The South African Friends of Israel gathered at the Johannesburg City Hall Sunday to reaffirm their support and love for Israel. 1500 church leaders who openly stand by the Jewish state came together in prayer and positivism.
Among them was an MMC of Health, Mpho Phalaste who took to the stage with the statement “I am a friend of Israel! The City of Johannesburg is a friend of Israel.” The crowd cheered and everyone was happy.
Until her utterances were broadcast on social media.
The EFF, South Africa’s 3rd largest political party was 1st off the mark. Their statement was one that could take your breath away. One of the more sinister comments was the sentence, “Israel is a racist occupying force which has no value for humanity.” Whereas I am generally critical of anyone plays the “Nazi” card, the undertone, meaning and consequence of this statement is more than a little frightening.
Aside from the assumption that the EFF must have no doubt contributed vast amounts to humanity, their statement takes one straight back to Monty Python’s Life of Brian. In the iconic scene called “Before the Romans Things were Smelly,” an important question is raised. “What have they (the Romans) given us in return?” Well, besides the aqueducts and sanitation and roads and irrigation and medicine and wine and public baths and safety, what have they contributed? Aside from that, the Romans, it would seem contributed nothing. Nothing at all.
Like Israel who according to the EFF has “No value to humanity.”
The problem with making a statement such as the bigoted, false and inflammatory one made by the EFF is that it forces readers to look a little closer at the group making the utterances. To be fair, and because I couldn’t (off the top of my head) think of anything that EFF has contributed, aside from being mildly entertaining, I googled “Contribution of the EFF to Humanity.” I assumed I would need to a big pen with lots of ink and reams of paper to record the lists – but it turned out I was somewhat optimistic. There were a few articles suggesting that they “Changed SA politics” and I even found an article that I had written where I defended the EFF rampaging through H&M stores following a racial incident. All the articles were more or less about the noise that they make, about their wild statements and their racist rants. As for anything mildly meaningful that the EFF might have contributed to humanity, even Google was stumped.
For balance I then googled “Contribution of Israel to humanity,” and received a slightly different result. I had options now and needed to decide between mathematics, medicine, robotics, water conservation, irrigation, agriculture, security, counter terrorism, music, dance, consumer good, food and drink, gay rights, architecture and global aid. I could also follow links to innovation and philosophy and just about anything it would seem. The only conclusion that I could draw was that the writer of the EFF statement must have a wonderful and uproarious sense of humour and it was our fault of we took him seriously.
Because the statement is actually a joke.
Much like the EFF itself.
South Africa’s ruling party, the ANC, made a statement that was hardly better. So too was the statement by the official opposition, the DA who immediately suspended the MMC for saying that she and the city of Johannesburg were friends of Israel. They understandably didn’t want her making a statement on behalf of the city of Johannesburg, but one does wonder what would what happen if she said that the city of Johannesburg was a friend of Angola or Egypt or Syria. I find it difficult to imagine that she would have received the same treatment.
I also have difficulty understanding why the city of Johannesburg cannot be friends with Israel and Palestine? I can’t imagine that the MMC was suggesting that Johannesburg and Israel were now as exclusive as Kim and Kanye and that no other friendships could be considered. Johannesburg just isn’t that type of gal.
The hysterical and hateful Israel bashing is appalling and perplexing. What has become clear is that anyone, like the MMC, who stands up to suggest a positive relationship with the Jewish state will be bullied and intimidated and ultimately fired. Freedom of expression, a bastion of the South African constitution has all but dissipated when it comes to Israel and is reserved for those who not only scream the loudest but are also the most aggressive.
Which is why it’s more important than ever, that those of us who can, stand up and say that I am a friend of Israel!