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June 10, 2015 5:35 pm

BDS Movement is ‘Extremely Painful’ for South African Jewish Community, Says Leader (INTERVIEW)

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South African Jewish Board of Deputies National Director Wendy Kahn. Photo: Courtesy

South African Jewish Board of Deputies National Director Wendy Kahn. Photo: Courtesy

The anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement in South Africa has become “extremely painful” for the country’s Jewish community, the national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies said on Tuesday.

The movement, known by its abbreviation BDS, is “trying to abuse South African history and the South African story for [its] own narrow purposes,” Wendy Kahn, who is also part of the World Jewish Congress’s National Community Directors Forum, told the Algemeiner.

“We don’t see any benefit whatsoever in the BDS strategy,” she said. “All it’s doing is further polarizing the parties in the Middle East, and it’s causing hostility between fellow South Africans.”

Kahn, who Haaretz once called “urbane and non-confrontational,” said the organized Jewish community would “challenge [BDS] at every turn.”

She said recent incidents, such as a protest outside the South Africa-Israel Expo in March in which activists carried signs saying “Israel is the devil,” threw rocks and broke equipment, have proved that the movement calling for a boycott of Israeli products, culture and academia is “becoming intimidatory and threatening to South African Jews.”

The BDS movement is “an attempt to intimidate South African Jewry to believe what they believe, and South African Jewry is a very tenacious and resilient community, and we won’t allow that,” she said.

“There strategies have ended up in blatant antisemitic manifestations,” said Kahn, noting BDS campaigners’ recent hosting of Leila Khaled — a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine involved in two airplane hijakings — at the Durban University of Technology.

“The next morning there were calls to deregister Jews from the university,” she said, referring to a letter by the Progressive Youth Alliance asking the school to expel Jewish students. She said annual Israel Apartheid Week demonstrations, which were held this year from March 2 to 5, have compounded hostilities against Jewish students.

“It’s becoming a threatening time for Jews on campus,” said Kahn.

The movement to boycott Israel has strong roots in South Africa, where many view the economic sanctions that were taken against the country’s apartheid government as crucial to having brought about the social changes that shaped the formation of its democracy in the 1990s. The South African government in 2012 adopted a motion to have products from Israeli settlements labeled as coming from “occupied” Palestinian territories.

And Desmond Tutu, an influential South African activist and former Anglican bishop, has been a vocal supporter of the movement to boycott Israel in order to pressure Jerusalem to change its policy toward the Palestinians.

“There are some South Africans who remember fondly what boycott did for South Africa,” said Kahn. “And on a superficial level they are taken in with these arguments; they see it as a way forward.”

Kahn — who was born in Cape Town but lived most of her life in Johannesburg — called South Africa’s Jewish community, which numbers between 70,000 to 75,000 individuals, “incredibly vibrant.”

“We have a wonderful Jewish way of life… Close to 90 percent of South African Jewish children attend Jewish day school. The majority of our children are getting a Jewish education and a Zionist education,” she said.

Kahn noted that while the community in South Africa, which had a peak population of about 120,000, has shrunk over the past several decades, the number of those emigrating has stabilized. The Jewish Virtual Library notes that about 1,800 South African Jews continue to emigrate every year.

“We say it’s approximately every seven years we have a spurt of emigration,” she quipped, noting that the last was in 2008. Most South African Jews emigrating today move to Israel, she said, and most Jews in South Africa have a strong bond with the Jewish state.

“Over 85 percent of South African Jews have a strong affiliation to Israel,” she said quoting a recent poll. “By far the majority of South African Jews have a close relationship with Israel.”

Kahn was in the U.S. for the American Jewish Committee annual conference, where she spoke, as well as for meetings at the Anti-Defamation League and the World Jewish Congress. She has held her position at the helm of SAJBD since 2006.

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  • Linda Rivera

    South Africa is at Stage 6 – Preparation to MASS GENOCIDE WHITE SOUTH AFRICANS.

    JEWS NEED TO GET OUT NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE! It appears that South Africa is about the most dangerous place you can be outside a war zone. according to the human-rights organization Genocide Watch, South Africa is at pre-genocide stage 6 of 8: “Preparation.”

    In 2010, a prominent member of the African National Congress named Julius Malema revived an old anti-apartheid song whose lyrics — says Genocide Watch — call for genocide: “Shoot the Boer, shoot, shoot.” “Boer” means “farmer” in Afrikaans; colloquially, it means “white South African.”

    President Zuma sang the genocide song himself, leading a crowd in a musical chant: “We are going to shoot them with machine guns, they are going to run . . . The cabinet will shoot them, with the machine gun . .. Shoot the Boer, we are going to hit them, they are going to run.”

