The BDS Theatre of the Absurd

by SAJBD on 20 November 2014

in General

The actors are the same. The script is the same. The rhetoric is the same. In this ongoing Theatre of the Absurd, BDS is ready to stage every possible propaganda stunt in order to manipulate public perceptions.

The latest production in the ongoing BDS propaganda circus was yesterday’s so-called “Woolworths Shareholders Press Conference”.  Few realised that this was not a Woolworths shareholder meeting, but an impersonation of such an event mounted by BDS to create a media frenzy for their cause. As ever, the notion of truth was entirely irrelevant. The idea, rather, was to demonise the State of Israel and its supporters as much as possible, whilst bullying and intimidating the public at large into complying with its bigoted programme.

Present at this tour de farce was, as always, the “token Jew” who supports boycotts of Israel; Cosatu (whose Western Cape leader, Tony Ehrenreich, currently faces criminal charges for hate speech against the Jewish community); and BDS-SA, represented by National Co-ordinator, Mohammed Desai (who so memorably expressed the opinion that publicly chanting “Shoot the Jew” is not so big a deal).

The bogus “Shareholders’ conference” was just the latest piece of Israel-bashing street theatre by BDS SA. In recent years, we have seen numerous events demonising Israel, and often Jewish South Africans as well. This includes the annual hate-Israel jamboree known as “Israel Apartheid Week”, where its supporters have invaded and forcibly prevented Jewish functions from continuing and disrupted any business, academic or cultural event that ran counter to their blinkered views.

While BDS positions itself as defenders of human rights, their tactics remain bullying, divisive and intimidatory. They may claim to support Palestinians, but their actions are counter to anything that might bring about peace between Palestine and Israel.

BDS campaigns do nothing to help Palestinians and have next to zero impact on Israel. Instead, in their fanatical resolve to grab the headlines come what may, they generate pointless hostility between fellow South Africans. The depositing of pig’s head in what was intended to be the Kosher section of Woolworths is a direct result of its vendetta against that institution, and just the latest example of how BDS is guilty of turning South Africans against one another.

The SA Jewish Board of Deputies is deeply distressed by the current waves of terror targeting helpless civilians in Israel, as we are saddened by the loss of life of all innocent victims in this conflict.  Peace can only be achieved through negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, and we believe that South Africa can play an important role in making that a reality.

In this process, BDS is and will remain a sideshow, regardless of how much media attention is generated by its brazen street theatre tactics.



Earlier this week I attended the World Jewish Congress’s National Community Directors Forum.  My counterparts from 45 countries met in Prague to share our experiences and work together to find solutions to the challenges we all face.

I joined executive directors from countries such as Spain, Turkey, Georgia, Costa Rica, Germany, Ukraine, Ireland, Hungary, the US, France,  Greece, Finland, Norway, Moldova, The Netherlands, Brazil, the UK, Peru, Canada, the UK, Australia to mention but a few of the remarkable individuals that came around the table to address the real issues facing Global Jewry today.

We discussed the escalating levels of antisemitism internationally, focusing on ways that we can address this disturbing trend.  Frightening to note the growing neo-Nazi incidents throughout Europe, as well as the manner in which the anti-Israel activists are using this cause as a platform to launch anti- Jewish hatred.  I was asked to present a paper addressing our specific challenges in this area.

Although we in South Africa do not experience the same level of threat against religious practices in our own country, challenges to practices such as Brit Milah and Schitah are becoming serious problems in other countries, impacting on their way of Jewish life.

An issue that does affect us in South Africa alongside communities internationally is the growing phenomenon of cyber hate.  Antisemitic hatred and threats through the `anti-social media’ is certainly something plaguing Jewish communities everywhere and it was great to have an opportunity to engage on this important topic.

It was also special that South Africa’s Ambassador to the Czech Republic, HE Franki Verwey joined us for dinner during the conference.

