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Our open letter to Jesse Duarte

22 July 2014, 14:52

An open letter to the ANC regarding its press release

To the Chairperson and members of the ANC NEC,

It is with deep dismay that I am writing to you regarding the recent press release issued by Ms Jessie Duarte in the name of the ANC on 10 July entitled “The situation in the Gaza Strip" (available at http://www.anc.org.za/show.php?id=10991). I am writing on behalf of a large group of South Africans living abroad who were appalled by Ms Duarte’s remarks and the embarrassing indifference of ANC to them.

Ms Duarte’s comments have elicited much disappointment and sadness amongst South Africans worldwide, as she has unequivocally equated Israelis (Jews) to Nazis in their “intended genocidal destruction of the Palestinians in Gaza” which is nothing less than a grossly inaccurate and deeply outrageous moral comparison.  Her actions have catapulted the ANC, a party that has been synonymous with fighting for truth, freedom and democracy, into global disrepute.

The ANC’s failure to distance itself from Ms Duarte’s comments has further fanned the flames of hatred. Soon after the public statement, one of your own party members has been taken to the Human Rights Commission for circulating virulently anti-Semitic views across  social media. The ANC’s silence on this and encouragement of marches against Israel in particularly Jewish neighbourhoods sends a clear message to your citizens that the ANC is willing to isolate one segment of its population in order to gain political favour with another. 

Ms Duarte and the ANCs’ actions warrant nothing short of either an unreserved apology, internal disciplinary action or a public justification for this press release, for the following reasons.

Ms Duarte casually uses heavily-loaded accusations of Nazism (and Apartheid), as if these peoples’ sufferings are a franchise. It remains highly doubtful that Ms Duarte has even studied the Holocaust let alone been to Auschwitz to see the real atrocities of the Nazis as they pillaged through Europe and carried out the intended extermination of an entire people, alongside gypsies, homosexuals, Poles and millions more.

Equating the Israeli government to Nazism is the worst insult you could give to a people who not only lost the lives of six million souls at the hand of the Nazis but moreover, it isolates a group of your own citizens that is invested in South Africa’s future.  Surely the ANC will agree with how many Jewish organisations in South Africa have enriched the more impoverished communities, not to mention the hundreds of Jewish run business that donate millions in social responsibility aid to South Africans in need. Israelis are no different to Jews living in South Africa in their approach to kindness and communal responsibility, especially in being partners in developing African initiatives, and Ms Duarte’s claims are all the more hurtful when they are clearly not based in truth. Every month, Israel insures tons of aid is sent to Gaza, Palestinians are treated in Israeli hospitals, (even Hamas members) and Israel supplies electricity and clean water to Gaza, despite the fact that she is under a constant barrage of deadly missile attacks from Hamas. It is really astonishing when you think about the fact that perpetrators of intended death are receiving aid from her victims?

Mrs Duarte’s comments run contrary to our own government’s public statement of 11 July where the Department of International Relations and Cooperation called for “all sides to refrain from responding to violence”, recognised that Israeli civilians are also under the threat from Hamas rockets and called for negotiations instead of divestment. As a matter of principle, why are our ruling party and our government not in tandem with each other on issues relating to foreign policy? Why do some in the party use ANC resources to further the interests of other political groups such as the BDS movement which is unashamedly endorsed in an ANC press release? Given Ms Duarte’s previous outlandish comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as the brash and misinformed press release, it begs the question whether she consulted anyone, let alone our Department of International Relations and Cooperation. This is simply bewildering.

This rogue press release statement has already caused the damage. Overseas newswires have picked up on what can only be termed as a catastrophic embarrassment on the ANC’s part. As expats living abroad, we have never once had to be ashamed of or tried to justify the actions of our party’s leaders, but unfortunately, this has demanded of us to question the future of South African politics and the future of Jews in South Africa. You may ask yourself why as ex pats this is of relevance, because ultimately we are your ambassadors on the front line, encouraging positive global perceptions about South Africa, but this situation has forced us to think long and hard about what type of government we are justifying before the world stage.

The ANC has further brought themselves into disrepute by being indifferent to the tragic loss of lives that Hamas has brought onto civilians (both Arab and Jewish) in Israel from its torrential rocket fire. This places South Africa at odds with multi-cultural and tolerant democracies whose governments have come out against the Palestinian terrorist organisation and have called for restraint of violence on both sides in order to return to peace discussions. Instead, Ms Duarte’s comments, especially those loosely tying Nazism to the self-defence of the Jewish state, place our country in the same category as Venezuela and Iran. This has severely tarnished South Africa’s credibility as a facilitator of peace between Arabs and Jews – a role which South Africans have held as a bastion of reconciliation. Ms Duarte has undermined our government’s role in participating in the resolution of this conflict and has reduced the ANC to that of a mere arm-chair spectator.

Despite Ms Duarte’s personal views on Israel/Palestine, most of our country’s citizens care as much about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as they do about South Sudan, Central African Republic, and the DRC. Rather, it is safe to say that most South Africans are more concerned about service delivery, education and health. There are many segments within South Africa that have a profound love for peace in the land of Israel, including its Jewish citizens and several African Zionist churches whose memberships go in the tens of millions. Through this public statement, which is littered with subjective anecdotes and exaggerations, Ms Duarte is imposing her political vendettas against Israel on the majority of South Africans (that have little or no interest in the conflict) only to drive further divisions and tensions within our rainbow nation.

For these reasons, and with the hope that the ANC continues to be a body that adheres to its own rules and protocols, we ask that Ms Duarte unreservedly apologise for her hateful comments or face disciplinary action for what she has done. If Ms Duarte actually believes what she is saying is factual and the ANC wishes to stand by her comments, then she owes it to the public to justify why her hatred of Israel should become the established view in the ANC and South Africa. If she refuses to retract, then for the sake of her own credibility she has no choice but to accept Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein’s invitation to debate her views in an open forum, in the interest of South Africans pursuing the truth behind the conflict. This is the least she could to remediate the exponential damage she has caused.

It remains our conciliatory hope that Ms Duarte will have the courage to take the centre stage and answer for herself.

Yours Sincerely,

Shira Druion

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