    Watch the video on YouTube — The president of South Africa, addresses a crowd of according to the Guardian — tens of thousands, in a giant stadium, and calls for the murder of what amounts to about 10 percent of his constituents. Among the audience, uniformed members of the military dance.


    Jacob Zuma sings the Cabinet will shoot the Boer with machine guns at ANC Centenery Celebrations RSA

  • zadimel

    Where are the remaining 21 comments?

  • Jews world wide must be taught how to defend themselves
    In Jewish schools Krav Maga must be taught

    A strong mind in a strong body

    Think Israel & their response to attack. Bring it to the personal level

  • Julian Clovelley

    According to your page there were 22 comments – only four appear. It seems to me that increasingly the paper is being censored in terms of comment columns by Zionist editors. Plenty of submitted comments don’t appear on page after page and it seems rather obvious that they are the ones that don’t support the Zionist fantasy preferred by some moderators

    If the Guardian did this people like Adam Levick would be terribly upset. In fact the Guardian does leave a note on the page where an comment has been deleted

    It might be a practice worth considering

    • zadimel

      While I agree that the remaining undisclosed posts should be published, your conclusion “that they are the ones that don’t support the Zionist fantasy preferred by some moderators” suggests a shallowness of your understanding of Zionism. To put it quite simply for your understanding, it is the returning to and of rejoining the Jews living in Zion. Zionism is no fantasy. It is the Jewish version of a national liberation movement recognized by the League of Nations and the United Nations.International Law recognized that the Jewish community was in what was known as Palestine by right and was a binding international obligation on the British mandatory government.

  • ric b

    It is time to leave future looks like Zimbabwe.

  • Lynne T

    BDS is heavily promoted in South Africa for two reasons: payback for Israel refusing to participate in the isolation of South Africa and because it’s a handy distraction from the problems that are currently wracking the country — violence and an extremely corrupt and incompetent government that is getting increasingly authoritarian.








  • elaine hemmingway

    Its a shame you can’t tell it like it is without getting all the latest popular labels thrown at you.Would the leaders of the BDS in South Africa by any chance be Muslims? With rock throwing and slogans crying…Israel is the Devil…plus a guest speaker with the name of Leila Khaled……??? No I don’t think shes a Christian.
    All one has to do is look in front of the scenes as to who is promoting the BDS there. More from the Muslim Manipulating Machine. Oh I’m sorry, I mean Islam, which of course has nothing to do with Muslims.

  • Ilbert Phillips

    What is seldom discussed is that Black South Africans resent the fact that Israel provided weapons to the White South African government during ANC’s struggle for democracy. During that struggle, the ANC received support from the Palestinians and the ANC has always supported the Palestinians considering them both to be brothers-in-arms involved in the struggle of “indigenous” people to get their freedom. The fact that the situations between the Jews and Muslims in the Middle East (most of the Muslims were not indigenous) and the black Africans and coloreds vis a vis South Africa’s whites are not analogous is irrelevant to leftists who have a long history of being anti-Semitic, starting with Karl Marx. Facts are irrelevant to leftists who have their own narrative to take control of the world. They see Jews and their commitment to Torah, God and the nation of Israel as an impediment to their desire for one world government.

  • Petra Visser

    What an absolute disgrace to host a “hi-jacker” but to boycott anything Jewish!

    • Lyn Swartz

      Dear Petra

      I am taking a chance that this reply will be to you directly. What a refreshing take on the pathetic policies of South Africa and the position the Jews find themselves in.

      Petra are you by any chance the same person who was educated at Emmarentia Primary school.

      My maiden name was Lynette Shamos and I was at school with a Petra Visser and I have often wondered what happened to my friend.

      Please let me know if I am correct in my assumption as I would love to re-connect.

      Regards Lyn Swartz

    • Kris Kristian

      South Africa hosted a hijacker criminal, who should nevber have been allowed into South Africa.
      But a real man of peace, the Dalai Lama was refused a visa to visit South Africa,
      That says a lot.

  • Maxime

    BDS Is loosing Time and energy. They Will not succeed in Notting. The GBP has grown 7% in Q4 2014 despite the war.

  • Isaac Haskiya

    Jews moving to Israel is South Africa´s loss and it will continue. Jewish students are welcome to Israeli Universities where they can receive far better education.

