IAW: A festival of anti-Israeli hate

Brian Josselowitz says that when Palestinians say yes to peace measures like checkpoints and the security barrier will no longer be necessary


While the two-state solution may be the answer to the Israel-Palestine conflict, it is up to Hamas, as legitimate leaders, and the Palestinians, to say yes to peace. Israel has asked them often enough.

It does not matter how many Israel Apartheid Weeks (IAW) the Palestinian Solidarity Front (PSF) and Boycott Divestment Sanctions South Africa (BDS) stage it will not in any way help the situation.

Sadly the PSF , BDS , the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) and Confederation of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) will disagree: they think boycotts and dumping pigs’ heads at the “kosher” meat counters in supermarkets will lead to a resolution, or that calling for a ban on Israeli cucumbers (it’s such an innocuous product , not even 12 cm in length) and a pretzel (a twisted salty piece of dough) are the answer but as events have shown us in the past, the IAW is another excuse for an Israel hate fest.

The PSF, the BDS and their fellow travellers though, do agree that Israel is an apartheid state, without any evidence. Even though that myth has been roundly denounced, by those more knowledgeable than me. These claims are most often made by people who have never visited Israel or Gaza; they’re like couch potatoes watching a rugby match on TV from the safety of their living room, yelling obscenities at the players and referee, knowing full well there won’t be any consequences

I often wonder why organisations like the PSF and BDS, who welcomed the terrorist Leila Khaled, a convicted hijacker to South Africa, do not condemn the Boko Harams of the world who act with impunity, kidnap school girls and kill, or the Islamic State (ISIS) who behead their prisoners.

To call Israel an apartheid state tarnishes the memory of those who felt the pain and who used mostly peaceful means to get rid of the National Party’s jackboot. There is no legitimate comparison that can be made between the reality of Apartheid South Africa and the State of Israel today. A great deal has been done in Israel to bring about equality, and of course, there is a lot more to be done.

If Israel is an apartheid state why then do Arab Israelis serve in the Knesset (parliament), at the Supreme Court and even in the elite military brigades?

IAW is no different from Durban 1 (Durban 2 was the climate change conference held in 2011), the UN sponsored 2001 World Conference against Racism 2001 (WCAR). Dubbed Durban 1, it dealt with a number of issues including the “actions of Israel” and compensation for slavery. Guess what attracted the most headlines from a biased and complicit media? “The actions of Israel”. The remarks made at the conference were Anti-Semitic to put it mildly. It became another Israel-bashing exercise and two delegations , one from the United States and one from Israel, withdrew from the conference in protest against a draft document equating Zionism with racism.

The recent Israel-Gaza conflict also sparked a surge of Anti-Semitism worldwide including in South Africa. Some of the images published in Cape Town’s daily newspapers showed marchers carrying children as young as four, and one mother was quoted as saying she had brought her children aged 11 and 9, because they had read it on Facebook and Twitter. The most reliable source of information. In another move to demonise Israel and equate it with Apartheid South Africa COSAS, who say they represent all “learners” in primary and high schools across South Africa, undertook to mobilise all young people in all schools to participate in this year’s 11th International Israeli Apartheid week campaign.

Even the language used is different to that used by the anti-apartheid demonstrators abroad, and I spent a few years overseas (on a gap year) and often got caught up in the protests. They abhorred the National Party regime: they did not hate South Africans. I had some interesting conversations with members of Halt All Racial Tours (HART) mainly Australians and New Zealanders. They didn’t hate me or any other South African but they did have sympathy for those of us living under rule of the NP.

Today’s activists, however, hate the idea of an Israeli state, and they hate Jews. The language they use shows it. Never mind that “prominent Jewish South Africans” have joined the PSF and the BDF. Sihle Zikalala, ANC KZN Provincial Secretary, wrote on Politicsweb that, “The occupation of Gaza remains unlawfu, reflects nothing…. but the perpetuation of an unjust system imposed through terror. It is an injustice which has become entrenched through the support of certain world authorities who are biased to the side of Israel.” Note his use of the word, terror.

“Cosas was shocked and saddened to witness the great tragedy against the Palestinian young people during last year’s attacks on Gaza as we watched it on our TV screens, heard about it on radio, saw it on social media. We have subsequently been following the cause of the brave Palestinian children very closely. We now understand that the abuse of the Palestinian children is actually a daily activity of Israeli brutality. The abuse is every day. An abuse which we the children of South Africa will assist in stopping,” their statement said.

But Cosas don’t say how they are going to stop the daily abuse of Palestinian children. You can’t stop it if it doesn’t happen. Cosas knew this was happening because, they said, they read it, heard it and saw it on social media. The fount of all knowledge and where people hide under pseudonyms to spread hate, and not only anti-Israel and anti-Jewish rhetoric.

