In South Africa there are a number of statuary bodies independent of government, officialdom and other outside influences, which determine that the fabric of democracy is kept intact in the daily business of a democratic country. The Press Ombudsman is one, whose role in the print media is to determine whether the actions of a newspaper are in line with good journalistic practice. Complaints regarding the practices of print media can be reported by the general public to the Press Ombudsman, who determines whether a complaint should be brought before the South African Press Council.
The Press Council of South Africa of which all newspapers are members accepts a Press Code that will guide the South African Press Ombudsman and the South African Press Appeals Panel to reach decisions on complaints from the public after publication of the relevant material.
Furthermore, the Press Council of South Africa is constituted as a self-regulatory body with a mechanism to provide impartial, expeditious and cost-effective arbitration to settle complaints arising from this Code.
The powers of the Ombudsman include an ability to censure and fine newspapers found to be in breach of this ethical code.
On 25 October 2012 I believed I had found cause to complain about a story that appeared in the Cape Times headlined Apartheid policies: Israeli poll reveals a ‘sick society’.
My complaint centred around the fact that despite having pointed out to the Cape Times that the newspaper of origin, Ha’aretz, and its journalist, Gideon Levy, had retracted and apologised for an incorrect report, the Cape Times not only refused to do the same, but that it also refused to publish my and other rebuttal letters on its letters page leading the Press Ombudsman to later describe its action as “perpetuating a lie.”
The story, originally written by Catrina Swart of The Independent (in Britain), claimed that a new poll had “revealed that a majority of Israeli Jews believed that the Jewish state practices ‘apartheid’ against Palestinians…” It continued to quote some other statistics, emanating from the poll.
Swart was reporting on an article by Gideon Levy published in the Israeli publication Ha’aretz.
The story read: “A new poll has revealed that a majority of Israeli Jews believe that the Jewish state practices ‘apartheid’ against Palestinians… That many Jews believe that Israel has adopted ‘apartheid’ policies… Nearly 70 percent of those questioned would object to the 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank obtaining the vote if Israel was to annex the Palestinian territory, suggesting that they effectively endorse an apartheid regime.”
Following the publication of Levy’s story, Ha’aretz published a correction the day after stating: “CLARIFICATION: The original headline for this piece, ‘Most Israelis support an apartheid regime in Israel,’ did not accurately reflect the findings of the Dialog poll. The question to which most respondents answered in the negative did not relate to the current situation, but to a hypothetical situation in the future.”
Levy wrote in an added apology: “My sin was to write: ‘The majority doesn’t want Arabs to vote for the Knesset, having Arab neighbours at home or Arab students at school. The truth is different…This article is meant to fix a few mistakes. They shouldn’t have happened; we must acknowledge them, apologise for them and fix them. They were not made intentionally…Now is the time to make things right.”
My complaint was that the Cape Times should have published these corrections.
The Press Ombudsman found inter alia “…its [the Cape Times] intro was materially the same as that of the headline in Ha’aretz (which the latter publication has corrected). The newspaper should therefore do the same; it should also have reported Levy’s own correction. I believe that the Cape Times should have:
known about the corrections; and
“The Cape Times is in breach of Art. 1.6 of the Press Code that states: ‘A publication should make amends for publishing information or comment that is found to be inaccurate by printing, promptly and with appropriate prominence, a retraction, correction or explanation.’ This goes for the corrections by Ha’aretz as well as Levy.
“The Cape Times is:
cautioned for not making the same corrections as that of Ha’aretz and Levy; and
directed to publish these corrections…”
The Cape Times carried out this instruction and published the Ombudsman’s findings in full on page 7 of its April 19, 2013 edition.
We should be grateful that the position of the SA Press Ombudsman operates effectively as a diligent watchdog over the interests of the general public.
Unfortunately, this did not stop the Cape Times and other newspapers of the Independent group from persevering with their “fake” news and provocative propaganda. Over the intervening years I have had cause to cross swords with its journalists and editors. The consequences have been instructive. One has been that the group no longer subjects itself to the discipline of the Press Ombudsman and thereby frees itself from any responsibility to the truth.
About the author
Rodney Mazinter, a Cape Town-based businessman, writer, poet and author, has held many leadership positions within a wide range of Jewish/South African, sporting, educational, service and communal bodies, and currently serves as vice-chairman of the South African Zionist Federation in the Western Cape.
Has Jan Smuts’ Great-Grandchild, Philip Weyers, hit the nail on the head?
By Peter Bailey
As we commemorate Yom HaShoah, in memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust it is appropriate to readdress the question frequently asked:
“Why it is that Jews have been singled out for a particular kind of hatred by diverse groups of people over two millennia?”
There are, and have been many prominent individuals, such as Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who appear to hate Jews for no good reason, other than their Jewishness. However, the establishment of the State of Israel 70 years ago has proved a game changer. No longer do we only witness acts of anti-Semitism against Jewish individuals and property, but the Jewish State of Israel has become a prime target. The world can almost be divided into those countries that are vehemently opposed to Israel, denying its right to exist, and those that tolerate its existence for political expediency. The reality is that Jews in general, and Israel in particular, have few genuine friends in the international community, which brings me back to my opening question as to why that should be.
