Israel & global Jewry [trends & prospects] Exploring issues related to israel, israeli society & global Jewry
In this article Wayne Sussman analyses data from previous elections in South Africa and discusses whether electioneering strategies used around the Israeli-Palestinian issue translate into actual votes.
AFTER the first democratic elections in 1994, my older brother advised me to not only pay attention to who would become the President and the Deputy President(s), but also to focus on who would be the Minister of Finance, Minister of Home Affairs, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs (now, the Minister of International Relations & Co-operation). Alfred Nzo, the first Minister of Foreign Affairs, was one of those names I would memorise. My brother’s advice was to underscore the importance of the Office of the Foreign Minister, which indeed took on a particular resonance under former president Thabo Mbeki and his vision of an “African Renaissance”.
"... in wards which are either strongly Muslim, or strongly Jewish, very few voters seem to be motivated by Middle Eastern developments."
Laura Phillips responds to a recent DafkaDotCom article, "The Matter with the Myths - Buthelezi is the Obvious Ally for the Jewish Community", by Dr Ruth Rabinowitz
I welcome Dr Ruth Rabinowitz’s engagement (10/04/2019) with my DafkaDotCom article (13/02/2019) and can only lament, as she does, that the constraints of word count limit my ability to respond in full. In this short reply then, I will just pick up on a few of the issues she raises
EXPLORING THE CONCERNS OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN JEWISH COMMUNITY
In this article Dr Ruth Rabinowitz, former Member of Parliament for the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), responds to a recent DafkaDotCom article by Laura Phillips. She argues that Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi has been unjustly characterised, and urges the Jewish community to examine critically the prevailing narratives about the IFP. She further argues that it is in the community’s best interest to foster a deeper relationship with Buthelezi.
IN a recent DafkaDotCom article by Laura Phillips (13/02/2019), Phillips questions the Jewish community’s association with Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Before any debate about whether the Jewish community should identify with, let alone honour such an individual as Buthelezi, it is crucial to have an honest perspective on the facts around which Phillips builds her argument. As a Jewish representative of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), first in the Senate and then the House of Assembly, I spent years challenging the types of allegations Phillips levels against Buthelezi – what I came to term “the matter with the myths”. I tried then, as I do now, to show the chasm between true facts and the falsehoods that have been propagated about Buthelezi.
"Discovering how easily fake news can be embedded in a populace smitten with an ideology that is served by it, one of my goals here is to present the “Matter with the Myths” about Buthelezi and the IFP."
exploring the concerns of the south african jewish community
In this article Laura Phillips argues that the organised Jewish community's philanthropic relationship with Mangosuthu Buthelezi and King Goodwill Zwelithini is problematic due to both being implicated in some of the most brutal parts of recent South African history. She contends that when securing support for Israel is a primary motivation of local outreach efforts, South Africa's Zionists will inevitably find themselves with compromised allies.
IN a recent article for DafkaDotCom (20/09/2018) Benji Shulman commends the South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) for its close relationship with the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini, and presents SAFI’s initiatives in rural KwaZulu Natal as an example of how the Jewish community should act to advance its own interests when engaging in philanthropic activity. A month after the publication of Shulman’s article, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) paid tribute to Mangosuthu Buthelezi on his 90th birthday.
"... though Buthelezi and King Zwelithini claim to promote development in rural KwaZulu-Natal, they are implicated in some of the most brutal parts of recent South African history".
Extending their good wishes to the Zulu Prince, the SAJBD explained they had gathered to celebrate the Board’s long-standing relationship with Buthelezi and their joint development efforts in underprivileged communities. In response, Buthelezi thanked the “Jewish Community” for its good wishes and then lambasted the South African government for downgrading the South African Embassy in Israel.
exploring the concerns of the south african Jewish community
In this article Glen Heneck reflects on how an ideological impasse over Israel is preventing progressive South African Jews from finding a home in the broad left today.
Black & white? Anti-apartheid activism & the Z-word
UNTIL the 1990s progressivism came relatively easy. South Africa was still under dark white rule and getting that undone was a straightforward and compelling ideal. As Jewish activists we did not have to spend much time worrying (or arguing) about what we were for, because we were perfectly clear as to what we were against.
Would that things were so simple today.
"This is not to say that, at the time, the Palestinian struggle was a non-issue on the left ... it had long been a popular cause; it just could not match the battle against Apartheid in terms of either optics or popularity".
exploring the concerns of the south african jewish community
In this article Marlene Silbert looks at the importance of interfaith spaces for the South African Jewish community. She focuses on an Interfaith-Intercultural Youth Programme, aimed at grade 10 & 11 learners from schools across the Cape Metropole, which she initiated under the auspices of the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative. She further discusses the potential that interfaith collaboration can hold for the South African Jewish community.
The Interfaith-Intercultural Youth Programme helps us understand and respect differences and make friends with one another. I have learnt not to react badly when people offend me unintentionally because they make uniformed statements. As ambassadors of the Interfaith Programme we should respectfully engage such people and help them to become informed and change their mind-set (Grade 11 learner, Herzlia High School).
RECENT estimates suggest that nearly ninety percent of all Jewish children in South Africa attend Jewish community day schools. Many also attend Jewish youth movements. De facto, this means that the vast majority of our children have very little, if any, meaningful engagement with the full diversity of broader South African society. And, of course, the converse holds true: there is very little opportunity for broader South African society to engage with and learn about Jews and the Jewish community, particularly at a younger age.
"Prejudice towards Jewish South Africans can derive from not having any engagement or meaningful dialogue with members of the South African Jewish community."
