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‘Jews must come home’

Former Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Liberman, has urged SA Jews to return home as soon as possible.

A former Israeli foreign minister has urged South African Jews “to make aliya as soon as possible”, saying the government’s anti-Israeli rhetoric would make them vulnerable to hate. Avigdor Liberman was quoted in the Jerusalem Post on Sunday calling on SA Jews to move to Israel as the “anti-Israel and anti-Semitic atmosphere” in South africa would “result in pogroms against the country’s Jews”.

Liberman’s comments were in response to Minister for International Relations, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane’s statements that South Africa was “slowing down” relations with Israel. At a meeting on Friday hosted by South Africa’s trade union confederation, COSATU, Nkoana-Mashabane said it was official policy that
government ministers do not visit Israel currently.

“Our Palestinian friends have asked us in formal meetings to not engage with the [Israeli] regime. We have agreed to slow down and curtail senior leadership contact with that regime until things begin to look better,” she said. Nkoana-Mashabane further criticized the Israeli regime’s occupation of Palestinian lands.
“That arrangement there in Palestine keeps us awake…the last time I looked at the map of Palestine, I could not go to sleep. Its ‘dots’, smaller than those of the homelands,” she said, referring to the former South African homelands, which were also known as Bantustans.

Nkoana-Mashabane also expressed her solidarity with the Palestinian people, stating that: “The struggle of the people of Palestine is our struggle.” But Liberman, currently on trial for fraud, criticised South Africa for being hypocritical by turning a blind eye to atrocities committed by African countries. Liberman also took a swipe at South Africa’s own domestic issues, particularly the violence at the Marikana mine last year.

Meanwhile, Itani Rasalanavho of BDS South Africa, welcomed the Minister’s statements saying it was only “reactionary organizations” like the South African Zionist Federation and members of the Israeli government that will take offence. “The deliberate conflation by Israeli supporters between Judaism and support for Israel is wrong. One can be anti-Israeli and that does not mean that one is anti-Jewish. To have criticized Apartheid South Africa during the 1980s did not make one anti-white. We are tired of pro-Israeli supporters using the accusation of ‘anti-Semitism’ to deflect attention away from criticism of Israel.”

Rasalanavho also explained that it was not Nkoana-Mashabane’s personal views being expressed but government policy. At the ANC international solidarity conference in October last year, the ruling party announced it was broadening its support of the Palestinian-led BDS movement. This resolution was reaffirmed at the party’s 54th national elective conference in December. “I’m not surprised by the Minister’s statements. One must understand that the Minister was simply expressing ANC policy and long-standing South African government positions.” VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

Minister disappoints Jews

International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane

The SA Jewish Board of Deputies has bemoaned a remark by International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane that South African ministers do not visit Israel. “These statements contradict previous assurances the minister had given to the Jewish leadership that her government wished to play a role in helping Israelis and Palestinians to resolve their differences and would engage with both parties to further that end,” national board director Wendy Kahn said in a statement.

“They are further inconsistent with South African foreign policy in general, which is not to boycott other governments but rather to continually engage with them.” Kahn said when the board last spoke to her Nkoana-Mashabane expressed an interest in South Africa playing a role in advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by bringing about a negotiated two-state solution.

She said if South Africa applied “discriminatory punitive measures” against Israel then it would contribute nothing to the peace process. “Aside from doing nothing to bring about a negotiated settlement of the Israel-Palestine question, [Nkoana-Mashabane’s comment] serves also to undermine this country’s credibility as a factor in global conflict resolution,” Kahn said.

On Friday, Nkoana-Mashabane said the country’s ministers did not visit Israel and that the board knew why. “Ministers of South Africa do not visit Israel currently. Even the Jewish Board of Deputies that we engage with here, they know why our ministers are not going to Israel,” she said at a Congress of SA Trade Unions’ international relations committee meeting.

She said South Africa had not been asked to “close down” diplomatic relations with Israel, but that an agreement had been made to slow down and curtail leadership contact until things began to look better. “The struggle of the people of Palestine is our struggle,” Nkoana-Mashabane said. “The last time I saw a map of Palestine, I couldn’t go to sleep… It is just dots, smaller than those of the homelands, and that broke my heart.”

The meeting was also addressed by a group campaigning for the release of all Palestinian political prisoners, including Marwan Barghouti, who had become a symbol of the Palestinian struggle. SAPA

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