An open letter to South Africa’s Foreign Minister Maite Nkoane-Mashabane


Dear Minister,


I read with much incredulity and I must confess a certain amount of relief your remarks about Palestine and the fact that it keeps you awake at night.

You see, as a South African grandmother I often find myself lying awake at night worrying about my grandchildren.  I never slept two weeks ago, when the Sunday Times carried on its front page pictures of the scores of children murdered and raped in South Africa.  Some months back I remember not sleeping when reading about the dismal standard of maths, science and literacy in this country.  According to the TIMMS international survey South Africa was placed second last, 8 places lower than the Palestinian Authority.  I never slept the night I read of the 32 miners being shot by police in Marikana.  The horrific stories we read about our hospitals keep me awake at night, as do the scores of malnourished street-children I pass each day begging at robots.

And then, I read your remarks and decided that I was probably over-exaggerating the problems of this country, and that you and other government officials must be aware of them and must have definite plans for remediating them.  Otherwise of course it would be they and not Palestine keeping you awake.

But lets turn to Palestine and these little dots that prevent you from sleeping.  You do know that these little dots are all on Israeli territory.  The whole of Judea and Samaria (today know as the West Bank) was to be part of the Jewish Homeland as mandated in 1920 at the San Remo Conference and farther ratified by the League of Nations in 1922.   This has never been abrogated.  You must also be fully aware, as we all are, that settlements have never been an obstacle to peace as regards Israel.  All the settlements were dismantled in the Sinai Peninsula in order to make peace with Egypt in 1979, and every Jew was removed from Gaza in 2005 in the hope that the Palestinians living there would build a future Palestinian state on the billion-dollar infrastructure, left them by Israel.  Do I need to elaborate on what the residents of Gaza did instead?  You surely know of the thousands of rockets fired from Gaza aimed at Israeli civilians with the intent of murdering as many as possible.  Do you not think that you would have so much more credibility if the Israelis living in areas besieged by these rockets received just a little open-eye from you?  But permit me to ask you a question. Why should settlements ever be an obstacle to peace?  Why should Jews not be allowed to live in a Palestinian state under a Palestinian government as Arabs do in Israel?  You do know that Mahmoud Abbas has stated categorically that no Jew will be welcome in a Palestinian state.  Do you not find this abhorrently racist, coming as you do from our rainbow nation?

Your message that South African government officials cannot or should not visit Israel seems so ill timed if not incredibly racist.  Ill timed, because you know that the Israeli government is at the moment in talks with the Palestinians aimed at ensuring a negotiated peace agreement and an independent Palestinian state.  Surely now more than ever dialogue should be encouraged, an understanding of the other, of the problems and concerns of the other.   Racist, because you have chosen to prohibit visits to the only Jewish State in the world.  Yet you allow, nay encourage, visits to the disputed territories and Gaza, where the Hamas Charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews everywhere.  I truly need to understand this, because as it stands your singling out of the Jewish State cannot but be seen as innately anti-Semitic.


Monessa Shapiro

About the Author
Monessa Shapiro is a member of Media Team Israel, a South African based Israel advocacy group.