Tag Archives: South Africa

Richard Goldstone

It was a strange experience for me watching the recent debate at Brandeis University between Ambassador Dore Gold and Richard Goldstone.  Strange in that I was listening to what I would have expected someone like Jimmy Carter to be saying about Israel but saying it with a South African accent.  It has been a most upsetting almost shattering experience for the South African Jewish community to have one of their own primarily responsible for a report that accuses Israel of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

The South African Jewish community is today about 80,000 strong, down from a peak of 120,000 in the early 1970s.  It is however a community almost universally committed to the Jewish State and one that has a sizable expatriate community living in Israel.  South African Jews have been prominent in organizations like the Jewish Agency and the World Jewish Congress.  They are often seen as a model community for their organizational structure and strong Zionist commitment.

Up to the time the report came out many hoped that it would be balanced, fair and objective.  It was too much to ask for.  It was, after all, a report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council which has focused on Israel to the almost total exclusion of the worst perpetrators of human rights abuses world wide.  In South Africa, Goldstone had been regarded as a favorite son by the Jewish community.  He was a widely respected and able jurist who had been appointed to the country’s highest court.  He involved himself in the Jewish community, held leadership positions in Jewish organizations including the presidency of Ort International and was a trustee of the Hebrew University.  Those who knew him well would swear to his Zionist credentials.  Now both he and his name would be linked forever to the most Israel-damning document since the 1975 UN resolution equating Zionism with Racism.

The reasons Richard Goldstone agreed to chair the commission and issue such a report one can only speculate. Maybe he is an opportunist with his eye on the position of Secretary General of the United Nations. Maybe, maybe not.

Fatima Shocker

There has been a rash of anti Semitic incidents in the aftermath of the Gaza conflict over the past week. In each case the AJC has responded with alacrity and forcefully to the events.

The Turkish Prime Minister has continued his vindictive rhetoric against the State of Israel resulting in an outbreak of anti Semitic incidents in Istanbul (the sign in one store window reads, “Dogs are welcome, Jews are not”). In Venezuela the Israeli ambassador was expelled, diplomatic ties were severed and the President, Hugo Chavez described the Israeli government as “genocidal”. No doubt encouraged by these statements, vandals desecrated the Tiferes Israel synagogue in Caracas destroying a Torah scroll and spray painting graffiti on the walls. Chavez believe it or not placed the blame on the Jewish community themselves! (AJC is organizing a solidarity visit to Venezuela in support of the country’s 15,000 Jews)

However nothing has pained me personally more than the spate of anti Semitism emanating from government and non government sectors in my native land of South Africa. The most notorious of these incidents was the statement made by the deputy foreign minister, Fatima Hajaig at an anti- Israel rally during the last days of the Gaza conflict. The rally was held to retain momentum in instituting a diplomatic, cultural and economic boycott of Israel. Hajaig told a delirious cheering crowd that there has not been a single day since the creation of Israel that a Palestinian has not been killed. She went on, “They (the Jews) in fact control America. No matter which government comes in to power, the control of America like the control of most western countries is in the hands of Jewish money and if Jewish money controls their country you cannot expect anything else.” Wow, how is that for diplomacy and what does it say about the caliber of the South African foreign ministry?

The South African Jewish community has responded by reporting the deputy foreign minister to the country’s Human Rights Commission citing her comments as ”undiluted and vicious hate speech promoting or propagating hatred against the Jewish people.” Let’s see what happens. In addition a letter from AJC’s national president and national executive director was sent to the President of South Africa in response to the comments made by Hajaig.

In another nefarious incident an email was sent out, ostensibly by one of the country’s leading banks depicting photographs from the Nazi era alongside photographs from the Gaza conflict with the unmistakable message that the Israelis behavior is no different than that of the Nazis. The bank issued a statement that an employee and certainly not the bank had sent the email and repudiated its contents. And there is more. A group of Muslims compiled a list of Jewish owned businesses and called on all South Africans to boycott them. Fortunately a different group of Muslims, many prominent, strongly criticized the boycott call.