In September, local anti-Israel activists made a presentation to the International Relations and Cooperation Portfolio Committee in Parliament. It was, predictably, an emotive and grossly selective account of how Palestinian homes were lost during the 1948 War of Independence , with SA Jewry being portrayed as the villains who established a forest over a destroyed Arab village. Last Friday a delegation from the Jewish community, led by the SAJBD, was given an opportunity of responding in the same forum. Part of this necessarily consisted of responding to some of the more blatant accusations made against Israel and our community. However, we also took the opportunity to encourage the government’s efforts to continue engaging with both parties with a view to encouraging a negotiated solution to the Israel /Palestine question and to draw attention to how the confrontational, inflammatory tactics of anti-Israel radicals results only in polarisation and quite frequently open antisemitism in our country without making any contribution whatsoever to advancing the prospects for peace. In adopting this position, we align ourselves with those working for a peaceful solution to the conflict, which includes our government, in contrast to those who dishonestly demonize one side while promoting the politics of boycott and disengagement in order to shut down any real constructive debate on the issues.
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies pays tribute to Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe, and extends its condolences to the Sobukwe family on her passing. Mrs Sobukwe will always have an honoured place in South African history for her loyal, steadfast support for her legendary husband, the great Pan-Africanist leader Robert Sobukwe, during the struggle against apartheid.
On Mandela Day last week, sandwiches were made and handed out, blankets knitted and distributed and speeches given by impressive and inspiring world leaders. It is fitting then, that, on that auspicious day, I experienced what I believe was a profound ‘Mandela moment’, one that exemplified the Madiba values and spirit.
As we prepare to celebrate Women’s Day tomorrow, the SAJBD urges all South Africans to do more to combat the scourge of violence against women in our society. There is a critical need for greater awareness, education and the enforcement of the law around gender-based violence, as well as discrimination in the workplace and in other spheres of daily life. Our young girls should also be empowered through education, skills and development.