Opening Lines: Cry, the beloved country

By AMIR MIZROCH
October 29, 2010 16:23

Anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic sentiment is rampant in S. Africa, the governments, here and there not doing enough to combat it.




Saleys

Saleys order cancelled 311. (photo credit: SAZF)

‘Sorry, we cannot supply you any of our goods as we don’t want or need your blood money!’ This scathing comment, written on an invoice returned to the South African Zionist Federation, has angered members of the organized Jewish community there, who are now seeking legal advice against a Muslim-owned Johannesburg company. The SAZF, which is holding its 47th Conference in March, recently placed an order for 249 conference bags from a company by the name of Saley’s Travel Goods, based near Gold Reef City in Ormonde, across the road from the Apartheid Museum.

According to the SAZF, the order was confirmed telephonically, was faxed through and an invoice for the goods immediately received. The following day, however, the same invoice, for 8,841.59 rand ($1,282), was faxed through to SAZF offices again, with lines drawn through it stating “Order cancelled by management!” and the following sentences handwritten on it: “Sorry, we cannot supply you any of our goods as we don’t want or need your blood money! Please do not contact us anymore and remove all our contact details from your records and we will do likewise. We don’t want to aid and abet organizations that are responsible for crimes against humanity. Please don’t pay! Don’t contaminate our account with your blood money!”

The unknown person who wrote on the invoice started off by writing “Dear,” but then scratched it out.

Over the past few years the SAZF has placed various orders with Saley’s, purchasing conference bags and folders from it. The SAZF says it has never before been confronted with such “naked hostility, such unbridled hatred, such disgusting slander and such overt anti-Semitic sentiment.”

“Companies are at liberty to do business with whoever they choose, and it is their right to refuse to provide us with the goods. However, their reason for cancelling our order is deplorable; hence we have no compunction in naming and shaming them,” the SAZF said in a statement.

The SAZF – which describes itself as an organization acting on behalf of the South African Jewish community in matters relating to Israel, and which is the local representative of the World Zionist Organization – reacted angrily to the snub, with official Ben Swartz saying it is seeking legal opinion.

“We believe it amounts to hate speech,” Swartz told The Sunday Times on Friday.

He added the SAZF had placed numerous orders with Saley’s over the years and “never experienced a problem like this with them before.”

The Sunday Times contacted the company and requested comment on the incident.

An unidentified staffer said that “management was in a meeting about it” and would return the call. However by the close of business of Friday, no comment was forthcoming.

When I called Saley’s on Monday afternoon to talk to someone called “Imran” (who is listed by the SAZF as a contact person), an unidentified staffer gave me the same story. “Imran is in a meeting, he will call you back,” she said, and took my number. When I asked her who Imran was, she said she could not comment any further. When I asked her if Saley’s had an official spokesperson or someone else I could talk to, she repeated that she couldn’t comment anymore.

According to its website, Saley’s Travel Goods was established in 1975 as the “industries [sic] leader in luggage for the past 26 years for personal travel, business and corporate giftware.”

“We realize and understand that long-term success is about more than just making and delivering great products; it’s the vision by which we live every day as a company. Our set of principles has evolved since our founding which capture the spirit, philosophy and day to day business practices. These are long held company principles that underscore our relationship with customers, partners and employees,” the site reads.

Under the principle “integrity,” Saley’s writes: “Our management and employees are trained to always act with utmost honesty and integrity, and be guided by what is ethical and just to our customer needs. We compete extremely vigorously and most importantly, fairly.”

Under “community,” the site reads: “Saley’s and its employees recognize that we have the responsibility and opportunity to contribute to the communities in which we live in ways that make a difference to the disadvantaged on a global scale.”

THE INCIDENT with Saley’s is just the latest in a long line of incidents that the staunchly Zionist South African Jewish community has had to deal with over the past two years.

South Africa recalled its ambassador over the Turkish flotilla (some pundits argue that he just wanted an excuse to fly home and watch the World Cup). During Operation Cast Lead, thousands of South Africans marched outside the Jewish community center in Johannesburg, not the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria, mind you, the Jewish community center.

The low point in relations was reached during Cast Lead, when then deputy minister of foreign affairs Fatima Hajaig unleashed an anti-Semitic tirade against Israel. “In fact, no matter which government comes into power, whether Republican or Democratic, whether Barack Obama or George Bush, the control of America, just like the control of most Western countries, is in the hands of Jewish money, and if Jewish money controls their country, you cannot expect anything else,” Hajaig was recorded as saying, to thunderous applause at a pro-Palestinian rally in Lenasia township outside of Johannesburg in January.

Following the Gaza war and its aftermath, local Jews were incensed at the fact that one of their own, Justice Richard Goldstone, headed the UN committee which released a scathing report accusing the IDF of war crimes. A Limmud conference in Johannesburg also came under attack by anti-Israeli government officials.

Dockworkers in Durban refused to unload goods from a Zim ship last year. Now Desmond Tutu has asked the Cape Town Opera to call off its Israel tour until Israel becomes a ‘civilized democracy’; and the list goes on.

Saley’s behavior, and the behavior of many others in South Africa, is indicative of the failure of the government to stem the tide of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic sentiment currently sweeping through the “Rainbow Nation.” As of this writing, none of South Africa’s various anti-racism and anti-xenophobia organizations have petitioned the government to punish Saley’s over what is undoubtedly a violation of the country’s strict racism laws.

The Israeli government has also not done enough to explain its policies and positions to the government in Pretoria and the South African public at large through the mass media. The Saley’s case is another example of non-institutional boycotting of Israel by the targeting of Jewish groups and institutions. As far as is known, the management of Saley’s is not part of the worldwide, institutionalized boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, although the South African branch of the movement is very active, and local Muslim groups are reportedly backing Saley’s move.

All attempts to contact Saley’s management for comment have failed. It clearly does not want to explain its position or talk to Israeli/Jewish reporters. Why is Saley’s not standing by its written comments to the SAZF? Is it ashamed of something, or does it just feel it doesn’t owe anyone an explanation? Sadly, the ANC government has criminally abandoned the principle of bringing the country’s various races and cultures closer together, and is rather fanning the flames of interreligious, racial and ethnic discord for its own political gain.

As Saley’s has refused comment to me, as well as other journalists, I invite you to try reach it yourself, and ask it to explain its actions.

Saley’s Tel: +27 11 247-9200-15 Fax: +27 11 496-2846 E-mail: [email protected]


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