This is not just an issue facing the Jewish community in South Africa. It is, however, this social and cultural chasm within South African society that interfaith programmes try to address, some with greater success than others.
exploring the concerns of the south african Jewish community
In this article Benji Shulman argues that a paradigm shift is occurring in how the Jewish community conceives of and engages around 'outreach' and social responsibility. He examines the strengths as well as challenges of the existing models, and proposes that the emergence of a third model, which he terms Darkhei Shalom, can be used to address the current limitations of Jewish philanthropy within the South African context.
Our master taught: For the sake, the poor of the heathens should be supported as we support the poor of Israel, the sick of the heathens should be visited as we visit the sick of Israel, and the dead of the heathens should be buried as we bury the dead of Israel - The Talmud
EARLY one November morning a group of young people is preparing to take part in one of Johannesburg’s major cycle races. They hail from Vosloorus, a township in Gauteng, and train regularly to ensure that they are fit enough to race. They are part of a development programme, and as such their kit and bikes are sponsored. At first glance this might resemble any other youth development initiative for aspiring sportspeople from a disadvantaged area. But it is, in fact, much more than that. The riders are Christian Zionist activists from the Hope of Glory Tabernacle (a local church) and members of the pro-Israel group DEISI (Defend, Embrace, Invest-In and Support Israel).
"Jewry in post-apartheid South Africa have largely organised philanthropy around two different conceptual approaches; what I have termed Hessed and Tikkun Olam... programmes like Ride4Africa-Israel ...suggest the emergence of a third concept ... ."
They are part of the team Ride4Africa-Israel and are riding with members of the Jewish community. They race side-by-side flying both the South African and Israeli flags proudly displaying their affiliation to the passing crowds. The money raised through the race is donated to an initiative that provides water and agriculture technologies from Israel to projects in their own community and others around Johannesburg.
exploring the concerns of the South african jewish community
In this article Dan Brotman argues that with the hemorrhaging of the South African Jewish community due to emigration, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies should take a proactive role in lobbying for immigration reform and supporting prospective Jewish immigrants.
The Jewish Board of Deputies in Transvaal, Natal and the Cape were established around the same time or directly after Morris Alexander led a delegation of Jewish communal leaders to the Cape Parliament to lobby for changes to the Cape Immigration Restrictions Act of 1902. This law was detrimental to Jewish immigration, as it stipulated that prospective immigrants must speak a European language in order to be allowed to settle in the country. As Yiddish was not deemed a European language for immigration purposes, this new condition would have effectively put a halt to Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe.
Alexander and his counterparts prevailed, and Yiddish was recognised as a European language for immigration purposes, and as a result the South African Jewish community continued to grow in numbers. Following his successful immigration lobbying efforts, Alexander went on to form and lead the Cape Jewish Board of Deputies in 1904 and South African Jewish Board of Deputies in 1912. According to Percy Cowan’s 1929 piece entitled The Jewish Board of Deputies in South Africa, the Jewish Board of Deputies in all three regions dealt directly with immigration issues pertaining to the Jewish community. The Cape Board specifically “dealt with a number of immigration cases, with the result that many deserving immigrants were allowed to land who would otherwise have been sent back to the countries whence they came."
"Between 1981-2005 alone, 40% of the South African Jewish community emigrated for a variety of reasons..."
Although the SAJBD’s activities today primarily focus on combatting antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiments and expressions in government and civil society, I argue that it is once again necessary for the SAJBD also to ‘return to its roots’ and assist with Jewish immigration to South Africa, which will replenish our community’s diminishing numbers.
exploring issues related to the constitution, democracy & the south african jewish community
In this article Joshua Hovsha explores how our historical and political backgrounds determine our response to freedom of expression and our approach to hate speech.
The past is never dead. It’s not even past. – William Faulkner
“Penny Sparrow has written more legislation than I ever will.” A friend and prominent member of civil society jested the other week. We were working through the latest draft of the Hate Crimes Bill. A Bill which has taken ten years to reach parliament. A Bill which has become contentious after very broad hate speech provisions were added. Provisions only added after Penny Sparrow’s racist comments elicited unprecedented outrage in January 2016.
The public outcry following Sparrow’s racist remarks has become a turning point in our political discourse, along with university protests, calls for land expropriation, and daily debates over who can lay claim to the experience of racism and persecution.
"... two and a half decades into democratic rule South African Jews find themselves uncertain over how to approach a long history of persecution coupled with a recent history of privilege."
Frustration is often expressed in terms of perceived double standards over who is charged and who is not. Harsh sentences against some may allow for temporary satisfaction. These punishments will not in and of themselves redress the wrong committed against other victims, nor will they fix the societal ills of racism and discrimination.
Exploring issues related to Israel, Israeli society & global Jewry
In this article Prof. Ran Greenstein explores how Isaac Deutscher's concept of 'the non-Jewish Jew' can be used to help better understand the political orientation of Jewish South African & Israeli activists -- both historically & in the present.
"Liberal Zionists are Jews but not ‘non-Jewish’ as they proudly are part of the Jewish-Israeli mainstream. Anti-Zionists are ‘non-Jewish’ (in a political sense) but are not usually motivated by a specific Jewish sensibility."
In a speech delivered sixty years ago, writer and activist Isaac Deutscher coined the phrase ‘the non-Jewish Jew’. This term referred to a group of intellectuals of Jewish background – Baruch Spinoza, Heinrich Heine, Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky, and Sigmund Freud – who, according to Deutscher, “found Jewry too narrow, too archaic, and too constricting. They all looked for ideals and fulfilment beyond it, and they represent the sum and substance of much that is greatest in modern thought.”
What was specifically Jewish about them? Deutscher argued that
… as Jews they dwelt on the borderlines of various civilizations, religions, and national cultures. They were born and brought up on the borderlines of various epochs ... They were each in society and yet not in it, of it and yet not of it. It was this that enabled them to rise in thought above their societies, above their nations, above their times and generations.