South Africa in the Israeli media – a case of fascination or Um-shmum?

This article is currently featured on

South Africa in the Israeli media

WHEN Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, was asked his opinion about the United Nations’ propensity to castigate his country, he shrugged and answered, “Um, Shmum” (signifying dismissal or contempt).

This term is an apt description of how Israelis currently feel about South Africa. Once a country that fascinated the Israeli media and public, South Africa is still widely covered in the Israeli media – but for the wrong reasons.

South Africa and Israel have a tumultuous relationship. The historical parallels and shared challenges are often eclipsed by strained political relations between Jerusalem and Pretoria. Both countries share difficult pasts. Both countries have experienced persecution, fought British colonialism and are, relatively-peaking, young democracies. Both countries face similar challenges with regards to water shortages and the agriculture sector. Both countries are multicultural and need to find ways to ensure that racism and intolerance are not propagated. However, over the last decade or so, the relationship between the two states has deteriorated dramatically. This is abundantly clear in both the South African and Israeli media.


South Africa’s ruling party and the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Movement, now the Palestinian Authority) enjoy a historical relationship that dates back to the apartheid years when the PLO offered sanctuary to exiled ANC members, as well as ideological and military support. This is a relationship that has continued into post-apartheid South Africa. The public gulf between Pretoria and Jerusalem has been further widened by the support of boycotts and travels bans by the ANC. Statements such as the one below, co-signed by National Chairperson of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, are but one of many such comments that emanate from ANC leadership:

As the Alliance we are now heightening our campaign aimed at boycotting and isolating Israel as a state founded on the basis of apartheid, which according to international law and several UN conventions is a crime against humanity.

​The war of words and ideas between the two countries has found fertile ground in both the South African and Israeli media. In a democracy there is a common perception that the role of the media is to expose areas where democracy is failing. However the South African media might view its responsibility towards reporting on Israel, there is a clear line between legitimate criticism of a country’s foreign policy and a biased and myopic approach to bilateral relations between Israel and South Africa.

images (1)

​There are many who have argued that the South African media exhibits an inherent bias when it comes to reporting the situation in the Middle East and Israel in particular. For the last two decades, I have worked in media — including radio, TV and print — following how Israel and the Middle East are covered in the South African media. I have observed an increased bias against Israel. While it is not expected that the South African media will break out into Hatikvah anytime soon, would it not be more prudent for journalists to be more balanced? This trend could also be a result of media ownership or the dictates of the consumer. Some would argue that South African media is simply pandering to a popular narrative. Journalism has arguably changed from a noble profession that aims for truth and balance to a means of propagating sensationalism in order to generate headlines.

“There is nothing wrong with legitimate criticism of a country’s policies  … but all too often, as is the case with the South African media, legitimate criticism quickly segues into exaggerated bias.”​

This imbalance needs to be understood in the context of the ANC and the PLO’s historical relationship: the sympathy of the South African government very much lies with the Palestinians. This position has inevitably filtered down to the media, prompting many an angry and frustrated response from the Jewish community and supporters of Israel who feel that this bias is influencing South African public opinion and is, at times, fanning the flames of anti-Israel sentiment.

There is nothing wrong with legitimate criticism of a country’s policies — it is often joked that this is the national sport in Israel — but all too often, as is the case with the South African media, legitimate criticism quickly segues into exaggerated bias. Recognising such bias against Israel, in 2001, following the UN Conference against Racism that was held in Durban, the SAZF (South African Zionist Federation) and SAJBD (South African Jewish Board of Deputies) founded Media Team Israel. The conference brought to the surface an inherent anti-Israel bias in South African media and exposed the growing chasm between the two countries. Indeed, the establishment of Media Team Israel was an attempt to ensure balanced coverage of Israel in the South African media.

“As is commonly reflected in Israeli media, South Africa’s apartheid past, its transition to democracy and the intricacies of the South African political landscape are not always fully understood.”

Whilst there has been much written on how Israel is covered in South African media there is very little on how relations between the two states is covered in the Israeli media.

