Israel pursuing closer relations with Africa
Calling Israel an apartheid state trivialises what black South Africans endured under that system, says Olga Meshoe, daughter of African Christian Democratic Party president, Rev Kenneth Meshoe, in a recent appearance on CBN’s 700 Club.
For the past two years, as the COO of DEISI (Defend, Embrace, Invest, Support Israel), an organisation started by her father, she has been travelling the world, campaigning for truth in defence of Israel’s right to exist.
“When I hear that Israel is an apartheid state, when people make that accusation, depending on the mood I’m in I either break out laughing or I get really, really angry – because it’s an absolute lie,” she tells 700 Club host Pat Robertson in a video interview that was posted on the Internet today.
She says when her father got back from a US trip in which he was exposed to what the BDS (Boycott, Disinvestment, Sanctions) movement was saying on campuses — including deligitimising Israel by labeling it as an apartheid state — he said that if there was going to be a response it needed to come from black South Africans who had suffered under apartheid.
Olga, who is an attorney, says: “We have a responsibility to let the world know that a people who just want to see the destruction of Israel can’t just take our history and repackage it.”
She says that despite 22 years of democracy in SA, apartheid is still a raw issue and when the BDS declares that there is a nation in the world that is still experiencing apartheid, people are appalled and latch onto the movement without realising that they are being misled. A major driver in the international campaign to brand Israel as an apartheid state and promote the Palestinian cause and BDS movement is the annual Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) which, according to its website takes place at 150 universities and cities. IAW 2016 in SA is scheduled for March 1 to 10.
Olga says although she gets shouted down on some campuses ‘by people who don’t want to hear the truth’, she believes that DEISI is gaining ground. She says when people are presented with facts about apartheid and about Israel they begin to ask questions.
“I really do believe that as soon as people are prepared to ask questions and find out the truth for themselves that we have pretty much started to win the battle,” she says.
Defiant Peres speaks in Johannesburg
The branding of Israel as an apartheid state because of its treatment of the Palestinians, was also taken up in Johannesburg on Sunday, by former Israeli President, Shimon Peres, in an address to the SA Jewish community as anti-Israel activists protested outside.
“There is not a single word in our law that discriminates against people, nothing whatsoever. Apartheid was racism and in Israel racism is a crime. We were attacked several times and we were outgunned and outmanned. We were 650 000 people surrounded by 50 million Arabs. Without anything, we fought for our rights. You call that apartheid? People tend to forget that we made peace with the Arabs,” he said, reports Breaking Israel News.
In defiant mood, the 92-year-old Peres told the audience in the packed Sandton Convention Centre: “Any threats or attempts to hurt us and Israel will not deter me from standing on this stage and fighting the just war of the State of Israel. I am proud to stand here tonight.”
Streets were closed off across Johannesburg ahead of the event and security forces were deployed to ensure that the BDS movement protests did not get out of hand. Peres’s office issued a statement before the event saying that the boycott movement had not succeeded in harming the event, which aimed to strengthen the Jewish community in Johannesburg and salute Israel.
Knesset launches caucus for Israel-Africa relations
Meanwhile in Israel on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu addressed African ambassadors at the launch of the Knesset’s caucus for Israel-Africa relations, reports Breaking Israel News. The effort to establish the caucus was initiated by Member of Knesset Avraham Naguisa (Likud), the only MK to immigrate to Israel from Ethiopia.
Speaking about the importance of a very close bilateral relationship between Israel and Africa, Netanyahu said: “Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is coming back to Israel. It’s happening now because it’s so clear that this is good for Africa and it’s good for Israel.”
He argued that Israel and Africa have shared interests and should therefore improve relations on that basis.
“I have no doubt whatsoever that today the interests of Africa and the interests of Israel cohere,” the prime minister contended. “They’re almost identical, and in some respects and in many respects they are identical.”
Netanyahu claimed that the mutual interests involve challenges and opportunities common to both Israel and Africa such as overcoming the forces of militant Islamic terrorism and seizing the technological opportunities of the future. Accordingly, he expressed his desire for Israel and Africa to act together in global organizations such as the UN.
“What I’d like to see is the closeness of our relationship reflected also in the voting pattern of the African Union,” Netanyahu told the African ambassadors. “You should vote for the interests of your own countries and you should vote for the interests of Africa. I wish to see that reflected in our bilateral relationship and also in our multilateral relationship.”
The challenge of militant Islam, which Israel has faced for a number of years, has also become a recent phenomenon throughout Africa in the years following the Arab Spring in 2011. Netanyahu made it clear that Israel would provide support in combating Islamist terror groups.
“We understand the dangers of Al-Shabab,” Netanyahu said about the East African terrorist group. “We understand the dangers of the other militancies that threaten your countries in Africa and we are prepared to work with you to defeat them.”
Israel has helped Africa technologically in a number of sectors and in the agricultural sector in particular by introducing techniques such as drip irrigation, which is especially useful in arid climates.
Netanyahu added that Israel was in a unique position to help with cyber security.
“Israel is now a world power in cyber security and my policy is to make some of our experience available to our friends,” stressed the prime minister. “We consider you great friends.”
Netanyahu also committed to making frequent visits to Africa. He promised the ambassadors that “for too long you have come here and we have not come there, and we are going to change that.”
His office reports that he says he has received invitiations to visit Kenya from President Uhuru Kenyatta of Keynay who recently visited Israel, as well as from other African leaders. He plans to visit African nations for the upcoming 40th anniversary of an Israeli operation that freed hostages aboard a plane in Uganda and which led to the death of his brother.