  • I am not Israeli and do not live in Israel, but as a committed Christian, I support Israel. May we have a list of businesses that are part of BDS, so we may avoid them? Is there a way of recognising Israeli products so we may concentrate on buying those? (I go grocery shopping with our children and I stand before a shelf & wonder which products are from Israel)…

    • TMay

      I don’t know what state you live in but big food stores like Safeway have a section for Jewish foods like there are for Aslan and Hispanic foods. Israeli products are there and they say “Made in Israel.” There are Israeli wines. There is peeled frozen garlic in portion sizes. Dates. Halvah, a honey sesame seed sweet treat. BDS tried to intimidate Trader Jos’s and Trader Joe’s did not cave. I guess most Israeli exports are part of high tech. You could visit Israel. Tourism is strong. A lot of people don’t visit out of fear. You can buy Israeli goods online.

      • Kris Kristian

        One used to be able to buy Israeli oanges, Israeli tomatoes,but because of the Muslim threats against stores like Woolworths, which is basically, Jewish these products have been taken of the shelves.
        What surprises me, is that so many Jewish businesses, and doctors, have Musilsm working for them.
        There are so many Christians who need the jobs, but very few are employed by thhose businesses.

  • Only with the help of the African women folk the male dominated propaganda of the palestinians can be defeated.

  • Joel

    Suggest Jewish shops and businesses don’t deal with non-Jews . Like give them a taste of their own medicine.
    Also get them to hand in Jewish designed and invented products like heart stents, computers with Intel chips etc

    • Kris Kristian

      I have been writing many times, that any Muslim who is suffering from heart deseases, should refuse to have stents inserted.
      They should also not use cell phones and computer, as many of the components were developed in Israel.
      Maybe Israeli government should list all the Israeli inventions etc, so that the boycotters will lnow what to boycott.
      Oh, and dont forget the small camers used in the colonoscopy.
      This camers was developed in Israel, So, if they have bowl problems and maybe cancer, they should refuse to allow a doctor to use the camera.

  • It must be remembered that the South African Jews were always in the forefront of the fight against apartheid especially persons like Helen Susman…….. Chase them away from South Africa even push them to isolation as seen by the movement to Jewish day schools as is occurring at the loss to South African job creation…..Just reflect on the recent Jewish history & it is obvious that a Jewish state with a Jewish leadership is the core of the Israeli problem with which the state has a problem. Already 25 % of the Israel passport carrying citizens are Arabs with complete participation at all levels. What happened to Jewish integration of past? Antisemitism with pogroms ( Jew killing with expulsion from England(1200), then France(1300), Spain ( 1500 odd) Ghettos…, Russia from 1700 to 1960 odd)……finally Germany & especially in the closing phase of the WW.11 380,000 Hungarian Jews in July & August 1943 when 400 rabbis walked to the White House asking for Roosevelt’s intervention where he was otherwise engaged & would not even meet them & the BBC asked to tell the Hungarians not to get on the trains to Auschwitz met with silence!! Aid to rebuild Germany & Japan came shortly after their surrender while the few Jewish survivors of the holocaust remained stuck in Europe with England & France playing politics with their greedy eyes on Middle Eastern oil reserves.So in summary would you in any similar group demand self rule?

  • Andrew Klavan vs. Anti-Israel BDS (part 3 of 3):

    Learn how to defend Israel from unfair media bias
    and refute inaccurate Israel-bashing reporting:

    Joining pro-Israel organizations might help Israel.
    Pro-Israel organizations include:

    PS 1: I humbly suggest that this web site link to the web sites shown above,
    and write articles about the organizations behind them.

    PS 2: Since Orthodox Jews are increasing as a percentage of American Jews, they should also increase their participation in pro-Israel organizations, to compensate for the declining numbers of non-Orthodox Jews.

  • Andrew Klavan vs. Anti-Israel BDS (part 2 of 3):

    “The key point is just because BDS-ers are trying to destroy the Jewish state alone out of all the nations; just because they are holding Israel to a higher standard than other countries in the region; just because they are targeting the ONE land in the Middle East land where people are free and differences are tolerated; that does not mean they are anti-Semitic; they are probably great people, who just hate Jews.”

    SOURCE: Who Put the BS in BDS? 2014 July 2

  • Andrew Klavan vs. Anti-Israel BDS (part 1 of 3):

    “Of course, the BDS movement does not really want to kill all the Jews; they just want boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the State of Israel, until the nation is so weak, it can be overrun by its enemies, so THEY can kill all the Jews!

    So it is not like BDS-ers are Nazis or anything; they are more like the Nazi’s cute little sidekicks; like Hitler and the Seven Dwarves.”

    SOURCE: Who Put the BS in BDS? 2014 July 2

  • Julian Clovelley

    What on earth do you think you are doing?

    Zionist obsession is driving a wedge between the Israeli Jewish community and the world. It is a dangerously isolating tactic.

