The African National Congress, the country’s governing political party, has been mandated to sever diplomatic relations with Israel. The downgrading of ties to Israel could not have come at a worse time for Cape Town.
The African National Congress, the country’s governing political party, has been mandated to sever diplomatic relations with Israel, according to South African Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor and confirmed by the South African parliament’s official Twitter account. Pandor’s announcement follows a previous ANC resolution to downgrade South Africa’s embassy in Tel Aviv into a “liaison office.”
The downgrading of ties to Israel could not have come at a worse time for Cape Town. The tourism and business capital of South Africa is in the throes of a three-year drought, with water taps throughout the city expected to go dry later this year. This would make Cape Town the first major city in the world to run out of water.
Israel is world-renowned for its expertise in water conservation, providing clean and drinkable water to its people without fail. Despite 60 percent of the country’s landmass consisting of desert, along with being hit with the worst drought the Mediterranean has seen in 900 years, Israel has remarkably been able to supply its multi-billion-dollar agricultural export economy and provide surplus water to the neighboring Kingdom of Jordan and Palestinian Authority.
Yet despite Israel’s repeated offers to send its desalination experts to help, South African officials have ignored or rebuffed Israel’s proposal for ideological reasons. As highlighted by The Wall Street Journal, Israel has trained water technicians in over 100 countries. Nevertheless, South Africa signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran to help develop South Africa’s water infrastructure.
Iran might very well be the last place anyone should go for advice on water management. A former Iranian agriculture minister predicted that as many as 50 million Iranians would need to be uprooted because of growing water scarcity. In Tehran, largely untreated sewage is discharged into nearby waterways, while years of regime-encouraged over-pumping of groundwater has left agricultural districts without water for crops.
The ANC often accuses Israel of being an “apartheid state.” The truth is that Israel is a democracy that offers equal rights to all of its citizens and is the most multicultural society in the Middle East. Israel’s Declaration of Independence ensures complete social and political rights “to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.” LGBT rights in Israel are also the most advanced in the region, with hundreds of gay Palestinians fleeing to Israel being granted asylum and permanent residency.
More than half of Israel’s Jewish population originates from the Middle East and Africa. Compared to anywhere else in the Middle East, Israel is the best place to be an Arab. The Jewish state has over 400 mosques, a fivefold increase since 1988. Approximately 300 imams and muezzins receive their salaries from the Israeli government, which also funds Islamic schools and colleges.
Israeli Arabs occupy prominent positions throughout Israeli politics and society. Among them is Salim Joubran, former vice president of Israel’s Supreme Court. During Israel’s 2015 elections, Joubran served as chairman of the Central Election Committee, in charge of registering lists of those running for Israel’s parliament and dealing with challenges to the results. Though Joubran retired earlier this year, another Israeli Arab (George Karra) remains on Israel’s Supreme Court.
South African officials should instead address the bigotry and racism in the their own so-called “rainbow nation.” LGBT members still face very high levels of violence, with a staggering four out of ten LGBT South Africans knowing someone who has been murdered for their sexual orientation.
Racism is also very much alive in South Africa, with its parliament overwhelmingly voting to amend the country’s constitution to allow state seizure of land from the Afrikaner minority with no compensation. This comes after years of rape, torture and murder of white South African farmers. It is estimated that from 1998 to the end of 2016, 1,848 people have been murdered in these horrific farm attacks.
South Africa must rethink its misguided anti-Israel policies because they lack any moral foundation. Intent on recreating the conditions of Zimbabwe’s man-made famine, can South Africa’s leadership even afford to be self-righteous?
Bradley Martin is a Senior Fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center and Deputy Editor for the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.