Why is Naledi Pandor under attack by SA Jewish Board?

Published Mar 26, 2024


Iqbal Jassat

The next time I’m asked to comment on the ferocious attacks by pro-Israel supporters on Minister Naledi Pandor, I’ll describe them as a “broadside”.

Having read and heard a broad range of insults hurled at her, I’m convinced that the expression “broadside” best fits the attacks on her.

These thoughts came to mind when the latest broadside by Karen Milner, national chairperson of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, was published in Politicsweb.

Her fierce verbal attack on Pandor may assuage her band of noisy cheerleaders who applaud and endorse Israel’s genocidal war in occupied Gaza but does little to persuade anyone outside her circle.

The reasons for Milner’s failure to impactfully influence public opinion against Pandor are plentiful. But crucially, the fact that her broadside is directly linked to her public profile as an advocate for Israel and Zionism, raises serious concerns about her impartiality.

Indeed, the weak arguments she makes to taint Minister Pandor as a vengeful threat to “South Africa’s Jewish community”, is not convincing at all.

Her allegations border on the ridiculous and in addition to being sensational, lack substance and sound childish.

For instance, she claims that “over the last five months Minister Pandor has consistently treated SA Jewry with contempt” but fails to provide any evidence.

All she can offer to provide an unconvincing back-up of her allegation is that “a significant pattern has emerged showing incident after incident of vitriol, intimidation, and even threats against South Africa’s Jewish community“.

However, Milner gives away more than she probably bargained for by citing Minister Pandor's public assurances that SA citizens illegally deployed in the Israeli army will face prosecution.

Surely a commitment by a senior government official to upholding her constitutional obligation to the rule of law, in this case the Foreign Military Assistance Act, cannot be construed to be treating “SA Jewry with contempt“?

Unless, of course Milner’s views, by firstly conceding that South Africans do serve in the IDF, and secondly that she is not pleased with them being threatened with arrest, are reflective of “SA Jewry”?

Certainly, that’s how it sounds, if one is to make sense of her argument in defence of them serving in a foreign army, that nogal has been cited in the ICJ ruling as plausibly committing genocide in Gaza.

Milner’s outrageous reasoning to justify their deployment in the IDF makes a mockery of South Africa’s laws, almost suggesting that being Jewish should grant them exemption.

Here’s what she claims: “Minister Pandor has repeatedly threatened South Africans who serve in the IDF with arrest, despite these individuals fulfilling a legal obligation to their cultural homeland, and a moral necessity to save hostages and prevent another atrocity like October 7 from happening again.”

The key words that scream at you are “... these individuals fulfilling a legal obligation to their cultural homeland and a moral necessity to save hostages...“

I’d be surprised if Milner’s colleagues at the SAJBD, do not haul her over the coals for publicly blurting out what one assumes would be sensitive information related to mercenary activities, meant to be confined to their boardroom.

Will she be zipped for these comments, or will her colleagues run around to undertake damage control?

Whatever the case, Milner’s broadside against Minister Pandor bears all the elements of anger and despair.

And by the way, no legislation exists in South Africa which prohibits Minister Pandor, the ANC, or the government from engaging with Hamas.

The same cannot be said of the FMAA which criminalises SA mercenaries deployed in the IDF whom Minister Pandor correctly threatened with arrest.

Iqbal Jassat is the Executive Member of the Media Review Network in Johannesburg

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