More Anti-Semitic and anti-Israel remarks came from Cosatu’s international relations secretary Bongani Masuku, during the Israel-Gaza conflict. Masuku told a protest outside the Sydenham Highlands North Synagogue in Johannesburg, on February 6 , last year ,that, any businesses owned by Israel supporters would be targeted by the country’s workers. Perhaps he wanted those businesses to display a yellow star on their store windows. Masuku also advised Jewish supporters of Israel to leave South Africa before they “‘infect the country with any more racism”. So who is being racist here? The Jewish Board of Deputies reported this hate speech to the SA Human Rights Commission who ordered Masuku to apologise. The Board is still waiting.

And on the eve of IAW a statement from BDS South Africa said that as the Palestine solidarity and human rights organisation they share the general shock of most South Africans who feel that both the leaking of top secret government documents and the content of some of the documents leaked is concerning”

“The most recent leak confirms that the Israeli regime indeed is trying by all available means to counter the growing non-violent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel movement … BDS South Africa believes that the #SpyCables leak with details of Israeli cyber terrorism show the desperation of the Israeli Government and its supporters. To resort to cyber terrorist tactics in an attempt to manipulate the South African government and by extension, us, its people, should be deplored by all peace and justice loving people. Reports that Israeli Mossad spies were to launch a cyber attack on our financial sector due to the SA Government’s support for the BDS is appalling.”

Talk about conspiracy theories.

There’s more:

“The information leaked shows how desperate and aggressive the Israeli government, its Mossad Secret Service Agency and its supporters like the pro-Israeli SA Jewish Board of Deputies lobby group are acting to undermine the growing BDS movement. The people of South Africa will not be swayed by Israeli cyber or other terrorism, nor will we be silenced by Israel, the Israeli Intelligence Services, Israeli businesses or Israeli lobby.”

Why do BDS and PSF think that Israel gives a hoot about their misguided campaigns?

The BDS is living in a dream world. It showed its true colours when it invited Khaled to speak on a fund raising tour. No matter how much BDS would have people believe that support for their aims, which tacitly, if not overtly, call for the destruction of Israel, is growing daily. In fact most of their campaigns have been dismal failures, even if they have “prominent Jews” among their members. Woolworths just shrugged it off and the chain’s shares climbed higher. And irony of ironies, BDS and the PSF probably typed its statement on a computer with a Pentium chip invented by an Israeli, and I am sure they use cell phones, which incorporates Israeli technology, to spread their messages of hate.

No matter what people have to say, in praise of Israel, or against, the conflict will only end if Hamas and the Palestinians say yes to peace.

Last Monday marked the beginning of what the supporters of BDS and PSF like to refer to as ‘Israel Apartheid week’. Those who have visited Israel and are more informed refer to it as ‘Israel Awareness week’. Which rather defeats the point the BDS is trying to make.

The various events marking the week are held on university campuses all across South Africa. It is a difficult and emotional time for Jewish students and also for Christian Zionists. The South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) has been preparing long in advance to counter the anti-Israel stance by the BDS, PSF and numerous other organisations which would like to see the destruction of Israel.

Apartheid was a system in South Africa under which a small minority of whites ruled over the larger black majority population. Apartheid subjected blacks to severe political, economic and social discrimination and segregation. They could not be citizens, vote, participate in the government or fraternise with whites.

Israel is the opposite of an apartheid state. It is a multicultural democracy and the only free country in the Middle East. According to the human rights watchdog, Freedom House, it is the opposite of an apartheid state. Labelling Israel as practising “apartheid” justifiably offends Israelis and many victims of real apartheid regimes. Israeli law enshrines equal rights for all citizens, and minorities participate fully in public life. While Israel, like other multi-ethnic democracies, struggles with minority disadvantages, its laws try to eradicate inequality.

Furthermore, it is incorrect to state that Israel practises apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinians are not citizens of the Jewish state. They are governed by their own leaders – Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Israeli measures like checkpoints and the security barrier do not exist to separate people based on religion or ethnicity but rather to protect Israeli civilians of all backgrounds from terrorists. When Palestinian leaders say yes to peace, these measures will become unnecessary.

In any event the organisers of IAW are preaching to the converted. And to add to the irony, IAW is being marked at the same time Jewish people the world over are celebrating Purim – the Festival of Lots. It commemorates the salvation of the Jews from Hamman through the intervention of Queen Esther and her cousin Mordecai.

The story is set in the Persian Empire and soon after Esther, a Jewess became King Ahasuerus‘s queen, Hamman was appointed his chief advisor and set about planning the destruction of the Jews, all because Mordecai refused to bow down to him. Hamman was insulted and persuaded the king to send out a decree calling for all the Jews in the Kingdom to be wiped out but thanks to Queen Esther and Mordecai, the plot was foiled. Note how close the name Hamman is to Hamas.

And therein is a message for BDS, the PSF, Cosas, Cosatu and others of their ilk. No matter what methods you use or fiction that you spread you will never see the destruction of Israel.



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