The Bruins for Israel Board
UCLA SJP’s attempt to invalidate South African Parliament Member Kenneth Meshoe’s vocal opposition to the apartheid slander against Israel is offensive and systematically misleading in several respects.
First, SJP attempts to shift focus from MP Meshoe’s statements on the apartheid slander, towards completely unrelated political issues. Meshoe’s positions on those issues, which we do not endorse, do absolutely nothing to change the fact that he suffered under Apartheid just like all South Africans of color, has visited Israel himself numerous times, and deemed the comparison offensive. He can speak with at least as much authority on this issue as every other South African of color. Attempts to use unrelated issues to invalidate and silence his voice are offensive, particularly coming from an organization that labels itself progressive.
SJP also implies that Meshoe is the only prominent South African to have spoken out against the apartheid slander against Israel. This is false. Human rights and women’s rights activist Rhoda Kadalie, who was appointed to the South African Human Rights Commission by Nelson Mandela, has condemned the analogy as well. She stated that “few of those who suffered from apartheid directly have bought into [the apartheid analogy]… racism and discrimination do not form the rationale for Israel’s policies and actions.” Judge Richard Goldstone, who was asked by Nelson Mandela to help with the transition out of Apartheid in South Africa, has called the apartheid analogy slanderous. Benjamin Pogrund, a leading South African journalist and anti-Apartheid activist, recently wrote that, “the situation on the ground [in Israel] does not support accusations of apartheid.” Finally, according to a poll of South African public opinion cited by Rhoda Kadalie, the majority of South Africans are indifferent about the conflict, but among those with clear opinions 28% sided with Israel compared to 19% with the Palestinians.
But by far the most misleading claim made by SJP is that Nelson Mandela “made statements equating Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians as apartheid.” This is 100% false. The source cited by SJP is a “piece of satire” written by a Palestinian activist pretending to be Nelson Mandela. The fact that SJP would use this to legitimize the apartheid slander is evidence of gross ignorance at best, and deep cynicism at worst. In reality, Nelson Mandela was pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, and pro-peace. In stark contrast to the BDS Movement, he supported the legitimacy of Zionism and recognized Israel’s right to exist. For SJP to use his words and legacy to promote an anti-Israel agenda is immoral and offensive.
Finally, it is true that some South Africans, including Desmond Tutu, have begun accusing Israel of apartheid. Desmond Tutu’s work to end apartheid in South Africa is legendary, but there are several reasons to question his credibility when it comes to the Palestinian-Israel conflict. He is an endorser of the Free Gaza Movement, which has been linked to anti-Semitism not only by the pro-Israel community but by Palestinian activists like Ali Abunimah as well.[i] Tutu remained an endorser of the Free Gaza Movement after it was exposed, and even after he was personally called on to remove his endorsement.[ii] In addition, Rhoda Khadalie, the aforementioned South African human rights activist, wrote that South Africans like Desmond Tutu, Ronnie Kassrils, and John Dugard have been “sidelined in the New South Africa” and are using their involvement in the anti-Israel movement to “maintain [their] political relevance on the international scene.”[iii]
We urge SJP to retract and correct the offensive statements and misinformation it posted on its website.
[i] Free Gaza Team, “Endorsers,” Free Gaza Movement, January 4, 2009, at http://www.freegaza.org/en/about-us/who-we-are/136-endorsers.html; Ali Abunimah, “Statement from former board members of Free Gaza movement,” October 8, 2012, at ; Sydney Levy, “Jewish Voice for Peace Statement on Greta Berlin and Allegations of Anti-Semitism,” Jewish Voice for Peace, October 7, 2012, at ; Ali Abunimah, A final word on Greta Berlin and the Free Gaza controversy,” Electronic Intifada, October 18, 2012, at
[ii] Walter Russell Mead, “Archbishop Tutu: Please, Apologize to the Jews,” The American Interest, October 4, 2012, at http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2012/10/04/archbishop-tutu-please-apologize-to-the-jews/
[iii] Rhoda Kadalie and Julia I. Bertelsmann, “Franchising ‘Apartheid’: Why South Africans Push the Analogy,” Z Word, March, 2008, at http:// http://www.z-word.com/uploads/assets/documents/Franchising%20Apartheid_sbHFe7yX.pdf