BDS Bullying knows no limits

by SAJBD on 10 October 2016

in General

It was with a sense of déjà vu that the SAJBD witnessed South African Ambassador to Israel, Sisa Ngombane, being shouted down and abused when trying to speak at a press conference held to welcome home anti-Israel activist Leanne Naidoo.  For years, it has been apparent that those bent on demonising Israel at every opportunity cannot bear it when others presume to present a different narrative.


The Jewish community has become accustomed to BDS and its supporters attempting to disrupt Jewish communal functions and intimidate those participating in them. However, it is not just those who celebrate Israel’s existence that they are intent on silencing, but anyone who publicly supports a negotiated two-state to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The latest evidence of this bullying and intolerance was the disgraceful manner in which Ambassador Ngomabane was prevented from presenting his views on the current situation in the Middle East at a press conference held on Friday.


Once it became clear that what he wished to say deviated from the standard BDS narrative‎ (but not from the official South African government position)‎, those present shouted insults and broke into loud chanting, making it impossible for him to be heard.


The BDS movement routinely claims to speak on behalf of human rights and democracy.  It would appear, though, that the only democratic rights they are really concerned about are their own.  Freedom for others, be it to express their opinions on the Middle East, to deciding where and what products they would like to buy, to attending Jewish-hosted functions, are clearly fair game when it comes to resorting to the kind of disruptive and bullying tactics for which it is now notorious.


The SAJBD is deeply concerned about the conflict among Israelis and Palestinians, and acknowledge the suffering of both sides.  We are committed to seeing a viable, negotiated peace agreement being sought, and believe that South Africa has a strong role to play in this.  By constantly shutting down free and open discussion on the situation, BDS is deliberately sabotaging this possibility.


Now that the latest Gaza Flotilla tour de farce has run its course, the organisers might well think of offering their services to Donald Trump to help salvage his faltering election campaign. Certainly, one would be hard-put to find a better example of illusion triumphing over substance, of emotionally manipulative puffery trumping (pun intended) basic facts, law and logic.


According to the script – and from start to finish, the Women’s Flotilla was never more than a carefully scripted and choreographed publicity stunt – this was a case of brave and principled human rights activists showing solidarity with a besieged, helpless population unjustly subjected by its brutal neighbour to a blockade that is both cruel and illegal. That this meticulous fabrication rapidly falls apart when subjected to even a cursory investigation has not, unfortunately, prevented at least some media outlets from uncritically endorsing it.


There are many who automatically go into intellectual shut-down mode whenever the State of Israel presumes to speak in its own defence. In this case, fortunately, one need go no further than the findings of a United Nations commission to expose the falsity of the above claims. First and foremost, Israeli naval restrictions over Gaza are entirely legal. In 2011, a Panel of Inquiry commissioned by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon concluded them to be “a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law”. The Commission further recognised that Israel faced “a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza”, and that in view of persistent efforts by Hamas to smuggle in weaponry it is fully justified in inspecting all goods and material marked for Gaza prior to their transfer. (As it happened, the very day the flotilla was approaching the Gaza coast, a rocket was fired into the Israeli border town of Sderot, which has endured a continual bombardment from Gaza since Israel withdrew from the territory more than ten years ago).


Telling, one of the key recommendations of the UN Report was that “all humanitarian missions wishing to assist the Gaza population should do so through established procedures and the designated land crossings in consultation with the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority”. It was this directive, one neither unreasonable nor particularly burdensome, that the Women’s Flotilla, as was the case with all previous flotilla initiatives, set out to flout. Far from being a humanitarian peace mission this was, in the words of one of the boat’s captains, first and foremost a ‘provocation’, one aimed at flouting international law with the aim of strengthening the hand of Hamas and other violent extremists in the Middle East. That no essential supplies for were taken along is hardly surprising, since undermining the legitimacy of Israel’s right to self-defence rather than alleviating hardship amongst the Gaza population was what the venture was really aimed at.


Emotive rhetoric to the effect that Palestinians are ‘besieged’ or ‘starving’ is belied by the fact that on a daily basis, some 800–1000 trucks enter Gaza to bring food, medicine and other such humanitarian and civilian goods. Palestinians also regularly enter Israel to receive medical assistance (despite previous incidents where supposed patients have attempted to or actually carried out terrorist attacks).


It is further a little reported-on reality that a vast amount of international aid to Gaza is being siphoned off by Hamas for purposes of stockpiling weapons and building cross-border tunnels aimed at smuggling fighters into Israel and carrying out further terrorist attacks, as has been done in the past.


