Originally published in Ynet News
The latest comments by South Africa’s deputy international relations minister, Ebrahim Ebrahim, saying that he ”discourages” South Africans from visiting Israle, keep making headlines.
South African newspapers, such as the ‘Cape Times’ and ‘The Mercury Durban’ described the remarks as a categorical and official admission by the SA government to a policy of discouraging South Africans from visiting Israel. The story has been published in many of the national and regional papers.
The South African Jewish Board of deputies issued on Wednesday a statement of its own, deploring Ebrahim’s statement: ”Such a stance is grossly discriminatory, counter-productive and wholly inconsistent with how South Africa normally conducts its international relations, and contradicts its official policy of having full diplomatic ties with Israel.
The result of such a policy is that South Africa, instead of lending its weight to international efforts to bring about a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, will be seen to be supporting those who wish to promote a complete boycott of Israel and to that end, seek to shut down any initiatives aimed at meaningful dialogue.”
The Board accused the deputy minister of censoring Israel’s viewpoint, and shutting down any initiative aimed at a meaningful dialogue: ”Only through visiting Israel and engaging at first hand with the various role-players and issues on the ground, can people gain a better understanding of the situation there, yet it is precisely such visits that Deputy Minister Ebrahim is seeking to prevent,” read the statement.
Several members of the Jewish community in Johannesburg and Cape Town expressed outrage over Ebrahim’s declarations, ”especially in the current political climate, where anti-Israeli statements and action seem to follow each other every second week,”, said one of them, referring to the latest proposalto ban the labeling of products from the West Bank as “made in Israel.”
Speaking at a press conference in Pretoria on Tuesday, Ebrahim denied that his statements were part of an official policy aimed at boycotting Israel, stressing that SA has not changed the nature of its bilateral relations with Israel: ”What we are saying as a government is that we discourage South Africans from visiting Israel. We do not prevent them. We say we discourage them…The decision is left to the individual or the organization that is invited to visit Israel,” he said.
The deputy minister is expected to comment on the issue on a public radio program this week. The Israeli embassy in Pretoria declined an invitation to confront him on the same program, saying that Israel will address the issue through dialogue with the South African government, and not “on the air.”
According to the MFA’s spokesman’s office in Jerusalem, these declarations contradict the official SA line, which encourages dialogue, and also come close to declaring a boycott on Israel. The Israeli ambassador, Dov Segev-Steinberg, will meet South African officials in the coming days to ask for clarification on the SA policy.
The African Christian Democratic Party is outraged by the call made by Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ebrahim Ebrahim, to South Africans, many of whom are Christians, not to visit Israel, says party president Rev Kenneth Meshoe is a statement released on Wednesday.
One of the examples of anti-Semitism given by the European Union Monitoring Committee (EUMC) is “applying double standards by requiring of it (Israel) a behaviour not accepted or demanded of any other democratic nation”, says Meshoe.
The call by Deputy Minister Ebrahim, and General Notice 379 of 2012 released the Minister of Trade and Industry, fits this EUMC example of anti-Semitism. We wonder why Mr Ebrahim never called on South Africans not to visit Syria or any other country engulfed by war and violence in the Middle East, but only chooses to target Israel.
He says: “The ACDP, therefore, calls on Deputy Minister Ebrahim to keep what appears to be anti-Semitism and a personal vendetta against Israel to himself. We further urge him to desist from misleading the public by allegedly claiming that “government has made it official that its policy is to discourage South Africans from visiting Israel”, as reported in the Cape Times.
A local pro-Palestinian organisation has welcomed remarks by International Relations deputy minister Ebrahim Ebrahim discouraging South Africans from visiting Israel.
“As a member of a post-apartheid government in South Africa, the deputy minister could do no less,” the Palestinian Solidarity Committee said in a statement on Wednesday.
The PSC argued that Israel was an “apartheid state” and South African leaders had an obligation to oppose it.