Since the announcement of the 14 October 2020 webinar to be hosted by Haifa University and University of the Free State, marking the Memorandum of Understand (MoU) between the 2 facilities, condemnations have been expressed by those who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

One such condemnation was Mr Muhammad Khalid Sayed’s article entitled Israel and UFS. Mr Sayed is a prominent voice as he is the Deputy Chief Whip of the ANC (Western Cape Provincial Legislature) and Chairperson of the ANC Youth League in the Western Cape. Given these titles it is incumbent on him to hear feedback and seek the truth.

Unsurprisingly, in his article he states that Israel is an apartheid state. He waxes poetic drawing parallels between events misrepresented, and having nothing to do with each other in any case.

Use and Misuse of Apartheid

To compare Israel to Apartheid South Africa, is a great disservice and insult to those who suffered through the horrors of South Africa’s apartheid.

The idea sold by the BDS movement, is that the 1967 borders, and settlements (Jewish people settling) are the obstacles to Palestinian statehood and therefore to peace.

Since 1967, when Israel became the ruling authority over the West Bank, Gaza and Sinai after defending itself in a joint attack by the countries around it, it sought ways to arrive at a peaceful settlement with its Arab neighbours. This is why Israel has never entirely annexed any of these areas. In fact, in exchange for peace with Egypt, Israel gave up control of the entire Sinai. 1993 saw the Oslo Accords, which brought about waves of Palestinian rejectionism and terrorism. In 2000 at Camp David, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak made far-reaching proposals, also rejected. In 2005, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took the extreme step of evacuating the Gaza Strip in the hope it would show absolute willingness and be a step toward Palestinian statehood. The evacuated area is now the terror zone firing thousands of rockets, killing people and endangering millions of innocent civilians of all religions, colours and creeds. In 2008, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered the farthest-reaching proposal in exchange for peace… Again, it was rejected.

Notably – there were no “settlements” at all between 1948 and 1967 when Jordan controlled the area. In 1947, in British Mandated Palestine, Jews of the area, including those who had lived there for many generations, accepted the UN partition plan, while Arabs of the area rejected it, giving up a historic opportunity for an Arab state.

This rejectionism and culture of rage and victimhood, coupled with the billions of dollars every year funnelled to the Palestinian Authority and going nowhere, is what the rest of the Arab World is tired of standing with.

Despite Israel’s constant work towards building a future state for the Palestinian people, BDS supporters use and abuse a terrible chapter in South African history, as a tool with which to denigrate Israelis and the Jewish state, regardless of the negative effect this has on South Africans and Palestinians.

Condemnation of Academic Freedom

“One shudders to think what the lecturers, especially those participating in the conference, teach our future leaders at this South African university as they turn a blind eye to Israeli brutality and occupation” wrote Mr Sayed.

He need not “shudder to think” nor wonder, as his premise is incorrect. He need simply watch the recorded webinar which is freely available. What he will witness is an exchange of information, learning, imparting of knowledge by experts and discussion which includes the concern for the Palestinian people given their leadership’s failures. He may also note that the highly educated speakers (PHD’s, professors, researchers) are from every race and religious background in question. This is something I did not notice myself, until I read Mr Sayed’s piece, as I personally don’t make judgements about people according to their race / religion / background.

I would encourage anyone interested or doubtful, to see what the webinar brought and what the MoU and cooperation may bring, given Israel’s technological advancements in every important field.

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