[notice]Special Report by Libby Norton who looks beyond the anti-Israeli media slant that dominates in SA and much of the world — and offers a Christian perspective on the Gaza war. [/notice]
The South African response to the present Israeli-Palestinian crisis is a complex one not only for the Government but also for people like you and me — everyday Christians.
On the political side, one has to remember that throughout the struggle to get rid of apartheid, the ANC, like so many other freedom movements in Africa, received support from Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization and other organisations like them. So now, whatever common sense might dictate, they feel honour bound to support them in return, at least publicly. This leads to a one sided story in South Africa as much as in the rest of the world.
In February, the Democratic Alliance (DA) representative at a parliamentary conference on Palestine uncritically adopted a range of highly hostile resolutions on Israel and registered no reservation in endorsing the final, entirely pro-Palestinian declaration. Just the other day, the DA leader, Helen Zille, declared that on the basis of an acceptance by Hamas of Israel’s right to exist (which is inconsistent with Hamas’ persistent calls for Israel’s annihilation) the DA believes that Israel should end its occupation of all Palestinian territories based on the 1967 borders; that Jerusalem should be a shared capital of both an Israeli and Palestinian state; that Hamas should stop digging tunnels to attack Israel; that Israel should end the siege and blockade of Gaza, withdraw its settlements from the West Bank and recognise the Palestinian unity government.
Strikingly, Zille’s declaration is followed by the DA leader admitting she has a limited knowledge of the Middle East and has never been there. It is Hamas rockets that have kept Israel under siege in recent weeks.
Yet even Madiba perceived Israel’s security concern in 1999 and said: “I cannot conceive of Israel withdrawing if Arab states do not recognise Israel within secure borders”.
Bizarrely, or maybe not so in our present topsy turvy politics, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) on Monday copied a Cosatu pre-election accusation and called for a rejection of the DA saying “the DA gets money from Israel” This was hotly denied by the DA and followed by a Daily Maverick columnist writing in desperately needed levity, (I think): “And how do we know that Israel doesn’t fund the EFF? ”
Kenneth Meshoe, MP and leader of the African Christian Democratic Party, (ACDP) says Israel has a right to self defence. “If the ANC believes they have the right to defend Shell House, which is now called Luthuli House, then Israel should also have the right to defend herself against rockets fired at them by Hamas. This is their common-law right to self-defence.” He went on to quote President Mandela himself who admitted in Parliament in 1995 that he had given the order to defend Shell House during the IFP march, ‘even if they have to kill people. This is nothing more or less than a statement of the common-law right to self-defence’, Mandela said.
In his speech on the Presidency budget last week, Meshoe commended President Zuma for resisting the temptation to join the chorus of those who condemn Israel only in the conflict, noting government has taken a more neutral line, with President Jacob Zuma condemning both the Israeli military offensive as well as rockets fired into Israel by Hamas.
But it’s not only bombs. Hamas increased its building of terrorist tunnels into Israel to over 30 of them for infiltration to kill and kidnap Israelis. Hamas officials openly admit that children were used to help build their terror tunnels and that at least 160 Palestinian children died during so-called work accidents. The Wiesenthal Centre has urged the 47-Member UN Human Rights Council to investigate Hamas over the deaths. In an article of the Institute for Palestine Studies by Nicolas Pelham, he bewails, “Isn’t there a single member of the UNHRC, whether the US, Germany, UK, or France to stand up and demand accountability for Hamas’ barbarities, at least when the victims are Palestinian children? And where is the multitude of NGOs devoted to protecting children? Will they ever raise the target of their moral outrage at anyone in the Middle East other than Israel?”
Israel says its main focus of the offensive is to eliminate those tunnels; the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) says everything is taking place below ground which is a challenge. Analysts say Hamas’ underground strategy is in response to Israel’s effective drone surveillance and targeting from the air. “They must assume that everything they are doing above ground is being tracked by the IDF,” said Shlomo Brom, senior research fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies. “They reached the logical conclusion they had to go underground.”
White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan says the US is “extremely concerned” that thousands of Palestinians aren’t safe in the UN-designated shelters in Gaza. The agency is sheltering more than 200 000 people displaced by the fighting at dozens of UN schools in Gaza where Israelis say militants have concealed weapons caches in schools, mosques and homes. Meehan said the US condemns those responsible for hiding weapons in UN facilities in Gaza, and that the escalation shows the need for a ceasefire as soon as possible.
In the International Affairs Budget vote speech in Parliament last week, Cheryllyn Dudley ACDP MP, noted that German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a news conference in Berlin said: “Both sides must accept painful compromises but we stand by the side of Israel when it comes to self-defence.” Merkel said that there was a “new quality” to weapons used by the Palestinian territory’s Hamas group against Israel and added that countries under attack must be allowed to defend themselves.