MAdiba Quotes Low-11

The Israeli media enjoys a reputation for being free and democratic. The media landscape is extremely robust, offering space for divergent opinions from the far-left to the ultra-right. In fact, many an Israeli is known to complain that perhaps the media is a little TOO democratic! Israeli society is very complex and this is reflected in the media. As such, the media has to be representative of all sectors of Israeli society – Israelis almost demand this. The left-leaning daily Ha’aretz will cover issues completely differently to The Times of Israel or the Jerusalem Post. One such example is the coverage of NGO’s like Breaking the Silence. Ha’aretz will publish an angle that is far more supportive of this controversial organisation and be highly critical of the government and the various security agencies, while the other two publications would castigate Breaking the Silence and support a much harsher stance against them.

As is commonly reflected in Israeli media, South Africa’s apartheid past, its transition to democracy and the intricacies of the South African political landscape are not always fully understood. This has allowed for the word apartheid to enter the lexicon of Israelis. In part, this is because they do not fully understand what apartheid was, and that it is unique to the South African experience. We have seen this manifest in the discourse of Israeli politicians and journalists, who commonly use the term to describe incidents of racism in Israel. While racism is abhorrent, the distinction between it and apartheid must be made clear. On the whole Israelis are perturbed and angered by the comparison of Israel to apartheid South Africa by, for example, controversial Israeli commentators such as Ha’aretz journalist, Gideon Levy.  Very often, when there is coverage of South Africa’s BDS movement’s attempts to isolate Israel from the international community and call into question her existence as a state, it results in a barrage of comments and letters from angry Israelis, predominantly Anglos (immigrants from English speaking countries).​

Coverage of South Africa in the English media has increased, largely because of the rise of BDS in South Africa. BDS activities in South Africa receive much coverage in the Israeli media, in particular the English press. The South African BDS movement and its actions are of great interest to English speaking ex-pats because very often they impact on their communities of origin. Ex-pat South Africans, in particular, are very concerned that the actions of BDS may cause a rise in antisemitism or even violence against the South African Jewish community.


There are four main online English publications – the Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Yedioth Aharonot (Ynet) and Ha’aretz. What is of interest is that the news reported in Hebrew differs to that offered in English. The English media covers a lot more international news than the Hebrew speaking press. Ha’aretz will more often than not give a voice to the far-left and organisations seen as anti-Israel, whereas the Hebrew media tends to castigate South Africa.

Many Israelis have become increasingly alarmed at the scurrilous comparison of Israel to apartheid South Africa, the BDS movement and its activities in the country, and the hostility shown to the Jewish state by the ANC and the EFF (Economic Freedom Front). Recent statements by Lindiwe Sisulu, Chairperson of the ANC International Relations committee, recommending that Israel withdraw from Gaza after we had done so 12 years ago drew comments of amusement on social media platforms, such as the following tweet by Avi Mayer, spokesperson to the International Media for The Jewish Agency for Israel:

​Dear South Africa: thank you for your helpful advice, which we heeded TWELVE YEARS before you offered it. Any suggestions as to what we might do about the thousands of rockets that have poured onto our citizens’ homes ever since?


The water crisis in Cape Town and controversy around the rejection of proposed solutions from Israel has garnered its fair share of headlines. Events on campus during Israel Apartheid Week also makes headlines. Israelis view the manifestation of antisemitism in South Africa to be very different to the trends in the USA or Europe. In Europe or the USA, antisemitism is seen as manifesting itself in ‘traditional ways’ – in other words, the spraying of swastika’s, the desecration of gravestones, marches and activity by the alt-right and far left. In South Africa, it is evident that it manifests in attacks on Israel and how Jews identify themselves as Zionists. The message seems to be “we love Jews! Mazel Tov! Gefilte Fish! We just hate Zionists”.

