South Africa’s Shameful BDS Protest
The dance card had been completed before the ball began. Outside of the South Africa-Israel Expo, which took place in Johannesburg on Monday, everyone knew they were going to see protests and picketing, demeaning and denial, and the well-worn toasts to hatred, racism, and anti-Semitism. So no one was surprised or even disappointed. It was pretty much business as usual.
Except for one startling aspect. Mainstream South African press outlets are now reporting that the BDS movement “bussed in” protestors who had no idea as to why they were there. They quote a woman from an impoverished area with a prettier name than it warrants – Orange Farm – saying that she was not aware as to why she was there or whom she was supporting or even protesting against. And she was not the only one.
The irony of this should not be allowed to go unnoticed. Orange Farm has a population of around 100,000 people. It is an “informal settlement” with few paved roads and most people living in shacks. Only small areas of Orange Farm have been electrified. Access to clean water is limited and when it rains, the dongas on the roads fill with muddy water that makes living there almost impossible. It is poverty stricken, with more than 40% of the population being unemployed. It is a stain on South Africa’s record of transformation. Its people are desperate, but they have done nothing to deserve being exploited, being paraded, and being used to further a political and racial goal of an organization that claims to support human rights but ignores their plight.
The rhetoric of the BDS protests outside the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg was desperate and ill-concealed. In many ways, we have been spoiled by the slick pretense that tries to separate Jews from Zionists, and BDS has tried for some time to convince us that it is not all Jews they detest. Despite the famous “Kill the Jew” and other priceless humanitarian comments, BDS has spent a lot of energy trying to sell a concept that no one has bought. Sunday’s protest, perhaps due to lack of success dissolved very quickly, and real agendas and racism quickly were exposed. “You Jews don’t belong in South Africa!” “This is not Israel, we will kill you!” were some of the poisonous comments recorded from the ranks of the BDS protestors.
The atmosphere inside the conference facility was a completely different matter. Multiple exhibitors, attendees, and delegates such as Jewish Agency’s Natan Sharansky and Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barakat mingled with the crowds, allowed photos and debated concepts and gave support to those contemplating aliyah, those wanting to invest, and those who were just checking out the options for some time in the future.
The last item on the well-worn dance card is always the review. And one can’t look at the day without wondering; when the sun sets and the bus had silently transported the residents of Orange Farm back to their shacks that are unlikely to have electricity or water or security. Back to a place where it is best to be indoors after dark and back to a place where lack of education and of employment makes the future precarious and fragile. How could the BDS groups have been so cruel and so cold and so uncaring to the people of their own country? And one has to indeed wonder, if their agenda is not humanitarian, then what is it really?