Woode-Smith: Iqbal Jassat missed the mark on SAJBD critique

Woode-Smith: Iqbal Jassat missed the mark on SAJBD critique

In his defence of Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor’s controversial stance against South Africa’s Jewish community, Iqbal Jassat, associated with the politically charged Media Review Network, misrepresents facts and ignores cultural ties to Israel. Pandor’s biased actions, condemned by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, evoke justified concerns among South African Jews.

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By Nicholas Woode-Smith*

Why is Iqbal Jassat so willing to sacrifice fact and reason to defend Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor’s attacks on South Africa’s Jewish community?

Jassat wrote a scathing response to Karen Milner of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD). Milner and the SAJBD rightfully condemned the ludicrous behaviour of Pandor, who has repeatedly sided with terror groups over a sovereign state engaged in a military operation deemed legitimate even despite mountains of highly funded and emotive international attacks.

The reason for Jassat’s response can probably found in his association with the Media Review Network (MRN). Despite its innocent, professional name, the MRN is a politically charged anti-Zionist group, and possibly even an antisemitic hate group.

Its logo depicts a scimitar, emblazoned with the Jordanian flag (which has been hijacked by Palestinian groups as their own). Their website is devoted purely to attacking Israel and the Jews who feel a connection to their homeland. They are by far not a professional or unbiased organisation.

Jassat’s response in defence of Pandor immediately proceeds on the assumption that Israel is committing genocide, despite the fact that South Africa’s foolish case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) did not grant an immediate ceasefire, as was expected.

Jassat claims that the ICJ said that there is plausible evidence of genocide. This is incorrect. The ICJ stated that genocide is possible, but that it is not happening, and that Israel must continue to not commit genocide.

The ruling was the equivalent of finding a suspect innocent of murder, and then warning them to continue to not commit murder.

Jassat also assumes that the title of Zionist immediately erodes all legitimacy from Milner and the SAJBD’s position.

Zionism is a position that simply believes in the right to Israel’s existence. As Jews face persecution around the world, including threats of genocide (and historically, mass genocide), a Jewish state which can defend Jewish rights is of paramount importance.

This is on top of the cultural and religious importance of the region, which holds singular importance to the Jewish people, while being a secondary religious site to Christians (who are fine sharing it) and a minor place of religious importance to Islam, which claims it only due to their link to the Abrahamic faith, and due to historical conquests against the Eastern Roman Empire.

Many Islamic scholars have even identified as Zionists themselves, recognising tracts in the Qur’an that grant Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.

Being a Zionist isn’t some clearcut bogeyman title. Jassat and other critic of Israel shouldn’t just lob the title as an insult and then pat each other on the back.

Jassat further claims that Milner provides no evidence that Pandor has shown contempt for the Jewish community.

Is Pandor’s repeated attacks on Israel not enough? Jassat doesn’t seem to understand the religious and cultural connection that Jewish people have with Israel. She would face similar condemnation from the Catholic community if she attacked the Vatican, or the Muslim community if she attacked Saudi Arabia or Iran.

Milner provides evidence, despite Jassat’s claims, in the very article he’s responding to.

Pandor has shown contempt by expressing clear support to antisemitic terror organisations, by engaging with Hamas and Hezbollah, who have both been clear in their genocidal intentions towards Jews.

She has refused to acknowledge the mass sexual violence committed against Jews on October 7th and continuing against the remaining hostages.

She has refused to acknowledge or show any sympathy towards South African-Israeli victims of October 7th.

She refused to even greet representatives of the Jewish community on the 13th of December. And she has continued to urge protesters to harass and assail Israeli embassies, which are frequented by Jewish citizens.

Pandor has blatantly mistreated Jewish South Africans and gone far beyond her mandate as a foreign minister to wage a personal crusade against the Jewish state. It is no wonder that South African Jews feel unsafe.

The crux of this entire discourse is that Hamas attempted a genocide of the Jewish people on October 7th. Their only virtue is that they failed. Yet, Naledi Pandor and her supporters continue to support this genocidal group, while spreading misinformation and hate.

If Pandor could devote even half the contempt she lobs at Israel at genocidal terror groups, perhaps then she wouldn’t be as deserving of condemnation. But, as it stands, she has failed her mandate and should not hold her position.

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*Nicholas Woode-Smith is a political analyst, economic historian, and author. He has written extensively on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

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