Something’s rotten in the Rainbow Nation

This post appears in The Algemeiner:

http://www.algemeiner.com/2015/05/14/somethings-rotten-in-the-state-of-south-africa/#comments

South Africa is synonymous with surf and safari, biltong and the fragrant smell of summer braaivleis (bbq/al ha aish). It is also a country that has overcome a dark and racist history in the hopes of embracing a bright, democratic future where all citizens are equal under the law. Iconic anti-Apartheid activists like Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and others fought for the freedom of all South Africans and the country can boast of one having one of the most liberal and progressive constitutions in the world.

But lately the fragrance of the air has been permeated with the stench of something rotten.

Racism and xenophobia is on the rise in the rainbow nation. Once celebrated for embracing diversity, South Africa has taken immeasurable steps back and is on the fast track to ruining all that was accomplished.

Foreign nationals from other African countries who migrate to South Africa in the hope of finding opportunity, have had their shops and businesses looted, many have been killed and violently injured. The pictures are too painful for me to look at, let alone post to this blog. South Africans felt a horrible sense of déjà vu as the army rolled in to suburbs around Johannesburg and Durban to try and quell the xenophobic violence spiraling out of control.

resize

South Africa is fraught with internal issues at the moment. Rising unemployment coupled with failing infrastructure such as electricity supplies have made many angry, very angry. Abject poverty and a feeling that all the promises made by a corrupt government who have squandered tax payer’s money or fed their individual coffers have left many looking for a scapegoat.

Foreigners and Jews seem to be convenient targets.

A few weeks ago, Student Representative Council President, Mcebo Dlamini, a “scholar” (and I use this term lightly) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) declared his love for Nazi genocide-loving leader, Adolf Hitler. Dlamini is responsible for such gems like, “What I love about Hitler is his charisma and his capabilities to organise people. We need more leaders of such calibre. I love Adolf Hitler,” Dlamini told Wits Vuvuzela. “I will write what I like on my Facebook” and was not on the social media platform to “nurse Jewish people’s feelings”. “Who told them they deserve special treatment? This is an academic space, we must debate issues not to silence individuals,” He also claimed that inside every white person, lives a Hitler. Dlamini repugnant statements are offensive on so many levels I have lost count!

Dlamini interviewed on eNCA News.

I am sure Dlamini would be less than admiring of Hitler’s organizational skills as he was herded into a labour or death camp for being an “untermensch” or person of undesirable/sub-human race – much like the 6 million Jews he slaughtered. While over 11 million lost their lives to the Nazi death juggernaut, no community was specifically targeted and marked for death like the Jews of Europe.

Dlamini was removed from his post as President of the Student Representative Council because he was found guilty of misconduct as a result of a disciplinary hearing and not for his Hitler loving statements. Those are still under investigation.

The Higher Education Transformation Network accused Wits Vice Chancellor, Adam Habib of giving in “to the demands of the Jewish funders and alumni interests”. Once again, a vicious stereotypical anti-Semitic canard has been trotted out in the name of free speech.

Last week a debate took place at Wits University on the removal of the fond-of-the-Fuhrer Dlamini. Students claimed that the “speedy” decision by Habib to remove Dlamini from his position was based on pressure from the Jewish community over comments the former SRC leader made on admiring Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, and not for a separate matter, as claimed by Habib.

“I am a critic of the Israeli state,” said Habib, who had arrived at a debate on the subject of Dlamini’s dismissal to a chorus of boos.

“I was the only VC to write about the incursion into Gaza,” he said, referring to last summer’s IDF ground invasion of the Gaza Strip during the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas. “How did we go from the critique of Israel … to talking about all Jews? It’s racist and anti-Semitic.”

Well Vice Chancellor Habib, now you know. It is rarely about Israel and more about Jews. The same booing students who take umbrage at Dlamini’s dismissal are the same that feel no compunction when their BDS supporting classmates chant “shoot the Jew” at concerts given by Israeli musicians on your very same campus or loot stores or pop a pigs head in what they think is the kosher section of Woolworths supermarket. The jig is up. It is blatant anti-Semitism which they cleverly dress up as anti-Zionism but they have blown their cover now.