During my research, I come across long forgotten articles or facts dating back many decades, elements of which are as relevant today, as they were when published. One such article, was published on 8 February 1920, by no less a person than British master statesman, Sir Winston Churchill, titled ‘Zionism versus Bolshevism’ – A Struggle for the Soul of the Jewish People’. The date of the article is important, as it follows a few years after the publication of the Balfour Declaration by the British Government and mere weeks after the Treaty of Versailles, the terms for the end of WWI, came into effect.
Included in the Treaty of Versailles was the Balfour Declaration, giving the establishment of a Jewish Homeland the international stamp of approval.
Palestine had a population of about 800,000 when Churchill wrote his article, while the global Jewish population stood at around 14 million, from which we can infer that Churchill saw Palestine, at best, as a symbolic home for the Jewish people. Certainly not the independent State of Israel, often referred to as the Innovation Nation – a world leader in science and technology. Despite his brilliance and acknowledged foresight, he would be amazed to find that Israel is now a fully-fledged state where more than half the global Jewish population of about 15 million reside.
The Palestine that Churchill referred to was the whole of what became Mandate Palestine, which currently comprises Jordan, Israel and the disputed territory, which was illegally annexed by Jordan on 24 April 1950, and renamed the West Bank, while modern Israel comprises only 17% of the original area that was intended to become Mandate Palestine.
Churchill would be truly amazed that such a small area today sustains such a large percentage of world Jewry.
Anyway, I forwarded the article to my good friend in South Africa, Philip Weyers – a great-grandson of General Jan Christiaan Smuts, former Prime Minister of South Africa and a great friend of Winston Churchill the two having first met during the Anglo Boer War of 1899, albeit on opposing sides, and then as fellow members of the British Imperial War cabinet during both WWI and WWII. Together with British Prime Minister Lloyd George and Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour, they shared a common belief in the importance and necessity of the establishment of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine. Smuts played an important role in the wording of the Balfour Declaration and its acceptance by the Imperial War Cabinet.
The tone of Churchill’s article is set by the opening statement which reads:
“Some people like Jews and some do not; but no thoughtful man can doubt the fact that they are beyond all question the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has ever appeared in the world.”
The reply from Philip Weyers after he had read the article, really got me thinking that he might well have hit the nail on the head. Philip had this to say:
“Interesting that Churchill did not think Palestine would be big enough to accommodate ‘more than a fraction’ of the world’s Jews. I reckon he did not know about the resourcefulness of Jews to transform desert into very habitable areas. The world will continue to underestimate Jews as they have done for millennia, and when the Jews rise above expectations the response is often pure anti-Semitism.”
Could this be it – when Jews “rise above expectations” – that it is all about jealously’?
It is certainly no accident that twelve Israelis have won Nobel Prizes, three for peace efforts, while the rest for literature, science, medicine and economics. The development of many of the scientific and medical innovations that currently prolong or improve the quality of millions of lives daily – an ongoing process since modern Israel came into being 70 years ago.
During the same period, the surrounding Arab states – with about 430 million inhabitants – have managed to produce six Nobel Laureates, four of them for the peace that perpetually eludes the Middle East.
Let me end off by saying that by replacing the hatred and vitriol with an acceptance of Israel as a fixture in the region, rather than the never ending threats to annihilate the country and its people, would allow Israel to offer so much that could enhance the lives of the millions citizens throughout the Middle East and beyond.
Peter Bailey, who grew up in the South African gold mining town of Brakpan, first appeared in print at the age of 10 with two poems appearing in the SA Outspan and Farmer’s Weekly. He speaks extensively on the Jewish contribution to South African military history and is the author of ‘Smuts, the Anonymous Figure Behind the Balfour Declaration’ and ‘Street Names In Israel’.
Obsessed with Israel, South Africa ‘Downgrades’ into the abyss of absurdity
By David E. Kaplan
While South Africa speaks of downgrading its diplomatic ties with Israel, smarter countries to its north like Sierra Leone are benefiting from Israel’s amazing technology. Since March, the Jewish State is providing school children at St. Joseph’s Girls’ School in Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown with clean drinking water extracted from the air.
Sound impossible? Not for Israel where the word “impossible” is absent from the Start-Up Nation’s lexicon.
The technology comes in the form of an atmospheric water generator known as the “GEN-350,” and is produced by the Israeli company Watergen which can produce up to 900 liters of water per day.
Situated in Rishon LeZion in central Israel, Watergen was set up in 2009 by entrepreneur Arye Kohavi, a former combat reconnaissance company commander in the Israeli Army.
The technology developed by Kohavi and his cadre of engineers, uses a series of filters to purify the air. After the air is sucked in and chilled to extract its humidity, the water that forms is then treated and transformed into clean drinking water. The technology uses a plastic heat exchanger rather than an aluminum one, which helps reduce costs.
Head Above Water
So, while in 2016 when a water conference to deal with the water crisis in South Africa was nixed because of the participation of Israel – considered the world’s no. 1 expert on water management – other countries in Africa like Sierra Leone are literally ‘tapping’ into Israel’s expertise in water technology.
“Watergen is currently operating in many African countries,” said Yehuda Kaploun, president of Watergen USA, “and even more announcements about other countries in Africa using our machines and technology will be forthcoming.”
With a weight of just 800 kilograms, the GEN-350 is easily transportable and can be installed easily. The GEN-350 units are provided with an internal water-treatment system and need no infrastructure except a source of electricity in order to operate.