Grieved by loss of life
In expressing that the ACDP was grieved by the loss of life and anguish that families on both sides of the tragedy are facing at this time, Dudley stated that South Africa’s foreign policy in this regard must protect life. Palestinian people and Israeli people have no future unless it is a shared future and the help South Africa must give is to help both peoples find a way to do this.
Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, Arthur Lenk, whom extremists were demanding be sent home, actually sees similarities between our two countries “(they) are vibrant, loud democracies in regions that are not quite known for their liberalism…” He sees both born out of great tragedy … democratic South Africa emerging from Apartheid and the modern State of Israel from the shadows of the Holocaust.
Israel has made peace with two of its neighbours – Jordan and Egypt, it unilaterally left Gaza in 2006, offering their people a chance for a better life. Israel removed all of its troops and all Jewish people living there; they left behind greenhouses, farm equipment and other valuable civilian assets worth millions of dollars. The Palestinians were able to conduct free elections, and to import construction and other economic material in order to build a viable Palestinian entity to help their citizens. European donors sent them money and other resources, hoping that they would use them to create jobs, schools, hospitals and other necessary infrastructure. Their governing authorities have not brought much of this to pass.
Defining the time periods from 2005 where despite winning favour in elections Hamas conducted a bloody coup d’etat to take control of Gaza, Alan Dershowitz, world renowned lawyer in both criminal and civil liberties, notes: “To be sure, Israel maintained control over its border with Gaza, with checkpoints and security fences, but it opened its border to Palestinian residents of Gaza who came to work in Israel.” They were free to come and go as they pleased. (http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/The-occupation-of-Gaza-canard-369370)
He reports that Colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan and a recognized expert on asymmetric warfare, has said “From my knowledge of the IDF and from the extent to which I have been following the current operation, (in 2011) I don’t think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza.” This is the way the Israelis do it.
According to the materials disclosed by Wikileaks “Israel shines in comparison with other democracies. It has a significantly better ratio of combatant to civilian deaths; it takes greater steps to avoid such casualties, and it does a better job investigating negligent and criminal behaviour on the part of its soldiers. Moreover, it is seeking to protect its own civilians directly from ongoing cross-border rocket attacks and other terrorist acts, whereas (the) other democracies are fighting wars of choice many miles from its civilian areas.”
In the words of Golda Meir, Israel’s first woman prime ministerway back in 1957, “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us,” and its present Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in 2006 said, “The truth is that if Israel were to put down its arms there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms there would be no more war.”
The recent destruction of Gaza’s power plant has been a long time coming. Gaza has not paid for its electricity for a long time, and now owes Israel NIS 220 million in unpaid power bills…. Israelis around the country took to the streets believing cutting off power to Gaza was a non-lethal way to bring Hamas to its knees. .. “…for Israeli citizens to be paying for the electricity being used to develop and fire rockets on innocent citizens,” they said, ” is immoral, unjust, and illogical. If you or I miss a month or two of payments, they turn off the electricity in our house, but Hamas chisels its way out of the Gaza bill with no consequences.”
Many have noted that the murder of the three Israeli teenagers in the middle of June led to Israel’s military response Operation Protective Edge, which in turn uncovered the Hamas plot to invade Israel on Rosh Hashanah from many new found tunnels sturdily built of concrete and immune to aerial bombings. Their invasion was to see the abduction of Israelis to the tunnels, preventing retaliation and bringing destruction on Israel. But they reckon without the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel who inspired Israeli scientists to create the remarkably efficient Iron Dome defensive shield against rockets. The God who also elicited the response from Hamas militants who marvelled at Israel’s supernatural protection, saying “their God changes the path of the rockets in the sky!”
South Africa’s National Development Plan includes a number of core priorities where tiny Israel is a world leader and can play a very significant role in development efforts in rural development, agriculture, water management, cyber technology and scientific R&D. In recent years, Israel has made far reaching agreements with our BRICS partners India and China.
Luba Mayekiso, National Director of ICEJ (International Christian Embassy Jerusalem) says, “Africa today is in a really bad place when it comes to everything from poverty to agriculture and health. We are trying to say to our government that we need to accept the help from Israel and work with them.” He adds, “There is an amazing thirst from people to know about Israel. The potential is there and we need to exploit it.”
Israel may be a world leader in many spheres but in PR it is not. It seems not in their character to blow their own shofar, to their detriment. While the rest of the Middle East is in flames with thousands of people being displaced and murdered, Christians are bemused and bamfoozled by a world media that chooses to ignore that, rather steadfastly focusing on Gaza ignoring all the good of Israel and all the bad of Hamas. Many Christians are consequently siding in ignorance and being played by the devastatingly capable PR of fanatic organisations where truth is not an issue.
