This was a statement issued on 6 July 2017 in South Africa. My response follows below.
South African Jews welcome downgrading of SA Embassy in Israel
We as Jewish South Africans warmly welcome the ANC National Policy Conference resolution and recommendation to downgrade the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv. This is a concrete step beyond rhetoric. Israel must be held accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people and a clear message must be sent that there are no normal relations with an abnormal regime.
The ANC National Policy Conference, which ended yesterday, has called for “the downgrading of the SA Embassy in Israel to send a strong message about Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestine and the continued human rights abuses against the peoples of Palestine”.
We would like to draw attention to the letter that our Jewish Israeli counterparts sent to the ANC ahead of its recent National Policy Conference. In their letter supporting the call for a downgrade of relations and support of the BDS boycott of Israel, our Israeli friends explained that:
“After many years of trying to change our society from within, we have come to the conclusion that an international campaign, such as the boycott against apartheid South Africa, is necessary to change the situation here. We believe that the time has come for further measures. Governments including the South African government should be downgrading diplomatic relations and their embassies in Israel, to send a clear message to Israel that its violations of international law are unacceptable. Ultimately we call on the ANC to strengthen its support for the BDS movement and Palestinian struggle.”
We welcome the fact that the ANC has heeded the call by Palestinians as well as those progressive Israelis who are working towards a just peace in Israel-Palestine.
Finally we would like to add that we stand against all forms of racism and antisemitism and for the freedom, dignity and full human rights of all. To boycott Israel today is not antisemitic, it is an affirmation of these principles.
For more information please contact:
Allan Horwitz 0825128188
*South African Jews for a Free Palestine (SAJFP) is an organisation of South African Jews wishing to see a just resolution to the conflict in Historic Palestine. We strongly believe in the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam, “Repairing the World” which embodies social action and the pursuit of social justice. Historically Jews have been involved struggles to achieve social justice and we are proud to continue this tradition. Furthermore, as Jews, we feel obliged to speak out against injustice purportedly carried out in our name.
Dear Allan and SAJFP members,
I was somewhat surprised to read your need to put out a statement, in which you expressed support for the resolution passed by the ANC National Policy Conference to downgrade the South African embassy in Tel Aviv. This resolution was passed by the ANC conference “to send a strong message about Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestine and the continued human rights abuses against the peoples of Palestine”. According to your statement, “This is a concrete step beyond rhetoric. Israel must be held accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people and a clear message must be sent that there are no normal relations with an abnormal regime”.
There are a number of points in your statement that I feel need to be challenged. Why do you consider Israel to be an “abnormal regime”? Having lived in Israel for the past almost 20 years, and having travelled extensively to other countries during that time, I have no doubt that Israel is a perfectly normal regime forced to deal with an abnormal situation. Israel is the only country in the world that constantly has its right to exist challenged unashamedly, and is frequently threatened with destruction. This is abnormal. Not only that, but the terror attacks and threats that Israel is subjected to on a daily basis can surely also not be considered normal. Despite this patently abnormal situation, Israel has done a remarkable job of surviving and growing, even when compared to so-called normal regimes. It seems unjust that Israel’s actions to defend herself against the abnormal threats that she faces, are judged by normal countries according to scales that can only be relevant in their normal situations. Surely the time has come for the international community, and Jews around the world like you, to recognise this fact and to give Israel the support that she needs to survive under the abnormal threat in which she finds herself? It is disappointing that you choose not to recognise this in your statement, and fail to criticise those who have the audacity to threaten the existence of a sovereign nation.
I would like to pick up on your reference to “Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestine and the continued human rights abuses against the peoples of Palestine”. At the current time, Israel has ceded land in Judea and Samaria to be governed by the Palestinian Authority. Additionally, Israel gave the entire Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority, which was later taken over by Hamas. It is on record that Israel would have already given this to an internationally-recognised state of Palestine, as long as the Palestinians would recognise the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state along its border. This recognition has been withheld, and no peace agreement has been reached as a result. Why do I not see any recognition by you of the ongoing attempts by Muslims to take over the entire State of Israel? This is in the charter of both Hamas and Fatah, and is plain for anybody to see. Where is the recognition of the fact that Israel has ceded land to be governed by the Palestinians, only to find that this land has been turned into a launchpad for missile attacks against Israel? If it was your family living under this constant missile barrage, how likely would you be to give more land to them to be used in this way? So please would you explain what you mean by “illegal occupation” and “human rights abuses”. How can Israel be guilty of human rights abuses against Palestinians when their own authorities govern over them? I think that it would be more accurate for you to accuse the Palestinians of human rights abuses against Israelis for the constant terror attacks that Israelis are forced to endure.
