(photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
Despite accusations of being sympathetic to Holocaust denial and antisemitism, BDS South Africa board chairman Prof. Farid Esack is to be awarded the Order of Luthuli (Silver), it was announced late last week. BDS refers to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
The award is considered the highest that South Africa bestows on its citizens and eminent foreign nationals who have made a “meaningful and significant contribution to the struggle for democracy, human rights, nation-building, justice, and peace and conflict resolution,” according to the prize committee’s website.
The award is being given to Esack for “his brilliant contribution to academic research and to the fight against race, gender, class and religious oppression,” and will be bestowed upon him by the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Esack is a prominent University of Johannesburg professor who heads up the Religion Studies Department. He is also a well-known anti-apartheid activist.
While visiting Berlin in 2016, Esack was recorded as making several comments that bordered on antisemitism: “In many ways, what is happening here [with the Israeli ‘occupation’] is both a combination of economic interests – and in the case of the United States – particularly the power of the Israeli lobby. So it is economic interests, the Israeli lobby, and in Europe, in a country particularly like Germany, it is the guilt of the past and a very simplistic owning of that guilt.”
He added: “You know, the heavens will fall apart if you are caught not making the distinction between Israel and Jews. If once you slip, the heavens will fall apart, you will lose your job, you will be kicked out of parliament... What the hell is this?”
In 2015, Esack and BDS South Africa hosted convicted terrorist and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine member Leila Khaled on a nationwide speaking tour.
The organization held a fund-raiser where Esack and others praised her continuously throughout for her actions as a “freedom-fighter for the Palestinians.”
Khaled was a key member of a terrorist cell that hijacked TWA Flight 840 in 1969. A year later, she participated in the attempted hijacking of EL AL Flight 219. BDS South Africa termed Khaled a “Palestine icon.”
Also in 2015, Esack said he “would not pray” for Jewish victims murdered by Islamic State terrorists during an attack on the Hypercacher kosher supermarket in Paris.
During that same year, various French universities banned him from speaking on the topic of Palestine.
Esack also did little to condemn the singing of “Shoot the Jew” during the Daniel Zamir Jazz concert at Wits University in 2013. At the time, Esack told The Jerusalem Post of his opposition to “any and all incitement to violence and racism – including antisemitism and Zionism – even if it was to come from within our ranks.” He added that it was “unfortunate but not unexpected that supporters of Israel will focus on the singing of this song.”
In a speech given in 2016, Esack said terrorism by Palestinians was a “response to the occupation,” and that “antisemitism against Jews must not be elevated... above all other forms of prejudices.”
“I think antisemitism is being privileged above other prejudices... I think that antisemitism is manifesting itself in large parts as an extension of white privilege,” he said.
In June 2017, following his fund-raising activities with Khaled, the Hotel Arcotel in Vienna pulled the plug on a BDS event at which Esack was scheduled to speak.
In response to the Luthuli award, Esack said in a BDS South Africa statement: “Our generation who resisted and overcame Apartheid with the support of activists throughout the world have no option but to live out our debt to the international working class and oppressed communities throughout the world, from Black Lives in the USA, to Kashmir, to the Dalits in India, to the people of Cuba, the Christians in Muslim majority countries, and the Palestinians living under the yoke of Israeli Apartheid.
The award ceremony will be held on Saturday
at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House in Pretoria.
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