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Thuli Madonsela shocks human rights activists by speaking at Israel event

By Kwara Kekana on behalf of BDS South Africa

The human rights and Palestine solidarity organization, BDS South Africa, is shocked that South Africa’s Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, participated in a fundraising event on the 21st of September 2016 with the Israel United Appeal-United Communal Fund (IUA-UCF).

The IUA-UCF forms part of, and sends funds to, Keren Hayesod – the global and official fundraising organization for Israel. The work of Keren Hayesod is carried out in accordance with Israel’s Keren haYesod Law-5716, passed by the Israeli parliament (Knesset) in January 1956, granting the organization a unique and official fundraising status and forming one of Israel’s three “National Institutions”. The organization works in close coordination with the Government of Israel to “further the national priorities of the State of Israel.”

We are deeply disturbed that someone of the Public Protector’s stature will knowingly provide credibility to the oppressive apartheid state of Israel and its fundraising initiatives. Israel and its associated institutions are responsible for the violations of Palestinian human rights.

The Public Protector is very aware, as any lawyer with a legal background should be, that Israel is guilty of blatant violations of international law, human rights abuses, discrimination and other oppressive policies. What is worse is that the Public Protector not only spoke at an event of a pro-Israeli organization but at an event of a group whose primary aim is to fundraise for the State of Israel. That the Public Protector spoke at the IUA-UCF in her official capacity brings the entire office of the Public Protector into disrepute.

Last month Public Protector Madonsela also spoke at an event with the Israeli Ambassador, Arthur Lenk, who she praised saying: “I was particularly encouraged by Ambassador Lenk’s call for greater tolerance for dialogue in South Africa & Israel”. Such utterances are tantamount to having praised, during the 1980s, an ambassador of Apartheid South Africa for his words of “tolerance” while he officially represented, defended and advanced the agenda of Apartheid South Africa.

The Palestinian people are today victims of the oppressive Israeli occupation and violations of international law, which Ambassador Arthur Lenk officially represents and the IUA-UCF is its official funder through Israeli law and its relationship with Keren Hayesod.

The office of the Public Protector should be upholding the integrity of the institution which stands for fearlessness, accountability and justice. The Public Protector should not be associating with and speaking at fundraising events for Israel, or legitimising it and its organisations.

In 2014 over 200 000 peace loving South Africans marched in solidarity with Palestine and against the Israeli attacks on Gaza that resulted in the killing of over 2500 Palestinians. A UN report on the attacks on Gaza noted the disproportionate use of force by Israel, Israeli attack on Palestinian civilians and civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and schools, including a UN school. Yet at the same time the IUA-UCF, at which the Public Protector spoke at, “took a solidarity Mission to Israel”. On their return the IUA-UCF wrote: “our group was the first and only group to come to Israel during the war and to show solidarity with the people of Israel.”

BDS South Africa calls on the Public Protector to publicly apologize for failing to stand with human rights. The Public Protector has created the impression that she is standing with a corrupt and oppressive Israeli regime and its institutions which continues to violate international law.

More information on IUA-UCF:

On their website the IUA-UCF state that they send “funds to support special projects in Israel. Through our many exciting activities, including Missions to Israel […] we have been able to continue our support of our beneficiaries and engage the community and strengthen bonds between our community and Israel.” The IUA-UCF also boasts that, through their beneficiaries, they “fight” the BDS boycott of Israel movement.

The IUA-UCF lists the SA Zionist Federation, the Israel Centre and the CSO as beneficiaries of their funds. The CSO, one of the IUA-UCF beneficiaries, is the controversial security organisation accused of racial profiling and violent assault against South African human rights activists.

According to their website, the IUA-UCF’s youth structure, the YAD Leadership group, has visited Israel and “met with decision-makers and people of the highest calibre in Israel including Knesset (Parliament) members and military personnel. It was a very well received visit and enjoyed by all the participants.”

The IUA-UCF itself boasts of carrying out “missions to Israel” and meeting Israeli decision makers and Israeli ministers to forge closer bonds with Israel. They claim on their website that some of those they met with are accused Israeli war-criminal Tzippi Livni, right-wing foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, racist Israeli leader Yuli Edelstein, Rav Shai Piron, Naphtali Bennett, Ze’ev Elkin, Israeli President Ruby Rivlin, Mickey Levy, Tzachi Hanegbi, Bougie Herzog and senior advisor to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, Dr Yonatan Schachter

In 2014 the IUA-UCF hosted Israeli parliamentarian Tzagi Hanegbi and in 2016 the IUA-UCF hosted former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres – an event that was opposed by the progressive South African Jewish organisation, the SAJFP, because of Peres’ collusion with Apartheid South Africa and involvement in alleged Israeli war crimes.

In November 2014 the IUA-UCF was hosted at an event in London organised by Nathan Kirsh – the controversial businessman with close links the Swaziland’s King and who also owns an Israeli company involved in the construction of Israel’s illegal Apartheid Wall. The IUA-UCF also lists other pro-Israeli personalities including Professor Michael Katz, Judge Meyer Joffe, former trade unionist Johnny Coplyn, Gerald Leissner, Avrom Krengel, Leor Atie, Gary Kaplan, Cecil Wulfsohn, Lawrie Brozin and Ivan Saltzman of Dischem as being close to the organisation.

This press statement was originally published by BDS South Africa.

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