This article originally appeared in Hebrew in Israel Hayom, June 15, 2017.
In 2016, when Dore Gold was Director General of the Foreign Ministry, he visited South Africa. Here, he met an old Jewish Communist who hated the State of Israel. However, this man told a story of when a manhunt was underway for Nelson Mandela by the apartheid government, that Mandela was hidden in a Jewish home. Here, Mandela read Menachem Begin’s book The Revolt. According to the Begin Center, Mandela read The Revolt in prison. In any case, Begin’s book was present in the African Liberation Movement against apartheid.
Later, Gold managed to arrange a meeting with the South African foreign minister, who is very hostile toward Israel. He told her of the Israeli book that inspired the leader of the struggle against apartheid. He explained that this book was by one of the leaders of the Jewish liberation movement. It wasn’t exactly an ice breaker between the two diplomats. But, it was a moment that began to melt what had been frozen relations between the two countries.
About a year ago, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided that BDS is an issue of national security. The strategy of accessing Africa and the fight against BDS are interrelated. The strengthening of relations with African countries is intended, among other things, to create a greenhouse effect, melting the “glacier” of South Africa’s hostility that limits Israel’s relations with the African countries. “The decision to return to Africa was made with the hope of the prime minister that Africa will return to Israel,” Gold said at a meeting held at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Two South Africans, Luba Mayekiso and his daughter Cassie Mayekiso, spoke about the efforts they are making to help Israel in the war against BDS in South Africa.
“When we formulate an opinion on the State of Israel, we rely on information, and BDS is the main source of information about Israel in South Africa,” according to Mayekiso, a devout Zionist Christian. “BDS feeds the citizens of South Africa a story that Israel was once an Arab country, there was a Holocaust, and after that the Jews came and took the land from the Arabs. They tell people that if they leave for Israel, the Jews will poison them.”
The natural question is why fight against BDS and why focus on South Africa? South Africa’s experience under apartheid is used by the BDS movement as a political weapon. South Africa is largely the territorial base of BDS and all the methods of warfare against Israel and the Jews. The power of these movements is multiplied in South Africa.
Without the powerful South African home front, anti-Semitism, terrorism, damaging ideologies and anti-Zionist theories are dissipating and losing effectiveness. South Africa, with all its corruption and failures, has been transformed since the elimination of apartheid by Nelson Mandela’s leadership into a “moral power.” This could be a strategic resource for Israel – but South Africa’s status as a moral power is instead directed against Israel.
“The issue of apartheid and racism touches a deep and very emotional nerve among the people of South Africa,” says Luba. “If I disagree with an army general and tell people: ‘This general cheats on taxes,’ people are impartial. Maybe they say my accusation is correct, maybe they try to prove me wrong. But, if I say he’s a racist, they’ll immediately be convinced and protest him.”
Solidarity with the Palestinian cause is absolute. It is a South African heritage of long-standing partnership with the PLO created by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The ANC had many Communist members, many of them Jews. They formed the connecting link between the groups. This is why Hamas senior official Khaled Meshal was received in South Africa at the highest state level, which included a meeting with President Zuma. “Where else in the world is there a government that acted in full solidarity with the hunger strike of the Palestinian terror convicts?” Luba asked. Participants at the Jerusalem Center discussion noted that even the Palestinian Authority government did not demonstrate full solidarity with Marwan Barghouti and other Palestinian terrorists on hunger strikes in Israeli prisons.
Cassie Mayekiso said that there is a lot of violence and vandalism against the stalls that pro-Israel Jews erect at BDS events. “Anything that identifies you as a Jew on a university campus is dangerous,” she said.
The surprise is that there are people among the blacks who are willing to fight for Israel’s sake. These are young people who feel cheated by the lies of the boycott movement, some of them even former student BDS activists. They feel insulted that the term “apartheid” is used against Israel. As far as they are concerned, this is a kind of denial of the suffering they endured under the real apartheid system that took place in South Africa.