A protester and member of South Africa's ultra-left Economic Freedom Fighters party (EFF), carries a placard outside the Israeli embassy in Pretoria, South Africa.
(photo credit: SIPHIWE SIBEKO/REUTERS)
The South African Zionist Federation has condemned the boycott calls by anti-Israel groups of the Davis Cup “tie-in” tennis matches between South Africa and Israel, scheduled to take place over Friday and Saturday.
“It comes as no surprise that the likes of BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions South Africa], PSA [Palestine Solidarity Alliance], PSC [Palestine Solidarity Committee] and the NC4P [National Coalition 4 Peace] have banded together to call for a public boycott to ‘smash’ Israel at the SA Tennis courts,” SAZF chairman Ben Swartz said.
“In a typical stance of vicious recourse, the call for protest by the aforementioned organizations, paired with a visual of a demonstrator wearing a gas mask and hitting a smoke bomb with a tennis racket, was posted across social media,” he said.
“This continued, destructive, disruptive, aggressive and nonsensical behavior breeds amongst those that are easily manipulated to hate, without understanding the real facts. They leech onto any event in which they feel they can influence their blind followers, leading them down a dark path of hate-fueled lies and misinformation.”
Swartz questioned how this behavior allows for peaceful negotiations and a way forward, “which they continuously blame everyone else but themselves for obstructing.”
“We implore the broader public not to be persuaded by extremist behavior [of] those who propose these boycotts – which often leads to violence,” he continued.
“Further supporting this hypocrisy, mothers, sisters and wives excitedly attended a soccer match in the Gaza Strip recently, only to be turned away. Authorities in the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist terror group Hamas told the women they had orders not to allow them into the stadium,” he said.
Swartz emphasized that “this highlights the real issue – that their own people are the oppressors, dictated [to] by the unwavering and unforgiving Hamas regime.”
He made it clear that the majority of South African Jewry strongly condemns, “and is utterly disgusted by this hypocritical behavior in an effort to sabotage and upstage a sporting event by turning it into a political plight.”
“As proven in previous years, sport is a tool for reconciliation... the 1995 Rugby World Cup was an apt example of that, as was the 2010 Soccer World Cup,” he said. “We encourage you to show your support for both South Africa and Israel, as they gear up for the tie-in this weekend.
“Let us create a positive image that is beyond politics, and all about healthy competition and unity through sport,” Swartz concluded.
According to South Africa’s Jewish Report, Israeli team captain Harel Levy said that they were aware of the BDS threat to demonstrate at the event. “We have no problem with the people protesting, as long as it does not get violent. Everybody has a right to their own opinion.
“But we are here to play tennis. We are proud to play for Israel; we consider it an honor and we will do our best to win the tie.”
He believed the minister could be inciting protest action by the statement he made to BDS supporters. “He is the minister and he needs to take responsibility for the statements he makes, whether it is in a personal capacity or in his position as minister of sport,” said Levy.
Last week, South Africa’s Sports and Recreation Minister Thulas Nxesi announced that he was boycotting the matches in response to a letter sent to him by anti-Israel groups that include BDS South Africa and SA Jews for a Free Palestine.
The minister said he “would actually have loved to attend the Davis Cup, but given the concerns that activists and fellow South Africans are raising regarding the presence of an Israeli team I believe that it would not be proper for me to attend.”
He added that he had “experienced Israeli discrimination and occupation when I was denied entry to Palestine in 2012.”
“In response to this and other practices by the Israeli regime against the Palestinians, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and many other notable South Africans have called on the world to support the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions movement,” he said.
The Davis Cup is considered the World Cup of Tennis and is the largest annual international team competition in the sport.