Tags: israel | johannesburg | mayor | antisemitism

Friend of Israel Suspended by Mayor of Johannesburg

Friend of Israel Suspended by Mayor of Johannesburg
Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba gives an interview to Agence France-Presse on September 7, 2016, at his office in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images)

Thursday, 28 June 2018 11:49 AM Current | Bio | Archive

A member of the city council of Johannesburg, South Africa, announced that she was a friend of Israel. Mpho Phalatse also said that the city of Joburg (Johannesburg) stood together with Israel. And because she made those statements, Phalatse has been suspended from the city council.

For many South Africans, mere suspension seemed insufficient. There were cries for her firing. But the mayor of Johannesburg prevailed and his underling was suspended until she issued a public apology. Mpho Phalatse holds the city portfolio for health and social development.

The story is not ancient history — it just happened. An elected official was censured for demonstrating support of Israel. And it happened in a country that claims to be a democracy — not a Muslim or Arab country, not a theocracy, not a small country we hardly hear about or know anything about. And she wasn’t even speaking at an official city event, Mpho Phalatse dared to speak of her support for Israel at a private, pro-Israel event sponsored by the Jewish community of Johannesburg.

It is a comedy of the absurd. These are the words she dared to utter that caused such an uproar in that South African city: “I would like to declare that I am a friend of Israel and the city of Johannesburg is a friend of Israel. Shalom.”

And it keeps getting more and more absurd. When he announced the suspension of Councilwoman Phalatse, Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba said that her “remarks didn’t adequately address the complexity and sensitivity of the issue. They caused confusion.”

Phalatse made the apology. And her apology goes to the heart of the matter. Pay attention to her wording:

“I would like to issue my most sincere apology to the residents of the City of Johannesburg for the confusion and hurt caused by my remarks.”

“[T]he nature of the Middle East conflict is a very challenging and sensitive subject which, if not approached with the required consideration, causes acrimony in our diverse society.”

“In the unpublicized component of my speech, I specifically spoke to the commitment of the DA [Democratic Alliance] and our government to achieving ‘freedom, fairness, opportunity and diversity’ in Johannesburg.”

“This led to a lot of confusion, and I realize that many were offended as a result.”

She continued on, referencing the “highly publicized statement, in isolation, does create the impression that I was positioning the City of Johannesburg on international relations matters without the requisite mandate, and for that I sincerely apologize.”

In conclusion, Phalatse explained that the department she runs is dedicated to peaceful interaction. “It is the role of the Department of Social Development to foster peaceful relations and social cohesion between all residents in the city, and this is a cause I remain committed to.”

Anti-Semitism takes many shapes and exists in many forms. Institutional anti-Semitism is one of the most dastardly. When a system is set up to breed and foster and perpetuates anti-Semitism. Institutional anti-Semitism creates an environment where hatred of Israel and Jews is an acceptable norm. In such a system there is a “gentleman’s agreement” as in the famous 1947 movie called “Gentleman’s Agreement” starring Gregory Peck, which won three Oscars, that Jews and Israel are simply not permitted. That society sets standards and Jews are not allowed to participate.

The irony that this current episode is taking place in South Africa with all its history of racism is even more striking.

For many anti-Semites, the anti-Israel mantle is nothing more than a veneer covering their true anti-Semitic inclinations. In today’s world, being anti-Israel is more politically correct and acceptable than being anti-Semitic. Those who are guilty of this PC anti-Semitism do not want Israel to change their policies, they don’t care about her policies — they, plain and simple, do not want Israel to exist. Their solution to the “complexity and sensitivity” is to eliminate Israel. That will solve the problem.

When governments and institutions adopt this approach to Israel it shows the depths of the terrible age old hatred of the Jew.

What is so shocking about this case in Johannesburg is that Mpho Phalatse was not actually taking a stand. She did not step into international affairs arena or even advocate for Israel. She simply said that she was “a friend of Israel.” Is that to say that because you are a friend of Israel you are de facto an enemy of Palestinians? Of course not.

Friends of Israel and friends of Palestinians can co-exist. And in many parts of the world they do co-exist. We now know that South Africa, with its own troubled past, is not one of those places.

Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. To read more of this reports — Click Here Now.

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A member of the city council of Johannesburg, South Africa, announced that she was a friend of Israel.
israel, johannesburg, mayor, antisemitism
Thursday, 28 June 2018 11:49 AM
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