10452436_443203929182117_3393519471358715873_n

Visual courtesy of Spotlighting

Dlamini’s(yes, he who thinks that social media sites are academic forums)  moronic statements which are sadly supported by many equally mired in hatred, coupled with the growing anger and intolerance that is rife in South Africa is starting to stink up a storm. Something is rotten in the Rainbow Nation.

Sticks, Stones and Social Media…..

This post currently appears in the WIZO Lapid Magazine’s issue on Global Anti-Semitism:

http://fliphtml5.com/nati/tvko

“You have the intelligence of a garden potato”. “You are an evil Zionist witch”. “You should have been gassed”. “You are nothing but a vacuous bimbo who should be called Occupier Barbie”.

They sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me. These are examples of messages tweeted to me on my personal Twitter account. In this case the words are becoming increasingly harmful and are leading to more than just sticks and stones – They are resulting in acts of violence and terror against Jews and supporters of Israel around the world.

Social media platforms are being used as forums for hate speech. In a few characters and a hashtag, some of the most venomous invective has found an outlet. It seems that anyone with a mobile device and access to a Twitter account or Facebook page can launch an uncensored and hate filled diatribe.

BsX2MLGCMAAjs19

Anti-Semitism is rising to alarming levels that we have not seen since prior to World War 2. Social media has added another dimension and battlefield and this just increases to dangerous levels when Israel is engaged in any kind of dispute or conflagration.

Last year, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in response to incessant rocket attacks from Gaza. A new frontier opened up across the various social media sites and the level of venom was unprecedented. Social Media sites offer individuals an opportunity to opine without sanction and the immediacy of having a community to share this with as often as they want. It seemed that within minutes, groups and pages sprung up, calling for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people. Some of these extended into personal threats and the race to shut down and report some of the culprits was almost as quick as they originated. This called for extra vigilance and many have complained that longstanding friendships were broken over differing opinions.

Social media sites are the preferred playground of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement who pass up no opportunity to campaign against the Jewish state. In a short amount of time,  they are able to mobilise their minions and have propagated a climate of hatred on campuses around the world. By creating pages that advertise opportunities to protest and campaign against students and supporters of Israel, the BDS movement has successfully manipulated Facebook and Twitter as well as YouTube to serve their more nefarious aims. One of their infamous claims to fame is a carefully edited video of famed anti-Apartheid activist, Nelson Mandela saying that “we will never be free until the Palestinians are free”. The second part of the interview where Mandela endorses an Israel that exists with secure borders has been edited out so that the Nobel Peace prize winner seems biased in favour of what BDS extols.

facebook_1414152442867 (1)

Even journalists claimed to be shocked by levels of anti-Semitism, although this does not stop some using social media to give their opinions which in some cases have passed the realm of legitimate criticism.

Where does the line between the freedom of speech and hate speech blur? Criticism of Israel and her policies is totally okay – it is even regarded as the national sport of the country but when the line is crossed and the type of speech used starts to rile up anti-Israel or anti-Semitic feeling amongst the general public we are dealing with something that is no longer journalistic licence but an expression of personal prejudice.

Veteran CNN broadcaster, Jim Clancy, discovered that irresponsible tweeting could costs even the most seasoned journalist their job. While it is important that journalists are able to express their opinions, there needs to be respect for journalistic integrity to report based on fact and not on personal prejudice. After a career that spanned several decades at CNN, Clancy has been summarily dismissed for a tweet that angered not just the pro-Israel activists but the disabled community as well.

jim clancy (1)

A similar incident occurred when the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen, angered Jews around the world when he accused Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of “playing the Holocaust card”  when he saluted Nobel Peace prize winner and survivor, Elie Wiesel during his speech to US Congress recently.  Bowen responded with a tweet where he claimed that “suggestions that I am an anti-Semite or denierof the Holocaust are untrue and offensive”. He did not apologise. The BBC offered a lukewarm apology by saying, “Jeremy was using Twitter and journalism shorthand whilst live-tweeting PM Netanyahu’s speech. The context of his comment is that a major part of PM Netanyahu’s critique of the proposed Iran deal was based on the spectre of another holocaust. Jeremy’s tweet was designed to reflect that context. He absolutely refutes any suggestion of antisemitism.” Still no apology for any offense caused.

