LETTER: SA’s anti-Israel stance
Official statements imply that the legitimacy of Israel is no longer accepted
During my tenure as ambassador of Israel to SA at the turn of the millennium criticism of Israel was rife. But there was never any mainstream call to eliminate the Jewish state. In fact, SA regularly tried to play a role in facilitating a two-state solution, which would allow Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side.
I am not aware that Pretoria has officially changed its position on the desired outcome to the conflict, or that it no longer accepts the legitimacy of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people. However, this is unfortunately implied by some official statements and other expressions of opinion.
Take for example repeated references to 75 years of occupation, used by President Cyril Ramaphosa and others. Israel was established 75 years ago, in 1948. Nineteen years later, in 1967, following an attack by surrounding Arab countries, it came to control inter alia the West Bank. Saying 75 years of occupation, rather than 56, in effect states that Israel’s very founding, and its continued existence, are illegal. Let us hope such phraseology is not deliberate but rather a manifestation of ignorance.
Not so the chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free”. Freedom for Palestine? By all means. But the river is the Jordan and the sea is the Mediterranean, along which much of Israel is situated. Once again, there is no place for Israel. Has this become official policy?
ANC leaders have explained the party’s historical relationship with the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). But do they have any idea of the enmity between the PLO, a secular political organisation, and Hamas, an Islamic fundamentalist movement? Have they read the Hamas charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel?
When ANC stalwarts shout “Viva Hamas, viva!”, to echo an anti-apartheid battle cry, do they realise that they are applauding those who believe in gang rape, holding babies as hostages, forcing captive children to view films of murder and other atrocities, and threatening them with guns if they cry? If and when such Islamist tendencies develop in SA, and they choose such religiously sanctioned means to resolve issues, will these be encouraged by those same chanters?
In drawing on their own experience to talk of Palestinian rights, have any of them taken a minute to consider if the gleeful carnage of October 7 in any way resembles the process that preceded the remarkable SA transition in 1994? What would Madiba and other struggle leaders say, when viewing this alliance, this rejection of a rival’s humanity, this hate and this horror?
Watching from afar, I am perturbed and disturbed by responses in SA to the atrocities perpetrated by Hamas on Israel on October 7 and to its aftermath. I am naturally concerned for the future of relations between our two countries, and sense the difficulties facing the SA Jewish community.
Having a warm spot in my heart for SA, I am also saddened by the ignorance that has been displayed, and am troubled by the choices some in your country are taking, and by their potential consequences for its own future.
Former Israeli ambassador to SA, 2001-03
JOIN THE DISCUSSION: Send us an email with your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters of more than 300 words will be edited for length. Anonymous correspondence will not be published. Writers should include a daytime telephone number.
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.