Cape Town – The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is demanding the United Nations (UN) “starts isolating Israel” and that the world must “boycott everything that has to do with Israel, starting with severing any form of state-to-state relations with Israel, evicting their ambassador to South Africa and their ambassadors across the world”.
The party’s statement, casting Israel as an “all-powerful”, “bloodthirsty” oppressor, was released to mark the 45th anniversary of the International Day of Solidarity with the People of Palestine on 29 November. It repeatedly called the Jewish state “the so-called state of Israel”.
According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism, denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination constitutes antisemitism.
“We condemn the bloodthirsty and repressive US backed regime of the so-called state of Israel. We further call on the United Nations to stop paying lip service to the freedom of the people of Palestine, and start isolating Israel,” the statement read.
The EFF claimed that the partitioning of Palestine back in 1947 following the UN adoption of resolution 181 (ii) led to the creation of “the so-called state of Israel”, which sparked “a civil war that led to over 750 000 Palestinians being displaced from their land”.
The EFF called the creation of the state “a series of invasions”, and said Israel was “backed by the most powerful nations on earth”.
“The world watches these atrocities without any indignation because the atrocities are directed at people who are considered not to be worthy of human rights and dignity by those with power in the world,” its statement read. “As Aime Cesaire teaches us on his book Discourse on Colonialism, the West is not least bothered by crimes committed against people who are not white, because the very foundations of their society are premised on the exploitation and murder of people who do not look like them.”
It implied that the only reason the world cares about the invasion of Ukraine is “because people of Caucasian lineage are under threat”, and compared the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“This is revolutionary rhetoric from the EFF, which has historically been firmly in favour of the Palestinian side,” said local political analyst Daniel Silke. “It’s keen to apply racial invective to any of its statements. It’s always useful for it in terms of mobilising its support base. Certainly, casting Israel as a white oppressor ‘racialises’ the response to the Middle East conflict, which is in line with its overall policy pronouncements.
“Ultimately, this message isn’t so much designed for Middle East consumption, it’s designed for its supporters here in South Africa,” he said. “It’s designed to find scapegoats among the white population. If it can use Israel in this process, then it will. It’s an easy target for the EFF, and it explains the world in ‘black versus white’. This falls well into its particular worldview, which is racial baiting on the basis of being victims forever. The EFF uses the foreign-policy issue to augment its domestic agenda.”
“The EFF continues to launch attacks on Israel in a futile attempt to appeal to local voters,” says South African Zionist Federation National Chairperson Rowan Polovin. “In spite of the EFF’s stab at historical revisionism, on 27 November 1947, countries from around the world, including those from African states, voted to recognise the millennia-old Jewish right to statehood and self-determination in their own land.
“Since that date, powerful forces far greater than that of the EFF have sought to reverse that decision. Not only have they failed, but Israel has thrived, and is making peace with its neighbours while contributing to the development of Africa. The EFF’s position on Israel is irrelevant. It’s of no benefit to Israelis, Palestinians, or South Africans, and won’t win it any votes.”
“The EFF’s support for the 45th anniversary of International Day of Solidarity with the People of Palestine is exactly what we would expect from the EFF,” said the Institute of Race Relations’ Sara Gon. “It’s a supposedly left-wing organisation and as such, will support the cause of any persons identified as victims.
“The Palestinians fit that perfectly. It’s the identity on which they have hung their identity and propaganda since Israel’s victory in the 1967 war. Palestinian nationalism really developed after what had been an embarrassing defeat of the Arab armies.
“Julius Malema has often made statements critical of Jews while appearing to flatter them,” she said. “He probably does it this way to avoid accusations of antisemitism. However, he has never said anything positive about and towards Israel, he has only been critical.”
Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Cape Town, Professor Milton Shain, said, “Whatever one thinks of the EFF, its knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian issue is puerile and ahistorical. A complex issue is simplified into ‘good guys versus bad guys’, with absolutely no awareness of the historical evolution of the conflict. Simplicity is vividly captured in the EFF’s colour-coding: a white versus non-white struggle. It’s time for the EFF to reassess.”
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) dismissed the statement as unimportant. “This is the usual anti-Israel rhetoric from the EFF which attracts little interest and has no relevance,” said SAJBD National Chairperson Professor Karen Milner.
According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “Much of contemporary anti-Zionism, or the delegitimisation of Israel and its supporters, draws on and perpetuates antisemitic tropes. Anti-Zionism downplays the history of Jewish nationhood and its connection to the land of Israel. More than anything, anti-Zionism and extreme criticism of Israel frequently demonises the state of Israel as uniquely evil among all the nations of the world.
“Denying Israel’s right to protect itself from populations that have actively sought its physical destruction, it magnifies every mistake and wrongful act possibly associated with the country, strips these of all context, and even invents new criminal accusations. Anti-Zionism envisions Zionists as a monolithic evil and as inherently opposed to Palestinians’ human rights and to the values of social justice.”
Anti-Zionists “use age-old anti-Jewish rhetoric in their charges against Zionism and Israel. For example, conspiracies of Jewish/Zionist power over a country’s policy, and use of classical antisemitic imagery to characterise Israelis”.
In addition, the EFF’s description of Israel as “bloodthirsty” ties into the classic trope of Jews being associated with blood, or the “blood libel”. Some anti-Zionist cartoons and publications have incorporated the blood-libel myth, with imagery of Israeli leaders drinking Palestinians’ blood or eating Palestinian children.
“Anti-Zionism views Jewish power as fundamentally malevolent, and denounces the Jewish aspiration for sovereignty,” notes the ADL. “Often anti-Zionists don’t scrutinise other nations or movements for nationhood to the same degree. Israel is regarded simply as an illegitimate state.”