Watergen’s efforts to make fresh, pure water available around the globe earned the company its place on the World Economic Forum’s list of the world’s top technology pioneers in 2018.
Yet, South Africa prefers to listen to BDS that says, “Israel water technology is not unique or special; such technology is widely available through other more friendly countries.”
So where are those other counties Lindiwe Sisulu, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation – the wording a clear misnomer – who is championing the campaign to downgrade her country’s diplomatic relations with Israel?
Rather than turn to Israel for help, will Cape Town prefer the dubious honor of becoming one of the few – if not the first – developed cities in the world to run out of water?
Would BDS SA try influence Sierra Leone to follow silly Sisulu’s lead, where water pollution in the West African country is one of the leading causes of death and which has an average life expectancy of 56 years, one of the lowest in the world. Approximately half of the population has no access to clean drinking water, and a little less than three-quarters of urban dwellers have a safe water supply available for use.
Sierra Leone’s water sources – primarily consisting of ponds, unprotected wells and freestanding water – have been contaminated by mining and chemicals used in the agricultural industry. Water-borne infections and parasites have increased the probability of Sierra Leoneans contracting diseases such as typhoid fever and Hepatitis A.
Does BDS South Africa prefer contaminated water than to being contaminated by contact with Israel?
Other than being antisemitic, BDS’s arguments – do not hold water!
There is a line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ that reads:
“Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink…”
The image is of a sailor on a becalmed ship, surrounded by salt water that he cannot drink.
Today, because of Israeli ingenuity, there is potential water everywhere.
From the remote corners of India and Vietnam, to the palm-lined streets of Miami-Dade County, Watergen is doing what was once thought unthinkable – extracting safe, inexpensive potable water from the air we breathe.
“We created a product that can really be the next major source of drinking water,” says Maxim Pasik, Executive Chairman of Rishon LeZion-based Watergen.
Fired up after his visit to Africa in mid-2017, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – re-elected this May 2019 – announced that year to the world from the podium of the UN when he addressed the General Assembly, about Israel transforming air into water. He was thinking specifically how Watergen’s revolutionary product could be used in various parts of Africa.
Watergen’s cutting-edge and patented GENius technology provides a low cost, abundant and renewable source of fresh and clean drinking water by extracting it directly from the atmosphere. It is a plug and drink solution, requiring only electricity and no infrastructure. The company has also sought alternative energy sources for areas with little or no electricity.
For every community size, “We can provide drinking water from the air in the most cost effective, efficient manner to produce the healthiest, and cleanest tasting drinking water,” says Pasik. The Large-Scale unit produces up to 6,000 liters of clean drinking water each day, the mid-scale GEN-350 unit up to 650 liters each day, and the Genny home unit up to 30 liters each day, all based on an average temperature of 27°C with relative humidity of 60%.
Providing fresh pure water directly from the atmosphere, “at prices that are up to ten times cheaper than local filtered well water (at developing world prices), we are talking about a game changer formany tens of millions who only have access to contaminated drinking water,” says Pasik.
Regarding rural areas where there might be no access to electricity, the company has come up with a battery-operated solution. Using a reverse osmosis process for filtration and purification, the battery-operated device has a water purification capacity of 1,200 liters a day, so it can serve villages or areas that need water in emergency situations.
With unsafe water being responsible for more death than war, Israeli ingenuity provides a lifeboat. Instead of searching below for solutions, Watergen found it above – in our atmosphere – and devised a way to ‘tap’ into this unlimited resource.
Watergen hopes to improve the quality of life of billions who suffer from poor water sanitation or accessibility to safe drinking water. “This is a humanitarian issue,” says Pasik. “We would like to maintain peace between people and save people’s lives. The project is priceless and is huge.”
Proud that “this solution comes from Israel,” he adds proudly “This is a Kiddush Hashem (Hebrew for sanctification of God’s name) and tikkun olam (Hebrew for repairing the world)”.
Which only goes to show that sometimes the solutions to problems are staring us right in the face!
Out Of Thin Air
By 2025, two-thirds of the world will face drinking water shortages.
Watergen’s systems can solve this problem and help sustain life moving forward.
If Moses brought forth water for the People of Israel in the desert by striking a stone, today’s Israelites are striking water from the air
The history of the Jewish people and that of many African countries is more similar than it is different. There are some striking parallels – tribal allegiances, love of the indigenous land and a shared history of persecution and colonialism.
In the fledgling days before the founding of the modern State of Israel, Jews fought to end the British mandate that effectively colonized their ancient land.
It was with philosophy that both the founder of modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl and Israel’s Prime Minister, Golda Meir, who was the first to recognize that the Jewish state was the natural partner to help beleaguered African countries.
They recognized the shared desires of the African people as well as the Jews to live free in their homelands and respected the national liberation movements of the time, sensing a mutual desire to that of their own Zionist ideals. Zionism after all, is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people.
But today, much like in many other parts of the world, anti-Semitism is rearing its ugly head on the continent. A continent that has suffered more than its own share of discrimination and persecution.
From the north to the south
Many would be surprised to find out that there once were thriving Jewish communities in many countries across the continent and while communities are sparse in sub-Saharan Africa, in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt, they once flourished.
