South Africa’s Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation has unequivocally communicated South Africa’s government position on “boycott-busting” trips to Israel (which the Israeli lobby has attempted to take students, journalists, sports people, CEOs, government officials, mayors and others on):
“Because of the treatment and policies of Israel towards the Palestinian people, we strongly discourage South Africans from going there [to Israel]…[and] any South African company from having anything to do with strengthening the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.”
– Mail&Guardian, 10 August 2012
South Africa’s position is commendable; having relations and dealings with Israel (other than to pursue peace) normalizes an abnormal regime and tacitly endorses Israel’s illegal occupation and apartheid policies toward the indigenous Palestinian people.
Major set-back for Israeli lobby in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN)
In 2005, Palestinian civil society and political groups issued a call to the international community for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel till it abides by international law and respects human rights (www.bdsmovement.net/bdsintro).
The SA-Israel Forum, in contravention of this BDS call, has attempted several “boycott-busting” trips to Israel. The SA-Israel Forum is a mostly covert arm of the Israeli lobby operating in South Africa with direct connections to CapeGate – a South African company that supplies material to, and profits from, the construction of Israel’s notorious, “Apartheid Wall”). The SA-Israel Forum seeks to co-opt business and entice local government by circumventing SA’s national policy – which is to discourage relations with the Israeli regime. The Israeli lobby in general, and the SA-Israel Forum in particular, have been taking members from the academic, sports, business, media and local government sectors to forge relations with the Israeli establishment (which is becoming increasingly isolated because of Israel’s oppression toward the Palestinian people).
Click here to learn some of whom from the business sector were taken on a SA-Israel Forum trip to Israel. From the academic sector, the Chancellor of NMMU, for example, was scheduled to have gone on an SA-Israel Forum all-paid for trip. Early last year, the Israeli lobby also tried to break the sports boycott of Israel by hosting a delegation of SA Rugby Union (SARU) members in Israel, including Oregan Hoskins and Peter de Villiers. However, that trip back-fired with a huge outcry from South Africans, particularly from former SARU rugby players, who even threatened to burn their blazers because of the SARU trip to Israel.
Then, on the 5-12 August the SA-Israel Forum was intending to take a delegation of KZN Mayors and other municipal members to Israel. An urgent joint letter from the ANCYL, SACP, COSATU, SASCO and other groups was sent to the Premier of KZN, Dr Zweli Mkhize (download here), together with a letter of support from Palestinian Christians (read here) and another letter, interestingly, from a group of progressive Israelis (see here), all requesting the province of KZN not to cross the international boycott-of-Israel-picket-line. Subsequently, KZN (in line with SA government policy) cancelled the SA-Israel Forum trip to Israel – read all about it here: www.bdssouthafrica.com/2011/08/major-fail-for-israeli-lobby-in-south.html
What you can do?
The SA-Israel Forum is nothing more than an Israeli propaganda initiative equivalent to the PR initiatives of Apartheid South Africa. During 1980s we had similar groups that worked to build relations and buy influence abroad for an isolated Apartheid regime. The SA-Israel Forum is doing the same, but like in the case of Apartheid in South Africa, its not a new image, nor new relations, that will bring about change. Apartheid South Africa was forced to dump its racist policies; Israel too, needs to dismantle its racist and oppressive policies.
1. The province of KZN, by refusing to go on this Israeli lobby trip, sets a precedent for all our provinces to follow. If you know of similar trips that are being pursued by the Israeli lobby in your area, make people aware of our government’s policy, or, be in touch with us for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. This is a major setback for the Israeli lobby, and particularly the SA-Israel Forum. The KZN province should be commended for its principled position. You can write to the province at: Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Moses Mabhida Building, 300 Langalibalele Street, Pietermaritzburg, 3201
3. Contact BDS South Africa to arrange a full workshop and presentation on Israel-Palestine and the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign for your local branch, community or other grouping: email@example.com
During the late 1980s, the UK government also “discouraged” trips to Apartheid South Africa. The current Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron, who was a local politician at that stage, contravened the UK’s policy (and, of course, the ANC’s boycott call) when he came to South Africa on an apartheid lobby trip (similar to the ones organized today by the SA-Israel Forum). Cameron later distanced himself but only after the demise of apartheid. The trick, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts it, is: “how do we commit ourselves to virtue before its political triumph?”.
Be on the right side of history, join and support the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of Israel campaign.
BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS in SOUTH AFRICA (BDS SOUTH AFRICA)
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MESSAGES COMMENDING KZN FOR CANCELING ON ISRAELI LOBBY
Zanele Matebula, COSATU:
“COSATU welcomes news that KZN has taken the principled decision not to go on this trip organized by the Israeli lobby. It is about time that the SA-Israel Forum and their boycott-busting trips to Israel has been exposed. The decision by KZN to turn down this Israeli lobby invite is in line with the SA government’s position of advising officials not to visit Israel unless for absolute necessity and for purposes of peace.”
Steve Faulkner, SA Municipal Workers Union:
“The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) is delighted to report that after raising the issue of the intended municipality visits to Israel, with the Premier in KZN, there was a clear understanding that visits of this sort must not take place, and that in fact measures were underway to ensure this was understood by all concerned. The SAMWU Provincial Leadership, who first raised this issue with alliance partners and other trade unions, are delighted to hear this, and share with all progressive forces, support for all measures that serve to isolate Apartheid Israel including making all municipalities ‘Israeli Apartheid Free Zones’.”
Ronnie Kasrils, Former SA Government Minister:
“During the days of Apartheid we had similar attempts by the regime to undermine the isolation of South Africa. It is not surprising that the Israeli lobby is also attempting to ensnare the unwary into boycott-busting trips. The KZN provincial administration’s rejection of this opportunistic invite is commendable and an example to all South Africans believing in justice and solidarity for the dispossessed Palestinians.”