A decision by the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) to declare Israel an apartheid state “is highly concerning” as it “portrays a false view of the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel,” says Bafana Modise, head of communications at South African Friends of Israel (SAFI).
In the resolution passed by the Provincial Standing Committee of ACSA last Thursday, the church noted that its decision aligned it with human rights bodies such at Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the national executive committee of the South African Council of Churches, the Dutch Reformed Church Western Cape synod and “most Palestinian civil rights bodies”.
In a blog statement on the resolution ACSA leader Archbishop Thabo Makgoba says: “When black South Africans who have lived under apartheid visit Israel, the parallels to apartheid are impossible to ignore. If we stand by and keep quiet, we will be complicit in the continuing oppression of the Palestinians.
Modise points out that in a recent interview with SAFI, former SA defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota who has visited Israel, debunked the “apartheid Israel” label, saying that “in Israel, you won’t find the same divisions between Jews and non-Jews that we used to witness during apartheid”.
“To disseminate this narrative in South Africa only serves to expropriate the suffering of black people under apartheid, in a manner that serves the interests and agenda of a very antisemitic international organisation, the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions Movement (BDS),” he says.
Modise’s statement also criticises ACSA for not engaging with SAFI regarding its decision. He says:
This is concerning as SAFI is a well established member of a number of church-based organisations across South Africa. In fact, SAFI has received a number of appeals from members of the Anglican church that remain outraged at the decision taken yesterday.
Out of touch with members’ views
“James van den Heever, has written a thesis on this topic within the Anglican Church, indicating that repeated attempts by members to contact the Church leadership on the subject have been ignored for a number of years. This tells us that the views of the Church leadership do not reflect those of its members — the majority of South Africans love the Holy Land of Israel and would rather play a productive role in ending the conflict, as opposed to recycling the views of antisemitic organisations like the BDS movement,” says Modise.
He says SAFI plans to meet with a number of churches in SA over the next few months to formally oppose ACSA’s decision to declare Israel an apartheid state. During the meetings they will provide Anglican Church members and other Christians with “a more educated view of why the conflict remains between the Palestinians and Israel today”.
He says SAFI will also “continue to support individuals within the Anglican Church in their efforts to share that this decision in no way represents the views of the majority of Anglicans in South Africa”.
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