The Lemba of Southern Africa, the Igbo of Nigeria, Ethiopan Jews, the Abuyudaya of Uganda and the Sephardi and Ashkenazi of Europe, many of whom settled in Africa to escape persecution and who can forget the Mizrahi Jews of Arab countries, who were forced to flee Islamic rulers.
Due to rising anti-Semitism and poverty, these communities barely exist anymore. Outside of South Africa which has the largest community on the continent, there were communities in Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda, Zaire (the Democratic Republic of Congo) and Zimbabwe. While many left for Israel, others left for Europe or elsewhere.
The continent’s massive poverty rates and political turmoil in the late 20th century led to some African national leaders blaming Jews for the problems of their countries which they claimed, “are operated by a conspiracy against the African race”. Anti-Semitism in Africa includes false rumors and allegations that the AIDS pandemic, was bioengineered by either the US, the United Nations or “the Jews” in a plot to exterminate millions of black Africans and that the disease is a part of the “Jewish” or “white Europeans’ maneuvers against Africa” or a continuous practice of “racial genocide”. African nations are prone to accept unreliable anti-Semitic reports and revisionist history that the slavery of black Africans in the new world was because of “Jewish merchants working for European colonial masters”. According to social scientists, these theories are appealing to some impoverished and downtrodden people without enough education to know the “Jewish conspiracy” myth is false and unprovable.
The South African story
In post-Apartheid South Africa, the Jewish community has not been spared. This is particularly troubling considering that the contribution made by the Jewish community during the Apartheid years was significant in the fight to end the racist regime. One famous example was that out of the 13 Rivonia trialists, 5 were Jewish.
Who can forget the inimitable Helen Suzman, the lone voice of opposition in parliament to the Apartheid government? Jewish and a woman to boot! Some of the greatest names to enter the pantheon of anti-Apartheid activists, be it through political, cultural, religious or civil action, include Johnny Clegg, Rabbi Isaacson, Joe Slovo, Arthur Chaskalson, Nadine Gordimer, Gill Marcus and Albie Sachs to name but a few. The founding fathers of the Rainbow Nation, Mandela, Sisulu and Thambo were intimately involved with Jews, having worked alongside many throughout their legal careers. Mandela famously visited Israel with “his” Rabbi Cyril Harris and met with then Prime- Minister, Shimon Peres. Mandela famously refers to Menachem Begin and the Irgun as the basis on which he hoped to model the armed wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom:
“I read The Revolt by Menachem Begin and was encouraged by the fact that the Israeli leader had led a guerrilla force in a country with neither mountains nor forests, a situation similar to our own.”
I think that these great stalwarts of human rights would be greatly hurt to witness the appalling invective levelled against South Africa’s Jewish community.
Good Jew, Bad Jew
Manifesting more as anti-Zionism rather than traditional anti-Semitism (although the two cannot be separated) the clarion call seems to be “Jews are welcome, Zionists are not.” Or are they? Over the past few years, anti-Semitism is manifesting on the Southern tip of the continent much like it is all over the world. Social media platforms have become new battlefields and threats of violence and subsequent incidents have increased.
There seems to be a division between who is termed “good” or “bad” Jew. Good Jews apparently are not Zionist and identify as Jewish by “cultural ties”, not those awful traditional, Israel loving kind. There have been atrocious incidents of anti-Semitism ranging from the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) movement and their cries of “shoot the Jew” at a conference hosted by the South African Zionist Federation to the appalling tweets from populist Black Land First leader, Andile Mngxitama and a whole host of incidents and issues in between.
Many look to Europe or the USA as the barometer on how anti-Semitism manifests but if we ignore the South African model, we do so at our peril. It would appear that when BDS and their supporters in South Africa sneeze, their global network catches a cold. This is not to say that anti-Semitism in South Africa is restricted to BDS and the far left but the far right, perhaps emboldened by the alarming rise of their counterparts in the USA are rearing their ugly, neo-Nazi heads as well.
The consequences of rising anti-Semitism in South Africa are worrying. This could mean the marginalizing of a minority group that has played a vital role in not just the fight against the injustice of the past but continues to punch far above its size in helping to build a new country. It would also result in many of South Africa’s Jews leaving for safer pastures – and along with them, investment and employment opportunities for many of the country’s impoverished.
South Africans fought against Apartheid and many paid a painful price. After the struggles of the country’s dark past, do we really want to see this vicious cycle of discrimination and racism rise again?
Silence is no longer an option and the message that Jews are just as much a colour in the Rainbow Nation as any other community needs to be heard. Loudly.
The ‘taking a knee’ by two students at Herzlia Middle School Cape Town during the singing of “Hatikvah” at a Grade 9 graduation ceremony has sparked controversy not only among the local Jewish community, but all over the country, even making the papers abroad.
Imitating African-American football players who protested against police brutality during US football matches, the two students explained their ‘copycat’ was to publicly profile Israel’s alleged human rights violations against the Palestinians.
What is at the core of this issue – Freedom of expression, failure of Zionist education at Jewish Day Schools, genuine concern for the Palestinians, disrespect to the State of Israel and the Jewish People, an urge for publicity? A storm has risen and is unlikely to abate anytime soon as the community grapples with the issues.
