PRESS STATEMENTDefeat for Israeli lobby, Victory for Freedom of Expression & Palestine Solidarity

07 December 2018

The human rights and Palestine solidarity organisation, BDS South Africa, joins other progressive organisations and trade unions in welcoming South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal’s ruling that has cleared the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and its International Relations Secretary from false accusations of anti-Semitism and hate speech. This is a victory for freedom of expression and Palestine solidarity  as well as a blow to the Israeli lobby.

The ruling, handed down earlier this week (04 December 2018), was supported by all five judges who heard the matter (Justices Lewis, Wallis, Zondi, Matojane and Dambuza). According to the press release by COSATU:

“The Israeli lobby (SA Jewish Board of Deputies) took both COSATU and its International Secretary to the Equality Court, falsely accusing the federation and its official of anti-Semitism and hate speech. This was an attempt to silence and isolate the federation and all supporters of freedom for the Palestinian people. This was not just a trial against COSATU and its International Secretary, Bongani Masuku, but effectively a trial against workers’ rights to offer solidarity, freedom of expression and the struggle for justice and dignity for all.”

The Israeli lobby, particularly, the SA Zionist Federation (SAZF) and the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) should end their endless false accusations of anti-Semitism against those who are critical of the State of Israel.  It is becoming clearer by the day that the charge of anti-Semitism is a smoke-screen behind which they hope to hide Israel’s crimes. Our courts have made it clear, criticising the Israeli Apartheid regime is protected speech in South Africa!

In 2011 the Israeli lobby attempted to remove a Palestine solidarity BDS advert from our state broadcaster, the SABC, which they deemed anti-Semitic; however, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled against them and in favor of the Palestine solidarity movement. The Israeli lobby also pressured a billboard company to remove an advert by BDS South Africa and on this matter, too, South Africa’s High Court, in 2014, ruled against the removal and in favor of the Palestine solidarity movement. All these shenanigans are part of a global campaign by the Israeli lobby of vilifying & de-platforming those who speak up for Palestinian rights and human dignity. While anti-Semitism is real in some parts of the world, it is also shamelessly abused by the Israeli lobby groups to shield Israeli Apartheid and its atrocities against the Palestinians from criticism and accountability.

The Supreme Court of Appeal, in its ruling, notes that COSATU’s International Relations Secretary was subjected to SAJBD and Israeli supporters shouting “Heil Hitler” at him and that the federation received abusive mails, emails, phone calls and other threats from Israeli supporters, two such messages directed at COSATU from that time are reproduced here:

“Even when all the monkeys in Cosatu have died of Aids (even those who were cured by raping babies), I still won’t return [to SA]. Jews should be in Israel supporting Israel – Friends – make Aliya! Do it!”

“Let us bombard the COSATU offices with phone calls to let them know our anger. It is hardr [sic] to ignore phone calls than e mails. Maybe we should start a policy that Israel-loyal Jews refuse to employ COSATU members in retaliation for COSATU’s evil actions.”

Africans have historically been dehumanised through calling them monkeys. By not publicly condemning this blatant racism by their supporters, the Israeli lobby, notably the SAJBD and SAZF, have associated themselves with these statements. Unsurprisingly, this mirrors their silence on the expulsion of over 40 000 African refugees from Israel.

Finally we commend those members of the Jewish community who distance themselves from the narrow-minded and racist SAJBD. These members of the Jewish community are proof that there is more to Jewishness and Judaism than a racist and tribalist chauvinism that is blind to suffering, injustice and occupation. The Supreme Court of Appeal in its judgement noted that the  “SA Jewish Board of Deputies and the Zionist Federation published an open letter in which they expressed support for the Israeli actions” against the Palestinians in 2009 which left over 1000 Palestinians dead.

The judgement also noted, importantly, that, also in 2009, while the SAJBD supported the Israeli actions and violence, an open letter was also signed by over 300 members of the South African Jewish community, distancing themselves from the SAJBD’s support of Israel’s violent actions.

ISSUED BY TISTESO MAGAMA ON BEHALF OF BDS SOUTH AFRICA

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