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DA and Jewish Board of Deputies celebrate ‘shared values’

Ebrahim Moosa – Cii Radio | 06 June 2013

A recent “ground breaking” community meeting held in Cape Town between the leadership of the Democratic Alliance(DA) and the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies saw the official opposition party berate the ANC for its Middle East policies and congratulate the Jewish organisation for its community outreach activities.

Part of the Cape Board’s ‘Straight Talking’ series, where public figures are invited to engage with the Jewish community on topical and challenging issues, the symposium featured senior DA members Dr Ivan Meyer (DA Leader in the Western Cape), Ian Davidson (Shadow Minister of International Relations and Cooperation), Dan Plato (Provincial Minister of Community Safety) and Alan Winde (Provincial Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism).

Senior DA Members hosted by South African Jewish Board of Deputies

According to the Cape Jewish Board website, Board Chairman Li Boiskin, who opened the meeting, said contact with the DA was initiated as the organisation sought “to partner with all those interested in nation building and transformation” including the Democratic Alliance.

Cherishing the opportunity to address the Board, Western Cape DA leader Ivan Meyer said the DA was committed to a set of values and principles, from delivery to diversity. He said that Boiskin’s speech demonstrated that the Cape Board prioritises “the values of opportunity, responsibility and principles of excellence,” and that the DA sees these as common principles.

Tackling recent comments reportedly made by Deputy International Relations Minister Maruis Fransman that the Democratic Alliance was allegedly giving building contracts previously held by Muslims to Jewish businessmen, Dr Meyer said that he was himself “offended and taken aback” by the remarks. “Different religions have always had unity and tolerance in the Western Cape,” he said, and “no political comment can affect this.” He further commended the Cape Board for its interfaith events, such as the Reconciliation Day Walk and the Sukkat Shalom gathering, and said that religious communities have the ability to create social cohesion.

Later addressing the audience, DA Shadow Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ian Davidson, contrasted the opposition’s foreign policy with that of the ANC which he said was inconsistent and biased towards Israel. The ANC, he said, “has been on the wrong side of history,” possibly because it has been influenced by foreign interests rather than principles.

According to the Cape Board account, Davidson went on to say that the DA viewed the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel as being unhelpful in resolving the conflict. “The DA recognises that there are problems and that negotiations have been halted, and we would like to see these restarted. We believe in a two state solution and a shared Jerusalem. To advance these aims, we believe in negotiations and not BDS,” he said. “Security is key as far as Israel is concerned.”

Davidson appraised attendees on his insights from a recent parliamentary trip to ‘Israel’ and the Palestinian Territories. He said that he believed the trip gave the ANC members of the group “a new perspective. They went with a certain precept in mind, but I think they came away disillusioned with the Palestinians. Israel was very impressive.” He added that he had met the new Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Arthur Lenk, and the South African ambassador to Israel, and that both wanted to promote trade between the two countries, which is in opposition to BDS.

Davidson has not beenthe first senior DA member to publicly display a leaning towards the Israeli stance on the conflict. Last year, Lindiwe Mazibuko, parliamentary leader of the party told the Cape Board she believed it was unfair to refer to Israel as a state practicing Apartheid.

A report in the SA Jewish Report, quoted Mazibuko as saying, “I don’t think it’s a fair analogy to make.”

Mazibuko- who is often touted to become the DA’s first black leader, also made it clear that she believed Palestinians had to bear a greater responsibility for the ongoing violence.

“A couple of atrocities have been committed – many more on the Palestinian side – but wrongs have been done,” she added, stressing that “Palestinian disadvantage” vis-a-vis Israel had to be addressed alongside “Palestinian responsibility” for violence. “Israel needs to be held accountable for excessively violent and military responses, likewise the Palestinians terrorising Israelis,” she said.

Explaining why she found the Apartheid analogy problematic, Mazibuko suggested that in contrast to South Africa, there was a “much more equal distribution of suffering” in the Middle East. Additionally, the parliamentary leader told the audience that she believed the Apartheid regime in South Africa had committed “far more atrocities” than what have been documented in Israel.

Earlier this year, a Democratic Alliance(DA) councillor in the Ethekwini Municipality landed herself in hot water with Pro-Palestinian activists after her alleged attempts to censor a Palestine solidarity campaign and have the usage of the term ‘apartheid’ used in relation to Israel classed as hate speech. Avrille Marcia Coen of Durban’s Ward 27 found herself in an altercation with campaigners on the city’s beachfront after a member of the public reportedly raised an objection to an Israeli Apartheid Week(IAW) initiative that was underway.

The Daily News reportedthat Coen demanded proof that Israel was an apartheid state. Referring to a mural painted to commemorate the week, Coen said, “This painting is telling half of the story of what is happening in the Middle East.”

“We can’t have a painting in a public space like a beach that is so offensive to people of Jewish background. This is hate speech, calling a democratic country like Israel, which has people of Palestinian descent in parliament, an apartheid state. The painting must be removed.”

ebmoosa@ciibroadcasting.com

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