The Jerusalem Post and Times of Israel include a section for blogs that allows space not just for divergent opinions but ensures that a range of voices, including many South African, have a space to share their voices, perspectives and experiences. South African bloggers are very popular because there is much interest from the English speaking community, including many ex-pat South Africans, about the South African Jewish community and events in the country. The Jerusalem Post even has a dedicated journalist who covers South Africa as part of her beat, with stories published almost on a weekly basis.


When it does cover global events, the Hebrew-speaking media, by contrast, focuses mainly on the United States, Europe and our own volatile region, the Middle East. Unless something controversial has happened or threatens bilateral relations between the two countries, South Africa receives very little coverage in the Hebrew-speaking media. Is it because South Africa is not THAT newsworthy in the eyes of the non-Anglo public in Israel?

The attention given to South Africa in Israeli papers, and to Israel in South African papers, does matter. The media is a very powerful tool not only for disseminating information and news but, I would argue, for building – or breaking – bilateral relations between countries. South Africa continues to be subjects of fascination for the Israeli media and as concern rises about the situation for Jews in South Africa, interest in South Africa will continue to grow in Israel and the Israeli media.


A protest by any other name…..

Do you remember when a protest was a group of people with signs singing give peace a chance or gathering in an orderly fashion?

Now I have been to my fair share of protests. I have protested war in the Balkans along with black students during the Apartheid years, I have protested Hezbollah’s 2006 war against Israel (all this while walking around carrying an Israeli flag and spotting who I knew amongst the crowd). I have protested horrendous crime statistics and incidents in the streets of Johannesburg and I have protested South Africa recalling their Ambassador to Israel during the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident. This particular protest took place of a golf course but that is a story for another time.

For the last seven weeks, arch terror group, Hamas, have been staging what they call “the Great Return” protests on Israel’s southern border with Gaza. This is the greatest con artist production of all time because they have successfully managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the world, especially the media and numpty Bernie Sanders who believe their drivel that these protests are peaceful and all about returning home to “lands that were stolen”. Or the moving of the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Or Jerusalem. Depending on the media or the weather, this story is interchangeable.

Carefully planned and coordinated, Hamas encourage the population to march en masse to the border fence, break it down and swarm into Israel. It is highly unlikely that arch terror organization Hamas want to enter Israel peacefully while singing Kumbaya and handing out flowers. Don’t believe me? Believe this guy – leader of Hamas, Yahya Sinwar.

Make no mistake – these are not protests, these are acts of war. And they are not about Embassies or capitals but about an assault on Israeli sovereignty.

Armed with Molotov cocktails, axes, guns, rocks, burning tires, shooting at our soldiers and forcing civilians and children to the front line, Hamas have made their best efforts to breach Israel’s borders. Kites with incendiary devices have been flown into Israel, setting fire to fields, burning tires has created a health and ecology disaster and in the last 10 days, the Kerem Shalom crossing that allows for vital humanitarian aid and the transfer of fuel and gasoline has been torched.  In the last two days, Hamas have refused to allow in much needed food aid into the beleaguered strip.


What one needs to bring to a peaceful protest

The Israel Defense Forces have repeatedly appealed to citizens of Gaza to NOT come near the fence and to go on with their lives because they have no choice but to defend Israel’s borders. Hamas using their civilians as human shields is not a new story; it is a sick and twisted reality and gross example of how child abuse is tolerated by the global community. The result of this is nearly 100 dead and thousands injured (although a vast percentage of the dead are terrorists from various organisations) and Hamas, delirious with glee at the optics that have been generated, that guarantee sympathy for them and opprobrium for Israel.

The inevitable handwringing and international condemnation of Israel has begun. Please bear in mind that no other country has had to deal with an unprecedented act of violence like this on their borders. No other country has had the leader of Hamas, Yahya Sinwar, threatening to “tear out the hearts” of its civilian population. No other country has had to deal with the whining of the world media that not enough of their citizens have been killed.

I have been to the border with Gaza during these last 7 weeks.  I have breathed in the toxic tire fumes and been moved by the IDF for my own safety because these peaceful protesters started shooting. I have seen those burning flags and chanting “death to Israel”.


