South Africa Parliament Member and Clergyman Makes the Case for Israel
LOS ANGELES—Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, a member of the South African Parliament and founder of the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), sees irony in how the anti-Israel attitudes of his country’s mainstream politicians are depriving them of benefits the Jewish state could bring them.
“African politicians who have contaminated water will boycott Israel, whose technology and whose scientists could help bring clean water to the many thousands of Africans who now don’t have it and need it desperately,” Meshoe said in an interview with JNS.org.
Meshoe—whose recent U.S. tour included lectures before Jewish and Christian audiences in New York, Florida, Washington, D.C., and California—founded the ACDP in 1993. The party currently has three seats in the national parliament, “one Black, one Afrikaaner and one Englishman,” as Meshoe puts it. Meshoe is confident that in the next South African elections in 2014, his upstart party will become part of a coalition government.
When South Africa’s current ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), was founded after the country became independent, one of its listed goals was the “creation of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society.” Yet the party is now aligned against Israel despite a democratic society in the Jewish state that stands in stark contrast to its Middle East neighbors. In an article posted online in the current issue of ANC Today, the late Helen Suzman, who was a leading Jewish opponent of Apartheid, exemplifies this irony by calling Israel “racist” and accusing Israel of “Zionist oppression and dispossession of Palestinians.”
South Africa supported the United Nations resolution that created the state of Israel in 1948 and has long enjoyed a cordial relationship with Israel, but tensions between the two nations developed after the Six Day War in 1967. The ANC supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against the Jewish state, and the annual Israeli Apartheid Week was held for the ninth consecutive year in South Africa in March, with the ANC and the South African Trade Unions among the week’s most prominent backers.
During his U.S. speaking tour—organized by the Israel Allies Foundation and arranged in association with the pro-Israel education group StandWithUs, among other Jewish groups—Meshoe described what he and other black Africans suffered during South Africa’s Apartheid regime. The suffering included total residential segregation; separate and unequal educational institutions, health services, and transportation; and the denial of voting privileges.
“Even in the rare instances when a white doctor agreed to see a black patient, for example, he had to provide separate treatment rooms as well as waiting rooms,” Meshoe told JNS.org. “None of this is true in Israel, where everyone, whether Jew, Muslim or Christian, regardless of race or origin, enjoys equal rights.”
“I was born in South Africa 59 years ago and I lived through Apartheid. I can assure you, Israel is no Apartheid state,” he said.
Meshoe, a graduate of the University of the North, had been a secondary schoolteacher in an Apartheid school prior to founding the Hope of Glory Tabernacle in 1988.
“We’re a very Christian country, and most black South Africans have no problems with Jews or with Israel,” he said.
Meshoe characterized current South African President Jacob Zuma and the ANC’s leadership as “bullies.”
To counter the government’s BDS campaign, which includes an effort to have all products imported from the West Bank labeled as coming from the “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” Meshoe and his supporters organized a rally of more than 2,000 people who demonstrated in front of the Department of Trade and Industry last June carrying signs and wearing T-shirts reading “Stop Attempts to Crush Israel” on the front and “Africans for Israel” on the back.
“People don’t realize how aggressive and pro-Palestinian they are,” Meshoe said of President Zuma and the ANC party.