It is not just Israel bashers that are using social media to their advantage. The Islamic State, which have fast become the world’s most frightening terror phenomenon also understand how important a role social media can play. They have turned YouTube into their own network of nasty, using the platform to upload their execution videos and messages of mayhem to the world.  These movies are extremely well- choreographed and scripted and for many, serve more as recruitment videos than horror films.  This death pornography is radicalizing more youth than the most vociferous Imam.

It is clear that “new media” has eclipsed traditional methods and if we do not get some sort of control on content we will find ourselves at the mercy of the radicals.

There is something that we can do! As media consumers we can play an important role in stopping flagrant abuse of social media.

Here is what you can do to help:

* Monitoring social media sites – report and block groups and individuals that violate social media codes of conduct or are just downright racists and offensive.

  • Reporting posts, articles, tweets to media watch dogs – try honestreporting.com or BBC Media Watch, CiF Watch and many others.
  • Start your own media response group – a group of knowledgeable, skilled, likeminded individuals who can respond factually and cohesively will give your community an opportunity to fight off growing ant-Semitism. Visit: mediateamisrael.wordpress.com or www.truthbetoldgroup.wordpress.com to see examples of citizen activism.

Social Media is playing a powerful role in disseminating hate – but it can also play its part to share facts! Get on your tablet, iPad, phone or computer and get tweeting, sharing and posting today.  It is time to become a pro-Activist.

These Holy days

During this time of the year, Israel is festooned with flags. They line our streets and decorate our buildings. They bring with them a festive and happy energy, signaling a time of celebration and a time of commemoration. There is a pervasive feeling of joy and pride at the site of our cities clothed in their best blue and white.

11157548_843760749028679_2878671693237467187_o

Image courtesy of Rafo

This year the national holidays, Yom Ha Shoa (Holocaust Memorial Day), Yom Ha Zikaron (Memorial Day for Soldiers and Victims of Terror) and Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Independence Day) will be felt more intensely, more acutely.

This past year has been one of the most difficult for Israel in recent history and has had a ripple effect, affecting diaspora communities across the globe. It seems that if Israel sneezes our diaspora communities catch a cold but in this case they also fall victim to the wrath and sometimes violent retribution of the anti-Israel activists.

Seventy years ago, as the death camps were liberated and the truth of the horrors of the Holocaust began to emerge, we swore a vow that NEVER AGAIN would we allow for the slaughter and persecution of the Jewish people. This Yom Hashoa, seventy years later, I cannot help but feel that we have failed our vow.  We have failed in our promise to the victims and survivors that we would create a better, more tolerant and peaceful world for their children.

The Holocaust was started with words and over the last year we have seen an increase in the venom and vitriol around the world that has resulted in numerous deaths. Once again Jews are dying on European soil and once again we are bringing our brothers and sisters home for burial. The lessons of the Shoah have not been learned and now more than ever it is important to learn, to teach and to truly mean it when we say NEVER AGAIN.  We cannot allow for heartbroken survivors to feel the fear and déjà vu that their grandchildren will experience the hatred they did. NEVER AGAIN means NEVER, EVER AGAIN!

11156986_10152852835409220_548307742_n

Visual courtesy of Spotlighting

June 2014 started with rock star visits and start-up acquisitions.  This all ended abruptly with the kidnapping of Eyal Yifrah z”l, Gilad Shaer z”l and Naphtali Frankel z”l and the news that they had been brutally murdered. For eighteen days, a nation prayed and hoped and news of their deaths plunged us into mourning. Oh, Eyal, Gilad and Naphtali how we still weep for you! This was coupled with incessant rocket attacks from Gaza which prompted Israel to launch Operation Protective Edge in response.