    Get it solid – There will be no Greater Israel. The Settlements will one day dissolve into a Palestinian State, or be simply abandoned. It is a question of whether Israel moves to a sustainable defensive position, or becomes a violent military encampment with an internal apartheid system, in the meantime

    In the defensive position Israel will likely receive equally sustainable international support. In the ultimately disastrous offensive stance Israel will bring international anger down on itself, and create great vulnerability for Jewish communities worldwide

    The fables at the core of Judaism were once supported by a Fundamentalist and Traditionalist Christianity that has unravelled. The biggest change (rather than threat) to Christianity is a secularisation that separates fable from historical reality. America is rapidly becoming the last bastion of Christian Fundamentalist and Creationist unreason.

    No minority should ever create and seek isolation. Instead of assuming “it” is antisemitism that you are hearing and seeing, why not ask yourselves what the real message is – and if perhaps in their opposition to Occupation, Blockade , and Settlement, BDS – which I personally do not support – may have quite a few points that should be taken on board?

    • zadimel

      What kind of nonsense is this alleged “Zionist obsession?” This is no “obsession.” The Zionist dream of the return to the Jewish homeland, and the recognition by the WW 1 Allies of the historical connection of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland expressed by the League of Nations and the United Nations is not fantasy. There is no such idea as a Greater Israel. There will be two nations which will compose the west bank of the Jordan River: the Jewish State and the peaceful, demilitarized Arab state. The so-called “occupation” was a consequence of the continuous efforts over the past 80 plus years by the Arab Muslim Palestinians and Muslim countries’ efforts to annihilate the Jewish State and its Jewish and non-Jewish supporters. When are you going to recognize and understand that history?

    • JuliaW

      “Zionist Obsession”? who are you kidding? The State of Israel, is built on the Land of Israel. It was given to the People of Israel. And whilst I’m well aware that it may not be very acceptable these days to say the following… the so called ‘Palestinian Refugees’, who are scattered amongst their fellow muslim brothers are not taken in, are forced to live in “refugee camps” for generations because they make for good political tools. If any of their kind good hearted muslim brothers, their hosts gave a hoot about them they would no longer be living in the conditions they are living in. But they are kept just where they are, because they are a convenient and useful tool. Yes, lets show the world the poor Palestinian Refugee. Can you possibly imagine a Jewish Refugee…and there were many, all expelled from every Arab country after the establishment of The State of Israel, still wallowing as a refugee? can you imagine a Jewish refugee from Europe still calling himself and his children and grandchildren refugees? No, this doesn’t happen, because we Jews take care of our own, we have pride in ourselves and we don’t expect the world to pity us. We are well aware that if we don’t care for ourselves the rest of the world isn’t going to help us.
      So please, if you think that the “Zionist Obsession” is at the root of the BDS’s motivation you are sorely mistaken. What lies at the root of the BDS movement is the same simple motivation that lies behind keeping thousand of people in refugee camps in Jordan as well as Hamas using small children as human Shields… Its simple Anti Semitism and basic terrorism. Nothing more.
      What would be great though, is if every BDS member lived by what they said. If they stopped using all productS made or developed in Israel, they could stop using those wonderful computers, cell phones, medical devices etc etc. Its all Israeli technology in them…Id love to see them organise a rally or protest without the use of their technology….

  • Destiny

    G-d said He would gather His people to Israel in the last days and they are finding it is the one place that they can be safer. May He bless our Jewish brethren.

  • brenrod

    It is time for south african jews to cease blessing south africa and leave for Israel and allow south africa to be cursed. Hashem is calling you home.

  • Fritz Kohlhaas

    Tutu is a supercilious, vicious, conceited, narcissistic troublemaker!

  • RipVanWinklestein

    Over three thousand white farmers have been murdered in the new South Africa. If the Jews there don’t think that can happen to them, too, they’re crazy. They should either arm themselves to the hilt or move to Israel, Canada or the U.S.

  • Eric R.

    Jews in South Africa fought for black rights just as they did in America, and just as in America, the black community turned around and betrayed Jews, siding with our enemies and leading the way in Jew-hatred.

    By now, I frankly am past the point of caring what happens either in Soweto or Baltimore, in Cape Town or Detroit.

    Much of the black community in both countries are choosing to side with evil – with those who want Jews dead. They will have to forgive me if I don’t sympathize with their ordeals any more.

    • Kris Kristian

      For years now, I have saying to the Jews, work for the Jews, stop worrying about the blacks, for you will get a knife in your back, by those same people who you fought for.
      work for your own people.
      Now, the Jews who stood up against the apartheid policy in South Africa, are being stabbed in their backs.