A directive was issued on August 14 by Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Ebrahim Ebrahim, advising South Africans not to visit Israel.

At a press briefing, the deputy minister explained this did not constitute a ban on South Africans travelling to the Jewish state (if such a ban could be constitutional), but an expression of the government’s opposition to Israel’s actions against Palestinians in the disputed territories. No mention was made of unacceptable excesses perpetrated by Palestinians, including unabated acts of terror and firing of rockets at Israeli towns, which prompted Israel’s “actions” in the first place.

When asked whether a directive had been issued against any other country, including those with horrendous records of abuse of human rights, the deputy minister admitted Israel was alone. He said it was necessary to send that country a “strong message” as the conflict had been “going on forever”.

One can only wonder how strong a message should be sent to Syria or the DRC. Perhaps the rationale was lost on the deputy minister that not only would Israel love to end this never-ending conflict for the first time in 65 years, but that conflicts that “go on forever” do so because of their complexity, with the only chance of finding a solution in a willingness to promote dialogue and an understanding of issues. Bans offer little resolution despite the deputy minister explaining the directive would not apply to those wishing to visit Israel to “promote the peace process”.

On what basis would the department determine any visit would form part of that peace process and to whom would it apply? Considering our government appears to have placed itself on the side of the Palestinians, what chance would it have of making any positive contribution to furthering the elusive peace it claims to support?

When asked whether South Africa would play any part in future negotiations as an “honest broker”, the deputy minister expressed doubts, referring to the lack of success experienced by the US and the Quartet. However, none of these bodies have seen fit to discourage citizens from visiting the only democracy in the Middle East. Not only is the deputy minister’s explanation sanctimonious, it is sickeningly hypocritical.

Victor Gordon