“The temptation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine … yet we would be less than human if we did so.”
- NELSON R. MANDELA
As Jews, with our own painful history of oppression, we are compelled to speak out against human rights violations being committed by the State of Israel – in our name – against the Palestinian people.
We note that the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) together with the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF), recently met with the South African Presidency and other politicians. We also note, with great concern, the SAJBD and SAZF’s assertion that they represent and speak on behalf of all Jewish South Africans, particularly when it comes to Palestine-Israel.
Let us be clear, the SAJBD and SAZF’s position of supporting Israel at all costs does not represent us. We also appeal to the SAJBD and SAZF to respect one of the hallmarks of Judaism: respectful debate amongst those who hold divergent viewpoints. The SAJBD and SAZF’s position on Israel, and attempts to stifle opposing voices that speak out against Israel, is morally untenable.
The Jewish community is neither homogeneous nor monolithic. There is a growing number of Jews, in South Africa and around the world, who are organising to form alternative spaces and who unconditionally oppose Israeli policies and practices that shamefully privilege Jews over the indigenous Palestinian people. In this vein, we support the non-violent campaign of applying Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it abides by international law and respects basic human rights [see www.bdsmovement.net].
We are encouraged that our South African government is joining those countries that are taking a clear stance against Israel’s violations of international law and its acts of violence against the Palestinian people [ see this City Press newspaper article: http://tinyurl.com/buyflps]. We also welcome and support our Department of Trade and Industry's initiative to prevent the false labelling of Israeli settlement products [see this Israeli mainstream Ha'aretz newspaper article: http://tinyurl.com/8ujzk42]. We hope that the ANC and the SA Government goes further and completely bans Israeli settlement products. Israeli settlements are in clear violation of international law and seriously undermine any chance of negotiations and a just peace.
Such positions as those recently taken by our government against Israeli violence and violations of international law, in fact, serve to affirm a proud Jewish tradition of respect for justice and human rights; regardless of race, religion or creed. Such positions connect us to our fellow humanity.
We humbly - and sadly - acknowledge that our voices may not be the dominant ones in our community, but neither were Dietrich Bonnhoefer ’s in Nazi Germany nor Beyers Naude’s, Antjie Krog’s, Braam Fischer’s and Joe Slovo’s in Apartheid South Africa.
Our individual consciences, our Jewish tradition and our painful history compel us to declare to the SAJBD, SAZF and to the Israeli government that we will continue to speak out and take a stand for justice and human rights. Taking such a stand is in the very interests of being Jewish. For when we proclaim “Never Again”, we should mean “Never Again”, unconditionally, and to any human being - including the Palestinians.
Issued by StopTheJNF, a campaign initiated by a group of Jewish South Africans committed to justice and rights for the Palestinian people and Jewish Israelis. Find the original statement and more information here: www.stopthejnfsa.org
Mentioned in the above statement is Joe Slovo: the Rivonia Trialist, founding member of the Congress of Democrats, former SACP General-Secretary, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) Chief of Staff and leading member of the African National Congress. Slovo was an outspoken critic of Apartheid South Africa as well as a consistent critic of the Israeli regime - which he also considered an Apartheid state.
In fact, Slovo publicly exposed and highlighted the shameful military collaborations during the 1980s between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa (see this UK Guardian newspaper article: http://tinyurl.com/27et2hy). In an unfinished autobiography, Joe Slovo wrote: "Ironically enough, the horrors of the Holocaust became the rationalization [by Israeli supporters] for ... acts of genocide against the indigenous people of Palestine. Those of us who, in the years that were to follow, raised our voices publicly against the violent apartheid of the Israeli state were vilified...".