South African Chief Rabbi: ANC is Playing Into Hamas’ Hands With Dual Citizenship Move
The ruling South African ANC party is playing into the hands of Islamic extremists like Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab in Africa, and Hamas in Gaza, declared the country’s Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein on Tuesday, after the party said it was reviewing dual-citizenship policy to prevent South Africans from joining the Israel Defense Forces.
South African Jewish groups have slammed the motion, saying the initiative reeks of antisemitism: questioning Jewish loyalty to South Africa over Israel. The South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the South African Zionist Federation warned the move undermined South African democracy.
“When the ANC targets with an obsession the State of Israel more than any other country in the world, that is deeply insulting to a very important part of South African society,” said South Africa’s chief rabbi, in a video statement posted to YouTube on Tuesday.
“I call it an obsession because here they are prepared and proposing to change the citizenship rules of South Africa, denying dual citizenship to citizens throughout this country, because they’re obsessed with the State of Israel,” Goldstein declared.
Continuing, he derided ANC members who accuse Israel of being an “apartheid state” over its treatment of minority groups within Israel proper and also Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“To accuse Israel of apartheid is a lie and a defamation of the Jewish state, and an insult to the true victims of apartheid,” he said, noting the presiding judge of the court case against former president Moshe Katsav for rape charges, Justice George Karra, was Arab.
“Can you imagine that happening in apartheid South Africa? It’s unthinkable,” said Goldstein emphatically.
The South African chief rabbi accused the ANC of playing into the hands of religious extremists in the Middle East who seek the destruction of Israel, such as Hamas, and called on the group to use its sway instead to encourage the Palestinians to negotiate a peace settlement with Israel.
“What the ANC really needs to do is to revive the legacy of peacemaking … the legacy of O.R. Tambo and Nelson Mandela,” men who although they got their start organizing guerrilla units against the apartheid regime, helped negotiate an end to the oppressive South African government.
Obed Bapela, the head ANC’s international affairs department, announced the initiative earlier this week. He has agreed to meet with members of the Board of Jewish Deputies of South Africa after the Jewish new year, according to the Times. While he said the party was not singling out any one single group in South Africa, he asserted that something must be done to stop South Africans from serving in the Israeli army. He also rejected criticism that singling out Israel for criticism made his party anti-Jewish.
Meanwhile, the Inkatha Freedom Party president and former South African home affairs minister, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, released a statement from Tel Aviv on Wednesday that he was “frustrated by the position expressed by the ANC.” He was troubled the ANC would move to change the country’s dual citizenship laws simply because a “few” South Africans live in Israel and serve in the IDF. While South African law allows the government to strip citizens of their citizenship if they are over 18 and join a hostile country’s military, Israel and South Africa maintain full diplomatic relations, he said.
“One can reach no other conclusion than that the ANC has moved from being ‘pro-Palestine’ to being ‘anti-Israeli.’ This is an unacceptable and irresponsible stance if our country wishes to support a negotiated, peaceful resolution to the conflict between Palestine and Israel,” he said. Buthelezi was visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories to meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials.