By Iqbal Jassat – Pretoria
The latest scandal to hit a self-confessed pro-Israeli organization in South Africa, the SA Zionist Federation, [SAZF] is likely to invigorate the 'Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions' [BDS] campaign against Israel and its affiliates.
This remarkable turn of events involves a Johannesburg-based bag manufacturing company, Saley’s Travel Goods, who refused to supply the SAZF with goods on the grounds that it did not want to “aid and abet” organizations responsible for “crimes against humanity”.
The SAZF, known for its links to apartheid Israel, has in the recent past been embroiled in a number of headline grabbing controversies surrounding its defense of Israeli war crimes.
Most notable has been its failed attempt to prevent a leading South African jurist, Judge Richard Goldstone from attending his grandson’s barmitzvah. This move was interpreted by many Jewish critics of Israel as a form of punishing Goldstone for his report on Operation Cast Lead that established Israel’s guilt in Gaza.
More recently a Cape Town NGO known as Open Shuhada Street, whose members comprise of prominent human rights activists accused the SAZF of supporting occupation, settlement and oppression.
According to Open Shuhada Street, in response to its call to boycott the settlement-made products of Ahava, the SAZF launched a “vicious personal attack on us”.
Ahava is manufactured in an Israeli settlement in the Occupied West Bank and thus a call for a boycott of its products is necessary to make the occupation unprofitable. Instead of recognising this undisputed fact, the SAZF has called for people to increase their purchases of Ahava.
Open Shuhada Street has therefore accused the SAZF of being devoted to increasing the profitability of the occupation and of defending the use of Occupied Territory “in violation of international law and to entrenching and sustaining Israeli settlements which stand in the way of peace”. This exposes the SAZF as an obstacle to peace!
In 2005 our research unit within the Media Review Network [MRN] had verified that the SAZF has been actively promoting the emigration of South African Jews to a settlement called Modi’in in the West Bank. Despite Modi’in being built on stolen Palestinian land, it is promoted as an Israeli city!
Telfed [the SAZF branch based in Raanana, Israel] together with the SAZF have been spearheading the marketing of Modi’in and not surprising too that developers have tried to create a community of SA Jews by offering apartments and homes at discounted prices.
A challenging question by Anna Weekes posed at the time we revealed details of SAZF’s complicity in Modi’in’s settlement activity remains as valid today: “Haven’t fellow South Africans learnt from our history of apartheid and land grabs that it is neither right nor sustainable to settle on the newly confiscated land of an indigenous people?”
Claiming to be offended now that Saley’s has courageously chosen its constitutional right to not be indirectly encouraging Palestinian oppression that the SAZF has on various occasions publically endorsed through statements of support for Israeli military operations in the Gaza, will not wash!
Neither will it be morally acceptable to adopt any form of vindictive measures against businesses such as Saley’s – whose decision not to do business with the SAZF has set a new standard for BDS in South Africa!
- Iqbal Jassat is chairperson of the Media Review Network (MRN), an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.mediareviewnet.com.