I was asked to present a tribute to former President of the SAJBD and Co-Chairman of the WJC Policy Council Mervyn Smith , who had passed away the previous day. Mervyn had not only made a significant contribution to SA Jewry, but had also played an important role in the international platform.

The World Jewish Congress has developed some outstanding programmes and departments to support our work as communal leaders around the world and it was a wonderful opportunity to work with this important global body.  I look forward to ongoing interaction with this important forum.





Last week, SAJBD National Chairman Mary Kluk and National Director Wendy Kahn were amongst a select group of invitees who attended the African Union Foundation “Women in Business” breakfast at Investec. The purpose of the event was for African Union Commission Chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to introduce to South African women leaders her ‘Agenda 2063’ vision for the African continent 50 years hence, and the role African women needed to play if those goals were to be achieved. The event was introduced by programme director Cheryl Carolus.

The fact that she and most of those present would most likely not be around when this date was reached was irrelevant, Zuma said. Today’s leaders owed it to the generations to come to commence the necessary groundwork now, and in order to succeed, it had to be a continental effort. She stressed that Africa’s greatest asset was not its natural resources but its people, and therefore this was needed to be invested in. She identified seven key areas that needed to be prioritised in planning for the future, namely health, education, agriculture, the management of diversity, infrastructure, leadership and youth. The Ebola crisis, she said, had starkly revealed the lack of adequate facilities to cope with an epidemic of nature. Regarding education and skills development, this is what empowered ordinary people, making them less vulnerable to human trafficking and other abuses. It was a little-known fact that an estimated 70% of farm labourers on the continent were women. There was a need to modernise these practices and provide access to capital for small farmers. Likewise, 70% of Africa’s population was under the age of thirty. This made it all the more pressing to foster an environment in which young people were secure and provided with adequate opportunities to better themselves.

In terms of conflict on the continent, Zuma pointed out that it seldom took the form of one country going to war with another, but overwhelmingly was due to internal divisions and tensions. This made diversity management such a crucial component of creating growth and stability. If Africa, as a continent, wished to attract investment from the developed world, Zuma said, then it had to provide the kind of conditions that would attract investors.

Kluk said that it was very gratifying that the Jewish community was regarded as a meaningful player in promoting the greater welfare of the African continent, and that its input was acknowledged and appreciated.

At last year’s SAJBD National Conference, Dr Zuma requested that the Jewish community make input into African upliftment and development. The Board subsequently submitted a document on Jewish social outreach and educational projects in South Africa and how these might be replicated in Africa.


Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma with some of the participants in last week’s “Women in Business” breakfast, including Mary Kluk (middle, back), Wendy Kahn and Wendy Ackerman (seated, from right)


The SA Jewish Board of Deputies is shocked by the barbaric terrorist attack against worshippers at a Jerusalem synagogue this morning. We extend our heartfelt condolences to those whose friends and loved ones were so brutally murdered, and pray for a complete and speedy recovery for those who were injured. This atrocity was the latest, and worst, of a mounting serious of monstrous attacks against innocent Israelis by cold-blooded and fanatical killers. The SAJBD calls on the Palestinian leadership to decisively confront the abominable culture of hatred and celebration of violence and murder that continues to exercise so destructive an influence within Palestinian society. Unless this scourge is defeated, peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people will remain to be illusive and innocent people, on both sides, will continue to be cruelly bereaved.


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17 November 2014

Tributes from around the world have been pouring in for Mervyn Smith, a senior South African Jewish communal leader who went on to play an increasingly important role in the arena of international Jewish politics. Smith, who was 77, passed away in Cape Town over the weekend after a long illness. The funeral took place […]

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Rhoda Kadalie’s article in the Citizen 07 November, 2014

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The ANC Comments on COSAS pig head campaign: Statement by the ANC

4 November 2014

Author : Jessie Duarte ANC statement on COSAS pig head campaign 31 October 2014 The African National Congress has noted with concern the campaign being championed by the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) which in the past week has entailed the placing of head of pigs in kosher and halaal sections of various Woolworths […]

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