Another peaceful protester

My appeal to you is that before you take what the media says at face value; please investigate the truth for yourself. An alarming trend that I have experienced personally is the Israeli narrative being shut out by the media. Like this video clip – warning contains scenes that may be upsetting.


The only thing now left to protest is the level of hypocrisy from the international community and snide derision of an ignorant media who are complicit in all of this because the less the condemn Hamas, the more they create the space for the terror organization to exploit their civilians. That is worth a protest. A peaceful one.

Roro’s journey to Israel advocate – an interview with Chai FM’s Howard Feldman and Roro

Today more than ever, it is important to show up and stand proudly in our identity. We owe it to ourselves – and the generations to come. I was incredibly honoured and humbled to chat to the popular and erudite, Chai FM presenter, Howard Feldman, to chat about my journey to Israel advocacy and more. Listen by clicking on the link below:

Interview with Roro and Howard Feldmanthumbnail


This article is currently featured on Israel Forever:


I love a fabulous frock.  I love a sexy shoe even more and just having passed awards season which is a feast for the senses, I have been in fashion heaven.

This year’s fashion feast provided the perfect opportunity for a galaxy of female stars to accessorise their haute couture from the various spring collections with a side of self-righteousness. While I agree wholeheartedly that Time’s Up and admire the solidarity (and hey, who can go wrong with classic black?) and the advocacy for issues like gender parity and exposing misogyny, I cannot help but think our venerable women’s movement HAS to stand for more. And this also means respecting the wardrobe choices that other women make.


Even the poor Duchess of Cambridge did not escape criticism for her sartorial choices having being beaten up by many in the media for her choice of emerald green gown at the BAFTA awards and not solidarity black. Way to beat up on a pregnant woman! Some women have chosen to express their feminism by wearing vagina dresses. Can one wear labia after Labour Day?

Sartorial pontification aside, there are many women’s issues that desperately need our attention.

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day and this brings with it a perfect opportunity to highlight the status of women around the world. Hollywood sexcapades have dominated the headlines in recent months and while it is very necessary to expose misogynists, rapists and appalling salary disparities, some of our sisters around the world endure this without the benefit of the media spotlight.

There are very important conversations taking place on the global stage with regards to racism and sexual inequality and harassment and we need to include our international sisters.

Terror organization Boko Haram kidnapped over 100 schoolgirls last week. There was radio silence from the media. The #BringBackOurGirls campaign barely registers a concerned response anymore. In Ghouta Syria, hundreds of women and children are dying as the bombs rain down. In Gaza, Hamas have shut down a TV channel aimed at women, a platform where they could talk and express themselves. ISIS have kidnapped Christian women, raped them and sold them into sex slavery. Across Africa and the Middle East, women are subject to honour killings and female circumcision. The media has been relatively silent. These women don’t enjoy the benefits of having the platform that social media provides to raise awareness of their issues. We need to. #MeToo has to become #Mysistersaswell.

In the United States, Jewish women are being excluded from the Women’s March because our national liberation movement, Zionism, is anathema to some, including the leaders of the march who support notorious anti-Semites like Louis Farrakhan without sanction.  Jewish women are continuously marginalized from the conversation, a worrying phenomenon as anti-Semitism escalates around the world, wearing its new outfit, anti-Zionism.


Jewish women were excluded from the 2017 Chicago Dyke March for proudly including a Magen David (Star of David) on their flag.

In 2018 women are still being marginalized, excluded, persecuted and denied opportunity.

We women need to ensure that our movement becomes less about the obsession about frocks and catchy hashtags. We have already proven that we can make a magnificent difference when we mobilise.

If we can use our powerful voices and fashion choices to demand equal pay and an end to sexual harassment, then we can and should use them to speak on behalf of our sisters throughout the world who have been silenced.  We cannot allow them to vanish in obscurity and become a case of #MeWho?


