PRESS RELEASE: South African Christians take on Christians, over Israel
25 July 2012

In a move that seems to be backfiring, the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) announced last week that it will be joining the pro-Israeli lobby in protesting on the 28th of June against South Africa's Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies. Davies is in the process of issuing a notice regarding the false-labeling and sale of Israeli settlement products in South Africa.

However, this recent move by the ACDP is backfiring. Another well-known South African progressive Christian organization, Karios Southern Africa, has released an incisive and hard-hitting response to the ACDP's "blind support for Israel".
On Friday, 20 June, Reverend Edwin Arrison, the General-Secretary of Karios Southern Africa, wrote an open letter to ACDP party leader, Reverend Kenneth Meshoe:
"We write to you at this moment not merely because we feel that we wish to, but because it is becoming increasingly clear to us that we have to address you, particularly since you claim to be Christian."

"Over the last few months we have seen how you, Rev Meshoe, have given your uncritical support to this apartheid state of Israel and how you bluntly ignore facts and figures on human rights abuses given by international organisations. As South Africans, we understand this completely. Bantustan leaders and some Church leaders in apartheid South Africa were blindfolded and corrupted by the previous regime in much the same way and you are unfortunately falling into this same trap, and we regard it as our duty to warn you against this.
"Do you know, Rev Meshoe, that this state of Israel that you support so uncritically was the last to support the apartheid state of South Africa (even with nuclear technology), even when the USA had already begun to implement sanctions against apartheid?
"Do you know, Rev Meshoe, that Jerusalem Christians are being displaced, that their homes are being taken over by [Israeli] settlers and that many Jerusalem Christians and other Jerusalemites have had their citizenship taken away from them [by Israel] through a mere administrative act?

"If you are genuinely not aware of the things we write in this letter, we are more than willing to supply you and your party with all these facts."
The open letter goes on to challenge the ACDP's theological justification for supporting Israel:
"If you say to us, Rev Meshoe, that you are supporting Israel “because the Bible says so”, we will remind you how (a) the Bible was used to justify apartheid in South Africa as well; and (b) that justice is Biblical because God is a God of justice, peace and love. Rev Meshoe, why do you not distinguish between the modern state of Israel and the Israel of the Bible?…[W]e urge you to reconsider your theological interpretation in light of Christ’s message to the world.
The Kairos Southern Africa letter directly challenges the upcoming protest by the ACDP against South Africa's Minister of Trade and industry:
"We understand that you...will be marching against the labelling of products from the Occupied Palestinian Territories? By marching against such a measure, do you not understand that you are marching against the right of ALL consumers in South Africa to know where the products on our shelves come from? Do you realise that you will be marching AGAINST Articles 46 and 55 of the Hague Convention? As a political party, you should surely understand the implications of such a step? Otherwise how seriously should we take you as a political party?"

Finally, the letter concludes:
"We wish to make it clear that this is not a mere disagreement or a difference of opinion. This goes much deeper than that. This is about whether we are following the teachings of Jesus the Christ, whom we meet in the Bible and whom you publicly claim to follow in matters of public policy. By using the name “Christian” in your name, you must accept that you will be called to different and higher standards, much higher than mere political or Constitutional standards. You will be judged according to the standards of the life and teachings of Jesus the Christ.

"Our view that the present State of Israel is a racist, apartheid State is in the best traditions of both Judaism and the Christian prophetic tradition and we support and work with all Jews and others who support a non-violent, just peace in Israel and Palestine.
"We therefore call on you to re-think your uncritical and unbiblical support for the State of Israel and to support the correct labelling of products so that it truly reflects its origin, for the sake of the rights of all consumers in South Africa. Please do not allow your party and your faith to be misused by those who have supported and continue to support an Apartheid state."
The full letter can be found here:
The ACDP holds a mere 3 seats in South Africa's 400 seat parliament and consists mainly of conservative Christians. Its known for its reactionary doctrine and positions against condoms, abortion and homosexuality. In 1996, the ACDP was the only party to vote against the adoption of the final version of the South African Constitution.

Kairos Southern Africa, is a progressive Christian group supported by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Father Albert Nolan, Reverend Alan Boesak, Reverend Frank Chikane and several other liberation theologians. It's recent letter and engagement with South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC) drew the support of over 1000 South African christian leaders.

BDS South Africa welcomes Kairos Southern Africa's principled support for Minister Davies and the Department of Trade & Industry's (DTI) notice that will make it mandatory for products originating from the Occupied Palestinian Territories to be marked as such, and not to be falsely labeled as "Products of Israel".
Fatima Vally, of BDS South Africa has commented on the DTI notice: "The DTI regulation, once enacted, will allow the SA consumer to make an ethical choice as to whether they would like to purchase Israeli goods or not. We are painfully aware of how banned South African products, such as Outspan Oranges, were shipped to Israel in the 1980s to receive a false "Made in Israel" label as a method to undermine the boycott of Apartheid South Africa. False labelling is now being used by Israel with regard to products from Israel's illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This tactic may have mislead consumers then but should not be repeated now."