PRESS STATEMENT: BDS SA activists demand apology from Public Protector Thuli Madonsela
The human rights and Palestine solidarity organization BDS South Africa is disturbed by the way in which Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has responded to her controversial and also immoral participation at an event of the Israeli United Appeal - United Communal Fund (IUA-UCF).
Last night (26 September 2016) on Twitter, Madonsela wrote:
Madonsela is, firstly, accusing BDS South Africa, without any evidence, of a) hysteria b) lying, and c) being “handled” and controlled.
This morning in a radio interview on the issue, Madonsela claims that we are criticising her for her participation at an IUA-UCF event because of one of her current Public Protector cases. This is ridiculous. We are criticising her because she spoke at and in support of an organization whose primary role is to fund, defend and advance the interests of Apartheid Israel.
As for hysteria
Any South African who has lived through apartheid, more particularly those who suffered, are expected to be alarmed when we see our holders of public office endorsing (by their presence and their verbal support) organizations which support apartheid regimes and illegal occupations elsewhere.
Madonsela can enter into conversations with whom she wants but when she knows and willingly participates with an organization that has the stated primary aim of raising funds for the Apartheid Israeli state she has gone way beyond her mandate. There may be an obligation to engage with the Jewish community, but no obligation to engage with the pro-Israeli IUA-UCF.
The public protector's participation at any event of the pro-Israeli IUA-UCF is utterly unacceptable for someone who occupies the lofty office that she does. Dismissing our complaint as hysteria is a cheap attempt to deflect from the central issue. She appeared at and spoke in support of an organization whose primary purpose is to garner financial and political support for the Apartheid Israeli state.
As for lying
BDS SA calls on Thuli Madonsela to answer three simple questions:
1) Did she or did she not speak at an event hosted by the Israeli United Appeal - United Communal Fund (IUA-UCF). And did she speak in support of their work?
2) Does she consider Israel to be practicing apartheid policies as attested to by legal jurist Professor John Dugard, law expert Professor Richard Falk and various others?
3) Does she support, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Professor Stephen Hawikng, Professor John Dugard, Professor Angela Davis and various others, the non-violent BDS boycott of Israel called for by the indigenous Palestinian people and supported by progressive Jewish Israelis as well as members of the international community?
BDS being handled
We prefer to not stray into the direction of that phenomenon described as ‘projection’ in Physic 101 but do find it curious that the accusations that are being flung at us by the Public Protector are ones that may have been flung at the Public Protector.
We nevertheless demand that Madonsela provides evidence to back such aspersions against us. Failing that we demand an unqualified apology for the baseless and ridiculous accusation that we are being “handled". We are internationalists and are handled by our conscience. Period.
As for her scurrilous accusation that we are in the pay of handlers, we welcome her to come to our offices and view our books at any time.
Speaking to different members of society
The Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, Arthur Lenk, has rushed to Madonsela’s defence on Twitter: “How bizarre that tiny group of hateful extremists claim right to police who people talk to, where you shop, how SA develops. No one listens.” https://twitter.com/ArthurLenk/status/780499566839799811
Being an independent NGO that forms part of the larger non-violent global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel movement we are open to criticise and challenge all supporters of Israel.
The non-violent boycott against Israel movement claims no right to police people but we do claim the right to persuade people not to support or endorse the Israeli regime and its lobby groups because of its violations of international law. As South Africans we have the right to criticise the holders of public office who betray the heritage of our struggle by going beyond the call of duty to develop relations with Israel, its organizations and funders.
We follow in the same spirit that drove those in the anti-apartheid movement when they persuaded people and shamed those who didn’t boycott Apartheid South Africa for its human rights violations.
BDS South Africa reiterates that all South Africans, including all the organs of government, have a right and a responsibility to interact with all of South Africa’s diverse religious and cultural groups – including the Jewish community. However, this responsibility does not extend to lobbies for other countries or narrow capital interest. Government has no responsibility to meet representatives from the Muslim community who may want to lobby it for arms for ISIS and to demand the right to fight there while they remain citizens here, or a derecognition of the Sahrawi republic. The only reasonable basis for the state and the state’s representatives is to tell these elements where to get off – not to sing their praises.
In South Africa we have seen what happens when one section of a religious community – the Dutch Reformed community - made itself synonymous with a right wing reactionary so-called Christian state. With all the propaganda at their disposal it remained a lie that Christianity was the same as Christian Nationalist Apartheid. We refuse to buy into the anti-Semitic lie that Judaism is synonymous with the Apartheid State of Israel.
BDS SA has no issue with speaking to various communities including those that may have a high percentage of Israeli support. We have often spoken at events in the Jewish community, for example. However, the issue is not about speaking to a particular community but about speaking at an event of an organization whose mandate is to protect, fund and advance the State of Israel. To speak at an event of the Afrikaans community during the 1980s would be no crime, but to speak at an event of a pro-Apartheid organisation whose primary aim was to defend, fund and advance the apartheid government would be in violation of the boycott and would draw legitimate criticism.
We demand that Madonsela apologises for bringing the office of the Public Protector into disrepute by attending the IUA-UCF event and for accusing our organization, without any evidence, of lying and working for “handlers”.
Professor Farid Esack - 0834599989
Kwara Kekana - 0740543826
Click here for our initial statement on this issue.
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