I have been dreading this Yom Hazikaron. The pain of what we have lost over the past years is too much to bear and there is no end to the tears. Tears for the victims of terror in Israel, Belgium and France. Tears for our most precious 67 brave warriors, who paid the ultimate price for our safety and freedom. Tears for the bereaved families, the parents who have lost their sons, cut down in their prime in defense of their country. Tears for the babies who will never meet their fathers. Tears for the lovers who will never hold each other again. Tears, endless tears.

There will never be enough words to express our gratitude for their service to all of us. May their memories forever be blessed.

In a year that has witnessed brutal kidnappings and terror attacks, a conflagration with our neighbours an election and a tension in our relationship with our greatest ally, Israel has stood tall. We have endured the unimaginable and we have witnessed the best of humanity. The brave mothers who carried a grieving nation on their shoulders. The ordinary citizens who cooked, donated, opened up homes, schlepped and sprung into action to help our soldiers and each other.  The citizens who comforted bereaved families and visited injured warriors and those who lined the streets to pay respects to our fallen at their funerals. These are everyday heroes and they make up the fabric of Israel. They are worth celebrating and this year, Yom Ha’atzmaut is in their honour.

yom-hazikaron

“…And so they stand, the light on their faces, and the Lord,

alone passes among them, with tears in His eyes He kisses 

their wounds, and He says in a trembling voice to the white

 angels: “These are my sons, these are my sons. 

The Parade of The Fallen / Hayim Hefe

A few weeks ago, the IDF home Front Command conducted a drill in Modiin. We knew it would happen and we expected the siren. What some of us did not expect were our reactions to the noise. I am not embarrassed to say I froze – could not breath and had tears in my eyes.  My friends had similar reactions – we forget the impact of PTSD on our lives.  For many in the South, theirs is a generation that doesn’t know of a life without sirens and shelters. They are the shelter generation. This Yom Ha’atzmaut we honour the courage of our citizens who live under threat and yet continue to build and contribute as their expression of Zionism.

Chag Ha’atzmaut Sameach our dear Israel! Nobody deserves a big party with all the fireworks and celebration as much as you do. These days have no religious significance but the love, unity and solidarity they inspire is holy.Fly your flag high! Am Yisrael chai!

images

Roro sits down with the Disgruntled Millenial. Hear the interview here:

http://imjewishyo.podbean.com/e/rolenemarks/

We spoke about the Apartheid comparison, the Middle East, Israel’s media battlefield and everything in between!

Brett Segal: Music and Video Producer. Podcaster. Disgruntled Millennial. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcxyXR9b7pHSyrpfH3s7hDw

Dear United Nations – from an Israeli woman

Dear United Nations

We know you are obsessed with Israel.  You cannot leave us alone. You pass resolution after resolution deriding us and singling us out for opprobrium. You are drunk with lust against us and there are so many who are voiceless and nameless who are wondering why you don’t seem to care about their issues. It is just the petite Jewish State that gets you all worked up, so much so that on the 20th 0f March 2015 you decided that Israel is the number one violator of women’s rights, namely those of Palestinian women.

Sigh. Oh, Useless Nations, do you not have anything better to do? Your “when in doubt, just blame Israel” approach is getting a bit tired and long in the tooth now.

Israel is a vibrant democracy where women are very much a part of the fabric that has and continues to build the country every day. We are pioneers, having built a country with very little natural resources. We are trailblazers in business, politics, volunteer organisations, the arts and sciences and so much more.  We are religious and secular and everything in between – hey, if you want to spend Shabbat in downward dog contemplating your navel that is okay too! We are warriors and defenders of our country on land, sea, air and airwaves and we are homemakers, entrepreneurs and creative genii.  We are changing the political landscape and we represent over 80 different ethnicities. We can vote, drive, own property and business. We can make decisions that govern our bodies and our communities and if we want to, raise a little hell.

women-of-the-IDF-2

Lady Warriors of the IDF

We are free to be who we are, free to choose and free to fight for our rights. In communities where religious doctrines are sometimes prohibitive towards gender rights for women, we are slowly making changes.

