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)
In February 2016, BDS South Africa praised a decision to cancel a water crisis conference that was scheduled to take place in Johannesburg.
BDS South Africa said at the time it was pleased “the rug has been pulled from the Israeli ambassador, who will not be able to exploit our very serious water crises for his own cheap publicity and whitewashing of his regime. Israel water technology is not unique or special; such technology is widely available through other more friendly countries.”
Two years later, South Africa is experiencing a major water crisis. Unless a last-minute solution is found, Cape Town will soon have the dubious honor of becoming one of the few – if not the first – developed cities in the world to run out of water.
On April 12, known as “Day Zero,” water reservoirs across the city are expected to hit 13.5% of capacity – at which point, according to Mayor Patricia de Lille, taps will be turned off and severe rationing will begin.
Once “Day Zero” hits, Cape Town’s 3.7 million residents will have to travel to one of 200 water collection points to collect their daily water rations: 25 liters per person.
If, two years ago, or even earlier, South Africa had put aside its self-defeating boycott of Israel, could it have avoided “Day Zero”? Perhaps. What is undeniable is that South Africa is in no position to refuse help from Israel, a world leader in desalination, water recycling, water preservation and irrigation.
Israel’s own experience dealing with drought has taught it that long-term planning is absolutely essential. Desalination plants and wastewater recycling facilities take time to plan and build. And farmers were reluctant at first to use recycled waste water, out of concern it could hurt their crops. It also takes time to educate people that water is a commodity, not an unlimited natural resource.
Other technologies such as advanced irrigation methods and sewage treatment also take time to introduce. As does the fixing of leaky pipes by municipalities. But all these steps together pay off. Although Israel is in the fifth year of drought, we have not needed to resort to rationing or to raise water tariffs.
Israel has been sharing its know-how in the field of water with a number developing countries in Asia and Africa. But even more technologically advanced countries have learned from Israel.
For instance, California has collaborated with Israel to cope better with its ongoing drought. Israel has helped to build a desalination plant in Carlsbad, a city about 50 kilometers north of San Diego.
South Africa, in contrast, has stubbornly boycotted Israel, out of solidarity with the Palestinian cause. Ties between Hamas and Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, are good. Hamas participated in the ANC’s 54th National Conference that took place in Johannesburg in December. During that conference the ANC decided to downgrade the status of the South African Embassy in Israel.
South Africa embraces a terrorist organization that presides over a strip of land populated by nearly 2 million that is on the verge of a humanitarian crisis due to its own misguided policies. It boycotts Israel, a nation with innovative technologies, a thriving economy and democratic rule. South Africans, meanwhile, face a water crisis that might have been avoided had the ANC made decisions based not on bluster and distorted comparisons between Apartheid and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but on pragmatism, justice and the interests of the South African people.
Will South Africa’s political leadership be held accountable for sabotaging the interests of its people? We hope so. A group of South Africans has launched an online petition demanding that the ANC accept Israel’s help.
“The Israeli government approached the ruling ANC party to offer solutions [to the drought] years ago, but the ANC turned them down and adopted a pro-Palestinian stance,” the petition reads. It goes on to demand that the ANC stop “importing the politics of the Middle East,” and “commence immediate talks with Israel to ask for help with solving our water crisis.”
Before Pretoria starts trying to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by joining forces with terrorists, it should first take care of the most basic needs of its own people.