The Archbishop of Cape Town has described Israel’s response as ‘disproportionate’. In a statement last week, Archbishop Brisling makes no reference to the 10 000 rockets Hamas fired upon Israel to start the conflict. Since then, militants have fired more than 2 600 rockets and mortars toward Israel and Israeli forces have destroyed about 3 000, yet Hamas may still have nearly 5 000 rockets, “enough to keep firing at Israeli cities for weeks” estimated Lt Col Peter Lerner, IDF’s spokesman.
The Jewish Board of Deputies is concerned about a rise in hate speech in South Africa: National Director Wendy Kahn said the organisation has sent a letter of complaint to President Jacob Zuma about a hate speech tweet posted by @ANC-Vote2014 on Sunday before the account was shut down, and had counted 40 cases of hate speech aimed at Jews in the past month.
Jesus urges us to pray for our enemies and no doubt also those misguided and full of hate; it is necessary that each of us should pray for Rene Smit, who was involved in running the ANC’s Western Cape social media campaign. Smit posted a picture of Hitler on Facebook with the message: “I could have killed all the Jews, but I left some of them to let you know why I was killing them.” In my experience I have received nothing but blessing from the Jewish people from my earliest memory of a doctor to the cellphone I praise God for every day. May God forgive her.
So how should we react? Where other than the Bible, can a Christian go for guidance? We are taught to grow more and more like Jesus. Our Lord and Saviour is Jewish as were all his brothers, sisters and disciples. He was born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth. We are urged to “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people” – God is referring to the Jews. Even if one espouses a doctrine that ignores Romans 11, it is hard to ignore Zechariah 2:8 where God says to them: “For thus says the LORD of hosts, “After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, (Israel) for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye.”
In the words of Messianic Testimony, Leigh Telli says “I believe it is imperative that we adopt the same spirit that Ruth had for Naomi. Ruth’s heart was intertwined with His people, “Your people shall be my people and your God, my God.”
Israel peace rallies
We no longer simply enjoy our Israel trips and Scripture study, I submit to you that our happy support for Israel must now be translated into physical support and putting our feet where our mouth is — that means for a start turning out for the Israel peace rallies in Joburg or Cape Town to show them that we do see this time and we do remember — “Never again”.
Knowing that God’s promise passed down to Israel says “those who bless you will be blessed but those who curse you will be cursed,” (Genesis 12:3) — it is a fearsome thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.
The Muslim Judicial Council arranged a mass march to Parliament in Cape Town on July 16 protesting at Israel’s attacking of sites in Gaza which was in response to the relentless bombing of Israel by Hamas.
This Sunday, August 3, the SA Zionist Federation (SAZF) will hold a solidarity peace rally for Israel in Johannesburg at Huddle Park, Linksfield. The rally is to state Israel’s right to exist, to defend herself and her citizens, and the right to live without the constant barrage of rocket attacks.
The vice chairman, Ben Swartz, says they are expecting between ten and twenty thousand people –- not just Jewish but across the spectrum. “It’s part of everyone’s right to voice their opinions.” he said.
According to SA Friends of Israel thousands of South Africans will be marching in support of Israel including the African Christian Democratic Party, (ACDP ), The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP ), the African National Congress ANC, the Impact for Christ Ministries, the Shembe Church of Gauteng, the Institute for Christian Leadership Development, the Hebraic Roots Training Institute and Bridges for Peace amongst others.
A similar rally is to be held in Cape Town on Sunday, August 10, at 14h30, at Hellenic Club in Greenpoint. Christian groups ask that all should start mobilising contacts and indicate if they need assistance with transportation as they need huge numbers to show Cape Town the true face of Christian support for Israel.
Call for tolerance of differing views
In a call for tolerance of the vastly different perspectives on the Gaza war, Dr Warren Goldstein, South Africa’s Chief Rabbi said: “Let us debate and disagree without importing the awful hatred and bitterness in the Middle East into SA,” reports the Natal Mercury.
“We need to find a way of unapologetically defending our opinions, while not making sweeping, hate-filled statements about those who disagree with us. Street protests and social-media comments are often filled with expressions of intolerance. In France and Germany protests have turned violent.
“Although we have thus far been spared this shame, we must be vigilant because verbal violence can easily become physical, he says.
He notes: “The Jewish and Muslim communities of South Africa have strong and opposing views of how to interpret the conflict in the Middle East. Both need to respect the other and try to nurture an atmosphere of tolerance and human dignity. Only then can we can engage in these discussions productively.”
He says: “Every South African has the constitutional right to express their opinion uncensored and openly.