On Palestine: Be Warned of ‘Solidarity Capture’

By Iqbal Jassat

As South Africa emerged from the annual calendar event known as #IsraelApartheidWeek (IAW), the country has plunged into an abyss of shame following huge controversies arising from allegations of “state capture”.

Dark, threatening clouds gathered around the Presidency and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to come clean on whether key ministerial positions are “selected” by an unelected family who are known to wield enormous financial clout. Known as the Gupta’s, the family which originates from India, has acquired a sizable chunk of wealth in a relatively short time since setting up in SA during the post-Apartheid era.

In the midst of the current political storm which has consumed public interest and media content, fortunately, the Palestinian question remains alive.

In addition to the current distraction, South African supporters of Apartheid Israel also tried to derail IAW. By pulling off a diplomatic stunt in the middle of it, they hoped to distract public attention away from IAW and claim “victory” of sorts.

Whether they considered the consequences of their action when flying out Israel’s Dore Gold to meet his SA counterpart in Pretoria, or not, clearly the fall out has not gone the Hasbara (Israeli propaganda) way.

The sum total of the brief respite enjoyed by them consisted of a photo opportunity and exaggerated claims. The picture used to whip up support for Israel’s “major foreign policy success” in SA, depicts Gold alongside an official from the Department of International Relations (DIRCO).

So while the visit has been hailed by Israel as an important breakthrough, that no other picture has been broadcast, underlines the fact that no high profile member of the Zuma presidency had met with Gold.

As for claims that purported to be a “joint” statement, this has been exposed as a hoax. The only statement that has been doing the rounds alongside the picture, is the one issued by Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs. To claim that it is a “joint” statement, is to mislead and misrepresent.

As various university campuses hosted IAW events around the country, Israel’s lobby invested huge funds to counter the Apartheid narrative. By putting together a Zionist road show and showcasing a Palestinian academic, they hoped to derail IAW activities.

Of course, whether they bargained for it or not, the reality is that any effort to shadow events inevitably raises the profile of the main event. In this case the main event has been IAW. And the result? Renewed public focus on the question of Palestine and its ongoing freedom struggle against Apartheid Israel.

Indeed, the Palestinian academic used by the Zionist lobby to downplay and neutralise IAW activities, could not but agree on key Palestinian demands: Occupation is unsustainable, Wall cannot bring security and Settlements are illegal.

One can imagine the pain of local pro-Israel lobbyists having to grind their collective teeth at being confronted with key elements of Apartheid: Occupation, Wall and Settlements, by their own guest nogal.

Also adding to the drama were the series of articles on Palestine by online publication Daily Vox. Obviously timed to coincide with IAW, the series raised tough questions, particularly on the effectiveness of Palestinian solidarity. One that featured political analyst Steven Friedman, made a number of important observations which were highly critical of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign in SA.

Amongst failures of the BDS which Friedman listed, he claimed that instead of capturing a groundswell of support, it actually contributed to boosting Zionist activism.

But the piece by Minhaj Jeenah, which provided a comprehensive and objective analysis of Palestinian solidarity work in SA, led to questions being raised about Daily Vox’s purpose in running the series. Was it educational or deliberately timed to detract from IAW? These questions and more arose when Jeenah, on his Facebook post explained how Daily Vox attempted to rearrange his piece. He resisted and demanded that his original text be published without the changes desired by them. Changes, he explained would have positioned his article as an attack on BDS.

IAW2016 survived. The issue of Palestine has not evaporated into thin air. Successes claimed by pro-Israel lobbyists are questionable. And whatever dirty linen was exposed, has inadvertently led to renewed determination by various formations of Palestinian solidarity to take heed of legitimate criticisms and reshape their campaigns.

And in the midst of debates on “state capture”, an abiding lesson on the question of Palestine, is to avoid “solidarity capture”.

– Iqbal Jassat is an acclaimed writer, analyst and commentator and one of the founder members of Media Review Network in Johannesburg. His analysis is featured regularly in mainstream and alternate media outlets around the world. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: Media Review Network

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