Faizel Patel, Radio Islam News, 2015-02-27
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The ‘special’ treatment that Democratic Alliance MP and member of the federal executive Yusuf Cassim received from Ben Gurion Airport security on his recent educational visit to Israel has raised questions about the ‘friendly relationship of South Africa’s official opposition party with Israel.
In a letter to Ben Gurion Airport security, Michael Freeman, deputy Israeli ambassador to South Africa, wrote: “We implore you to treat Mr. Yusuf Cassim with generosity and respect during the security checks. Please pass it along to all security officials to check Mr. Yusuf Cassim in a way that will leave a good impression and preserve the good relations between the DA [Democratic Alliance, Cassim’s party] and Israel.”
According to Haaretz, The Democratic Alliance is a liberal party that takes a much less critical view of Israel than the ruling, left-wing African National Congress.
The Democratic Alliance has been criticized on numerous instances for not taking a stance on the Palestinian issue but rather fence sitting. The party maintains that they are neither pro-Israeli, neither pro-Palestinian but pro-peace and would like to see a negotiated settlement between both sides.
But what is the stance of Yusuf Cassim from the DA who in his personal capacity is a fervent supporter of the Palestinian cause?
Cassim said he did not receive the ‘special treatment’ as requested by deputy Israeli ambassador to South Africa Michael Freeman. “I didn’t use that letter until my very last when I was exiting the country at Ben Gurion Airport.
“I was actually going to miss my flight because of the way that I believe I was targeted and it was clear racial profiling that was taking place, being stopped even before going into the airport and being interrogated and searched and having my bags turned inside and out,” said Cassim.
Cassim mentioned that he sought assistance from the Israeli Ambassador Arthur Lenk who was also exiting the country. “I pointed Arthur Lenk out to them and he was forced to then come and speak with them.”
Cassim reiterated that “good relations” between Israel and the DA as described in the letter is not the official position of the party.
“We never ever released any statement or any communication that has ever contained either the spirit of those words. This actually upset me a great deal and that’s why I’ve launched formal complaints because this letter is written in Hebrew and there’s no one in the delegation that can understand and read Hebrew.”
Cassim said the entire delegation that travelled to Palestine received the letter from the Israeli embassy which was to facilitate the easy entry and exit of the country.
He said the head of the delegation met with the Palestinian ambassador Abdel Hafiz Nofal and Israeli ambassador Arthur Lenk before departing South Africa.
Cassim said that currently the DA does not have a foreign policy on Palestine and on the Middle East “We are going through a very sensitive period and a very critical period within the party where we are developing those policies and I believe the effort we put in now is going to be very significant as to whether or not those polices are correct or not or whether they reflect the conditions on the ground.”
Asked if he should not have embarked on the trip independently because of the pressures of a pro-Palestine community instead of with the DA, Cassim said the party does not have funding to go on any trips independently.
However Cassim said he has not ruled out going on trips to Palestine with Pro-Palestinian organizations.
“I am in discussions to make sure that we can go with other pro-Palestinian organizations…And we’ve all agreed that we need to go on another tour before we can even sit down and have a policy.
Asked by Radio Islam morning drive host Moulana Sulaimaan Ravat if he can unequivocally state that as a member of the federal executive of the DA the party is not a friend of Israel that there is no good relations between the DA and Israel, Cassim said: “Yes I can do that.”
Cassim said that there was no need for members of the hierarchy of the DA such as leader Helen Zille and parliamentary leader Musi Maimane to echo that the DA does not have good relations with Israel thereby contradicting the deputy ambassador to Israel Michael Freeman, as his clarification as member of the federal executive should be sufficient.
So does Cassim believe Israel is an Apartheid state?
“As an individual I believe that Israel is an Apartheid state,” said Cassim.
Cassim also believes as a member of the DA, the party’s policies should move into the direction of classifying Israel as an Apartheid state.
“I believe it should and based on my experiences that’s what I would argue for,” said Cassim.