As Jews, with our own Painful History of Oppression… [South African Jewish Statement on Palestinians]

I got this by email and thought it worth sharing. It further makes the point, signalled by Peter Beinart and others, that the Likud, Israel Beitenu and Shas and similar parties in Israel and their policies toward the Palestinians are morally objectionable to many of the world’s Jews.

Dear Friends and Comrades,

In the spirit of those brave white apartheid dissidents such as Braam Fischer, Antjie Krog, Joe Slovo, Beyers Naude, Ruth First and others that spoke out from within their oppressive communities, a group of Jewish South Africans have issued an important and powerful statement. The statement was published in South Africa’s weekly newspaper, the Mail&Guardian (below and attached). – BDS South Africa



“The temptation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine … yet we would be less than human if we did so.”


As Jews, with our own painful history of oppression, we are compelled to speak out against human rights violations being committed by the State of Israel – in our name – against the Palestinian people.

We note that the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) together with the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF), recently met with the South African Presidency and other politicians. We also note, with great concern, the SAJBD and SAZF’s assertion that they represent and speak on behalf of all Jewish South Africans, particularly when it comes to Palestine-Israel.

Let us be clear, the SAJBD and SAZF’s position of supporting Israel at all costs does not represent us. We also appeal to the SAJBD and SAZF to respect one of the hallmarks of Judaism: respectful debate amongst those who hold divergent viewpoints. The SAJBD and SAZF’s position on Israel, and attempts to stifle opposing voices that speak out against Israel, is morally untenable.

The Jewish community is neither homogeneous nor monolithic. There is a growing number of Jews, in South Africa and around the world, who are organising to form alternative spaces and who unconditionally oppose Israeli policies and practices that shamefully privilege Jews over the indigenous Palestinian people. In this vein, we support the non-violent campaign of applying Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it abides by international law and respects basic human rights [see].

We are encouraged that our South African government is joining those countries that are taking a clear stance against Israel’s violations of international law and its acts of violence against the Palestinian people [ see this City Press newspaper article:]. We also welcome and support our Department of Trade and Industry’s initiative to prevent the false labelling of Israeli settlement products [see this Israeli Ha’aretz newspaper article:]. We hope that the ANC and the SA Government goes further and completely bans Israeli settlement products. Israeli settlements are in clear violation of international law and seriously undermine any chance of negotiations and a just peace.

Such positions as those recently taken by our government against Israeli violence and violations of international law, in fact, serve to affirm a proud Jewish tradition of respect for justice and human rights; regardless of race, religion or creed. Such positions connect us to our fellow humanity.

We humbly – and sadly – acknowledge that our voices may not be the dominant ones in our community, but neither were Dietrich Bonnhoefer’s in Nazi Germany nor Beyers Naude’s, Antjie Krog’s, Braam Fischer’s and Joe Slovo’s in Apartheid South Africa.

Our individual consciences, our Jewish tradition and our painful history compel us to declare to the SAJBD, SAZF and to the Israeli government that we will continue to speak out and take a stand for justice and human rights. Taking such a stand is in the very interests of being Jewish. For when we proclaim “Never Again”, we should mean “Never Again”, unconditionally, and to any human being – including the Palestinians.

Issued by Alan Horwitz for StopTheJNF, a campaign initiated by a group of Jewish South Africans committed to justice and rights for the Palestinian people and Jewish Israelis. Find the original statement and more information here:

Mentioned in the above statement is Joe Slovo: the well-known South African Treason Trialist, founding member of the South African Congress of Democrats, the former South African Communist Party General-Secretary, the Chief of Staff during the 1980s of the African National Congress’ armed wing (Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK)) and a leading NEC member of South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC). Slovo, who was born Jewish, was an outspoken critic of Apartheid South Africa as well as a consistent critic of the Israeli regime – which he also considered an Apartheid state.

