to educate. We need to educate emotionally.  We need to stop bombarding the world with interviews of Naftali Bennet, other politicians and retired IDF Generals. We need to flood the media with stories and video clips of Rachel Fraenkel, of Ophir Shaier, of Sherril Mandell and of others such as Colonel Richard Kemp,Bridget Gabriel and Lisa Daftari. We need to share the stories of those that have fled from Lebanon, Syria, Iran for a better life in Israel. We need to share the stories that the world has not seen, of IDF soldiers protecting and helping the Palestinian children and elderly in Gaza. We need to share with the world the stories of those whose lives have been tainted forever by acts of Arab terror. We need to share the stories of the Israeli Electrical Company employees, who don flak jackets and protective garb to repair the electrical lines to Gaza that were shot down by Hamas rockets, so that the Palestinians will have electricity. We need to stand strong. We need to stand proud. We need to educate. We need to stop apologizing and stop justifying. When it comes to war, we react not act. When it comes to public relations and world media, to education and enlightenment, we need to act and not react. It is time to stand tall.

May the 63 lives lost in Tzuk Eitan, the lives of Gilad, Naftali, Eyal and the lives of every fallen soldier and victim of terror be for a blessing.

And if Josh Broomberg and any of the 500 signatories are serious about facilitating peace, I welcome you turn your words into action, to be more than just a signature in the Sunday paper. Get on a flight and come make a difference because trust me, none of us want this war.

About the Author
Martine Alperstein made aliyah from Cape Town, South Africa 26 years ago.