As for the ‘Gaza is under siege’ canard the reality, as is so frequently the case when it comes to anti-Israel rhetoric, is precisely the opposite. A siege, by definition, aims at forcing one’s way in against the will of the besieged population. By comparison, Israel very obviously seeks not at seizing control of Gaza (which could do very easily) but to keeping violent enemies out. And if Gaza is indeed “the world’s largest open-air prison”, as is routinely claimed, then its people – or at least their elected leaders – are their own jailers.


Nothing has changed since the UN Commission presented its report. Gaza remains under the dictatorial control of Hamas, a radical Islamist grouping that in word and deed has made no secret of its desire to pursue Israel’s violent destruction, regardless of the cost even to its own subject population. It is, as always, in the hands of Gazans themselves to end the blockade – all they have to do is abandon their self-destructive and clearly unattainable goal of destroying Israel and undertake to live in peace with their neighbours (which includes Egypt, by the way, which also enforces a blockade against Gaza, although this is routinely overlooked).  Had the organisers and supporters of the Women’s Flotilla really cared about the welfare of the beleaguered Gaza population, this is exactly what they should be urging their leaders to do. Instead, they expend their supposed moral outrage against Israel for maintaining a blockade rather than against the persistent violence and terrorism that makes such measures necessary. This is perhaps the most abhorrent aspect of the fraud that they and their supporters around the world are perpetrating.


Dear Subscriber

2016 marks 175 years since the founding in Cape Town of South Africa’s first Jewish religious congregation, an event that in turn marks the formal birth of the South African Jewish community. To mark this milestone, this Rosh Hashanah special issue of Jewish Affairs is devoted to looking back on, and celebrating, this heritage. This year Jewish Affairs has achieved a milestone of its own, namely 75 years of continuous publication since the appearance, in June 1941, of the first issue of the journal. With the support of our loyal subscribers and advertisers, we hope to continue in this proud tradition.

This issue begins with an introductory section comprising this editors own reflections and a year-by-year photographic portrait of how the story of SA Jewry has unfolded. It is followed by a section looking at some of the main regions where Jewish life developed, viz. Cape Town, Eastern Cape, Johannesburg and the rural areas and smaller country towns. The concluding section looks at specific areas of Jewish endeavour – politics, the rabbinate, law and the arts. A book reviews look at some recent publications of Jewish interest.

We would like to thank in particular our advertisers, who made it possible for us to bring out this special extended issue, which we hope will itself come to be regarded as one of the milestone publications brought out by Jewish Affairs over the decades.

On behalf of the Editorial Board, I wish everyone a Shana Tova Umetuka.

David Saks


View Jewish Affairs Rosh Hashanah 2016 CLICK HERE


The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) and the IUA / UCF, together with the Israeli people and the broader international community, joins in mourning the passing of Shimon Peres, visionary world statesman, peace activist and inspirational founding father of the State of Israel. In a political career spanning more than seven decades, Peres combined selfless service to his own country and people, with striving for peaceful co-existence between Israel and its neighbours. In the words of Ronald Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress, he was at the forefront of those helping to build “a free, secure, and prosperous state in the ancient homeland of the Jewish people”.

For Shimon Peres, devotion to a worthy cause was the key to living a successful and fulfilled life. In his own words, “The smallest thing in life is the human ego. The greatest thing in life is serving a great cause. And to serve a great cause is to serve others”.

Peres was centrally involved in the conclusion of lasting peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, and was one of the architects of the 1993 Oslo Accords that launched the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. For his efforts, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. Despite many setbacks and disappointments, he never despaired of the attainability of peace and to the very end devoted himself to helping make this a reality

In February 2016, in what was one of his very last international visits, Peres was brought to South Africa as a guest of the Jewish community. During his visit, he reiterated his belief that no conflict, no matter how intractable it appeared to be, was incapable of being resolved by peaceful negotiations. He also invoked the inspirational example set by his fellow Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela, with whom he enjoyed a warm personal relationship.

“I have a South African friend. I asked him, how did it happen?” He said: “My friend, in every South African person you will find a small Nelson Mandela. I wish every person will have inside him this small Nelson Mandela”.

Paying tribute to him earlier today US President Barack Obama noted that “Peres changed the course of human history”.

The Jewish community will be holding a tribute gathering in memory of Shimon Peres in Johannesburg and Cape Town tomorrow evening.

Issued by the SAJBD, the SAZF and the IUA / UCF.







oughton 2041

Twitter:  2JewishZA





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