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Maimane meets Netanyahu!

Ebrahim Moosa – Radio Islam International | 13 Rabi uth Thani 1438/12 January 2017

Pictures of a smiling Democratic Alliance(DA) leader Mmusi Maimane shaking the hands of controversial Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu have emerged via South African Jewish press.

The South African Jewish Report(SAJR) today has revealed details of Maimane and his accompanying DA delegation’s meeting with the Israeli leadership that took place Wednesday.

According to the publication, the full DA delegation consisted of Party Leader Mmusi Maimane, Chief Whip John Steenhuisen, spokesperson on trade and industry, Geordin Hill-Lewis and Michael Bagraim, a DA MP and former National President of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. They were accompanied by Alan Fischer, a representative of South African Jewish organisations.

Bagraim was quoted by the SAJR as describing the DA delegation’s series of interactions with key Israeli role-players as “superb”.

“We met with the Department of Foreign Affairs and had a two-hour briefing,” said Bagraim. The party then took a trip to the grave of recently-deceased elder statesman Shimon Peres where, says Bagraim, the DA members “paid our respects.”

Later in the day, said Bagraim, the delegation “met with Prime Minister Netanyahu and had a great discussion.”

When pressed by the SAJR to provide further details on the delegation’s time spent with Netanyahu, Bagraim replied that the meeting had been: “All round extremely functional,” and that “our delegation is completely overwhelmed.”

Netanyahu yesterday also met Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma and his ministerial delegation discussing the possibility of an Israeli delegation going to Sierra Leone to evaluate assistance in fields such as water, communications, energy and security.

The DA delegation is said to have numerous more meetings scheduled in Israel before returning to South Africa on Monday.

Reaction

On Tuesday, Israeli Ambassador to South Africa Arthur Lenk congratulated Maimane on his visit to Israel. “Welcome to Israel, Honorable Maimane,” he tweeted.

Zionist grouping, South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) also commended the opposition leader for his willingness to visit Israel.

“Mr Maimane has shown vision and courage in these times of great slander against of the State of Israel. He has embodied the true South African values of dialogue and engagement by his willingness to hear different voices,” SAFI said in a press release.

It is unclear who the exact hosts of the DA delegation are, although the Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday that the Israeli Foreign Affairs ministry did facilitate setting up meetings for the group.

An Israeli diplomatic official cited by the Post said that Maimane’s visit was part of efforts by both Israel and pro-Israel supporters in South Africa to develop positive relations with key figures in the country, whose ANC leadership has publicly chastised Israeli Apartheid.

Maimane was reportedly described by the diplomatic officials as having an “open mind” on Israel.

Whilst fully-paid ‘fact-finding’ trips to Israel –often with a narrow predefined mandate – are a hallmark of the pro-Israeli lobby’s hasbara activities, Maimane told Radio Islam last August that the DA was totally independent of the Zionist lobby and funders.

“I do nearly 90% of the fundraising for the DA, I have never gone to a funder and said ‘what faith are you, and what is your agenda’. Never! There can be no funder of the DA who will go out to purchase influence – it can’t be. We separate that very issue as a starting point.

“I will state this categorically for our Muslim South Africans, that I don’t have an agenda that is linked to any lobby group, designed for partisan relations in the Middle East”.

DA policy on Palestine, Maimane said, was dictated by parliament, and called for a two-state solution to the conflict.

“I think if Jacob Zuma was sitting here, he’d tell you exactly the same thing, “he claimed.

Referencing outspoken DA youth leader Yusuf Cassim, he said DA members were free to participate in Palestinian solidarity activities, and would not be disciplined for the personal views they espoused on the matter.

“We are a party for all South Africans,” Maimane concluded.

Activist group BDS South Africa has previously chided fully-paid trips to Israel hosted by the Zionist lobby as akin to “Apartheid-era junkets”.

In a Sunday Tribune op-ed published in 2015, Professor Farid Esack, Kwara Kekana and Muhammed Desai of BDS South Africa wrote:

“During the boycott against Apartheid some came — against our wishes and violated the boycott — as investors, tourists, and on so-called, “fact-finding missions”. They came at the invitation of ‘White’ South Africa and its propaganda machinery. The UK’s David Cameron was given, as an “upcoming young leader”, a fully-funded holiday propaganda junket visit to Apartheid South Africa. Anti-apartheid activists condemned his visit and Cameron later apologized (but after the fact).

“Some of those sanctions-busters returned to their homes abroad, enchanted with what our “astonishingly beautiful and historic country” had to offer and also, perhaps because their conscience niggled them, a mild criticism on the lines of “the situation is complex”.

“Israel and its supporters use the same tactic, Jewish anti-apartheid stalwart Denis Goldberg pointed out at a recent ANC Youth League event that: “the pro-Israeli lobby, the SA Jewish Board of Deputies and SA Zionist Federation try to say that it [the Palestinian Israeli issue] is not a simple matter, they say that it’s complicated therefore come [to Israel and] tell the world how well we Israelis are doing.” Goldberg added: “It’s not complicated! It’s very simple, the simplicity is that a dominant group [Jewish Israelis] exclude the indigenous Palestinian people from equal rights””.

In an advertorial published in the South African Jewish Report on the eve of the 2014 national elections, the pro-Israel South African Zionist Federation(SAZF) hailed the Democratic Alliance as a friend of Israel, scoring the party at 7/10 for its stance towards Israel.

Among the factors that afforded it such a high rating, the SAZF said, was the attendance of Israeli ‘Independence Day’ celebrations by DA officials, and the opposition offered by party youth structures to “anti-Israel” actions at universities.

Maimane and the DA are yet to comment publicly on the current visit.

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