Dear ANC delegate,
I have never voted for you but I have respected you. I have spoken with pride about the lofty goals that you set yourself as a liberation movement. I have been awed by your capacity to forgive many of the injustices of the past, often to your own detriment. Something that you have done with grace and dignity.
You have birthed leaders that stand alongside the greatest statesmen ever born and who will always be remembered as people who left this world a better place than how they found it.
Indeed, the ANC – African National Conference – was largely responsible for making South Africa a shining light of tolerance, understanding and forgiveness.
But you have lost your way. And in doing so you will stand on the wrong side of history.
As a South African Jew who has woken up to the news that you have chosen “unanimously” to downgrade the Israeli Embassy, you have sent a clear message, not only to the Jews of the country, but to the rest of the world, exactly how you wish to be known.
You invited the terror organisation Hamas to your conference. And that is inexcusable. Ignorance is not a justification because all you needed to do was to glance over the Hamas Charter and you would understand that they desire the death of Jews. They are an Islamist terror group like ISIS and like Boko Haram. And you have invited them in to our precious and young democracy.
Their goals are not democratic – yours are. They persecute women and gays – you protect them. They do not allow freedom of speech – you do. And they believe in kidnapping, murdering and terrorising the innocent.
To say that the ANC was once called a “terror” organisation is to sell your own history short and to rewrite every lofty ideal that the ANC stood for.
Your focus on Israel is hypocritical at best and antisemitic at worse. You have remained embarrassingly silent with regard to China’s treatment of the Tibetans and the Syrian crises. You have been largely responsible for the chaos in Zimbabwe when you were the only ones that had the power to address this years ago. You are silent on the treatment of the Yazidis and the Kurds. The list of goes on and on.
Do I even need to mention Omar al-Bashir?
Worse than that, you have let your own people down. You have gluttonously eaten from the trough of food that belongs to your people and in doing so have done more damage than is even quantifiable. You have stolen and enriched yourself while your own people – people you were meant to protect – starved.
You have become a disgrace and an embarrassment – a laughing stock.
Only for Jews and for supporters of Israel, it’s no longer funny.
I don’t need to list the number of Jews who risked everything for the struggle. The numbers proportionately outweigh almost any other demographic. And whereas certainly many profited from apartheid, as did every white South African, many fought this.
You might rely on the common accusation that Israel supported the apartheid government. But any honest historian will confirm that sadly most countries did. Where else did South Africa purchase its oil from, if not the many Arab countries in the Middle East?
Israel is imperfect. As is any country. The conflict is real and it needs to be addressed before more people die. But to single this out as the only embassy worthy of a downgrade, is to send a message that it is not about the Palestinians but more about Israel and the Jews.
It is also completely inconsistent with the history of the ANC that aspires to dialogue and conflict resolution.
Or does that apply to other conflicts only?
The rest of the world understands the true nature of the BDS movement. So much so, that many have banned the organisation because it is a racist and antisemitic on. It cares naught for the very people it claims to represent. It seeks the delegitimisation of Israel as its goal. And sadly you have fallen for this hook line and sinker.
Why then, would the ANC choose not only to invite them in, but to be captured by them?
I have received countless calls this morning from fellow South African Jews asking me what I think about the ANC policy statement. Each are wondering if this isn’t a sign that Jews are no longer welcome in this country.
I have told them that I believe that good sense will prevail and that in the cold light of the morning after, the ANC will feel ashamed about what they have done. I believe that they will return to the ideals of Nelson Mandela and the magnificence of an organisation that once was.
I believe that Jews have no need to fear and that we will be able to build a future based on tolerance and acceptance and on reconciliation.
I just hope I am right.
Howard Feldman is the author of Carry on Baggage and Tightrope, also the afternoon drive show presenter on Chai FM.