Offering a portal to people closely connected to the issue and the school to express their positions, LOTL hereunder publishes two articles, one by a former student at Herzlia School, Jonathan Zausmer, who today lives in Kochav Yair in Israel, and Dovi Goldberg, a 17-year-old student at a Jewish Day School in Johannesburg.
Perspectives from a 17 year old
By Dovi Goldberg
The events following the controversial “taking of the knee” incident at Herzlia Middle School in Cape Town, has spurred a flurry of press coverage, including a discussion on Johannesburg-based radio station, 702.
I finished my exam last Thursday and got into my mother’s car. She was listening to the Eusebius Mckaiser show on 702, a Johannesburg-based radio station. The segment on the show was about “focusing on whether schools are the appropriate place for political discussion”. This intrigued me as they were speaking about the two pupils from Herzlia Middle School in Cape Town who had taken a knee during Hatikvah as solidarity with the Palestinian people and a protest against the Israeli government.
When I was in the car, Eusebius brought Josh Broomberg on the radio to speak. Josh Broomberg is a former vice head-boy of a Jewish day school in Johannesburg. Broomberg has encountered a similar reaction to these two boys as he once wore a kaffiyeh to an international debating competition. There was mass outcry from the Jewish community. For me personally, I agree with neither Broomberg nor the two Herzlia boys.
Broomberg said a couple of times on air that he was going to be very careful of what he says but ultimately Mckaiser and Broomberg share the same pride in the braveness of these two boys.
I tried calling into the show over twenty times to express my opinion on the matter -the opinion of a Jew who is a proud Zionist and knows what Hatikvah truly means.
This is what I would have said if 702 and Eusebius Mkaiser would have answered my call.
I am a 17 year old pupil at a Jewish day school in Johannesburg.
I am proud Zionist and a proud Jew, I am also a person who believes in the freedom of speech and of expression, but there is also a time and a place for that.
I understand that these pupils took a knee during ‘Hatikvah’ the national anthem of Israel. They took a knee to protest the Israeli government as they say they cannot support it morally. But I don’t think these boys fully understand what Hatikvah is about because taking a knee during Hatikvah is not only disrespecting Israel, it is also disrespectful to the six million Jews that perished during the Holocaust and to the Jews who had never given up their hope of eventually returning to Zion.
The poem which was originally written by Naftali Herz Imber in 1877 portrays the two thousand year old hope of the Jews returning to their ancestral homeland, Israel.
It was adopted as the National anthem of the Zionist movement at the first Zionist conference in 1897
In 1944, 4 years before the establishment of the state of Israel, Czech Jews sung this song while they were beaten and marched into the gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Disrespecting Hatikvah is disrespecting these people who died with the hope of Jews still having a chance to visit the holy land.
During liberation, the Jews of Bergen Belsen and Dachau concentration camps sang this song as they marched towards freedom. These Jews had lost everything, family, valuables and all necessities for daily life -but the one thing these people did not lose is their hope to return to Zion.
“As long as in the heart, within,
A Jewish soul still yearns,
And onward, towards the ends of the east,
an eye still gazes toward Zion”
These are the words of the opening verse of Hatikvah. A verse so powerful it sends shivers down my spine.
So I will reiterate my opinion – the freedom of speech and freedom of expression is definitely important, but as long as there is a Jewish soul, the heart will always yearn for Zion.
Be critical of Israel if you want to be, but do not ever disrespect Hatikvah.
By Jonathan Zausmer
A flurry of reactions has followed the uproar over two students from Herzlia Middle School in Cape Town, South Africa, who decided to “take a knee” as an act of protest during the singing of Hatikva, the Israel national anthem.
Establishment South African Jewish leadership was horrified. Condemnation has echoed throughout the S.A. Jewish community and abroad. South African Jewry was kneecapped and is crying out in pain. I will not condemn these students as some writers have hysterically done in these pages, calling them “tots” or “pawns” or “poster boys”. Let us be clear, their act was no frivolous attempt at destruction. Protesting in this way takes courage, conviction and involves consequences of which they clearly were aware. Yet within their protest, I detect confusion.
It is that confusion we need to examine.
In brief, we are talking about something called disruption. Establishments and institutions loathe it, because the comfort zone of same-same work, same-same thinking, same-same paradigms are thrown out of balance. One needs to gasp for air, rationalize your position, understand the fast-changing world, initiate, and create a culture of change and renewal.
Let me state, that as a graduate of Herzlia School, I feel the pain, the embarrassment and the immense challenges now confronting the management and staff of this prestigious institution. I am grateful for the education I received there and deeply respect the growth and development of a unique educational process that has taken place over the years. Within the constraints of a conservative Jewish South Africa, the leadership of this school now faces a challenge. By embracing that challenge, they now have an opportunity to open up some issues that go further afield than this specific incident.
In order to see the big picture, we need to take a step back and take an overview of something that has brought home some hard truths that have been conveniently ignored by the institutions of Diaspora Jewry and now is no better time to address them. And we need to address them because the very nature of Judaism and Jewish identity has shifted during the post WWII era from isolated and vulnerable small religious communities abroad, to large secular Jewish communities that are made up of worldly, high-achievement, sophisticated people who identify with Israel and see Israel as the heart and vibrant center of modern Judaism. The values that they carry with them from generations of learning and teaching are now challenged by an Israel that, while financially vibrant, is facing challenges of discrimination within it, gross violation of human rights, uncontrolled rampant colonialist ultra-nationalism bolstered by government policy, heading to a very possible scenario of a Jewish minority ruling over a Arab Muslim majority within one state.
