By Anees Teladia
The Palestinian solidarity movement has criticized the South African Zionist lobby for its malicious verbal attacks on the Minister of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), Lindiwe Sisulu and attempting to undermine South Africa’s strong position against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. An article published by the South African Jewish Report (SAJR) last Thursday, cited the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) vice president, Zev Krengel as calling Minister Sisulu the “single biggest enemy” of Jews in South Africa. This comes in light of DIRCO’s statement in April earlier this year, which announced the downgrading of the South African embassy in Israel as well as the ANC and Minister Sisulu’s recurring statements regarding the plight of the Palestinian people and their occupation.
The downgrade would see the cessation of the embassy’s political, trade and development cooperation mandate in Israel. Per the decision taken by the ANC, the embassy would not be responsible for any trade or commercial activities.
In the article published by the SAJR, Krengel used the actions taken by DIRCO and the ANC to make inflammatory statements regarding Minister Sisulu – accusing her of trying to garner votes for the ANC prior to the election.
“She has an agenda…She is obsessed with criticising the Jewish state,” Krengel was quoted as saying. Krengel accused the Minister of “electioneering” and “trying to cosy up to the Muslim community”.
He further speculated that she is adding to the ANC’s internal struggles and is “trying to embarrass the president.”
There have been rumours and media speculation surrounding the possibility that Minister Sisulu could be axed because of the downgrade – despite several statements which have confirmed that the decision taken by DIRCO has been in accordance with the foreign policy direction of South Africa.
Analysts have accused the SAJBD of deliberately attempting to drive a wedge between the Minister and the President.
‘Misleading and insulting’
DIRCO special advisor, Zane Dangor defended Minister Sisulu, slamming comments made by Krengel as “vitriolic”.
In an opinion piece published on Friday, Dangor said Krengel should not foreground criticism of Israel’s actions as anti-Semitic.
Dangor also sharply criticised the way Krengel has misled those who listen to, or read, his statements.
“The labeling of Minister Sisulu as the enemy of South Africans of the Jewish faith is not only misleading and insulting, but deliberately seeks to undermine a rather impressive and consistent stance against human rights abuses in many parts of the world,” said Dangor.
“Sisulu, in her role as the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, and representing the Executive, proceeded to implement a resolution of the African National Congress (ANC) to downgrade South Africa’s diplomatic relations with the government of Israel. The president of the ANC and of the country stated in parliament, in response to a question from the opposition benches, that the downgrade of relations was being effected. The resolution of the ANC was shaped by the government of Israel’s disrespect for international law, which has seen over 10000 Palestinians killed over the last 18 years alone.”
Consistent with ANC policy
In a statement, the ANC said Minister Sisulu’s decision was completely consistent with the position of the ruling party and that the party is satisfied with her “recalibration” of South Africa’s foreign policy – which the ANC firmly believes to reflect South Africa’s “profound opposition to gross human rights abuses and the colonial occupation of Palestine”.
The ANC urged the SAJBD to respect the plight of the Palestinian people amid the gross human rights violations perpetrated by the government of Israel.
“The ANC humbly calls on the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) to appreciate and respect growing concerns for the ongoing human rights atrocities being visited upon the people of Palestine by the government of Israel. It remains our considered view that Israel must be part of a solution towards peace and human dignity for the Palestinian people and that such is not a religious or tribal matter, nor is it directed at any group or religion,” the statement read.
“In fact, the stance taken by South Africa to downgrade its relations with Israel has been welcomed by people of all religions who are concerned about the impunity with which Israel has been allowed to act against civilians in the occupied Palestinian Territories.”
SEE OFFICIAL STATEMENT BELOW:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
18 MAY 2019
ANC COMMITTED TO THE IMPLEMENTATION OF CONFERENCE RESOLUTION ON THE PALESTINIAN QUESTION
The ANC notes with deep regret and disappointment the destructive utterances attributed to Zev Krengel in the Jewish Report directed at South Africa’s Minister of International Relations Honorable Lindiwe Sisulu for advancing progressive ANC stance in line with the 54th National Conference Resolution on the Palestinian question.
The views expressed by Minister Sisulu on the Palestinian Question are consistent with the position of her organization, the African National Congress. Minister Sisulu’s integrity is beyond reproach. She enjoys the respect of millions of South Africans as well as leaders from many nations.
