On reading the news that the ANC’s national executive committee on international relations Mr Obed Bapela conveyed regarding the leading party’s approach to dual citizenship, I was most pleasantly invoked with pride. That our country would take this visionary decision in preventing its citizens from serving as mercenaries in other countries is indeed a monumental step, and Mr Bapela and the ANC has my full support. At the same time, the typical knee jerk reaction that it would invoke from the South African Zionist community immediately struck me, and I anticipated reading a multitude of letters to the editor from pro-Israeli supporters, filled with emotional uproar and very few factual arguments.
Zionists are thoroughly predictable when defending Israel, and we will undoubtedly be subjected to countless rehashes of the Holocaust in an attempt to arouse emotion, wailing testimonies of Israelis being threatened from every evil Arab country that surrounds them, some ISIS references to spice things up a bit and all of this tied together with very poor attempts at trying to justify why South African citizens need to go and defend the “Holy Land” for Jews. If we had to delve into the history of Palestine, we would easily be here for a very long time, and I am sure Mr Bapela and the ANC didn’t base their political decision on old bible stories and claims to land. Let us critically analyse the current situation is Israel as it is NOW. If we look at the current democracy and human rights record of Israel today in 2015, it will very quickly become apparent why the ANC has taken this momentous stand.
Zionism, and not Judaism, is the core principle upon which Israel has been established. Our definition of Zionism is an internal policy based upon racism, an external policy of aggression and expansion aimed at the conquest of “living space”, and a method of political action typified by state terrorism. Zionism is a political ideology and it has no religious link to Judaism; when it was first established most Jews, most prominent amongst them leading Rabbis Samson Rahael Hirsch and Hayyim Sonnenfeld, opposed it. Zionism is widely regarded, across the world, as a form of racism. Furthermore, based on the fact that Zionism is its governing principle Israel is run by racist regulations and should be “singled out” until oppression falls.
It is often cited by those that support the state of Israel that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. There are four levels of citizenship in Israel, with all the different levels treated with varied levels of esteem; starting at the top:
Ashkenazi (white European) Jews
Mizrachi/ Sephardic Jews from Arab countries
Ethiopian Jews (black)
Ethiopian Jews living in Israel are treated as second class citizens, due to deep-seated racism. Reported by David Sheen, a journalist who is particularly interested in Israel’s treatment of its black citizens, on the racist color spectrum, people have privilege in inverse relationship to the pigment of their skin, and in this, Israel is a classic pigmentocracy. It would be obvious then that an organisation such as the ANC, which had its origins in the opposition of racism, would be extremely vocal and supportive against a country which displays such racist policies.
The treatment of Ethiopian Jews is abhorrent, but the way the Israeli government treats its African refugees is incomprehensible. As South Africans, it should be one of our main concerns that our African brothers are being treated in such a way. The Prevention of Infiltration Law allows asylum seekers to be imprisoned for up to three years just for entering Israel and they have also embarked on building the world’s largest detention centre to detain migrants and asylum seekers.
The central feature to a liberal democracy is the state’s neutral approach to ethnic groups within it. All its citizens, whether in the majority or the minority, are treated equally. Israel does not fit this description, seeing as the fundamental principle of Israeli society is not the citizen but the ethnic-religious ‘Jewish nation’. The most basic element of a true democracy- universal, equal citizenship- is absent in Israel. How then is it acceptable for people from our country to go and serve in the army of another country which is so blatantly undemocratic?
I share the sentiment with many others that South Africans and the Palestinian people share a very special bond. Their struggle for liberation and freedom has been unequivocally supported by many of our great heroes including Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ronnie Kasrils and many of the other stalwarts we so admire. Aziz Pahad recently commented after his trip back from the region after Israel’s latest onslaught on the civilian population: “”The situation of the Palestinians cannot be compared to the situation in South Africa. It is, by its very nature, worse than what we suffered.”
Having achieved out freedom, it is the duty of every global citizen, but especially those of us in South Africa, to now help the people in Palestine receive their rights too. This is why this decision has been announced; not to single out Jews or minorities, but to uphold the principles and foundations of our democracy in ensuring our citizens are not active combatants in carrying out gross human rights violations.
When opposing the State of Israel as an illegitimate entity one is often faced with the accusation of being an anti-Semite, and I implore Mr Bapela to brace himself for the same baseless name-calling. Being steadfast on the path of truth and justice is not always an easy one, and so we applaud Mr Bapela and the ANC on this announcement; and offer our full support in combating the propagation of one more evil in our world.
Written by: Dr Aayesha J Soni, Vice Chairperson of the Media Review Network
Follow Dr Soni on twitter: @AayeshaJ