Influential pro Israeli business people are now mobilizing more than ever before to get South Africans to visit Israel, to sell a “prettier” image of the Apartheid State, the co-ordinator of South Africa’s BDS Movement has told Cii Radio.
“They are mobilizing resources and finances, paying for these trips to Israel..targeting, in particular, business people, young and upcoming African leaders, political parties and members of the media,” Mohammed Desai said in an interview on Monday.
His comments came in response to the circulation of images on pro-Israeli social media pages of a ‘high level delegation’ of South African leaders currently visiting Israel.
Amongst those pictured smiling in Tel Aviv were Dr Pieter Mulder of the Freedom Front Plus, Mr Terror Lekota of COPE, General Bantu Holomisa of the UDM, Reverend Kenneth Meshoe of the ACDP and Prince Mangosothu Buthelezi of the Inkatha Freedom Party.
“This ‘high level delegation’” touted by the Zionists, scoffed Desai, represent organisations, “(who) if put together probably have less members than I have in my extended family”.
“These are small minuscule parties in South Africa.”
The outspoken activist said the latest visit showcased the desperation of the Israeli lobby in South Africa.
“(They are) celebrating people like IFP leader Buthelezi, who was one of the staunchest leaders of the Nationalist regime(and Israeli regime) under apartheid for financial benefits that were flowing through in the 80′s. It would be interesting to find out what sort of financial benefits are now flowing through to these minority political parties by the Israeli lobby in South Africa.”
Desai argued that the trip should be seen within the larger context of the Zionist lobby trying to sell a prettier image of the Israeli regime by taking South Africans over to Israel on a very regular basis.
According to BDS research, Desai said, Zionists were hosting such trips to Israel targeting very focused groupings every 2-3 months.
He said such tactics were borne out of the sense that Zionists were losing grit locally, with the ruling party advocating that no member of the country’s leadership visit Israel.
“This isolation is having effect on ground,” Desai suggested.
Hence, instead of issuing formal diplomatic invites, he said, Israel had resorted to sponsored ‘propaganda’ trips, facilitated by its local proxies.
“It is a very pathetic attempt, but we should not underestimate the amount of resources that are being flooded into the Israeli lobby, in particular to counter the advances of the BDS movement”.
Desai said such visits were engineered to obscure the reality of Palestinian suffering under occupation.
“These delegations won’t visit Gaza. They won’t meet members of the Dawabshe family, whose relatives were burned to death..We know how such trips were conducted during apartheid in South Africa – Visitors would stay at Carlton Centre, go to the Kruger Park and Pilansberg, and never got to see conditions in townships or other areas”.
Postings on the South African Friends of Israel Facebook page this week showed pictures of the South African politicians, standing alongside a representative of the South African Zionist Federation(SAZF), visiting the Israeli Mayor of Jerusalem as well as a hospital in Israel.
In a statement released from Israel on Monday, IFP leader Buthelezi chided South Africa for its official stance towards Israel.
“Having served as Minister of Home Affairs for the first ten years of democracy, I feel frustrated by the position expressed by the ANC that it intends “instructing” Government to change South Africa’s citizenship laws to remove dual citizenship, purely on the basis that a few South Africans are also citizens of Israel, and a few among them may be receiving military training in Israel.”
“South Africa is not at war with Israel.”
“One can reach no other conclusion than that the ANC has moved from being “pro-Palestine” to being “anti-Israeli”. This is an unacceptable and irresponsible stance if our country wishes to support a negotiated, peaceful resolution to the conflict between Palestine and Israel.”
“This announcement from the ANC comes as I begin a six day study tour of Israel and the Palestinian Territories, together with leaders of several other opposition parties in Parliament. This allows us the opportunity to engage directly with leaders in Israel to discuss matters affecting both our countries.”
“Considering that the South African Government has formal diplomatic ties with the State of Israel, this would seem a far more appropriate approach than the ANC’s unilateral announcement of anti-Israeli actions,” Buthelezi said.
Last month, the ACDP’s Kenneth Meshoe, another member of the delegation described the BDS movement as a ‘real pain.
“[The] BDS movement is not a democratic movement; they are a movement of intimidation, a movement that performs hatred. People who don’t believe in hatred should not allow the BDS movement to stop them from doing the right thing,” Meshoe was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying.
For those, who have questioned the work of the BDS, the closure of the SodaStream Factory in the West Bank of Palestine, may be a wheedler.
SodaStream is a large company that produces and sells carbonating machines for home-made carbonated drinks, which is exported all around the world. Its location on Occupied Palestinian lands is the reason the company has been condemned. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement – BDS, has called for a worldwide boycott of SodaStream and other companies that operate businesses on illegally siezed property.
The BDS campaign, and the controversy around the actor, Scarlett Johansson – associated with SodaStream, has convinced European and North American outlets to plunge the brand, which has resulted in SodaStream’s share price decline. Faced with falling revenues and stock price, SodaStream is said to close its operation in the occupied Palestinian territory within 2 weeks.
General Coordinator of The Palestine Boycott National Committee (BNC), Mahmoud Nawajaa, said: “Coming just as French multinational Veolia has abandoned the Israeli market following a 7-year campaign against its support for settlements that cost it billions of dollars, SodaStream’s announcement provides further proof that the BDS movement is increasingly able to hold corporate criminals to account for their role in Israeli apartheid and colonialism.”
Omar Barghouti, activist and co-founder of BDS says, “this is a clear-cut BDS victory against an odiously complicit Israeli company… Israel should not be allowed to exploit its occupation by operating factories in Palestinian lands”.
However, CEO of SodaStream, Daniel Birnbaum, has rejected claims that this is a result of BDS. He also accused BDS supporters of stealing jobs from Palestinians. He called his factory “an Island of peace in the Middle East”, where Muslims, Christians and Jews work alongside eachother for a decent pay.
In the West Bank, about 600 Palestinians have worked at the SodaStream factory. The factory will move to a larger facility in Israels Negev Desert, however, only 136 Palestinians will be given permit by the Israeli Government to work there. Many of the positions are still unfilled.
Barghouti said that the Palestinian workers backed the boycotts. “They all know that resisting Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid comes at a price, sometimes steep, but freedom, justice and equality are well worth it to them,” he said, in response to many Palestinians who will no longer have jobs as a result of SodaStreams closure in the West Bank.
The South African BDS team is proud of the closure, taking to social media about the effects of BDS. Similar instances in an apartheid South Africa, had propelled the international community to take action. Barghouti says that the boycott movement stems from strategies used in South Africa before the downfall of the Apartheid regime.
He is also reported to have said that the argument that boycotts will hurt poor Palestinian workers “is not only disingenuous and intended to divert attention from the illegality of all Israeli colonies . . . but plagiarizes from South African apartheid companies that used this exact argument.”