Cii News | 30 Rabi ul Awwal 1436/22 January 2015

The gloves are off in SA Zionism’s avowed battle with BDS South Africa. The long standing antagonism between members of the pro-Israel lobby and Palestinian human rights advocacy bodies has reached boiling point with the announcement of the upcoming visit of Palestinian liberation icon, Leila Khaled, to South Africa.

Khaled will be hosted by BDS South Africa in the country early next month for a nationwide speaking and fundraising tour.

Zionists have latched onto Khaled’s former credentials as an armed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine(PFLP) fighter and “poster girl of the Palestinian struggle” whose image had been flashed across the world in 1969 after she became the first woman to hijack an airplane, as reason to demand her barring from South Africa.

Invoking recent violent acts that have erupted in places such as France and elsewhere, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies(SAJBD) has argued that South Africa would be condoning “terrorism” if the visit by Khaled is allowed to proceed.

“In its pre-publicity campaign, BDS depicts Khaled holding an AK-47 and represents her past hijacking of a US airliner from Rome to Athens, and an attempted hijacking of an Israeli airliner, as something to be admired,” the Jewish communal organisation purports in a press release.

“Terrorism, whether carried out for political, religious or any other reasons, is both a crime against humanity and a deadly threat to world peace. The SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) is therefore appalled that any organisation, especially one purporting to be a human rights movement, intends bringing a known perpetrator of these acts to this country. By depicting Leila Khaled as a heroic figure whom South Africans should look up to and identify with, BDS is sending out the worst possible message at a time when South Africa needs to stand with the global community in confronting the scourge of terrorism.”

Frantic campaigning against the visit has erupted across media platforms. Zionist supporters have submitted articles opposing the visit on local news websites, and the anti-Leila campaign developments are also being keenly followed in Israel.

In an “open letter” to BDS South Africa’s Mohammad Desai published this week on The Times of Israel website, Howard Feldman, who serves as a non-executive chairman of the South African Jewish Report, claims that Khaled’s visit would be un-South African.

“The Leila Khalid way is not the South African way. The ANC has strongly condemned the Har Nof massacre and the murder of the innocent in France. These acts contradict what has been achieved through peaceful transition in South Africa.It follows that the “Leila Khalid “ philosophy and attraction to murder cannot be something that they are comfortable with. It flies in the face of all that has been achieved in South Africa.”

Feldman further claims that the visit will “drive a wedge through South African society,” “cause discomfort to Government” and ” segregate and divide South Africans”.

Zionist supporters are also fighting pitched battles against the visit on social media.
The ‘Spotlighting’ initiative that purportedly seeks to expose public figures who “incite, demonize and slander against Israel and Jews” has published near daily posts against Khaled and BDS since the beginning of January.
Its Facebook page features numerous internet memes depicting Khaled and Mohammed Desai as figureheads of what it dubs the ‘PFLP-BDS Terror Alliance’.

‘Spotlighting’ has also called on supporters of Israel to directly call the Department of International Realtions to protest the visit and has initiated an online petition to “Say No” to “importing terror” to South Africa.
Included among the barely 800 approvals the petition has gained thus far are comments highly disparaging of Islam and accusations that South Africa is “one of the only countries allowing known terrorists to enter its borders”.
For its part, BDS South Africa has scoffed at such campaigns saying that it was not unexpected to see such propaganda emanating from quarters known for being apologists for injustice.
“We do not expect pro-Israeli supporters to understand the reason for hosting someone like Nelson Mandela, the South African struggle icon and former Commander in Chief of the MK, or Leila Khaled, the Palestinian struggle icon. Back in the 1980s the SAJBD and Israel were proud supporters of the Apartheid regime that killed our people and today they are proud supporters of the Israeli regime that is killing innocent Palestinians (of which the most recent example was the Israeli killing of over 500 children in Gaza between July and August 2014). We remind them that Nelson Mandela and South Africa’s ruling party, the ANC, both remained on the USA terrorism watch list until as recently as 2008. While the South African Jewish community produced many distinguished anti-apartheid struggle heroes such as Cde. Joe Slovo, they were disowned by the leadership of that community, including the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, which preferred to be in bed with the Apartheid regime.””Mandela, it is worth mentioning, went to prison for being a member of the armed wing of the ANC, the MK, and for being part of a movement (the ANC) wanting to defeat Apartheid.””Oliver Tambo (the longest serving President of the ANC), Ronnie Kasrils, Mac Maharaj (the current spokesperson for the South African President), Thabo Mbeki (the former South African President), Govan Mbeki, South African President Jacob Zuma and many of our senior leaders were all members of MK even as they travelled the world – at the invitation of churches, human rights organizations and governments – mobilizing for a non-violent boycott of Apartheid South Africa. Does the inviting of any of these South African leaders back then or today to an event or country mean that one is promoting violence because these leaders were once part of the armed wing of the ANC which carried out sabotage missions that included bombings?” 

BDS South Africa also pointed to Khaled’s previous visit to the country in 1996 and her interaction with Mandela, describing the Palestinian icon as “someone whom Nelson Mandela rejoiced in meeting and hosted in his home”.
In response to the Zionist furore over the visit, the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association has also come to the fore as a staunch defender of Khaled and her tour.
“MKMVA would like to point out that contrary to the terrorist killing of the Palestinians by the Israel Defence Force, no Israeli or a single passenger was killed in the two airplanes that were hijacked by Cde Leila Khaled and her comrades. The only life that was lost was that of Patrick Arguello, who was summarily executed by the Israeli air marshals who were never tried for that illegal act. It is legendary that she treated the passengers with dignity and explained that she was not intending any harm to be visited upon them,” Chair of the Association, Kebby Maphatsoe said, explaining the context of Khaled’s actions.
“In her actions she was motivated by a greater need to see the dignity of her people restored and the illegal occupation of their land Palestine ended. It is our hope that the hostile noise from a small racist Zionist minority which supports that murdering of the people of occupied Palestine, by the murderous Zionist apartheid Israeli regime does not confuse the masses. The international solidarity for the freedom of South Africa helped to bring a non-racial, non-sexist democracy to our country. So should we offer international solidarity to guarantee the freedom of Palestine.”
Khaled will be in South Africa from the 6th-16th February 2015.
CLICK HERE for further information on her tour and itinerary.