It was a livid Zev Krengel of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SABJD) who condemned the ANC’s decision to downgrade the South African embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, to a liaison office.
Across the divide of the never-ending war between Israel and Palestine which influenced the ANC’s decision, the announcement was celebrated by Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions South Africa (BDS), South African Jews for Palestine (SAJPF) and Israel’s mortal enemy – the Islamic Resistance Movement, aka Hamas.
“In order to give our practical expression of support to the oppressed people of Palestine, the ANC has unanimously resolved to direct the SA government to immediately and unconditionally downgrade the South African embassy in Israel to a Liaison Office,” said ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule.
“Together with the delegates at the ANC conference, we now call on the ANC in government to heed the call from the ruling party’s members and to downgrade its diplomatic links with the Zionist apartheid state,” the Hamas statement read. Krengel said it was a different ANC now.
“The ANC has lost its soul. It’s lost its principle soul of how to make peace.”
Krengel said they would posibly test the constitutionality of the decision. Ben Swartz of the South African Zionist Federation said the SAZF and SABJD had spent months engaging with the ANC, government and civil society to “express our concerns over the enormous impact that this would have, not only on our community, but also our Christian friends”, adding it was not the end of the road.
BDS’s Kwara Kekana maintained it was “a huge step in the right direction and a massive gain for the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel movement”.
“The ANC, which benefitted from boycotts and sanctions against apartheid South Africa, has provided direction and we hope others follow,” Kekana said.
Alan Horwitz of SAJFP noted the decision “actively applies pressure on Israel’s government to end its violations of international law”. “As members of the Jewish community, we believe this is one of the most practical things that South Africa can do to contribute towards a just peace in Palestine-Israel,” Horwitz noted.
Department of international relations and cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela did not respond to requests for comment, so it’s left to the South African Israel Chamber of Commerce’s Bev Goldman to fill in the blanks – and it appeared the ANC may be cutting off South Africa’s nose to spite its face.
“The trade figures between Israel and South Africa are relatively small, but so much of what Israel exports to SA is in the form of intellectual capital and technological capacity,” said Goldman.