Barry Shaw

South Africa: Where Christianity is tainted with anti-Semitism

Recently, I travelled to South Africa to talk with Jewish and Christian groups and give them the Israeli perspective to counter the hate campaign that makes that country a leading hub in the delegitimisation efforts against Israel. For decades, South Africa has been at the forefront of actions that demonise the Jewish State. From the infamous “Zionism is Racism” at the United Nations World Conference against Racism in Durban in 2001 to the inaccurate Goldstone Report, headed by the South African jurist, Richard Goldstone, and, more recently, the Russell Tribunal, a kangaroo court led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu that tried to railroad a guilty verdict on Israel for being “an Apartheid state,” South Africa has been the radical centre of anti-Israel activity.

I found that the “Hate Israel” movement is still viral in South Africa. Despite the abject failure of the Russell Tribunal, held in Cape Town, a couple of months earlier, the “Israel Apartheid Week” campus circus was getting into full swing while I was there. Regretably, I discovered that the South African Council of Churches had announced, in a public letter dated 24th February 2011, their endorsement of this event.

My talks included my DNA assessment of what drives organizations like the SACC and others to attack and isolate Israel, and only Israel, for approbation, when mayhem and murder is rampant across the Muslim world, in Africa and in Asia, and where Christians are prime targets and victims.

In their official endorsement letter they questioned what sort of “regime” Israel is. Let me tell them what sort of “regime” we are.

We are the “regime” to which tens of thousands of Christian and Muslim Sudanese risk their lives to reach for shelter and protection. They escaped from an aggressive Islamic war against their country and were frequently the victims of robbery, rape, and murder, as they walked the hundreds of miles across dangerous territory, including Egypt and the Sinai, to reach safe haven in the Jewish State of Israel. And where were the South African Council of Churches and Archbishop Desmond Tutu when their black co-religionists needed them? They were nowhere to be seen, or heard.

Israel was the first country to recognize the independence of the new Christian nation of South Sudan. Israeli experts are on the ground in this desperately poor nation, helping them to develop their agriculture, their medical facilities, and their social and security needs. Again I ask, where is South Africa?

Israel is the “regime” that, in one night, flew into war torn Ethiopia and airlifted fourteen thousand refuges to safety and a new life in the Jewish State.

Israel is the “regime” that flew half way across the globe to rescue and save the people of earthquake-stricken Haiti. We were the first on the ground with search and rescue teams and medical teams what set up the first field hospitals there.

Israel is the “racist regime” where Christians and Arabs can reach the pinnacle of political, judicial, cultural, and sporting life. It is a “regime” where a Christian Arab judge can, and did, sentence a Jewish President of the country to prison.

So, when the South African Council of Churches targets Israel, and only Israel, in anti-Semitic terms I ask that people seriously consider who the racists are. Israel, or the SACC?

My DNA identifies them to be tainted by the dogma of Replacement Theology. Some also see the world through an overly simplistic prism of black and white. They may have been on the right side of justice in the struggle against the previous Apartheid government in South Africa, but they are dead wrong in bringing that perspective to bear in the Middle East. They see the conflict here through the prism of the Palestinians as being black, and therefore the weak and oppressed, and Israel as white and therefore condemned as the brutal oppressor.

South Africans call themselves “The Rainbow Nation.” If you travel across the whole of Africa, across the Muslim crescent of the Middle East, and across most of Asia, the only other country that you can correctly label “The Rainbow Nation” is Israel. It is the only nation with the multi-ethnic, religious, democratic mix that justifies that name. It is the only place in that region that respects the freedom of speech and guarantees the freedom of religion. This makes it even more baffling when a major Christian organization, representing millions of religionists, gets into an unholy alliance with the very people who are slaughtering and oppressing their fellow Christians. Just look at the fate of the Coptic Christians in Egypt, Sudan, and increasing in Nigeria and other African nations.

