Written by: André Viljoen
Article source: JOY! Magazine

A decision by the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) to declare Israel an apartheid state “is highly concerning” as it “portrays a false view of the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel,” says Bafana Modise, head of communications at South African Friends of Israel (SAFI).

Aligning with human rights bodies
In the resolution passed by the Provincial Standing Committee of ACSA last month, the church noted that its decision aligned it with human rights bodies such at Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the national executive committee of the South African Council of Churches, the Dutch Reformed Church Western Cape synod, and “most Palestinian civil rights bodies”.

Israeli apartheid comparison
In a statement on the resolution ACSA leader archbishop Thabo Makgoba said, “When black South Africans who have lived under apartheid visit Israel, the parallels to apartheid are impossible to ignore. If we stand by and keep quiet, we will be complicit in the continuing oppression of the Palestinians.”

Debunking the label
Modise points out that in a recent interview with SAFI, former SA defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota who has visited Israel debunked the “apartheid Israel” label, saying that “in Israel, you won’t find the same divisions between Jews and non-Jews that we used to witness during apartheid. To disseminate this narrative in South Africa only serves to expropriate the suffering of black people under apartheid, in a manner that serves the interests and agenda of a very antisemitic international organisation, the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement (BDS).”

Church disregards members’ views
Bizarrely enough, the ACSA’s resolution explicitly binds the church to follow the lead of BDS, says James van den Heever, a lay minister in the church. “Such resolutions are pushed through by so-called progressives, effectively making ACSA a ‘useful idiot’ for what is in effect a concerted attempt to eliminate the state of Israel altogether,” he says. “Despite promises to the contrary, attempts to engage the leadership in debate have been unsuccessful. Israel isn’t made up of saints, to be sure, but ACSA’s extreme position ignores history and has rendered itself unworthy to fulfil the mediating role it should be playing now as the visible presence of Christ on earth.” “The views of the church leadership do not reflect those of its members – the majority of South Africans love the Holy Land of Israel and would rather play a productive role in ending the conflict, as opposed to recycling the views of antisemitic organisations like the BDS movement,” says Modise.

Meeting with churches
He says SAFI plans to meet with a number of churches in South Africa over the next few months to formally oppose ACSA’s decision to declare Israel an apartheid state. During the meetings they will provide Anglican Church members and other Christians with “a more educated view of why the conflict remains between the Palestinians and Israel today”. He says SAFI will also “continue to support individuals within the Anglican Church in their efforts to share that this decision in no way represents the views of the majority of Anglicans in South Africa”.

“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent.”
– Isaiah 62:1

Rev. Canon Peter Houston

Rev. Canon Peter Houston, senior Anglican pastor
“The scenes of Hamas militants desecrating the bodies of Israelis and other foreign nationals are barbaric. Killing is not something to be celebrated. Knowingly firing at a medic is a war crime, let alone reports of one being murdered in cold blood. Civilians being targeted at a music festival is beyond the pale. The supposed justification of a liberation struggle is not license for profoundly unethical actions. These actions deserve unqualified condemnation at the highest levels of government as well as by church leadership bodies.”

Rev. Kenneth Meshoe

Rev. Kenneth Meshoe, president of the ACDP
“Archbishop Thabo Makgoba knows that the Church is given a ministry of reconciliation, and thus, to be a credible facilitator of reconciliation, one has to be objective and not take sides with any of the parties in conflict. The archbishop expressed his concern for Palestinians but does not express similar concerns for many Israeli victims of terror attacks at the hands of Palestinian terror groups. The archbishop has, in my opinion, discredited and jeopardised his chances of being a credible mediator in the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict by taking sides with one against the other. Except for security concerns, there is no place in Israel that Palestinians are not allowed to access as it happened in apartheid South Africa. There are no amenities or buildings, schools or universities that are designated for Jewish use only as it happened in South Africa during apartheid. Labelling Israel an ‘apartheid state’ is inaccurate, malicious, and will not help to promote peace and harmony in the Middle East. Its only purpose is to demonise Israel and to isolate her to delegitimise Israel’s existence. The unfortunate decision taken by the Anglican Church of Southern Africa to label Israel an ‘apartheid state’ betrays the memory of those who suffered through the real apartheid of South Africa.”

Vivienne Myburgh

Vivienne Myburgh, national director of ICEJ SA
“There is no ‘apartheid’ in Israel, as all sectors of Israel’s Arab, Jewish, and Christian communities have total freedom of movement, association, and religion. It is a deeply flawed narrative that has deceived certain ACSA leadership, based on the misperception that South African history and that of the Palestinians is somehow comparable. Ironically, the head of the Palestinian Authority has stated that any future Palestinian state would be ‘Judenrein’, i.e. free of Jews. Is this not ‘apartheid’? The Hamas charter commits to an establishment of an Islamic state over all of Palestine and rejects the state of Israel’s right to exist. The ongoing Palestinian violence and recent brutal massacres of innocent Jewish civilians by Palestinians reveal that there is a deep and spiritual evil intent at the root of this ancient conflict.”

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Date published: 01/11/2023
Feature image: Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

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