At the core of this disruption, unease, ethical tension and conflict of identity – at the very core, is the Netanyahu government in its various forms. At the outset of his term as Prime Minister, Netanyahu affirmed the two-state solution, albeit with many provisos, caveats and cautions. But he affirmed the concept. Yet he and his government have done everything in their power to unhinge and impede such a policy. Rampant Israeli settlement in the very area destined for Palestine is proof. Scorn for U.S. agents of peace who have encouraged this policy since advocated by President Bush back in 2003 is proof. The government of Israel laughs and scorns U.S. peace initiators from Bush, Obama, Kerry, Trump, to Jared Kushner. Vast chunks of the Israeli budget, of U.S. grants, of military spending go into owning occupied territory by means of settlement and disowning the now millions of Palestinians who live there. West Bank and Gaza GDP per capita runs at approximately USD 3,500. Israeli GDP per capita runs at approximately USD 40,000.
Establishment Jewish communities around the world, especially in environments that host ugly anti-Semitic sentiments within it, such as in South Africa, have lapsed into the mode of blindly following Israel and its government whatever the circumstances. The “insurance policy” concept of a safe space for Jews in the world rises above all ethical, legal, moral, complex matters. On the shameful acts of corruption, abuse of power and national domination of another people, there is an eerie silence. This is a consequence of being humbled by the fact that those who do not face the gun, as we do here, should remain silent. To this I say no. It is incumbent, indeed the duty of Jews worldwide to speak up, whether in New York, Paris or Cape Town, South Africa.
First appeared in ‘Times of Israel’.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Originally from South Africa, Jonathan made aliya in the seventies, and lived and worked on a kibbutz for several years. He has a graduate degree in business from Boston University and is a managing partner of an Israeli based business. He was a co-founder of the Forum Tzora peace action group and participates in the Geneva Initiative workshops. He is the author of the book “Valley of Heaven and Earth”.
On 1st May 2018 the citizens of Addis Ababa received an unusual visitor. Israeli president Reuven Rivlin touched down in Ethiopia becoming the first occupant of his office ever to make an official visit to the country. In his wake came a bevy of business people, NGO’s, government officials, and even Ethiopian-Israeli popstar Estrada. The event was just the latest in several Africa-Israel related initiatives over the last few years, including three trips to the continent by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. President Rivlin joked that he was “returning the visit of Queen Sheba to King Solomon” and much like the original biblical visit, key items on the agenda included trade, culture and security.
Some pundits have tended to view this diplomatic engagement as something new or unusual. However, relations between Zion and ‘Wakanda’ actually have a considerable pedigree and also extends to the African American community. As the process evolves it is worth knowing some of the history.
Although Africa- Israel relations go back to the bible, the story really picks up around the late 1890’s. At the time, both Africans and Jews were the wretched peoples of the earth, victims of anti-Semitism, slavery, colonialism, racism and dispersion. It is therefore unsurprising that solutions in the form of Zionism and African Nationalism evolved simultaneously. The founder of Zionism, journalist Theodor Herzl, wrote in his seminal book, Altneuland (1902), “Once I have witnessed the redemption of the Jews, my people, I wish to also assist in the redemption of the Africans”. In African intellectual circles, the idea of a national Jewish liberation was a popular one. For instance, the founder of Pan-Africanism Marcus Garvey, referenced the Jewish national experience when he asserted that “many white men have tried to uplift them, but the only way is for the Negroes to have a nation of their own is like the Jews, that will command the respect of the nations of the world with its achievements.”
Model for Africa
Thus, the idea of Jews having their own state was viewed with favour by early Pan-Africanists. Garvey championed what was known as “Black Zionism” and Liberian diplomat/journalist Edmon Wilmot Blydenreferredto “that marvelous movement called Zionism” as a model for African emancipation.
The impact of this sentiment would find its way into the civil rights movement in America. Hence the words of Martin Luther King Jr: “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews You’re talking anti-Semitism”. The real impact of these ideas, however, were in Africa, where newly independent African states were being created in the 1960’s. History and ideology combined, becoming a compelling driver for co-operation and understanding between the two groups. Kwame Nkrumah President of Ghana expressed it best in 1961, when he said:
“We understand one another, Jews and Negroes. We were both oppressed for a long time and now we both have our own independent states.”
It was more than just commonalities between national ideologies, however, that drove the early Africa-Israel relationship. At the beginning of the 1950s, the new-born Jewish state found itself with few friends. The soon-to-be independent African states provided Israel with an opportunity to shore up its diplomatic defenses. Israel made an attractive diplomatic partner in Africa. As such, a small country, Israel, was in no position to be an agent of neo-colonialism. In fact, having recently overthrown the British, Israel was a good example of a successful liberation struggle.
Moreover, African state builders appreciated the Zionist institutions that had brought about the creation of the country, and they sought to adapt them for their own projects. The Pan-Africanist journalist George Padmore, for instance, believed that Africa’s development could be fostered using organised infusions of funding from the African-American Diaspora, along the same lines as the United Israel Appeal In the defense sphere, early Zionist military formations were the inspiration for the concept and structure of Umkhonto we Sizw (MK), the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC).