The same cannot be said for many of the other women in our neighbourhood. Women in other parts of the Middle East are not as free as their Israeli sisters and this is not our fault. Blame the despotic, theocratic regimes that are in place. In this part of the world, girls are married off before they reach puberty or are killed because they have ‘dishonoured” their families. In this part of the world, women do not have the right to own property, vote, get an education or even drive. Gender Apartheid is rife and the unprecedented rise of Daesh (ISIS) with their deathly brand of medieval barbarism is sending women’s rights back to the stone-age.

images

Golda Meir z”l, first female Prime Minister of Israel

There are so many women’s rights abuse transgressions around the world and particularly in the Middle East and the United Nations is silent.  The Palestinian women in Yarmouk refugee camp who are devastated at the starvation of their children, the Yazidi women being raped and slaughtered, the Christian women being persecuted, the Syrian women who have been subject to civil war are in need of your outrage and help.

640px-Ada_Yonath_Weizmann_Institute_of_Science

Ada Yonath, Nobel Prize Winner

Stop pointing your finger at Israel and use your considerable platform to give a voice to our suffering sisters.  Help those women who you accuse us of discriminating against. They are far more deserving of your attention than we are.

Kind regards

This concerned Israeli woman.

Is this what we fought for?

On the 21st of March, South Africans commemorated Human Rights day. In the post-Apartheid era, this day has been set aside to reflect on South Africa’s painful and racist past. It is a day of remembrance for the many that fought valiantly, some even paying the ultimate price so that all South Africans could live free and equal and no longer discriminated against.

But racism is raising its ugly head once again in the Rainbow Nation.

14410_831903806881040_6819844579131487416_n

Cartoon courtesy of RAFO

Over the past year, anti-Semitism has risen to alarming levels around the world and South Africa seems to have caught this dangerous virus. While anti-Semitism doesn’t manifest its nastiness in the same format as we have seen in Europe which is classified as more “traditional” but it is no less nefarious. At least in Europe, governments are expressing outrage and vowing to crack down on protagonists. In South Africa the silence is deafening.

If we were looking at who the main culprits are, we would have to look no further than BDS South Africa. Not content with spewing their ridiculous calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions, over the last year this band of hoodlums have gone as far to chant “shoot the Jew” at a concert given by an Israeli artist, embark on a campaign of thuggery against the popular chain Woolworths over the miniscule amount of produce they import from Israel and intimidate and threaten students on university campuses, especially during their annual hate festival, Israel Apartheid Week. Who can forget the infamous pigs-head incident and twits who tweet nasty?

Several weeks ago, the Belligerent, Destructive and Stupid, demonstrated outside the venue where the South African Zionist Federation were hosting their conference. Screaming invective such as “You think this is Israel, we will kill you” and “You Jews do not belong in South Africa”, BDS and their supporters proved once again that their motivation is not concern for Palestinian Human Rights but rather a hatred and intolerance for Jews. Palestinian human rights activist, Basseim Eid, who was part of a delegation to combat the crazy on campus was verbally and physically assaulted and had to be escorted to safety by security.

Woolworths again felt the wrath of the BDS supporters a few weeks ago when 21 youths between the ages of 16-18 descended on a branch in Pretoria armed with bricks and sharp objects. Chanting “Israel is the devil” they proceeded to loot and damage the store. “I was terrified, these kids were up in arms and ready for war” said one eye-witness. They left behind their evidence –  BDS pamphlets – perhaps spending more time studying and less time looting would make for smarter criminal tactics!

It seems that university campuses around the world are the prime hotbed of anti-Israeli activity and students at the University of Cape Town were shocked to the core to see pamphlets of Hitler and swastikas pasted to column s around school. While the intention was not specifically aimed at Jews but rather in protest against a statue of Cecil John Rodes, a British colonialist, the trauma and distress it caused the Jewish students cannot be ignored. This is an especially sensitive issue as hot off the heels of the visit by arch terrorist, Leila Khaled, whose claim to fame is airline hijacking, the Durban University of Technology called for the expulsion of Jewish students who do not support the Palestinian cause. Thank goodness that the Vice Chancellor issued an outright condemnation.

