Monday, July 28, 2008

The Brouhaha in the South African Jewish Community over the Human Rights Delegation to Israel

Last week I posted two articles on the visit of a highly respected delegation of ANC-activists, including former government officials and a Supreme Court judge, to the West Bank. Sources close to the delegation informed me that some of the delegates were not pleased with some elements of the the press coverage. But the bottom line was that they returned to Israel shocked and dismayed by the treatment of West Bank Palestinians, and that, while respectful of Israel's genunine security concerns, they questioned the proportionality and the long-term effects of its response.

What has annoyed some members of the South African Jewish community, is that liberal Jews were involved in the planning of the tour. In fact, a former member of the Zionist group Habonim-Dror, together with an Israeli IDF veteran who was a counselor at an Habonim-Dror camp, were instrumental in putting the group together. And, not surprisingly, the trip has been defended by liberal members of the South African Jewish community.

I confess that the only South African Jews I know are the ones who made aliyah to Israel. And I have been reading a bunch of emails from South African expats who consider themselves liberal, and yet are not happy to find themselves on the wrong side of the fence, so to speak…

Anyway, one piece that has annoyed some of the South Africans is the editorial yesterday by the Johannesburg Sunday Times' Editor in Chief, Mondli Makhanya, a member of the delegation, who speaks of the "permanent apartheid" separating Palestinians from Jews. Read about it here. His piece is less about the Wall than about the hatred and distrust both side feels for the other.

The South African Jewish Report has coverage of the delegation in the July 18 issue and the July 25 issue. These are pdfs and will take time to load, but they are worth reading.

The South African Jewish Report should be commended for providing a platform for readers to express their viewpoints, for and against.

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