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On 28 October 1971, the death of anti-Apartheid activist, Ahmed Timol, was officially confirmed. It was then reported that the teacher had committed suicide after he had plunged from a window on the tenth floor of John Vorster Square Police Station. His death, which we now know was a brutal police murder, sparked a nation-wide reaction of shock, anger and a national day of mourning. He is rightfully celebrated today as both a revolutionary martyr and national hero of the 20th century. On 27 July 2015, 18-year-old Muhammad Abu Latifa was shot dead by Israeli forces in an early morning raid into the Qalandia refugee camp. There are conflicting reports on how Abu Latifa was killed. While the Tel Aviv regime claims he fell to his death while shot in his lower extremities as he attempted to escape arrest, eyewitnesses report he was shot several times on his rooftop and that he was still alive after being arrested by the soldiers. He later bled to death in custody. Muhammad is the 18th Palestinian killed by the Israeli forces so far this year and the fourth this month. 44 years later and the similarities between Apartheid South Africa and Israel are undeniable.

Arthur Lenk would have us believe that Israel is a rosy, perfectly orchestrated democracy, isolated in a sea of terrorists. By his description, it would be easy for one to be fooled, but if the points he raises had to be critically analysed the gaping holes in his distorted reality of what Israel actually is are easily exposed. He harps on about the justice system of Israel, but fails to mention the 200 Palestinian child prisoners that are currently among the over 7,000 Palestinians being held, 540 of them without charge or trial. Israeli law also states that once arrested, Palestinians can be detained for up to 18 days without being informed of the charges being laid against them; they can also be barred from seeing a lawyer for up to 90 days after their arrest, and security officials are also allowed to ignore informing the families of detainees regarding the arrests of their relatives.

Lenk talks about encouraging young South Africans to take a helicopter ride over Gaza to see the threat Israel faces from the besieged land every day. I am surprised he is not concerned that the future young leaders might see the devastation Israel unleashed on the civilian population there last year. In 51 days, Israel completely destroyed 17200 homes, 244 schools were damaged and key aspects of Gaza’s infrastructure were left in complete carnage. The UN states that at least 2,104 Palestinian were massacred, including 495 children and 253 women. The only lesson to be learnt by the South African youth here is hate and destruction.

Next, Lenk boards the religious train, encouraging South Africans to visit Israel, “a place that is holy for Jews, Christians and Muslims, where the religious sites are carefully protected and accessible to people of all faiths”. Perhaps his memory does not extend up until last month, when the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish was torched by Jewish extremists. One of the most popular stops for Christian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land, a passage from a Jewish prayer, calling for the elimination of idol worship, was found scrawled in red spray paint on a wall outside the church as it was set alight. Is this the religious tolerance Lenk would like our future leaders to learn from?

Listing Israel’s alleged recent innovations as a reason to overlook their multiple gross human rights violations is preposterous, exposing once again the almost laughable idiocy of Lenk’s rationalization. By that merit, Nazi Germany should not be condoned for their horrific crimes too; as was it not for them we wouldn’t be enjoying countless luxuries and advancements today. Nazi Germany was the first country to ban vivisection in the world; most current laws pertaining to animal conservation in Germany, and indeed the world, are derived from the laws put forth by the Nazi Party. Hitler also pioneered one of the most expensive and effective tobacco-banning movements throughout history.

One of the most popular vehicles in the world, Volkswagen, known for its reliability, stylish design and ease of use was engineered by the Nazi Regime, as was the popular brand Adidas. The man who invented rockets as we know them today, Wernher Von Braun, was a member of the Nazi party, his best achievement there was undoubtedly the development of the Saturn V booster rocket that helped man to finally touch the moon, in July 1969. Von Braun officially opened the gate to space travel through his innovative inventions.

Modern medicine wouldn’t be what it is today without the contribution of Nazi doctors to the profession field. However, in the same way that Nazi Germany cannot be excused for their crimes simply because of their vast contributions to humanity, Israel’s inventions cannot be used as an excuse to deter from the fact that its governance is of a complete Apartheid style. Young South Africans can learn no lessons of democracy from a country that only deserves sanctions, and that is why they should NOT visit Israel.

Written by: Dr Aayesha J Soni

Vice Chairperson: Media Review Network

Aayesha Soni

Aayesha J Soni is a medical doctor, qualified from the University of the Witwatersrand. Her passion is combatting injustice globally, and her particular focus of challenging the growing trend of Islamophobia is done through her various written and oral critiques.