A letter to Redi Tlhabi on Israel

Dear Redi

I have listened with great interest and much concern to many South Africans who have expressed their dismay at recent comments that you made on your radio show regarding Israel. This has left many people feeling deeply offended and dismayed at what seems to be a very one-sided view of the Jewish State.

I am writing to you as an Israeli who grew up in South Africa and understands the narratives of the past and present of both countries. I am hoping that we can open a dialogue between us so that you can begin to realise that Israelis just want peace with our neighbours, wanting to live a life that ensures a bright future for children on both sides, free from conflict. I am hoping that we can speak so that you and your listeners can better understand the nuances and everyday complexities of living in Israel, a country that faces the types of challenges other countries don't.

I know that it is the cause du jour right now to jump on the anti-Israel bandwagon but I appeal to you as a journalist and fellow broadcaster to engage with me so that we can ensure fair and balanced coverage of a conflict that is far more complex and multi-layered than many would have you believe. It is a situation that raises many questions and I am hoping that we can speak without the mantle of government office to influence our discussion.

I want to understand why there is there such a fear of South Africans visiting Israel. I want to introduce you to the Israel I know and live in, a vibrant, pluralistic, robust but flawed democracy. I want to explain why Israel is not an apartheid state, an analogy that causes tremendous pain to both countries.

The many South Africans who have been to Israel and experienced the situation on the ground, dismiss this comparison. I want to explain that by engaging in discourse which is the South African way, we will certainly pave the way for peace; but engaging in fear or the politics of blame which has been evident in the South African media lately, only harms our efforts.

Did you know that while DA leader Mmusi Maimane's visit was being heavily criticised and condemned, Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed a treaty to improve water supply in the West bank? This is the South African way.

I extend an invitation to all peace loving South Africans who seek to build bridges and find positive solutions to please come and visit our beautiful, flawed, thriving democracy and see the facts on the ground for yourself. Don’t let those that are anti-normalization and peace dictate your movements – this just hearkens back to South Africa’s tragic past.

I would welcome an opportunity to speak to you either on or off air, Redi. Will you accept my invitation?

Warm regards

Rolene Marks

- Rolene Marks is a freelance journalist and broadcaster and an advocate for Israel.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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