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By Eric Naki

Political Editor

Jewish Board of Deputies defends suspended ‘friend of Israel’ Phalatse

Phalatse had become the latest target of 'hysterical condemnation' for having expressed her support for Israel, the board says.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies has defended Johannesburg Metro DA councillor and MMC for health and social development Mpho Phalatse after she was taken to task by her party for making a pro-Israeli statement, which the DA feels is out of line with its policy.

Phalatse is likely to appear before a commission to answer for her statement – that she and the City of Joburg were friends of Israel – after the Joburg City mayor, Herman Mashaba, suspended her.

The DA Gauteng referred her case to the party’s Federal Legal Commission, which deals with matters of discipline and conduct in the party. It’s not clear at this stage whether she will be charged with bringing the party into disrepute.

Phalatse’s statement, made at an event over the weekend, and which has been circulating widely on social media, is said to have embarrassed the DA, which has been accused of caring for its white constituency at the expense of black members, who want tangible change within the party.

With the 2019 elections around the corner, and accompanied by a strong anti-Israel lobby inside South Africa, any stance that supports Israel against Palestine could spoil the DA’s chances of attracting black votes.

But Jewish Board of Deputies Gauteng chairperson Marc Pozniak condemned the action taken against Phalatse.

He referred to the recent criticism of renowned DJ Black Coffee, who visited Israel in defiance of the standing cultural boycott against the Jewish state, and TV and radio personality Gareth Cliff for his pro-Israel utterances.

Pozniak expressed disappointment that Phalatse had become the latest target of “hysterical condemnation” for having expressed her support for Israel at a South African Friends of Israel conference on Sunday.

He said: “These are just the most recent instances of attempts to silence South Africans who challenge the anti-Israel narrative. It is all part of an environment in which Israel is being demonised to a degree that bears no relationship to reality. The propagandist whipping up of emotion aims at ensuring that only one opinion on the subject will be allowed, with anyone who disagrees with that narrow-minded, usually agenda-driven, opinion becoming a target for vilification.”

DA Gauteng provincial leader John Moodey yesterday confirmed that Phalatse’s issue had been brought to his attention, and he had elevated the matter to the party’s Federal Legal Commission for action.

Moodey said he was duty-bound to act on the matter.

Moodey said: “The DA is committed to a two-state solution in the Middle-East, in line with the United Nations’ 1947 resolution. We are a party of all faiths and creeds and do not subscribe to partisan views. As such, I have referred the matter to the party’s Federal Legal Commission for investigation.”

Phalatse defended her words, saying she expressed the DA’s belief in freedom, fairness, opportunity for all, and diversity, which was important to embrace in a complex city such as Joburg. However she apologised for the confusion her statement caused.

She said: “I wish to stress that the remarks were an expression of my personal views, and I recognise that they do not represent the views of the City of Joburg or the Democratic Alliance, which I serve. It is the DA’s official position that we support a two state solution, with a secure Palestine and Israel living alongside each other in peace and prosperity. This is a position I fully support.”

She said her statement was made in the context of her social development department’s current work with organisations from all backgrounds that was meant to foster social cohesion at a local level.

Her department had been engaged with different foreign diplomatic corps around social cohesion and migration.

“I stand with the party in condemning all kinds of violence in the Middle East. I also regret that my remarks have been incorrectly taken to be setting international relations policy in the City of Joburg.”

Early last year, DA leader Mmusi Maimane came under sharp criticism for visiting Israel and Palestine. The Palestinians and the Palestine lobby said Maimane’s visit promoted Israel, while it contravened protocol and the plight of the Palestine that had been occupied by the Israeli for decades. But the party insisted that it showed interest to both sides.


ALSO READ: DJ Black Coffee sparks cultural boycott call

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