South Africa-Israel Relations Freeze Over

Flap Over 'Don't Visit' Call by Minister Is Latest Obstacle

Strained Ties: South Africa’s ties with Israel have grown strained over calls for boycotts and protests over the Palestinians.
getty images
Strained Ties: South Africa’s ties with Israel have grown strained over calls for boycotts and protests over the Palestinians.

By Haaretz

Published August 17, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

This past week, South African-Israeli relations sunk to one of their lowest points since the “new” South Africa began in 1994. The only other incident that caused such a fuss was the 2010 Gaza flotilla debacle when Israeli Ambassador Dov Segev-Steinberg received a dressing-down from then-deputy minister of international relations, Sue van der Merwe, and South Africa withdraw its ambassador from Tel Aviv for a period of time.

The latest conflict, which is more specifically between the South African Jewish community and the South African government, involves the cancellation, announced August 10, of a visit to Israel by mayors and other members of municipalities in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province.

Similar trips for representatives from eight of the country’s nine provinces have been organized over the years by the South Africa-Israel Forum to promote agricultural and technological cooperation between the countries.

Following the cancellation, Deputy International Relations Minister Ebrahim “Ibie” Ebrahim said in the Mail & Guardian newspaper, “We discourage South Africans from visiting Israel, we don’t ban them.”

Ebrahim, now in his late 70s, was badly tortured as a political detainee in the 1980s and spent many years as a political prisoner on Robben Island (South Africa’s political Alcatraz), including 10 years in the same communal cell as current South African president Jacob Zuma. Ebrahim, who claims not to be anti-Israel but merely anti-occupation, denied that his comments represented a toughening of the government’s attitude toward Israel.

“This is not a new position,” he said in the City Press newspaper on Sunday. “Israel is an occupier country that is oppressing Palestine, so it is not proper for South Africans to associate with Israel. We discourage people from going there, except if it has to do with the peace process.”

Referring to the latest incident, as well as to the brouhaha caused by the government’s proposal to label goods from the occupied territories as such, Segev-Steinberg said it was now clear that the intention of the South African government was to boycott Israel. “The cat is out of the bag,” he said.

Ebrahim denied that there was any plan to boycott Israeli goods.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.