South African Rugby Decision to Bar Israeli Team from Mzansi Challenge is Spot On

The South African Rugby Union (SARU) rescind an invitation to an Israeli team, following intense pressure. (Photo: via BDS South Africa)

By Iqbal Jassat

Having read the report on News24 that talks about a “backlash” against South African Rugby Union (SARU) for having the guts to annul the participation of an Israeli-based team at the forthcoming Mzansi Challenge, I admit to having chuckled loudly.

However more than being amused, I’m amazed but not surprised that those who have angrily expressed their dismay at SARU’s stance, are part of Israel’s freak lobbyists.

Yes, “freak”, for it is inconceivable that any South African would be at odds with popular public sentiment opposed to Israel’s apartheid regime.

Yet here you are.

A tiny group of diehard supporters of settler colonialism, clearly disconnected from SA’s anti-Apartheid struggle and the global support it enjoyed via boycott campaigns, are threatening to take SARU to the cleaners.

Seeking to invoke the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to obtain information and reasons about why SARU axed the Israeli team, is apart from being a frivolous exercise, is also an utter waste of time.

For instance, the folly of their claim that it “was unfortunate that SA Rugby bowed to political pressure”, reveals how distant they are from democratic practices in SA which not only permits such pressure but does so in particular against Israel’s apartheid regime.

Indeed their hypocrisy is self-evident in themselves applying no less than political pressure on SARU.

Nevertheless what is extremely troubling and perhaps incredulous is their misplaced assertion about Israel being a “democracy”. This faulty claim is in direct conflict with the daily experience of millions of non-Jewish inhabitants in Israel’s illegally Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) who are excluded from the regime’s exclusive Jewish regime.

Israel’s notorious Nationality Law of 1952 rubbishes the argument of it being a democracy. It grants citizenship to Jewish immigrants according to an equally discriminatory Law of Return but deprives Palestinian refugees who resided in Palestine before 1948 of the right to acquire residence status or citizenship.

Instead of being “sad” to see Israel being treated “in this manner by a South African sporting entity”, it would be wiser for them to acknowledge that sporting bodies do not operate in silos and are morally and ethically obliged to not turn their backs on human rights violations.

The fact is that Israeli sports persons can neither be delinked from the military and armed forces nor can it be held to be immune from violent repression of the Palestinians.

Conscription in Israel’s military is compulsory and the likelihood of players from the rugby team serving either in Israel’s occupation army or the notorious Shin Bet and Mossad, is quite high. A democracy would not routinely collectively punish Palestinians by expulsion from their homes in Jerusalem, Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah and other areas.

Indeed if they have any regard for the brutality of apartheid in South Africa that saw millions forcibly uprooted from their homes, it would be easy for them to relate to similar and worse practices by Israel.

Most human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Israeli-based B’tselem have compiled detailed findings on Israeli apartheid including that it has escalated the forced transfer of Palestinians. If Israeli-friendly media such as CNN and BBC have been unable but to report on the ugly racism of Occupation, Home Demolitions, Military Checkpoints, Violence and Bloodshed, it tells you that false Zionist propaganda has failed.

SARU’s decision is thus correct and needs to be supported as, indeed, the African National Congress (ANC) and Department of Sports, Arts and Recreation have done.

Media Review Network is hopeful that South Africans will stand firmly behind SARU as it faces intimidation and threats from Israel’s local pressure groups.

– Iqbal Jassat is an Executive Member of the South Africa-based Media Review Network. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit:

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