IMG-20150318-WA0009-576x357

Pamphlets pasted on University of Cape Town Campus

The most recent cause for alarm was the verbal and physical assault of three kippa wearing teenage boys who went to watch a movie at popular Johannesburg mall, “The Zone”. They were accosted by three males who called them “f**ing Jews” and “Your f**ing people are killing our innocent children” and punched one of the teens.  Security footage has been obtained and charges have been filed. The community has responded with a call for everyone to show solidarity and stand up against racism by appealing that as many as possible come to The Zone wearing a kippa or a hat and going to see a movie. The event was held this past Saturday to tremendous response. Now that’s what I call a yarmy army!

11071518_424790024356841_6859483385308677690_n

The Yarmy Army wants your support! Image courtesy of Spotlighting

South Africa is of great strategic importance. Often dismissed because relations between Jerusalem and Pretoria are strained, South Africa was the host country of the UN Conference against Racism which birthed BDS and their merry band of morons. South Africa is also the birthplace and final resting place of Apartheid which forms the central charge that Israel’s detractors level against the Jewish state to question her right to exist. Whatever happens in South Africa is seen as the benchmark by which we measure racism. Dismiss this at our peril!

I grew up in South Africa and although I no longer live there, choosing instead to make Israel my home, my love and connection for the Jewish community remain strong and deep. This is a community, who has a strong Jewish and Zionist identity and is cohesive and strong have contributed well above their weight to the country. With a noble and proud history of activism, both against the repugnant Apartheid system and in love of our beloved State of Israel, South African Jewry can stand tall and strong.  It is very distressing to see what is happening and I cannot help but cry for the beloved country. Being so far away makes me feel so helpless but at the same time I look at the tremendous courage and defiance shown by the community and their supporters and feel a huge sense of pride. You rock your strong, proudly South African and Zionist selves!

Why are so many glomming on to anti-Semitic rhetoric or following BDS like blind sheep? Is it a latent hatred or are they feeling so disheartened and let down by economic conditions that the world’s most convenient stereotype of blame, the Jews, are the target of their rage? Many of the protesters bussed in to these rallies have no idea why they are there but there is a fair contingent who are drunk and delirious with hatred.

The fathers of modern democratic South Africa, Sisulu, Thambo and Mandela would be heartbroken to see how a community that they had much love and affinity for being subjected to such nastiness. I cannot help but think that they would ask the question “is this what we fought so hard for? “

nelson-mandela-quote

Nelson Rolihlala Mandela – father of modern democratic South Africa

Growing up Apartheid

This blog post is currently posted in the Times of Israel: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/growing-up-apartheid/

To whom much is given, much is expected.  I have been extremely privileged both in my career and as an Olah to not only have the benefits afforded new Olim but also the opportunities to understand the country from a perspective that not many get to see through leadership programs and experiences. It is in this light that I feel it imperative to speak up about what it was like to grow up in the Apartheid era. The word Apartheid is very emotive and provocative. It is being used by the anti-Israel camp to call into question Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign state and this is supported by the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign and its annual hate fest that takes place in March across university campuses around the world known as Israel Apartheid Week. By painting Israel as a pariah state in the same colours as Apartheid South Africa it seems logical that the Jewish state should receive the same treatment, right? 428131_10200223406282416_1658920060_n Wrong. Israel is not a perfect country and I would challenge anyone to find a country that is.  Racism certainly rears its ugly head in Israel just as it does in every country in the world but it certainly is NOT an Apartheid state. The singling out of the Jewish state at the expense of other countries that do have discriminatory laws not only insults the profound suffering of South Africa’s victims of Apartheid but also exposes the true nature of those who subscribe to this rationale – anti-Semitism.