In fact, Slovo publicly exposed and highlighted the shameful military collaborations during the 1970s and 1980s between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa (see this UK Guardian newspaper article: In an unfinished autobiography, Joe Slovo wrote: “Ironically enough, the horrors of the Holocaust became the rationalization [by Israeli supporters] for … acts of genocide against the indigenous people of Palestine. Those of us who, in the years that were to follow, raised our voices publicly against the violent apartheid of the Israeli state were vilified…”.

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7 Responses

  1. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad just called for an international Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions movement against all of Israel – his previous call was only against Jewish settlers. This is in response to the State of Israel withholding funds from the Palestinian Authority it needs to operate by paying civil servant salaries etc.

    Also, a judge in Olympia, Washington several months ago awarded $160,000.00 in damages to the Olympia Food Co-op and members of its board of directors against five plaintiffs who sued to invalidate a boycott of Israeli products passed by the board and implemented when Israeli-made products – except Palestinian olive oil – were removed from co-op shelves. The judge earlier had dismissed the plaintiffs’ suit and later awarded the damages under the state’s Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) statute. The judge, Thomas McPhee, requested the defendants to submit an itemization of attorney fees incurred so he could consider an appropriate award of legal fees to the defendants. The lawsuit was believed to have been supported by the Israel Foreign Ministry as an Israeli consular officer met with the plaintiffs previously, and its deputy foreign minister had commented favorably on the case publicly.

  2. This is great to read. Thanks so much for posting. It’s probably comforting for Jews in smaller communities who oppose Israel’s policy to see that they are not alone. And to see that others oppose Israel without becoming the anti-Semitic caricature that Israel’s so-called defenders portray. Hard to open up a mainstream Jewish paper without hearing that every boycotter is a Hamas supporter. (Certainly, as you mention, Beinart’s been doing a great job.)

    I’m wondering, have you come across any public letters coming from Palestinian communities outside Gaza (or inside) opposed to violence used against Israelis? From a moral perspective that violence is wrong, rather than because terror undermines the Palestinian cause. I would very much appreciate being pointed in that directions.

      • Juan, thanks you so much for the link to the article. It was interesting. It elides the violence that preceded 1936, but none-the-less it’s refreshing to see mention of Palestinian non-violent resistance. I had an interesting exchange with Al Ahram a about 9 years ago. They had an article about an Egyptian conference on the history non-violence, with special attention to the Muslim world (Pakistan, etc.). Curiously an exception was made for Israel. The rationale being that early non-violent resistance to the occupation was met with brute force from the IDF – apparently demonstrating the inability of non-violent resistance to stop Israel. The conference was able to both honor Gandhi and fail to understand him.

        Anyway, as to my original question. Would you by any chance be able to point me in the direction of Palestinian condemnations of violence against Jews from a moral, human perspective. Not because it undermines the Palestinian national cause. Not the politicians’ obligatory “deaths on all sides are a shame.” But just because murdering commuters and diners is wrong even if they are Jewish. I believe those public letters must exist.

        In any case, thanks for your first response and your original post. It was very nice to see a letter from people brave enough to publically call Israel out for its actions. I hope crazy nationalist South African Jews don’t try to stop them from attending their grandkids bar mitzvah’s like they did to Goldstone.

  3. A fascinating perspective on the Palestinian struggle is laid out in Jonathan Bloomfield’s award-winning book, “Palestine,” in which actual history and future predictions are cloaked in fiction.

  4. This is beautiful. The entire world should applaud the courage and nobility of these people. It is time all of us put human rights above any and all forms of sectarianism.

  5. Bravo! As an American Jew who opposes the “support Israel at all cost” attitude of AIPAC, SAJBD and SAZF and other Jewish-based groups, I applaud the courage of the South Africans. To not call out the Israeli government on its policy of apartheid against the Palestinians, a policy that is the very same crime that has been commited against Jews for so many centuries, it is time to bring sanity and reason to play.

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