Poles Apart – by Dr Tessa Chelouche M.D

Poland was once home to a thriving Jewish community who had been there for hundreds of years. During the Holocaust, these communities were decimated.  The  Polish government have recently made moves to pass legislation that abdicates the Poles of any responsibility in their role in carrying out the Final Solution which brought about the murder of over 6 million Jews across Europe. While there were many righteous Poles who saved the lives of Jews and Poles were victims, many, far too many were complicit in aiding the NAZI killing machine. The question we are asking is – should Israeli youth visit Poland and in particular Auschwitz?

Roro’s Rantings is proud to welcome guest blogger, Dr Tessa Chelouche MD, Co-Chair, Department of Bioethics and the Holocaust, UNESCO Chair of Bioethics (Haifa) Co-Director Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust who responds to the following opinion editorial in the New York Times:

Do Israeli studentsneed to visit Auschwitz?

Dr Chelouche’s response:

Poles Apart!

By Dr. Tessa Chelouche

I take issue with Shmuel Rosner’s article in the New York Times of February 14, 2018 questioning the issue – embedded in his title – “Do Israeli Students Need to Visit Auschwitz?”

The trigger to raising this issue is the current conduct of the Polish government in passing a law that would whitewash any frank and open introspection of Polish complicity in the Holocaust. In other words, it’s an all-German issue – Poles were victims like the Jews!

With this new disturbing state position, do we Jews still promote and facilitate our younger generations to visit the Polish sites of our extermination in the Holocaust?

I think so – more than ever.


Firstly, I preface my response by offering some personal background.  I am an Israeli mother of three adult sons, all of whom have served in the army and continue to do so. I am married to a sixth generation Israeli, whose family history is woven closely with the history of the country that precedes the Holocaust and the Second World War by generations. I am a family physician who has developed over the past twenty years a second academic career in studies of Medicine and the Holocaust. I am the co-Chair of the UNESCO Chair of Bioethics’ Department of Bioethics and the Holocaust and am co-director of the Maimonides Institute of Medicine and the Holocaust. I have taught this subject at medical schools and academic institutions in Israel and worldwide for the last twenty years and have published on this subject in academic journals.

I would object to some of Rosner’s statements.

Not “trips”

The new Polish law has nothing to do with the Israel-Holocaust relationship. The debate over the Polish law has no impact on the way that the Holocaust is remembered in Israel today. We certainly do not need a law, Polish or other, to remember the Holocaust. Israel is a living testimony to the Holocaust. The Holocaust survivors are a living testimony and those who did not survive, a testimony to their remembrance.


Each year thousands of Israelis, young and not so young, visit Poland. These are not “TRIPS”. These are educational excursions that are journeys in the real sense of the word. I object to Rosner’s use of the terminology because it is factually wrong and trivializes the visits.

These annual excursions are not the pinnacle of Holocaust education in Israel nor do they resemble any form of” pilgrimage”. It is incorrect that young Israelis process the Holocaust as a crucial part of their religious and/or national identity. These educational excursions to Poland do not contribute to the misconception that the Holocaust is the main manifestation of Judaism. Israelis do not need the Holocaust to remind them of their Jewish roots; they live their Jewish roots daily. Most Israelis today have no roots in the Holocaust.  Are they any less Jewish? Of course not.

Jews do not need to visit Poland to remind them they are Jewish!

It is clear from those who participate on these well-organized visits that they return understanding that their journey was beneficially educational and contributed to their awareness of their responsibility to the country and to their fellow citizens.

They would not describe the experience as defining their persona as Jewish or Israeli.

Life in Israel is sufficient to make them connect with the country or as Rosner writes with “Jerusalem”. Our children in Israel grow up with a sense of identity that no other children in the world have and which they form long before they make the excursion to Poland. However, participants will often confide that the program made them acutely more aware of the importance of serving their country and community. It makes them ask more questions and reflect more critically.


Contrasting with Israeli youth, I can understand how their diaspora peers may perceive the Holocaust and the “March of the Living” as the basis for their Jewish identity. The Israeli excursions are far less about flag-waving ceremonies and far more about education and entail a great deal of self-reflection and critical discussion. However, this is all more of a reason to encourage the youth from the diaspora to visit Poland because in many ways it provides the only connection that they have to their Jewishness – unfortunately!

