Jewish Board of Deputies condemns ANC resolution to downgrade SA's Israel embassy

Johannesburg - The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) have questioned the motives behind the ANC's "discriminatory" resolution to downgrade the South African embassy in Israel "immediately and unconditionally" to a liaison office.

The announcement to downgrade the embassy was made at the ANC's 54th elective conference on Wednesday.

The board condemned the move, saying this was an attempt to demonise Israel, "while real human rights abuses, like those occurring in Libya, Mynamar and Syria, among others, are ignored. They are pushing their radical anti-Israel agenda to the detriment of fellow South Africans, and against the interests of the country as a whole."

Visit our special report, #ANCVotes, for all the news, analysis and opinions about the ANC’s national elective conference.

The SAJBD said the decision would have an impact on the economy, culture, social cohesion and national unity, adding that every decision made by the ANC had to fall within the ambit of the Constitution.

It said it felt betrayed and disappointed by the fact that the ANC was persuaded by "those with [an] obsession to vilify the Jewish state".

The call for the downgrade of relations with Israel came from Palestinians and various churches, parties, civil organisations, and movements such as Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS).

READ: ANC resolves to direct government to downgrade Israeli embassy immediately

But the SAJBD has also questioned the motives of some of these organisations.

"It appears to us that the ANC's foreign policy formulation process was hijacked by forces that have a limited interest in promoting South Africa's and key South African communities' wellbeing, and are rather obsessed with undermining the viability of Israel and harming the local Jewish community," read a statement from the board.

'Practical solidarity'

It said the presence of Hamas at the elective conference supported that view, describing Hamas as a terrorist organisation that called for the destruction of Israel.

Meanwhile, the ANC in the Western Cape said that it, along with other provinces, would start mobilising to ensure the implementation of the resolution.

"We hope that this practical solidarity will assist in pressuring Israel to end its human rights abuses, apartheid policies and violations of international. Until then, the struggle of the people of Palestine is our struggle, just as how our struggle was once their struggle," read a statement.

"A downgrade would unfairly impact on the ability of Jews and committed Christians to practice and identify with their religious and cultural heritage. Furthermore, access to education and cultural resources will be curtailed," the SABJD said.

It said a downgrade would result in SA forfeiting its role as a peace broker and experienced negotiator between Palestine and Israel.

Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, the chairperson of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission), said previously that a downgrade might be unconstitutional, as it would unfairly impact on the ability of Africans Jews to practice and identify with their religious and cultural heritage.

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