You probably read that Deputy International Relations Minister Ebrahim recently advised South Africans not to travel to Israel due to its impasse with Palestinian authorities. His statements attracted a tremendous amount of criticism from the Jewish community and Chief Rabbi Goldstein published a very pointed open letter to the Deputy Minister criticising his apparent personal bias and abuse of his position to further his personal political agenda.
You are a minister of the South African government, appointed to advance the interests of the Republic and the people of South Africa in an impartial and rational manner. As a citizen and as a national religious leader of South Africa, I object to the way in which you are abusing your high office to promote your own personal agenda. You obviously have a ‘blind spot’ when it comes to Israel; you lose your sense of objectivity and rationality when dealing with the Jewish State.
Your actions hark back to apartheid-style control of information and censorship. Why would you try to prevent South Africans from travelling to Israel and seeing the situation for themselves? Do you think, Mr. Ebrahim, that the South African people are not as clever as you are, that they cannot think for themselves and that they need to be protected from the facts?
It is a terrific letter and worth reading because, as with most criticisms of Israel regarding Palestinians, the point of view Ebrahim promotes ignores a number of inconvenient facts about how the State of Israel treats its Arab citizens. One popular piece of propaganda the Chief Rabbi tackles is the patently absurd notion that Israel is an Apartheid state.
Maybe you are afraid – and rightly so – that if people go to Israel and see the situation for themselves their perspective will be completely different. Are you worried that they will see that, in fact, there is no apartheid in Israel? South Africans visiting Israel will find a multi-racial, multi-ethnic vibrant society where more than 1.5 million Arabs live as full and equal Israeli citizens, vote as part of a single national voters’ roll and have full legal rights in all areas of society. Are you concerned that when South Africans travel on buses, visit parks, malls, hospitals and university campuses, attend the Israeli Parliament and the Supreme Court they will find Jews and Arabs living and working together in complete equality? They may hear, for example, that, in fact, it was an Arab judge who convicted former Israeli president Moshe Katsav on rape charges.
Accusing Israel of being an Apartheid state has always been and remains a convenient and emotionally-charged accusation designed to leverage a shameful government’s policy towards non-whites who were discriminated against and mis-treated for decades in South Africa and apply that metaphor to a country that doesn’t discriminate against its multi-cultural citizens who observe a variety of faiths and comprise a variety of racial groups. It’s not that different to the metaphor wars the entertainment industry wages on so-called “pirates” although the campaign against Israel isn’t very entertaining. It is also somewhat hypocritical for the Deputy Minister to point fingers at this phantom Apartheid state when our own government is resembling the oppressive regime it replaced more and more each day.