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South African Minister’s threats to Universities

Ever since Blade Nzimande, South Africa’s Minister of Higher Education’s abortive attempt to visit the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah in 2015 he’s been threatening to “take action” against the Israeli Authorities that barred his trip. Nzimande has whole heartedly digested the Communist narrative that Israel is an imperialist state guilty of committing genocide against the hapless indigenous Palestinian people. His myopic vision of Israel has made him a stooge of communist propaganda.

In a recent opinion piece in the Sunday Times of South Africa, he alleged that “Israel is an occupying power and imperialist aggressor” whereas the Palestinians are “victims of Western sponsored imperialist aggression”. For his edification the Palestinians and Jews were both victims of imperialism first by the Ottomans until 1917 and then by the British until 1947. What Nzimande neglects to acknowledge is that whereas the Arab Palestinians enjoyed the protection of the British colonists, the Jews fought a gruelling and merciless war against the British. This war of attrition, in which many Jews were either shot or hanged by the British eventually led to the British surrendering their Mandate in 1947. The British ruthlessly opposed and limited Jewish immigration, sending many desperate immigrants to displacement camps in Cyprus or even to their certain deaths on interminable boat journeys that ended in certain death.

Nzimande reading of history is erroneous and inaccurate as the Jews have always resided in “Palestine”. In fact, Jews have always outnumbered the Arab population in Jerusalem. Two-thousand-year-old coins found in King David’s city, in Silwan bear the stamp of “Zion”. The Jews that arrived more recently in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries didn’t conquer the land but brought into being the Jewish National Fund, to collect funds with which to purchase land from the mostly feudal land-owners that lived in Egypt and Syria. What Nzimande fails to comprehend is that both Jews and Arabs possessed Palestinian passports and that many so-called Palestinian leaders like Arafat were in fact Egyptians. In truth, the Jews have a have a recorded entitlement to the land that is older than any other people and calling them “occupiers” represents a contortion of the historical facts and is in fact insulting to Jews.

Nzimande readiness to accept the number of deaths and casualties in Gaza supplied by Hamas again speaks volumes of his lack of punctiliousness. On May 12th, the United Nations released a report that “the fog of war” was to blame for a major overstatement of the number of Gazan children who were killed. The report halved the number of deaths to 4,959 women and 7,797 children. In the figures released by Hamas they simply denied that any of its “fighters” had been killed and admitted to mainly women and children being the victims, which reduces the number of deaths drastically by at least 18,000. South Africa has failed to prove its case at the ICJ, which has made a point of emphasizing that no genocide has taken place in Gaza. Nzimande should point his sclerotic finger at the real perpetrators of genocide, namely Hamas.

Nzimande veers completely off course, when he claims that Israel is not a democracy and that it had a “sordid history” with Apartheid South Africa “secret arms deals”, which invites a detailed response. In 1902, Theodore Herzl the founder of modern Zionism wrote; “Once I have witnessed the redemption of the Jews, my people, I wish to assist in the redemption of the Africans”. Immediately upon achieving independence Israel reached out to Africa with which it had a lot in common, to assist with developmental programs in agriculture and food security. “Like them, Golda Meir said, “we have shaken of foreign rule; like them we had to learn for ourselves how to reclaim the land, how to increase yields of our crops, how to irrigate, how to raise poultry, how to live together and how to defend ourselves”. In the 1960’s Israel denounced “Apartheid” as an immoral policy, even though there was a significant Jewish population in South Africa. However, after the 1973 Arab-Israel war, Israel was abandoned by African states that caved in to Arab threats to withhold oil supplies to African countries, unless they severed relations with Israel, which many African countries did. This was a slap in the face for Israel and in frustration on the rebound in 1974 Israel sent an ambassador and established diplomatic relations with South Africa. Since then the tide changed yet again and due to Israel’s huge contribution to the development of many African countries it was granted “observer status in the African Union in 2021.

Nzimande, again losses the plot when he blames the Israeli made Uzzi machine gun for “wreaking havoc in Kwa-Zulu Natal in the 1980’s and 1990’s”. An article by Sean Gerval reveals the stark truth about who the major arms suppliers to the “Apartheid regime” were;

“The UN arms embargo against South Africa in no way deterred Western countries, notably the US, Britain, Italy and France, from selling major weapon systems to South Africa”. These same Western countries and Germany helped the Apartheid regime to develop its own domestic arms industry to attain a certain immunity from sanctions and propelled it to become the 5th largest arms supplier in the world. In the grand scheme Israel scarcely featured as a supplier of weapons and it is purely for political expediency that its role is highlighted, whilst the roles of the real culprits are overlooked.

I wish to commend the Senate of the University of Stellenbosch for their principled and unbowed stand to vote against a motion of “Genocide and Destruction of scholarship and education in Gaza” and would encourage the Senates not to cave in to the Minister’s threats.
Ben Levitas

About the Author
Ben Levitas is a former Chairman of the South African Zionist Federation.