What the diaspora does not achieve due to lack of proper Jewish education, the excursions can make up for.

Regarding Rosner’s contention that the excursions perpetuate the myth that Israel was born in the ashes of the Holocaust, I regret that there is not enough space here for detailed refutation. There is some clear validity to the argument that the modern State of Israel came into being – at least in part – due to the events of the Holocaust. On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, announced the formation of the state of Israel, declaring, “The Nazi Holocaust, which engulfed millions of Jews in Europe, proved anew the urgency of the reestablishment of the Jewish State, which would solve the problem of Jewish homelessness by opening the gates to all Jews and lifting the Jewish people to equality in the family of nations.”

Whatever the dimensions of the dispute, the excursions to Poland as an educational instrument, serve to enlighten the participants and not brainwash them about historical “myths.”

I find Rosner’s assertions on memory troubling.  A healthy society is always defined by memory however we may try to deny it. Memory does not diminish the significance of our current values and sense of identity. In fact, the exact opposite is true. We are all products of our past and our collective memory. Israeli children are brought up with memory – memory of the Holocaust, memory of wars, and memory of terror attacks. This is our reality, not only our memory. George Santanyana is well known for his statement: “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” In my opinion, and why I take issue with Rosner’s position on memory is that in today’s world there are many parallels with the origins of the Holocaust and we would be better people, and a better world, if we learnt some of these lessons. One of the ways to learn these lessons (and of course not the only one) is to take people to Poland. “Auschwitz” is not “sacred” as Rosner cynically postulates but is the symbolic icon of the evil of humanity. Educational visits to Auschwitz, and other related places to the Holocaust, allow for informing and relating past events to people in the present and serve to remind us all of our own moral vulnerability.

About Dr Tessa Chelouche:



Dr Chelouche was born in South Africa and made Aliyah to Israel in 1977.

She graduated from the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University Medical School in 1984. She subsequently specialized in Family Medicine at Tel Aviv University and has been practicing as the director of Primary Care Medical Practices since 1987. She has teaches Family Medicine residents for the Family Medicine Program at Tel Aviv University.

For the past 17 years Dr Chelouche has been teaching and lecturing on the subject of “Medicine and the Holocaust.” She has published numerous articles on the subject in international medical and law peer-reviewed journals, and has presented many presentations and lectures at national and international medical ( and other) conferences on various aspects of the involvement of medicine and the Third Reich. Dr Chelouche has participated in conferences involving the three major Holocaust memorial institutions in Israel: Yad Vashem, The Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum, and Beit Terezin.

Since 2004 Dr Chelouche has been a lecturer and co-director for an annual undergraduate semestrial course on “Medicine and the Holocaust” for second to third year medical students at the Technion Institute Medical School in Haifa.

In 2013 Dr Chelouche co-edited the publication of “Casebook on Bioethics and the Holocaust” which was published under the auspices of UNESCO Chair of Bioethics in Israel.

Dr Chelouche firmly believes in the promotion of medicine and the Holocaust as an academic discipline in medical centers throughout the world. She is affiliated to The International Center for Medicine, Law and Ethics at Haifa University. She is a champion of the Center for Medicine After the Holocaust, Houston, founded by Dr Sheldon Rubenfeld and participated at the First International Scholars Workshop on Medicine After the Holocaust organized by the center in 2015. Since 2015 Dr Chelouche has been the Co-director of the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust, founded by Dr Stacy Galin. Dr Chelouche serves on the scientific committee of the Second International Scholars Workshop on Medicine After the Holocaust which will be held in Israel in 2017.


Ringmaster in the theatre of the absurd

This post is currently  featured on

South Africa – Ringmaster in the theatre of the absurd

South Africa is the “ground zero” of the BDS movement. It is no coincidence that that BDS sprung into the global conscience at the 2001 UN Conference against Racism in Durban. This was hugely symbolic because if you are going to launch a movement with the accusation of Apartheid as the central charge, then where better than South Africa?

