A war of words has erupted between BDS South Africa and Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, after the Palestine solidarity organization criticised the advocate’s participation at a Zionist fundraising event. Pro-Palestinian activists were left shocked after learning that Madonsela, participated in a fundraising event on the 21st September with the Israel United Appeal-United Communal Fund (IUA-UCF).
According to BDS, IUA-UCF forms part of, and sends funds to, Keren Hayesod – the global and official fundraising organization for Israel. The work of Keren Hayesod is carried out in accordance with Israel’s Keren haYesod Law-5716, passed by the Israeli parliament (Knesset) in January 1956, granting the organization a unique and official fundraising status and forming one of Israel’s three “National Institutions”. The organization works in close coordination with the Government of Israel to “further the national priorities of the State of Israel.”
“The Public Protector is very aware, as any lawyer with a legal background should be, that Israel is guilty of blatant violations of international law, human rights abuses, discrimination and other oppressive policies. What is worse is that the Public Protector not only spoke at an event of a pro-Israeli organization but at an event of a group whose primary aim is to fundraise for the State of Israel. That the Public Protector spoke at the IUA-UCF in her official capacity brings the entire office of the Public Protector into disrepute,” said BDS in a statement.
In response, Madonela said in a radio interview on Tuesday morning that her support was merely to raise funds for an old age home in Israel. She defended her position, saying in her line of work as Public Protector, she was required to engage with various organisations of different religious and political affiliations. Madonsela was honest in saying she supported a two state solution, but that her heart was with the Palestinian people.
“Madonsela can enter into conversations with whom she wants but when she knows and willingly participates with an organization that has the stated primary aim of raising funds for the Apartheid Israeli state she has gone way beyond her mandate. There may be an obligation to engage with the Jewish community, but no obligation to engage with the pro-Israeli IUA-UCF,” said BDS spokesperson Kwara Kekana in response.
The Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, Arthur Lenk, has rushed to Madonsela’s defence on Twitter. In a post he wrote: “How bizarre that tiny group of hateful extremists claim right to police who people talk to, where you shop, how SA develops. No one listens.”
Madonsela however questioned the timing of these allegations, and the agenda of those criticising her efforts for the Zionist organisation. In a Twitter post on Monday night that upset BDS, she said she would expose “the lies behind the hysteria over my supposed support for Israel.” Madonsela also accused BDS of being “handled”, hinting that some of her detractors who are unhappy with how she has handled her Public Protector cases could be behind the allegations.
Kekana called Madonsela’s response “ridiculous”, saying their agenda was not based on her work as the public protector.
“The Public Protector’s participation at any event of the pro-Israeli IUA-UCF is utterly unacceptable for someone who occupies the lofty office that she does. Dismissing our complaint as hysteria is a cheap attempt to deflect from the central issue. She appeared at and spoke in support of an organization whose primary purpose is to garner financial and political support for the Apartheid Israeli state.”
BDS SA is demanding an apology from Madonsela.
“We nevertheless demand that Madonsela provides evidence to back such aspersions against us. Failing that we demand an unqualified apology for the baseless and ridiculous accusation that we are being “handled”. We are internationalists and are handled by our conscience. As for her scurrilous accusation that we are in the pay of handlers, we welcome her to come to our offices and view our books at any time.” VOC