I am not sure who the “progressive Israelis” are that would have sent the letter to the ANC ahead fo the policy conference. Why did you not say who they are? What are their names? How many Israelis are really represented by the letter? I believe that you will find that all Israelis, and not only “progressive Israelis”, are eager to work towards supporting a just peace. But it needs to be that – a just peace. Just for both sides. This means recognising the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. Failure to receive this formal recognition would be unjust. And I cannot imagine any nation, that has its wits about them, that would agree to allow the formation of a country along its borders that has the intention of destroying it. Why would you think that this ridiculous step would be OK for the Jewish state?
If you truly stand against all forms of racism and antisemitism, and for the freedom, dignity and full human rights of all, why is it that you do not support the rights of Jews and Israelis to live in freedom and with dignity? Why do you choose to be self-hating and only find reasons to criticise Israel? If you were not self-hating, I would expect you to call out acts of anti-Semitism and other abusers of human rights. I did not notice you speaking out against anti-Semitism in Hungary and France and the UK? Your silence on this is deafening. And where is your criticism of human rights abuses in North Korea or Russia or China or Burma or Saudi Arabia or Zimbabwe or Soweto or Nkandla? Why has Israel earned the special right to be singled out by you? You claim to feel obliged to speak out against injustice purportedly carried out in your name. I am sorry to burst your bubble, but none of this is carried out in your name. It is carried out in the name of self-respecting Israelis who wish to survive as proud Jews. You are just the fortunate beneficiary of these actions. You are a just a lucky South African Jew, who has been gifted the opportunity to live in peace and security by virtue of the existence of a strong State of Israel, that is willing to defend and give power to Jews around the world, even the self-hating ones.
The anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli actions carried out by our enemies around the world, could be compared in many ways to the Shoah perpetrated against our people by the Nazis. The fervour with which terrorists rise up to murder our people, with no qualms about risking their own lives in the process, surpasses anything that we saw during the Nazi regime. The amount of money and the national resources of governments that are devoted to endeavours to murder Jews and destroy Israel as the Jewish state, are equivalent to those seen during the Nazi regime. The national infrastructure that is being built in Gaza (and in other countries), with the sole purpose of destroying Israel, can be compared to the scale of the concentration camps, railway systems and crematoria built to destroy Jews in Europe. There is only one key difference today, that makes all of what we are experiencing different from the terrible years of the Shoah. That difference is the existence of the State of Israel and the Jewish army. Without this, Jews would today be experiencing a Shoah of the proportions experienced during the time of the Nazis. So you extremely fortunate to benefit from this. The State of Israel, that you so vociferously criticise, is exactly what gives you the freedom to exist in safety in your comfortable existence South Africa and express your misguided opinions. Where is your recognition of this fact?
I find it ironic that you choose to express your criticism of Israel, and your call for a boycott that is supposedly not anti-Semitic, by supporting the decision taken by the ANC National Policy Conference. It is almost as if this is the body that represents the gold standard of upholding human rights. We all know that nothing could be further from the truth, and the ANC representatives at the conference may be better advised to examine the situation nearer to home before choosing to criticise a country that only has the desire to defend itself to survive. I would have thought that you, as a Jew in South Africa, would understand that.
I would like to conclude by recognising that the State of Israel is not beyond criticism, nor is every action that it takes worthy of support. Like every country and every nation, Israel has its moments, both good and bad. And she has a legal system and a judiciary that is designed to police this. Feel free to say what you wish about that. But please save your ill-considered criticisms of Israel’s attempts to survive. You place yourself firmly in the camp of those who are fighting for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people. Jews in the Shoah were forced to understand the hard way that criticising their fellow Jews would not save them from the hands of the Nazis, and from suffering the same fate as all the others. You should learn from history, because you will not be saved from this fate either.