The ANC is satisfied that Minister Sisulu has recalibrated South Africa’s foreign policy so that it reflects the people of South Africa’s profound opposition to gross human rights abuses and colonial occupation of Palestine.
As part of our solidarity with the people of Palestine, the ANC’s 54th National Conference resolved, in order to give practical expression of support to the oppressed people of Palestine, “to direct the South African government to immediately and unconditionally downgrade the South African Embassy in Israel to a Liaison Office”.
The ANC humbly calls on the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) to appreciate and respect growing concerns for the ongoing human rights atrocities being visited upon the people of Palestine by the government of Israel. It remains our considered view that Israel must be part of a solution towards peace and human dignity for the Palestinian people and that such is not a religious or tribal matter, nor is it directed at any group or religion. In fact the stance taken by South Africa to downgrade its relations with Israel has been welcomed by people of all religions who are concerned about the impunity with which Israel has been allowed to act against civilians in the occupied Palestinian Territories.
Downgrading the Embassy is a practical act of solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine in the face of the injustices meted out by a powerful war machine against mostly civilians. We hope for no further death in Israel and in Palestine.
Peace and reconciliation will be achieved when recognition is given to the rights of the people of Palestine to their land and freedom, in line with a two-state solution and when Israel complies with international law.
In conclusion the ANC urges the SAJBD to refrain from actions that could be perceived as attempts to drive a wedge amongst the leaders of the ANC.
Issued by the African National Congress.
Media Review Network executive member, Iqbal Jassat believes the statements made by SAJBD and other Zionist organisations reflect the desire of a manifestation of “policy capture”.
“If the SAJBD views this [the downgrading and South Africa’s support of Palestine] as a threat to Jewish interest… what it is saying is that it has the right, privilege and authority to indirectly say to the Presidency and to the country, that ‘We are not happy with her [Minister Sisulu] stance and she should be sacked from her position’ – almost in line with what the Guptas have been doing with state capture. Which is why I believe this is beginning to manifest itself as a form of policy capture on the part of a racial group – a minority at that,” said Jassat.
This view was echoed by the South African Communist Party (SACP) who said Krengel’s comments must be dismissed with the contempt it deserves.
“The SACP resolutely condemns the state capture manoeuvres and vows to intensify the mobilisation of its structures as well as that of the working class at large, to combat the corrupt conduct and undermining of our democratic national sovereignty,” it stated.
Jassat argued that the statements made about Minister Sisulu are not only unfounded, misleading, provocative and irresponsible, but dangerous as well. He indicated that individuals such as Krengel twist the truth and make scandalous utterances and attacks which are nothing short of outrageous.
“It is provocative to the extreme, without providing any kind of justification – apart from the fact that as Minister of International Relations, Lindiwe Sisulu has been professing a decision that was taken by the ANC as a collective.”
“The claim that the SAJR has made regarding Sisulu being a threat sets her up as a potential target. We’re dealing with a very extremist and volatile situation – where some people within the extreme Zionist political fragment would be quite emotional with their defence of Israel, above anything else. What is being said is that ‘because we perceive you as a threat to our interests, you should be removed entirely – politically and perhaps even physically’,” said Jassat.
READ MORE: Is Lindiwe Sisulu facing the axe?
“The Jewish Board, by these utterances and scandalous attacks, once again plays the debate back. Israel has nothing to do with Judaism. It’s a political manifestation of a very evil political system known as Zionism.”
“Zionism has expansionist ideas and certainly is an extension, if not a manifestation, of colonialism. This debate ought to revolve around Zionism, not Jewish interest. Many upright and progressive Jewish voices have taken a position in opposition to that which is generally associated with the Zionist Federation of the SAJBD.”
The verbal attack on Minister Sisulu following her execution of national government’s political mandate is not only a danger to the Minister, but also to the sovereignty of South Africa, according to Jassat.
“I believe this attack on Lindiwe Sisulu – in as much as it is personal – is an attack on the sovereignty of this country. It seeks to undermine the democratic choices that the people have made,” said Jassat.
Jassat indicated that because the actions of the Minister reflect the will of the governing party, which through democratic principles legitimately represents the will of the people, the comments made stand in opposition to the will of the people of South Africa.