Legendary South African Jewish Journalist and Opponent of BDS to Receive Country’s Top Award
South Africa’s most famous Jewish journalist will receive one of the country’s highest honors in recognition of his work across several decades, local media reported on Wednesday.
Benjamin Pogrund — a pioneering journalistic opponent of South Africa’s former racist system of apartheid who now lives and works in Israel — will be presented with the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver, given to those with outstanding records in the spheres of art, journalism, culture and literature. Pogrund will receive the medal from South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in a special ceremony on Apr. 25.
A former editor of the liberal Rand Daily Mail, Pogrund in the past enjoyed friendships with prominent leaders of the movement for black majority rule in South Africa, including the late former President, Nelson Mandela, and the late founder of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), Robert Sobukwe.
A consistent thorn in the side of the apartheid regime for its exposure of the brutality faced by black South Africans at the hands of the security forces, the Rand Daily Mail was forced out of business in 1985. The following year, Pogrund emigrated to London.
In 1997, Pogrund made aliyah to Israel, where he founded the Yakar Center for Social Concern in Jerusalem. Much of his work in recent years has focused on fighting the anti-Israel BDS movement, particularly by challenging the analogy made by anti-Zionist activists between modern-day Israel and apartheid South Africa.
“The situation on the ground does not support accusations of apartheid,” Pogrund wrote in The Guardian in 2015. “The Arab population, some 20 percent, certainly suffers discrimination, but to liken their lot to apartheid South Africa is baseless, indeed ridiculous. Arabs have the vote, which in itself makes them fundamentally different from South Africa’s black population under apartheid.”