Dear Community Member
Yesterday, it was reported in The Star that at the National General Council of the ANC, senior party members had criticised MPs and business figures for having visited Israel, and asserted that the ruling party needed to “conscientise South Africa’s young people, leaders and public representatives not to travel to Israel”.
While these reports may have created the impression that there has been a shift in ANC policy on the question of travelling to Israel, this is not the case. In reality, for a number of years already there have been voices within the ANC advocating a de facto embargo on travelling to Israel until such time as progress is made towards meeting Palestinian demands. This is not official party policy, however, nor is it the policy of our government. Our law places no restriction on visiting Israel, and South Africans of all races, creeds and political persuasions continue to do so.
In our response to the media reports, we have unequivocally rejected this discriminatory singling out of Israel for a travel ban when no such calls are being made not to visit other countries (even those with very poor human rights records). It is in any case outrageous that in our democratic society, citizens should be ‘discouraged’ from exposing themselves to perspectives that certain factions within the ruling party disagree with. Ultimately, the question has to be asked, are they afraid that by visiting Israel, people might come to the ‘wrong’ conclusion regarding what they are supposed to believe about it? So undemocratic and dictatorial an approach would appear to be reminiscent of how under apartheid, South Africans were prohibited from travelling to Lusaka to meet with the exiled ANC leadership.
Finally, we pledge our unswerving solidarity with the people of Israel at this time of great danger and uncertainty in the Holy Land. We hope and pray that the leadership on all sides will act decisively and responsibility to prevent further bloodshed and that peace will be restored.
Mary Kluk Ben Swartz
South African Jewish Board of Deputies SA Zionist Federation