The Apartheid years were deeply painful for South Africans. For many of us they are hard to talk about.  Many of us feel ashamed that we benefitted at the expense of our fellow citizens who were discriminated against and treated like they were second class. Many of us feel ashamed because we did not do enough to fight the system. I feel a responsibility to speak out about what it was like to live in Apartheid South Africa, not only to give voice to those who suffered and whose experience has been hijacked as part of a racist campaign against another nation but also for Israel, the country that has given me a lot of opportunity and is the target of such derision. I have always been a curious, politically aware person and was no different as a child. I started to ask uncomfortable questions about what I was observing around me, much to the concern of my teachers and parents. Asking too much could get you or them into real trouble! I had an idyllic childhood, living in the very liberal suburb of Yeoville in Johannesburg, in the hub of Jewish life. I also lived opposite a park and this provided me with endless opportunities for fun and observation. The same could not be said for my peers of the same age who were not white. 947342_10200223407282441_1755704238_n Children were taken to play in the park by their “nannies” (black domestic workers) who kept a careful eye on their charges. I remember asking my mother why nannies sat on the grass all the time. Didn’t they like the benches? My mother tried to explain to my childish curiosity that nannies were not allowed to sit on the benches. Or go to the same ablution facilities. I could not comprehend this. Why? What had they done that was so wrong? When I was about eight years old I made friends with Minnie. Minnie’s mother was a domestic worker and she went to school in the rural areas of the country. She was not afforded the level of education I was, being subjected to the “Bantu education laws” which ensured that South Africa’s black citizens received an inferior education. Fully equipped classrooms with text books, individual desks, electricity and extra mural sports and activities were not afforded to my peers who were not white. During the school vacations, Minnie came to stay with her mother, in her tiny room at the top of an apartment building which was where domestic workers stayed.

923283_10200223406322417_1557776887_n

I remember being warned by Enoch the doorman that being friends with Minnie could get me into serious trouble.  It wasn’t enough that Minnie couldn’t swim in the public swimming pool or come to ballet class or get the same education I did, the friendship between two little girls, barely in double digits was considered a liability. This was South Africa under Apartheid. There was no freedom of the press , no freedom of movement. It was regime where multi-racial friendships were viewed as suspicious and where grown men and women were robbed of their dignity and discriminated against. It was a regime where men and women caught without their “pass” (identity) documents or out after their curfew were rounded up by heavily armoured police vehicles. There was no freedom of association and the laws of Apartheid not only robbed non-white citizens of their civil liberties but governed every aspect of life from sexual relations to education, to ablution facilities. There was no aspect of life for a non-white citizen that was not governed by the racist Apartheid laws. Democracy was a concept only enjoyed by the minority as only white people could vote.

 306874_10200223407042435_1200794863_n

Then one day Minnie stopped coming to the park during vacations. I will never know the reasons why, perhaps her mother found a new job.  I joined a Zionist youth movement and we were taught to ask questions. Our social consciousness was raised.  We started to speak out against the system. On the 17th of March 1992 a national referendum was held, calling for an end to Apartheid. South Africans voted in their numbers to finally end this hateful, racist regime. Many of the Israel detractors fail to understand that the South African solution is not one size fits all. South Africans wanted to join together while Palestinians and Israelis each have their own national aspirations. To try and enforce the South African solution on us is patronizing and belittling to both sides. The 27th of April 1994 was a profoundly emotional day. South Africans from all walks of life stood in endless lines to cast their votes. This was my first time voting and I stood in line with Johanna, our domestic worker, who couldn’t believe that finally she could vote. We both cried. I remember visuals of the elderly in rural areas, brought to polling stations in wheelbarrows, so excited they were to finally see the birth of a democratic South Africa. The post-Apartheid road has been a long and arduous one, fraught with complexities. South Africans tried to bring healing with the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation commission where both sides could express pain or remorse. Perhaps there will come a day when Palestinians and Israelis can have their own truth and reconciliation process. It is painful but to hear each other’s experiences and acknowledge mutual pain may bring much needed healing. Israel is a vibrant and flawed democracy but is most certainly NOT an Apartheid state. Our detractors have stolen this from the victims of Apartheid – it is time we honour them by taking it back.

970149_10200223407202439_6907094_n