Dear Ms Naledi Pandor

Dear Ms Naledi Pandor,

Your campaign to exclude the Jewish African Diaspora from the African Union refers.

That I live in a country with an egregious history of involvement and support for Hitler’s policies of mass extermination of Jews, should not have to be the starting point for a debate in South Africa. Yet, I am forced to remind you that it was then Minister of Interior, DF Malan who introduced both the Quota Act (1930) and Aliens Act (1937), restricting Jewish employment and also Jewish immigration to South Africa.

A National Party membership card of the time carries both the Swastika and the words: “The South African National Party emanates from the S.A. gentile National-Socialist movement and incorporates the said movement as also the SA Grey Shirts”.

The resulting political formation was the selfsame movement which introduced apartheid race laws defining our country’s citizens in terms of race criteria — criteria modelled upon Hitler’s own Nuremberg Laws.

Between 1933 and 1941, the Nazi policy of judenrein (cleansing of Jews) aimed to remove the German Jewish population “by making life so difficult for them that they would be forced to leave the country”. By 1938, about 150,000 German Jews, ‘had already fled the country with many Jews unable to find countries willing to take them in’.

The plight of the SS Stuttgart, a ship carrying 537 Jewish refugees is illustrative of the problem. Chartered to beat the ban imposed by the Aliens Act, it was opposed in Cape Town harbour by DF Malan’s Grey Shirts, who subsequently held several meetings on the “Jewish Problem”, addressed by HF Verwoerd and TE Donges, who exclaimed: ‘The Jew is an insoluble element in every national life.’ [1]

The Évian Conference was convened 6–15 July 1938 at Évian-les-Bains, France, to address the problem of German and Austrian Jewish refugees wishing to flee persecution by Nazi Germany. Attended by 32 countries, with South Africa apparently in observer status, our country agreed to “taking only those with close relatives already resident”, in the process condemning many of the Holocaust’s victims.

Last year Israel was granted observer status by the African Union — 46 AU Member States already have relations with Israel including our own, and the resolution has the support of a majority of its members. In so doing, the Chairperson of the AU affirmed the union’s “positive role of mediator to the conflict.”

Nevertheless South Africa’s policy towards Israel, consistent with Mandela’s bipartisan support for a two-state solution, was taken to task by the vocal Palestinian Lobby within the country. The result is that your government currently opposes the presence of Israel within the AU and now comprises a minority group of 21 nations so opposed.

A recent Constitutional Court decision (SAHRC on behalf of SAJBD v Masuku and Another) affirmed the right of Jewish South Africans to an identity which includes affinity with the State of Israel. Counsel for the SAHRC stated that the word Zionist “in the South African context means Jew because the vast majority of South African Jews are Zionist”.

Whether or not you take issue as I do with current definitions of Zionism — whether as a religious, political or secular philosophy, is beside the point.

The fact remains that Israel itself possesses a considerable African population, comprising Ethiopian and Maghrebi Jews i.e. North African Jews who are “native Jews who had traditionally lived in the Maghreb region of North Africa”, and others, comprising some 3.3% of the total population.

There also exists a sizeable population of Jews in Africa, such as the Ogoni from Ogoniland in Nigeria,​ ​Abayudaya in​ ​Uganda and Zimbabweans, who to some extent are recognised by the Orthodox Rabbinate, following completion of religious victuals, but who are otherwise discriminated against by the Israeli Beth Din.

Our own country has a relatively small Jewish diaspora, with Non-Theist Jews such as myself, a minority within a minority.

To those who persist in pursuing an abhorrent apartheid doctrine, within South Africa, for instance, by claiming all Jews should be classified as white for the purposes of population registration, but be nevertheless discriminated against when it comes to our secular rights and freedoms, I can only state, that my own children are very much Rainbows and people of color.

Instead of campaigning to remove Israel from the AU, supposedly to pressure the Israeli government when it comes to the dispute over the Final Status of Jerusalem, I suggest that your time could be better spent tackling the lack of rights and representation of black Jews within the African Union.

Instead of embarking upon a path which leads directly into a confrontation with the majority of AU members, in order to pursue a territorial conflict in which Arab states were awarded some 65% of the territory of Ottoman Palestine, only to dispute the remaining 35% awarded under the British Mandate and UN partition plan, may I suggest that you could a lot better by removing sanctions against your own citizens — unlawful sanctions against persons such as myself who do not currently possess a right to a secular identity due to the prognostications of your own political, religious and legal emirs.

Take a look at a map of Palestine supplied by the Ottoman Railway Company showing that Palestine once included what is today Southern Lebanon, parts of Syria and the East Bank of the Jordan, before you rush to defend the Anti-Semitic supercessionist movement called Hamas.

Instead of cynically expressing solidarity with a Palestinian sectarian organisation which seeks to create a ‘Palestine within Palestine’, currently lacks a Freedom Charter and which is fundamentally opposed to LGBTIQ rights, you could do far better by creating a safe and open space for both parties to the conflict to witness African Ubuntu and the democratic processes within the AU.

If you wish to raise any issues with regard to the above, please do not hesitate.

Sincerely yours,

David Robert Lewis

Notes

  1. incapable of being dissolved into a solution.

SEE: Remarks of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission on the granting of observer state to the State of Israel

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