In planning MK, Nelson Mandela leaned on the experience of anti-apartheid activist Arthur Goldreich who had fought as a member of the Palmach, the elite military wing of the Haganah in Israel’s War of Independence. Goldreich, who escaped from a South African prison at the time of Mandela’s arrest, and settled in Israel, had drafted the military code for Umkhonto we Sizw. After he went underground in 1960, Mandela also credits “The Revolt” by Menachem Begin as being among the books he used in planning the ANC’s guerilla campaign against the Apartheid government.
When ANC leader Walter Sisulu visited Israel on his five-nation tour, he flew on Israel’s national carrier El Al. It was the only the airline in the world that would take the black South African passenger, since the Apartheid government had denied him a passport. Israel also contributed to building the defense infrastructure in many other African countries, especially training their military and police. The first pilots of the Kenyan and Tanzanian Air Forces were all trained by Israel; and it was Israel that built Ghana’s first naval academy.
Finally, African states and Israel shared many of the same developmental challenges. President Julius Nyerereobserved in 1957 that, “Israel is a small country… but it can offer a lot to a country like mine. We can learn a great deal because the problems of Tanganika are similar to Israels.” This resulted in a vast array of joint projects across the continent including construction, agriculture, aquaculture, health care, hydrology, youth movements, regional planning, engineering, community services and many others. John Tettegah, Secretary General of Ghana’s Trade Union movement, said his visit to Israel had “given me more in eight days than I could obtain from a British university in two years”. Some of the more interesting projects included giving assistance in building the parliament in Sierra Leone and the creation of Ghana’s Black Star line shipping company.
Health and Wealth of a Nation
To ensure the ongoing success of these initiatives, many Israelis came to live in Africa to assist with programmes, particularly in health care. Through these engagements, a specialist eye clinic was established in Sierra Leone and social work training provided in Machakos, Kenya. Many African citizens, in turn, went to Israel to study at its tertiary institutions, including the Weitzman Institute, the Hebrew University, and the Mount Carmel Centre which was dedicated to training women in the developing world.
Societal cohesion was also on the agenda. Kenya’s President Jomo Kenyattaargued that, “You have built a nation with Jews coming from all corners of the world; we want to build a unified Kenya of a multitude of tribes joined together through Harambee (working together)”. By 1965, most major Africa leaders had visited Israel, coming from the Central African Republic, Chad, Dahomey (Benin), the Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Madagascar, Uganda, Mali and Upper Volta (Burkina Faso). Israel’s friends included President William Tubman’s, Liberia (who had voted for the establishment of the state in 1947 at the UN) and Emperor Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia.
By 1973, Israel had established relations with 32 African states. Many opened embassies in Israel of which ten were based in Jerusalem, well before America had the idea. Included on this list were those of the Ivory Coast and Kenya. Israel also gained observer status on the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). It was the golden age of ‘Wakanda & Zion’.
Not everyone, however, was delighted by the increased Africa-Israel co-operation. The power of the Arab states in international diplomacy was growing, and their official policy position on Israel was annihilation. Watching the growing African-Israel relationship with concern, they did what they could to impede it. Championed by Egypt, they attempted to ferment anti-Zionist rhetoric onto the agenda of multi-lateral bodies such as the OAU.
These were backed-up by punitive economic actions. The first serious attacks in these forums were taken in the early 1960s but were strongly rebuffed by the African states. As Julius Nyerere, expressed, “We are not going to let our friends determine who our enemies are.” Besides the risk of losing their friendship with Israel, African leaders were apprehensive about Arab inference in their domestic affairs, and they had bitter memories of the sub-Saharan slave trade.
Recalling the Slave Trade
At one point during a UN debate, a Saudi Arabian delegate accused the Ivory Coast of “selling out” to Israel, to which the Ivorian delegate responded, “The representative of Saudi Arabia may be used to buying Negroes, but he can never buy us.” So, despite Arab pressure, African delegations helped put Israeli representatives on boards of the World Health Organisation and UNICEF. In return Israel was a regular backer of anti-Apartheid resolutions at the UN, eventually having the most votes against Apartheid of any western nation.
Notwithstanding this success, however, all was not a bed of roses in the Israel-Africa relationship, and by the late 1960s, the relationship became strained. Much of this had to do with the familiar problems that bedeviled the field of international aid, including the lack of large-scale capital and effective technical transfer, solutions for long term sustainability and some focus shift by Israel to other continents such as South America. This was added to a relentless Arab propaganda machine urging all countries to end ties with Israel. The situation began to take its toll and in the wake of the Six Day War, four countries cut ties.
Pouring Oil on Troubled Waters
The real change, however, started in October 1973 when Arab nations, led by Egypt, launched a surprise attack on Israel on the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur. Although the attack would eventually fail, it introduced a new powerful weapon into the world of diplomacy: the global oil boycott.
The Arab states threatened any country which had relations with Israel with an oil embargo. They also promised aid to those African countries that broke ties with Israel. The strategy sent the oil price rocketing, leading to a global economic crisis, but proving strategically successful.
The combination of economic coercion and continuous propaganda added to the already strained Israel-Africa relationship. This was too much for African states to bear and they began abandoning Israel en masse. President Senghor of Senegal stated the situation plainly: “The Arabs have the numbers, space and oil. In the third world, they outweigh Israel.” By the end of 1973, Israel found itself with only four official friends in Africa. The golden age of ‘Wakanda & Zion’ was over.
