Kwara Kekana, spokeswoman for BDS celebrates the 10 year anniversary of BDS in her opinion piece in The Star 12/08/2015. What Ms Kekana chooses not to share is that the real outcome of their campaigns has been to foster a campaign of hatred against South African Jewry for their relationship with Israel.
In October last year a man entered a Woolworths store in Sea Point in Cape Town pushing a baby’s pram. He walked over to what he understood to be a Kosher meat shelf, reached into the pram and pulled out a pigs head placing it on the shelf and then proudly tweeted about his `accomplishment’. He boasted about his response to BDS’s call to boycott Woolworths. Just another victory for the BDS organization; their calls to target Woolworths had resulted in yet another antisemitic incident. Far from BDS trying to harness our country’s history for its narrow motives, it has instead made a mockery of our constitution that we hold so dear. Its process of intimidation deprives fellow South Africans the rights to freedom of speech, freedom of association and the freedom of religion and belief and opinion, as prescribed by our Bill of Rights. BDS has spent 10 years telling us what we must say, where we can shop, what functions we can attend and which academics we can learn from in our universities. If you don’t toe their line, you are subjected to intimidation, threatened and harassed.
Take for example the group of young South African leaders who just visited Israel and the Palestinian territories. In line with the diplomatic ties that our country has with Israel there was no reason that they should not travel there to see for themselves what the situation is. BDS, petrified that they would experience a contrasting narrative and a reality vastly different from the story they have been punting, threatened the young people before, during and after their visit. They tried to bribe them with R40 000 each to prevent them going on the trip. Since their return they have intimidated and harassed young South Africans who dared to contradict BDS’s version of the conflict. I hardly think this behavior is consistent with our Constitutional principles. One wonders why an organisation ostensibly campaigning for democratic rights would go to such lengths to suppress honest, open debate on the issues that supposedly concern them.
Then there was the SA Zionist Federation Conference earlier this year when BDS again threatened that they would “Shut down Sandton” and ensure that “no Zionist conference will be held on our soil”. Surely BDS should not be celebrating this type of bullying nor the comments that were made at the rally telling conference goers, “We must do everything we can to ensure that we do not allow proud Zionist racists onto our land. Voetsak. You think that this is Israel, we will kill you.”
Kekana has a fixation on the term `ethical company’, yet her own company could not be further from this standard. If BDS had any modicum of ethics they would have been appalled at the calls to deregister Jewish students from Durban University of Technology following their hosting of BDS guest Leila Khaled there the night before. If they subscribed to any values of decency they would have taken action against their coordinator Mohammed Desai who justified the singing of Dubula iJuda (shoot the Jew) at a BDS protest at Wits University as Jewish audience members arrived for a concert. A company interested in ethics would not tolerate their members disrupting a Jewish community event by grabbing the microphone and they wouldn’t throw stinkbombs at the same time as bomb threats were called in to the theatre venue.
Two weeks ago BDS Coordinator Desai sent a threat to organisers of a private function, where Young South Africans returning from Israel would be reporting back on their experiences, that he and 35 BDS groupies with `the media’ in tow would gatecrash the event. Organisers were under no illusion as to BDS’s motives to disrupt the proceedings. There are countless examples of their attempts to do this, including the piano concert performance at Wits where groups of BDS supports stormed the venue forcing the pianist and many audience members to flee in fear. Or more recently when BDS thugs can be seen on camera preventing Palestinian Human Rights Activist Bassem Eid from continuing his speech to students at the University of Johannesburg, simply because Eid provided a different picture of the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Again our constitutional rights are tossed aside for BDS’s righteous attempt at `ethics’.
If you don’t kow tow to BDS’s demands, you will become the target of their intimidation campaign. And let’s be under no illusions, this is not about `Palestinian Solidarity’, it is vile, unmitigated antisemitism. Kekana claims they select consumer campaigns after careful analysis and strategic consideration.” Their `careful analysis and strategic consideration’ involves identifying and targeting South African Jewish businesspeople, threatening them and their businesses should they not comply with their edicts. The owners of Reggies, Dischem and Cape Union Mart are just a few of the Jewish businesspeople targeted by these antisemtic threats. We fail to understand how intimidating South African Jewish businesspeople will in any way further the peace process. On the contrary, all it does is harden relationships and cause hatred between fellow South Africans. It certainly differs from our government’s stance on trade with Israel as articulated in a DTI statement on 6/8/2014, “People in South Africa are free to trade with Israel, and Israel is free to trade with South Africa.”
And don’t for one minute consider that these boycotts are `non-violent’ as Ms Kekana would like us to believe. Last year, following on the Pigs Head incident a group of students responding to the BDS calls to disrupt Woolworths stores looting a store in the Sammy Marks Square in Pretoria causing over R200 000 of damage to merchandise. This doesn’t sound peaceful to me. The reason a South African court granted an interdict against BDS protesters entering Woolworths’ stores was because of the threats and intimidation against Woolworths’ employees and customers.
Thankfully our government, like the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), believe that a Two State solution is the only practical way forward, consistent with international thinking, including the Israelis and Palestinians themselves. Our President in July last year was quoted as saying that, “The only solution lies in serious and genuine negotiations involving all parties” and the Department of International Relations confirmed that, “The lasting solution to the Middle East problem lies in serious and genuine negotiations involving all parties”.
Kekana ends her opinion piece quoting Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” It is time that South Africans see BDS for what it is; an organization that is bent on intimidating and threatening people who dare not share their views, with purely antisemtic motives as evidenced by the outcomes of their campaigns.
The SAJBD believes that these hate campaigns do nothing to further the peace process between the Palestinian and Israeli people, they only create unwanted racism in our country. We as fellow South Africans should stand up against this destructive organisation ensuring that our precious values enshrined in our constitution are upheld.