When Israel controlled Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christianity, the Christian population was over 80%. Now that this town is under Palestinian occupation the Christian population is less than 20%, and they trying to blame that on Israel!  Christians for Palestine! Give me a break! If you are a Christian in Palestine, you’d want to move to Israel!

Let me tell the South African Council of Churches, who support taking East Jerusalem and handing it over to the Palestinians, what that means in both political and real estate terms. At the last Palestinian elections in 2005 Hamas won with 63% of the vote. According to all the polls, if the Palestinian Authority hold another election later this year Hamas is expected to increase their gain to 68%. With this is mind, is this the time for Israel to follow advice and international pressure and withdraw to 1967 lines that will include East Jerusalem? Is it wise for Israel to weaken itself defensively in advance of the Islamic terror organization taking control of the Palestinian Authority? I doubt it.

As for the real estate aspect of an Israeli withdrawal from East Jerusalem to appease the hungry appetite of a rejectionist enemy and the demands of a naïve world just consider what must be relinquished to a potential future Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority. The Temple Mount, The Western Wall of the ancient Jewish Temple, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City that include the newly reconstructed Hurva Synagogue that was destroyed by the Jordanians when Arab conquerors last occupied Jerusalem, King David’s Tomb, The Rockefeller Museum. Hadassah Hospital, and the Hebrew University. You can expect that a Hamas-led PA will quickly rename this campus the Islamic University.

The hierarchy of the South African Council of Churches should consider that Hamas would control The Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Garden Tomb, commonly thought to be the final resting place of Jesus.

So I ask them and all reasonable and thinking Christians, who do you prefer to be the guardians of these holy places? Israel, or Hamas?  That is the stark choice open to you if you insist that Israel take the foolish step of waling way from Jerusalem to appease the peace-makers. It will not result in peace or sanctity of the most important sites of Christianity and Judaism.

The South African Council of Churches should stop their blind hatred of Jews and open their eyes to the truth. Israel yearns for peace. It has repeatedly proved itself capable of making painful gestures for peace. It has made generous concessions to the Palestinians. All have been rejected. If a referendum was taken in Israel for a pragmatic Two State Solution and recognition of the rights of the Palestinian Arabs to a state of their own it would pass with a massive majority. If the same referendum was polled in Palestinian society, according to all polls they would vote for the elimination of the Jewish State of Israel. How could it be different with the incessant anti-Semitic incitement to hatred and violence that permeates their society.

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the South African Council of Churches are on the wrong side of justice. The infamous phrasing of their endorsement of the “Israel Apartheid Week” reflects neither truth nor reconciliation.

On my drive down to Cape Town I stopped to photograph and film some of the townships. People outside of South Africa would be as shocked as I was to see the horrendous conditions in which millions of people are living in that country. I witnessed an Apartheid of Poverty. They may have given them the vote but they have left them in abject misery. People today are living in tin shacks, deprived of sanitation and electricity. The Palestinians are middle class compared with the dire conditions that amount to a human rights crime and a humanitarian crisis. Yet the SACC are silent about this. No week of campus activity for their black Christian countrymen. The rage of the SACC is pointed at Israel only.

My advise to the leadership of the SACC is not to throw stones in your glass houses. Your hypocrisy leaves you bereft of a moral compass, and your anti-Semitism is open to display.

Fortunately, I met several local church leaders who are as appalled as I was at the declaration of the leaders of the SACC. Many admitted the anti-Semitic motives of these people. They have a tough job, but there is a glimmer of hope that Christians in this troubled land can influence the leaders of this organization to dispense with their out-dated doctrine.

About the Author
Barry Shaw is the Senior Associate for Public Diplomacy at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. He is also the author of ‘Fighting Hamas, BDS and Anti-Semitism,' '1917. From Palestine to the Land of Israel, 'BDS for IDIOTS,' and his latest work 'A Tale of Love and Destiny,' the dramatic life of a Jewish heroine.