More trouble in South Africa

BDS pushes agenda at summit of "world's leading emerging economies" in Durban, threatens to disrupt conference.

BRICS summit leaders 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
BRICS summit leaders 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The proceedings of the fifth BRICS Summit, that took place from March 26, 2013, to March 27 at the Durban International Convention Center (ICC), provided an international stage for certain civil organizations to garner limelight for their causes.
One such organization, which promotes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel by South Africa called on BRICS countries to sever trade with Israel’s “illegal” settlements in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” and to impose an immediate arms embargo on Israel. They held a protest attended by about 150 people in Durban as part of their awareness campaign about so-called oppression in Palestine.
South Africa joined the BRICS (an acronym for the grouping of the world’s leading emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) bloc in 2010, and will hold the chair until the next Summit in 2014.
The nefarious intervention by the BDS activist group threatened to subvert and derail the conference had it succeeded in gaining traction and was reminiscent of the infamous 2001 Durban Conference, which inextricably linked Durban with the most anti-Semitic rhetoric witnessed in any democratic country since the Second World War.
The Durban 2001 World Conference against Racism gained notoriety and infamy for its vicious attempts to link Zionism and racism. The exclusive and obsessive focus on blaming Israel as the main perpetrator of slavery, racism and human rights abuses hijacked the agenda of the conference and deflected attention from all the other villains. It also frustrated genuine victims and prevented them obtaining the attention they deserved.
Ironically, the two states that most adamantly pursued the linking of racism with Zionism were Syria and Iran. Syria has since proceeded to murder close to 100,000 of its own people, and not one resolution of condemnation of human rights abuses, or of war crimes, has emanated from the holy sanctum of the United Nations or the International Criminal Court. Iran, which pursues a policy of religious persecution against Bahais, Christians and other minorities, regularly executes people in public and suppresses all expressions of political opposition, is now the object of international sanctions.
What made this BDS initiative particularly ominous was the powerful groups allying themselves with its objectives and propagating its narratives; namely, The Young Communist League of South Africa, supported by the South African Communist Party (SACP) and The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).
Buti Manamela, South African member of parliament and national secretary of the Young Communist League of South Africa, officially handed over a memorandum on behalf of several South African organizations appealing to Marius Fransman, deputy minister from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) at the 5th BRICS Summit for “decisive action” on Palestine.
In Fransman, they have a willing collaborator, who through his reckless comments questioning the loyalties of South Africa’s Jews to the country and accusations of indifference to the wellbeing of “poor” citizens, has become culpable of fomenting divisive policies threatening the peaceful co-existence of Jews with other groups in the “Rainbow nation.”
Resulting from a prior skirmish, the Jewish Board of Deputies has taken Fransman to the Human Rights Council for stating that it was not right and fair that Jews should be the recipients of tenders to purchase properties in areas which he designated as previously “Muslim.”
On relations with Israel, Fransman and his mentor Ebrahim Ebrahim have pursued a belligerently hostile policy. Travel by all tiers of government officials to Israel to gather information, or for purposes of promoting economic ties, have effectively been halted.
South Africa has been at the forefront of countries condemning Israel at the United Nations and has actively litigated against Israel at the International Criminal Court to have its security barrier declared illegal.
Assured of widespread support from Zwelinzima Vavi, the general secretary of COSATU, Young Communist League (YCL) secretary Manamela and widespread sympathy among the upper echelons of the African National Congress (ANC), BDS South Africa’s co-ordinator Muhammed Desai had reason to be upbeat about his chances of launching his campaign before an international cast of leaders.
According to Desai, the BRICS group can and should play a decisive role by taking “two immediate actions: impose [a] military and arms embargo on Israel and secondly to end all and ban all trade with Israel’s illegal settlements.” He also called for the suspension of economic, financial and technological assistance to and co-operation with Israel and for a severing of diplomatic, trade and cultural relations with Israel.
Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, also of BDS South Africa, echoed these demands. “We now hereby call on BRICS to take decisive action against the increasing Israeli Occupation (and its illegal Settlement enterprise) as well as Israel’s apartheid policies against the Palestinian people. The time has come for progressive countries that seek a peaceful and just world to take clear action in the interests of the oppressed Palestinians – taking such action would put BRICS on the side of the developing countries, on the side of the peoples of the world and on the right side of history.”
In a region bereft of legitimate leaders and of any functioning democracies other than Israel, the moral bankruptcy of the BDS agenda, that overlooks all the human rights abuses and deviancies of the Arab regimes, is apparent and abhorrent. Its obsession is with pressuring Israel. Once this is achieved, the BDSers talk loosely of bringing “justice” to the Palestinian people, without spelling out what exactly this entails.
They fail to posit any clear, positive plan for how Israelis and Palestinians will live and share the land.
Its partisan agenda blames only one side, and thus expects only one side to compromise. They prescribe only punitive measures for Israelis and absolve Palestinians of all responsibility or blame. This view sees Palestinians only as victims, with no control over their fate. This fatalistic view is unhelpful as it circumscribes the role Palestinian leaders can play and should be perceived as demeaning to the Palestinian people.
It is a credit to the leaders of the BRICS group, and particularly to the minister of international relations and cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, that they did not succumb to pressure from the destructive BDS lobbyists, which would have undermined the important work that they gathered together to accomplish. It is perhaps time for South Africa to follow the example set by all the other BRICS states, which maintain excellent and mutually beneficial relations with Israel, undoubtedly contributing to their growing economies.
The author is the chairman of the South African Zionist Federation (Cape Council).