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The SA and Israeli governments are closer than you may think

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Wits graffiti of Israel and Palestine relations South Africa

Civil society group Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions-South Africa (BDS-SA) had strong words for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) this week after pictures emerged of a Dirco official giving the departing Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Arthur Lenk, a farewell gift. The Daily Vox unpacks the seemingly contradictory behaviour of the ANC and South African government.

It may seem like a trivial matter, but BDS-SA didn’t pull any punches when it released a statement about Dirco’s gift giving on Thursday. “Dirco is insulting the people of South Africa as well as the ruling party’s members, resolutions, directives and policies,” BDS-SA said in the statement. It said this was more insulting given the Israeli embassy’s “unprecedented attack” earlier this year, in which it accused the ANC of being hateful and anti-semitic.

South Africa’s relationship with Israel is complicated. Government has always maintained that it recognises the people of Palestine and wants an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories by the Israeli government. Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly just this week, President Jacob Zuma reiterated the South African government’s stance on Palestine and called for international support of the Palestinian people.

Despite this vocal support, the South African government maintains cordial relations with Israel. South Africa still has an embassy in Tel Aviv and Israel has an embassy in Pretoria. The ANC has called for South Africa’s embassy in Israel to be downgraded to an “interests section” as a show of support for the Palestinian people.  but this call was made at party level and the proposal has yet to be formally ratified by government.

And although the ANC is always quick to condemn the DA for its close relations with the Israel, the ANC-led government doesn’t exactly have a frosty relationship with Israel either.

Last year, the South African ambassador to Israel Sisa Ngombane reportedly made “pro-Israeli” comments and said Israel was justified in its attack on Gaza. At the time, the deputy minister of international relations, Luwellyn Landers, said Ngombane should be recalled for his remarks. Yet, Ngombane still holds his position.

Earlier this year, the Dirco director-general Jerry Matjila met with his Israeli counterpart, Dr Dore Gold to a South Africa and Israel partnership working on national policy issues such as water, agriculture, trade, and science and technology.

And in August, presidential hopeful, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma met with a delegation of Israeli lawmakers and leaders to discuss Israeli ties to the South African Jewish community.

The BDS-SA statement this week implies that the primary problem South Africa’s relationship with Israel lies with Dirco, and that it wants Dirco officials to toe government’s line. But how can the actions of a government department be separated from the ideals of government itself? And who should we believed when ANC government officials like Zuma, Baleka Mbete and Gwede Mantashe call for the support for Palestine while other party stalwarts continue to forge closer relations with Israel?

6 Comments
  1. Michaela Bryant says

    Israel has it’s tentacles absolutely everywhere.

    BDS.

    1. Allison Carmichael says

      Apartheid Israel is determined to get control of the Middle East by destroying it so it can create a huge greater israel that will be Apartheid. To do so they are controlling the US senate they have fingers in all governments. They are mobilising the far right in Europe and they are behind the attacks in Europe via the local terror groups.

  2. Allison Carmichael says

    Both of them were Apartheid, Israel still is of course. And according to Mandela it is a worse Apartheid because the Apartheid israelis want the Palestinians dead. It is worth noting that one of the biggest backers of South African Apartheid when it was active was Apartheid israel. #BDS

  3. Hypocrisy says

    Still waiting for that Daily Vox post on the plight of ex-Muslims / apostates / secularists in many Islamic majority countries.

    As important as calling out Israel is this site still has a huge blind spot for human rights abuse at the hands of their favoured religion. The same Muslim’s who boycott everything to do with Israel will happily put on their rose tinted glasses when they go to Mecca for Hajj and conveniently ignore the blatant human rights disaster that is Saudia Arabia.

  4. JK says

    A correction. The ANC has not “called for South Africa’s embassy in Israel to be downgraded to an “interests section” as a show of support for the Palestinian people.” BDS-SA might want us to believe this, but it is not true. This was just a recommendation from one commission at an ANC policy conference. The recommendation has not yet been accepted by the ANC. It might be discussed at the December conference, and, if adopted in December, can be interpreted as an ANC “call”. Until then, the recommendation has no status.
    Following on that, of course the recommendation has not been “ratified by government”. It is nothing. It has not been issued as a call from the ruling party to government. Government is not able to “ratify” a discussion in the ruling party’s policy conference.

    Secondly, one wonders why BDS-SA so vehemently issues such a statement when they knew about this 2 months ago. This farewell ceremony for Arthur Lenk was held in July. Surely BDS didn’t just discover it now. Is BDS playing into factional battles within the ANC and using the Palestinian cause for that purpose?

  5. Henry Price Jr. says

    comrades government of South Africa is very much like personality President Jacob Zuma have shown to be which is very much like retired US President Obama. That is deceptive. Untrustworthy, not very good at evaluating conditions plus taking actions in people of South Africa best interest plus usually do what rich want him to do. Like a convict who have been broken by being imprisoned. In short one thing President Jacob Zuma learn to do very well is con hell out of Buntu citizens of South Africa plus, if they do not go for con he bullies them. Jacob Zuma like all other presidents of South Africa who went to Apartheid prisons was plus still is not fit to be president of South Africa. It is wrong plus will not ever be in Buntu people to unite plus show loyalty to incompetent or/plus corrupt president who fail to duly act in non rich Buntu best interest when it is easily before that president to do so. It appear that that is what President Jacob Zuma have done. My greatest fear for South Africa is that now when most qualified plus willing person to act in non rich Buntu of Africa best interest is poised to become president plus working to help elect legislators who will assist in drafting plus enacting laws which will help her act in non rich best interest her relation to Jacob Zuma if wrongly perceived could sabotage everything. It is time for common plus non rich of South Africa to evaluate Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma free of association with Jacob Zuma. Jacob Zuma acted for Jacob Zuma plus if rumors are true he acted with rich caucasians of South Africa approval. If their is wrongdoing in Jacob Zuma actions approval by rich caucasian South Africans was given with intent to sabotage Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma pursuit of being president with legislators in place who will support her upgrading of living conditions for non rich of South Africa. Rich caucasians of South Africa fear upgrading of living conditions for non rich of South Africa will come at expense of profits they have been concealing by outsourcing to Europe plus friends plus family members companies at extremely high costs. Dr. Dlamini Zuma have pledged to remedy this outsourcing. One way could be to tax outsourcing . Dr. Dlamini Zuma would end South African government outsourcing by duly equipping government with equipment plus permanent workers to perform those duties being outsourced. This would raise living conditions for some families plus cut greedy rich gains plus profits they invest in foreign countries instead of making those investments in South Africa. In short for Buntu of South Africa to do what is in their best interest in next presidential election plus related matters we should eliminate Jacob Zuma from equation plus focus on trustworthiness of Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. Very much sincere, Henry Price Jr. aka Obediah Buntu IL-Khan aka Kankan aka Gue.

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