Relations between Pretoria and Jerusalem have been steadily cooling over the last decade or so. The ANC-led government has firmly sided with the Palestinians, effectively removing the Rainbow Nation as any kind of affective and honest mediator in a lasting peace agreement between Israel and her neighbours. This comes at a time when bilateral relations between the State of Israel and many African countries are opening up and flourishing.

South Africa has adopted an increasingly hard line against the Jewish state, with the ruling ANC party adopting a resolution last month at their conference to downgrade the country’s embassy in Tel Aviv to that of a “liaison office”.

The same ANC conference that included a delegation of Hamas representatives. Hamas is recognized internationally as a terror organization and not the representatives of the Palestinian people. South Africa faces many domestic challenges such as state capture scandals, economic woes and a crippling water crisis in Cape Town which will soon become the first dry city in the world. Why all the focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Is it a means to detract from their own problems?


Capetonians line up for water

Last week we saw further evidence of this when the African state used their opportunity to address the United Nations Human Rights Council to excoriate Israel. South African diplomat, Clinton Swemmer, told the Council, “Israel is the only state in the world that can be called an apartheid state. We remain deeply concerned at the denial of the right of self-determination to the Palestinian people, in the absence of which no other human right can be exercised or enjoyed.”

The United Nations Human Rights Council with its obsessive focus on Israel at the expense of other conflicts and human rights violations has in short become the theatre of the absurd.

Calling Israel an “apartheid state” is a fallacious statement to say the least. Is there racism in Israel? Yes. Racism is abhorrent in Israel just like anywhere else in the world and it needs to be fought whenever it rears its ugly head. The fundamental difference is that the apartheid was a system of state legislated laws that deemed the country’s white population as racially superior to any other population group. The apartheid laws governed every aspect of a person’s life, from where they could live, work and receive and education to the use of transport and ablution facilities. Every aspect of apartheid was designed to humiliate and discriminate against South Africa’s non-white population, and comparing Israel to that racist regime denigrates the suffering of the victims of apartheid and belittles them yet again. Apartheid is unique to the South African experience.

There is a danger of South Africa calling Israel an apartheid state. While we know that this is completely false narrative, designed to give a tailwind to the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) movement and other detractors of the Jewish state, it does have impact. The apartheid analogy is the central charge around which BDS has built their campaign to de-legitimise the State of Israel. They are well aware that by comparing the Jewish state to apartheid South Africa, the former will be treated like a pariah in the family of nations. South Africa, by giving the stamp of approval to their accusations, allows this false narrative to flourish the greater global consciousness.

download (1)

Discrimination in South Africa during the Apartheid years

The enormous tragedy here is that South Africa and Israel share a lot in common and the Jewish state is perfectly poised to help combat some of the great challenges the country is facing. Both countries have overcome tragic histories; both countries are mosaics of multi-culturalism and both countries face challenges posed by water shortages. As Israel is lauded over ground-breaking advances in water technology, so South Africa is committing water suicide by refusing the help offered. It would appear that many in the South African government would rather their constituents suffer than accept the help available.

Despite all of this, there is a massive groundswell of support for Israel in South Africa. King Goodwill Zwelithini of the Zulu nation spoke out about the importance of bilateral ties between the two countries and how South Africans could benefit. A sentiment echoed by the African Christian Democratic Party’s, Rev Kenneth Meshoe and many others who advocate for closer ties and have excoriated the ANC-led government for its short-sightedness and downright venom.


South Africans show their support for Israel

It would be in South Africa’s best interest to retire from its role as ringleader in the theatre of the absurd and get down to the serious business of contributing towards a more positive future. For both countries.

Rolene Marks is a broadcast and print journalist who serves on the executive of World WIZO and is a member of Truth be Told, a rapid response team to biased media and can be heard daily on Your Afternoon with Howard Feldman on Chai FM, a Johannesburg based radio station.