South Africa's International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu .
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress, has hit back at South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) vice president Zev Krengel after he said that International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu is “the single biggest enemy” of the country's Jewish community, during an interview with the SA Jewish Report.
Earlier this year, Sisulu created a major upheaval after she claimed that the country's embassy in Tel Aviv had already been downgraded to a liaisons office and said that the South African ambassador, who was recalled last year, would not be replaced.
In December 2017, the ANC made a decision at its national conference to downgrade the embassy to a liaison office. However, the decision needs to be voted on and approved by the country's parliament, which has not yet been done.
During an interview last week with the SA Jewish Report
, Krengel said that the SAJBD “begged Israel not to recall its ambassador to South Africa" in response to Sisulu's comments and the resolution.
"We pleaded with the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, saying that course of action would be playing directly into radicals’ hands and doing exactly what the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions [South Africa] would want," he told the paper. "So far, Israel has been incredible to the local Jewish community.”
Krengel said that Sisulu "has an agenda,” and made it clear that the downgrade had not been implemented.
"She is obsessed with criticizing the Jewish state," he told the Report
. “Her announcements marked a very unpleasant period before the elections for South African Jewry. The minister made outrageous, inflammatory, and incorrect statements. She said the embassy downgrade had been implemented, but this has not been adopted as government policy.”
He added in the interview that if she wanted to do so, the community would continue to engage with Sisulu on Middle-East issues.
The ANC hit back at the remarks over the weekend, calling Krengels' comments "destructive" and urged the SAJBD "to refrain from actions that could be perceived as attempts to drive a wedge among the leaders of the ANC."
It emphasized that Sisulu's views on the "Palestinian question" are "consistent with the position of her organization, the African National Congress. Minister Sisulu’s integrity is beyond reproach. She enjoys the respect of millions of South Africans as well as leaders from many nations."
The ANC said "it was satisfied that Minister Sisulu has recalibrated South Africa’s foreign policy so that it reflects the people of South Africa’s profound opposition to gross human rights abuses and colonial occupation of Palestine."
South Africa's ruling party "humbly called" on the SAJBD "to appreciate and respect growing concerns for the ongoing human rights atrocities being visited upon the people of Palestine by the government of Israel."
"It remains our considered view that Israel must be part of a solution towards peace and human dignity for the Palestinian people and that such is not a religious or tribal matter, nor is it directed at any group or religion," it explained. "In fact the stance taken by South Africa to downgrade its relations with Israel has been welcomed by people of all religions who are concerned about the impunity with which Israel has been allowed to act against civilians in the occupied Palestinian Territories."
It added that downgrading the South African Embassy in Israel "is a practical act of solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine in the face of the injustices meted out by a powerful war machine against mostly civilians," adding that, "we hope for no further death in Israel and in Palestine."
The ANC reiterated that "peace and reconciliation will be achieved when recognition is given to the rights of the people of Palestine to their land and freedom, in line with a two-state solution and when Israel complies with international law."