The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) has slammed the passing of a parliamentary motion calling to downgrade the South African embassy in Israel.
The National Freedom Party (NFP) motion which passed last Tuesday, March 7 also made false and inflammatory accusations against Israel.
“The motion does not represent the voice of most South Africans, who hold no ill will towards Israel, and must be viewed as a purely symbolic and domestic act by narrow-minded political actors,” SAZF national chairman Rowan Polovin said.
“Its only achievement is to diminish South Africa’s international standing and ability to play any meaningful role in resolving the Palestinian–Israeli conflict.”
Polovin said business relations and travel between South Africa and Israel would remain intact, while Israel continues to normalise relations with a number of other countries in the Middle East and Africa.
“The motion will have absolutely no effect on Israel, but sends a worrying message to South African Jews, Christians and Muslims wishing to travel or make pilgrimage to the Holy Land for religious reasons,” he added.
“We note that this symbolic act took place during Purim, a Jewish holiday that commemorates how Jews were saved from genocide at the hands of Haman in ancient Persia.
“It is ironic that Parliament would pick this day, of all days, to target and sanction the world’s only Jewish State, whose existence serves to prevent another genocide against the Jewish people.
“The South African Jewish community has learnt the lesson of Purim. We will remain proud and public Jews and Zionists in South Africa, in spite of ongoing attempts to undermine us.”
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) said the motion was “driven by an obsessive enmity towards the world’s sole Jewish nation state”.
“For Israel’s many committed supporters in South Africa – whether Jewish, Christian or from other backgrounds – today’s discussion and vote was a gratuitous slap in the face,” the SAJBD said in a statement.
“For the Jewish community in particular, it was deeply disquieting to witness the overtly hostile, undiplomatic and above all blatantly discriminatory treatment to which Israel was subjected in this country’s foremost law-making chamber.”
The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs labelled the motion “disgraceful”.
The NFP, which has only two seats in the South African Parliament, said it was “ecstatic” the motion passed.
“This is a moment Madiba [Nelson Mandela] would be proud of. He always said our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of Palestinians,” NFP MP Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Eman said.
“We can no longer stand by while Palestinian human rights are being trampled on.
“By passing this resolution, we are sending a powerful message to the world that South Africa remains a beacon of hope and a shining example of what is possible when we come together in pursuit of a more just and equitable world.”
He added that Israel “was built through the displacement, murder and maiming of Palestinians”.
“As South Africans we refuse to stand by while apartheid is being perpetrated again.”