Jewish Board’s attack on Pahad – A ploy to put South Africa on the defensive

The open letter addressed to Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Aziz Pahad by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, in which it’s Chairman Zev Krengel complaints bitterly about what they perceive to be SA’s “anti-Israel bias” is no more than a calculated ploy to put South Africa on the defensive.

One wonders whether Krengel and his board have just landed from Mars given their pathetic attempt to depict SA’s foreign policy as “being unjust to Israel”. In reality it is widely acknowledged that permitting the flying of the Israeli flag in Pretoria –” i.e. retaining diplomatic ties –” is viewed as symptomatic of a foreign policy extremely biased against Palestine and disproportionately sympathetic to Israel.

The evidence is not difficult to find except if your approach is to defend every type of atrocity committed by Israel and to stretch this misdirected loyalty by seeking to justify such atrocities as Krengel has done in the name of “the Jewish community as a whole”.

Firstly, it is well known that SA Jewry is not a homogeneous community. A cursory glance at Jewish publications will confirm the diversity of views on a range of subjects from the Orthodox/Progressive divide to the contrasting positions on education, freedom of speech, etc. Perhaps the most contested public debates have been on Israel/Palestine revealing huge internal divides. This would therefore also explain the existence of “Not in my Name”.

Secondly, our assessment of SA’s foreign policy bias in favour of Israel is based on the fact that the Occupied Palestinians are struggling for liberation from a colonial settler state –” now in its 60th year since the Nakba!

That diplomatic ties exist with both the Occupier and the Occupied cannot be viewed as diplomatic equilibrium. In this bizarre situation, it is natural to expect that the balance will be tilted in favour of the party able to secure trade and military agreements as indeed Israel enjoys. Is SA able to conclude such ties with the elected government of Palestine? Has SA been able to secure economic agreements allowing free and interrupted import and export facilities directly with Palestine?

Palestinians, subject as they are to hundreds of checkpoints, land grabs and a struggle for survival require of SA real substantive solidarity. This would equate with the international solidarity the ANC sought and found from many globally to isolate the Apartheid regime. It involved boycotts and divestments. Precisely what the Palestinians require: Boycott and sanctions!

Lest Krengel and his board remain adamant by demanding that Pahad subvert SA’s foreign policy ala US-style, may I remind them that Professor John Dugard, in his capacity as the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories [OPT] has called on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to withdraw the UN from the Quartet, if it fails to evaluate the human rights situation in the Occupied Territories.

His report is a scathing indictment of Israel’s poor record on human rights. He charges Israel of continuous military incursions, arrests, house demolitions and checkpoints remaining in force, despite the thawing of relations between Olmert and Abbas.

Dugard claims that the entire social fabric of Palestinian society is threatened by poverty and unemployment, which he attributes to Israel’s refusal to transfer tax monies due to the Palestinians and the imposition of banking restrictions by the United States.

“There are some 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails and prisoners are treated in an inhuman and degrading manner. The extrajudicial killing of suspected militants by means of rocket fire continues unabated.”

His damning report follows on the heels of his colleague, Alvaro de Soto, who as the UN Envoy to the Quartet, declared that it under the influence of the US, had failed the Palestinians.

In his May 2007 “End of Mission Report”, de Soto stated that “as a practical matter, the Quartet is pretty much a group of friends of the US –” and the US doesn’t feel the need to consult closely with the Quartet except when it suits it”.

The remarkable manipulation within the UN has resulted in the Security Council relinquishing its powers in respect of the Occupied Palestinian Territories in favour of an amorphous body known as the Quartet. It was set up in 2003 without a founding resolution or mandate from either the Security Council or the General Assembly.

It is therefore perfectly acceptable for Pahad to lament that Israeli conduct is in conflict with international conventions.