This situation remained as such until 1978 and the signing of the world’s first Arab-Israeli peace with Egypt. Although it took time, Africa-Israel relations began to slowly be restored. Israel now has as many as forty diplomatic relationships in Africa with growing security, development and trade ties. Israel is looking for friends in Africa and observer status at the OAU while the continent is looking to take advantage of Israeli technology in development and security. There remain threats to the relationship with countries like South Africa and Morocco in the vanguard against Israeli interests on the continent.
Despite this, a new chapter in the saga of ‘Wakanda & Zion’ is evolving, and if all goes well, perhaps we may be on our way to a new Golden Age.
Benji Shulman, Executive Director South Africa Israel Forum, is from Johannesburg, South Africa. He has a master’s degree in Geography and has worked in a range of fields in the Jewish community including education, advocacy, environment and outreach. He loves radio and has a hosted numerous shows on 101.9 ChaiFm in the last decade.
By Ben Swartz, National Head of the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF)
The ‘Smart’ Way to Go
Shannon Ebrahim’s sympathies to BDS “activism” and their political agenda are well known by most. So, it may surprise this virulently anti-Israel freelance journalist to realise that her solicitude for the plight of the Palestinians is shared by most Israelis and this is borne out by the myriad of Israelis who demonstrate their concern in the most practical way imaginable: care of the sick (especially children), the elderly and women.”
This fact is not always realised by her when she targets Israel either by implication or overtly, and places that country in the cross-hairs of her ire. Strangely she chastises a democracy, which Israel is, and her opponents are not. *In her latest article, those that she champions as victims of “colonialism” in fact bear the trappings of colonial Middle Eastern oligarchies that hold their people hostage. Libya, Syria, and Saudi are brutal dictatorships, far more than even those of Egypt or Jordan. “Parliaments” in Iran, Morocco, and on the West Bank are not freely democratic. In all of them, candidates for office are either screened, preselected, or coerced. Daily television and newspapers are subject to restrictions and censorship; “elected” leaders are not open to public audit and censure. Death, not voters, brings changes of rule in the Middle East.
Ebrahim talks of Mandela: does she know he encouraged peace and went to Israel himself and that Ramaphosa is on record supporting dialogue? She mentions the “progressive nations” taking a stand but does not name them. I am curious to know who they might be.
True freedom and democracy that the people of the Middle East do indeed deserve and from which the entire world would benefit – demands cultural tolerance, widespread literacy, and free markets, something few of them have with the notable exception of Israel.
Only in secular Israel can one find free speech and liberality of custom and religion, much more so, than say, in Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Palestine. Coexistence is found in Israel, very rarely so in the Arab world.
We see in Israel spirited debate, home-grown criticism and differing advocacy from Left and Right. Israeli newspapers and television reflect a diversity of views, from rabid Zionism to almost suicidal pacifism. There are Arab-Israeli legislators and plenty of Jewish intellectuals who openly write and broadcast in opposition to the government of the day – a freedom not available in Palestine.
Where The Truth Lies
It is patently obvious from hateful rhetoric daily fed to compliant populations that wars in the Middle East are not fought to return the West Bank or Gaza, but to finish off what Hitler could not.
Israel, its GNP, free society, and liberal press, is a wound to the psyche, not a physical threat to the Arab world. Israel did not murder the Kurds or Shiites. It does not butcher Islam’s children in Syria. Yet both the victims and the perpetrators of those horrendous crimes by Muslims against Muslims answer “Israel” when blame is sought!
Any honest assessment will show that the blame lies elsewhere. As has been demonstrated in many countries in Africa, Israel has the ability and a willingness to alleviate hunger, drought, disease and other social ills for the Palestinians and the people of Africa.
Instead of accepting the willingness of Israel to play a peaceful role in the region, Ebrahim defines herself as the saviour of the Palestinians. She cries out that she is against racism, colonialism, ethnic cleansing, police states and anti-Semitism but she advocates for those who do.
But the goal of the current Palestinian leadership is the colonial conquest of another people’s country. That country is the State of Israel, the homeland of the Jews legally, historically and emotionally.
Mahmoud Abbas has explicitly rejected Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. The Palestinian Authority indoctrinates its children to terrorism. The insignia and maps show that the land they demand for a state includes the whole of Israel.
Therefore, what the anti-racist, anti-colonialist, anti ethnic-cleansing, pro-democracy Ebrahim, the ANC, and the newspapers of the INL, players whose reputation rests on a proud record of balance and fairness, should condemn is this Palestinian agenda and not point fingers at the only constitutional democracy in the entire Middle East.
Palestinians should see in its policy toward Israel their future hope, rather than their present despair. Israel is based on true democracy that can evolve to the benefit of all those in the Middle East and bring deserved peace to everyone who lives there, rather than resort to race, religion or language that more often cannot. If the Palestinians really wish to become accepted as a participant in peace, then regular elections, a free press, an open and honest economy, and religious tolerance alone would do what suicide bombers and a duplicitous terror-supporting leader could not.
Ben Swartz is the National Chairman of the SAZF. He is also the Co-chairman of SAFI (South African Friends of Israel), a SAZF initiative.