Earlier this year, the ANC repeatedly denounced artist DJ Black Coffee simply for exercising his democratic right to perform in Israel. Then civil society went for journalist Gareth Cliff, depicting him as a moral pariah for daring to put forward an alternate opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now Dr Mpho Phalatse, MMC for the DA in Gauteng, has become the target of hysterical condemnation for having expressed support for Israel at a South African Friends of Israel conference on Sunday. This is despite her subsequent clarification that she did so in her personal capacity.
These are just the most recent instances of attempts to silence South Africans who challenge the anti-Israel narrative. It is all part of an environment in which Israel is being demonised to a degree that bears no relationship to reality. The propagandist whipping up of emotion aims at ensuring that only one opinion on the subject will be allowed, with anyone who disagrees with that narrow-minded, usually agenda-driven, opinion becoming a target for vilification.
Anti-Israel bigotry does not merely threaten the rights of the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of South Africans who are passionate supporters of Israel. It also poses a serious threat to democracy in our country. South Africa has one of the most progressive Constitutions in the world, one that guarantees freedom of association and freedom of expression. Despite this, those who express support for Israel, or increasingly those that express differing or dissenting views on a broad range of topics, face horrendous intimidation, hate speech and attempts at silencing them, not just from members of the general public but, much more seriously, from the political establishment as well. Dr Mpho Phalatse has become the latest target of this totalitarian strategy.
This is an unacceptable situation. Ours is a democracy that entitles every one of us to hold and express differing opinions. We call on all South Africans to stand up against those who resort to bullying and intimidation to prevent others from exercising that inalienable right.