Shortly before Yom Kippur, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry heard oral submissions re the proposed re-labelling of Israeli West Bank products. The Board, as well as the SA Zionist Federation, were each allowed to make a presentation. Ours was delivered by National Director Wendy Kahn, and we commend her for the accomplished manner in which she did so, as well as for its eloquent and succinct content. Read the full submission.
As has been discussed in a number of previous columns, the Board has been much involved, in close collaboration with the SAZF and other organisations, in lobbying against this policy, certainly in the form in which it was originally presented. Both in its content and the high-handed manner in which it was introduced demonstrated beyond doubt that while framed in terms of upholding simple consumer protection principles, its real aim is to facilitate a boycott of certain Israeli goods and thereby set a dangerous international precedent.
We very much welcomed the fact that we were finally been provided with an opportunity to present our concerns to government, and it was further gratifying that our presentations were allowed a respectful hearing. Prior to this, our continual efforts to engage with Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies on the issues had been disregarded, and when finally allowed an opportunity to meet with him, he was wholly dismissive and uninterested in what we had to say. If nothing else, our persistence in challenging this flawed and biased new measure has shown to government that our views cannot be simply brushed aside and that we will do whatever is required, including approaching the courts for relief, to ensure fair play.
As a result of the oral hearings, it has been decided to call for further submission from all stakeholders. These will outline what are the minimal demands that each feels would be satisfactory in resolving the matter. We have been working closely with our various partners in the process in preparing such a document, which will be submitted shortly.
A Succot Lesson for South Africa
The joyous, harmonious week of Succot followed by Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah has just concluded, leaving us all inspired and uplifted. In commemorating our ancestors’ long sojourn in the desert, during which time they lived in fragile, temporary shelters, we should recall at the same time how for so many South Africans, living in such crude dwellings is a constant reality and reflective of the crushing poverty in which they are mired. In turn, this should motivate us, as a Jewish community, to extend a helping hand as much as we are able to those who need it. Earlier this year, we launched our Jubuntu Project, which documents the various social upliftment projects being conducted by Jewish individuals and organisations. Once again, I urge anyone who can provide us with information on these initiatives, which in due course are to be presented to Deputy President Motlanthe, to get in touch with us via our website.
- Listen to Steven Gruzd on Jewish Board Talk on 101.9 ChaiFM every Friday 12:00-13:00. Repeats Sundays, 11:00-12:00.
This Above Board Column first appeared in the South African Jewish Report on 12 October 2012