Thursday, May 13th | 2 Sivan 5781

May 23, 2013 9:38 am

14 Days Against the Israel-Apartheid Lie

avatar by Jordanna McMillan


Ben Swartz of the South African Zionist Federation (with microphone) thanks Reverend Kenneth Meshoe (second from right), a parliament member in South Africa, for his efforts on behalf of the Jewish community at last June's "Africans for Israel" march. Credit: Courtesy Esther Meshoe.

The BDS movement hinges on the claim that Israel is an apartheid state. For anyone who has actually visited Israel, contrasting apartheid South Africa with the Jewish State is not only shockingly ignorant, but also gravely insulting to those who endured the apartheid system in their own country. Yet as this truth continues to evade much of the world that, as one diplomat recently described, “Does not want to be confused with the facts,” one uniquely qualified man recently traveled across the United States determined to expose this lie.

From our nation’s Capitol to New York City, down to Florida and across to the West Coast, MP Kenneth Meshoe of South Africa has been on a speaking tour with my organization, the Israel Allies Foundation for the past two weeks with a simple yet fundamental truth: Israel is not an apartheid state.

MP Meshoe, founder and current leader of the African Christian Democrat Party, grew up in apartheid South Africa. Over the past 14 days he has recounted story after story of the injustices of the apartheid system. Upon applying for a passport to travel outside South Africa during apartheid, he was merely issued a travel document where his nationality read “undetermined.”  When visiting their family physician, a white doctor who was willing to treat black patients, they were made to enter through a back door and sit apart from white patients.

A former teacher turned pastor who planted a church that has around 3,000 members today, Reverend Meshoe has traveled to Israel many times where he states he is yet to encounter apartheid. He told a packed room at a meeting of Jewish and Christian leaders the story of how a South African pastor friend visited Israel on a tour and injured himself, ending up in the hospital. After continually hearing about “apartheid” Israel, he recalled upon his return, “There I lay in an Israeli hospital, a Palestinian Muslim on my left, and a Jewish Israeli on my right, with this black South African in the middle. And I thought, what apartheid?!”

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Interviewed by renowned reporters and radio talk show hosts, MP Meshoe visited non-profit organizations, spoke to Federations, pastors networks and a group of prominent African-American clergy at a gathering hosted by the JCRC of NY; he engaged groups of activists, addressed meetings organized by StandWithUs in San Francisco and LA, and preached in church services on both the east and west coasts.

Meshoe reiterated throughout his visit the need to stand up for the truth; to speak out and to be heard, no matter the personal cost. Due to his outspoken support for Israel and political advocacy in South Africa, both he and his family have received threats. Last year, when the South African Trade and Industry Ministry began the process of trying to label all products out of Israel as having issued from the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” Meshoe rallied the Christian and Jewish communities and marched through the streets in what riot police would later describe as the most peaceful march they had ever protected. Chanting, “Stop attempts to crush Israel,” over 2,000 Christians and Jews walked together toward the Trade Building, decried the hypocrisy of singling out Israel and handed over a memorandum to the Minister of Trade and Industry pointing out the mistakes, lies and inconsistencies of the proposed legislation.  The legislation did not move forward; the effort failed and to date similar measures have not succeeded. Before the march, he received threatening calls demanding he better not show up to the march he had encouraged and arranged. He went anyway. Truth prevailed and on that particular day, it overcame.

Meshoe says that if apartheid South Africa had been like present day Israel, there would have been no need for Nelson Mandela to go to prison.  The very idea that Israel is an apartheid state cheapens the word apartheid – it is an insult to every South African who endured the inhumanity and pain of it.

Yet Meshoe’s defense of Israel extends beyond his experience, his personal beliefs and convictions to the problems of the present – improving the lives of rural South Africans and the whole of the African continent.  One major problem, and one that Israel has extensive experience with, being clean drinking water. Disturbed at how political agendas are clouding the resolution of real issues, Meshoe stated –

“Here you have a country [Israel] who has the technology to efficiently and effectively purify water. This has a tremendous ripple effect on a society – clean water means better health which means less time tending the sick, which leads to better productivity, and ultimately a stronger economy. But then you have politicians who refuse to help their own people because of their political agendas, determined to alienate Israel.”

This trip served as an introduction to an inspiring and passionate man with a unique story and a simple truth that he understands like no other from life experience. The Israel Allies Foundation hopes to bring him to the United States again in the coming months so that his message can reach the masses. In the meantime, the Reverend and Member of Parliament Kenneth Meshoe and others like him will continue to stand with the Jewish State, despite the cost personally or politically. The truth and their conscience demand it; their faith inspires it.

The Israel Allies Foundation, with offices in D.C., Europe, Latin America and Israel, works with Congress and parliaments around the world to mobilize political support for Israel on the basis of Judeo-Christian values.

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