SA Organisations

Further statement from leadership on Abbas meet

  • Abbas Leadership
Mary Kluk of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies and Avrom Krengel, of the SA Zionist Federation have issued a further statement on their meeting with Palestinian Premier Mahmoud Abbas last week
by MARY KLUK & AVROM KRENGEL | Dec 03, 2014

The SAJBD and SAZF have come under fire from some members of our community, both for meeting with Mahmoud Abbas and for the statement it issued afterwards welcoming his stated commitment to a negotiated, two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 'Naïve' and 'ill thought-out' have been amongst the milder criticisms received; those less inclined to be kind have used words like 'disloyal', 'treacherous' and 'despicable'. Clearly, there is a need to explain more fully how the meeting with the Palestinian delegation came about, and why it took the standpoint it did in its subsequent press release.   

The meeting itself came about as a result of an invitation extended to the Board by President Zuma. This followed on the meeting we had had with him and members of his Cabinet in September. On that occasion the President, in addition to categorically restating his zero-tolerance for any form of antisemitism, reiterated his support for a two state solution, and pledged his government's support in helping to take the peace process forward. This undertaking, it must be stressed, came about despite the extensive pressure under which Mr Zuma has come from both within and outside the ruling party to break off ties with Israel altogether.

It also needs to be stressed that prior to our accepting the invitation, the matter was thoroughly discussed with and approved by senior ministers in the Israeli government. The latter were also thoroughly briefed about what took place afterwards.

In light of this background, we felt comfortable in accepting the invitation to meet with the Abbas delegation. Our position has consistently been to engage in dialogue, and hence we welcomed the opportunity to hear at first-hand what Mahmoud Abbas had to say regarding how the Israel-Palestine question should be resolved. We also believed that the mere fact he once again went on record as supporting the "two-state" formula was something positive in and of itself. It needs to be remembered that for those who believe that Israel should not be allowed to exist at all, a final status two-state solution that by definition recognises its legitimacy is anathema. Such lobbies exist in South Africa as well, and it is these who are most vociferous in pushing for a comprehensive boycott against Israel.

A failure to make progress on the negotiations front is exactly what such hard-line anti-Israel groupings desire, since it gives impetus to their calls for boycotts and sanctions against Israel as a way of forcing it to accede to the Palestinians' demands.  Refusing on principle to deal with Mahmoud Abbas is thus counter-productive, playing as it does right into the hands of those who seek to turn Israel into a pariah state as per the old South African regime.      

That our government is nevertheless continuing to engage with both parties in the conflict and support the broader "two-state" vision is thus a setback for these lobbies. It is therefore in the interests of our community to encourage such engagement. Obviously, that means that we need to be consistent. We cannot call for dialogue and peaceful negotiations towards a two-state solution if we ourselves decline to get involved when called upon to do so.

Had the main factions contesting South Africa's future not embarked on a process of face-to-face negotiations, then it is unlikely, to say the least, that South Africans would ever have been able to resolve the conflict between them and embark on a peaceful new future together.

The situations in pre-democracy South Africa and the one facing Israel are obviously very different, but the 'Jaw-Jaw is better than War-War' principle remains true in both cases. Sometimes, negotiations fail to prevent war or halt an already existing conflict, but the effort always needs to be made. Israel has always understood this, which is why it has always kept the door open to negotiations no matter how bleak the prospects for success might look. It did so during the recent war in Gaza, despite the continual bad faith shown by Hamas, and continues to do with Mahmoud Abbas and his government. What is certain, as Israelis know, is that abandoning negotiations amounts to giving up all hope for achieving peace and condemning themselves and their children to perpetual conflict with their neighbours. And it is not the Jewish way to give up on hope. Speaking to your enemies is not a sign of weakness, but it's opposite. Damning and shutting out the other side is easy; it requires boldness and firm resolve to talk to them and try, no matter how difficult or even risky it might be, to find common ground.

There is another point to consider. Whatever concerns one might have about Mahmoud Abbas and his government, the alternatives - Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, IS and other such movements - are self-evidently a great deal worse. For that reason alone, Israel cannot afford not to maintain lines of communication, and what is true for Israel is as true for the Jewish world at large. The South African Jewish leadership, when presented with an opportunity to engage with the Abbas delegation chose to do so rather than turning down the opportunity. Our counterparts in other Diaspora countries have likewise chosen this path.

A negotiated, two- state solution necessarily precludes either party acting unilaterally, leaving such crucial final status issues as borders and security arrangements still unresolved. Recent moves by the Palestinian Authority to seek recognition from the international community clearly fall into this category, and if he is serious about reaching the kind of sustainable settlement with Israel that he spoke about, Mahmoud Abbas will need to abandon this strategy and recommit himself to the negotiations process. That he has at least gone once more on record reaffirming his commitment to a negotiated settlement is, in our view, a positive thing in itself, not least because it undermines those around the world who seek to delegitimise Israel altogether.

To achieve a peaceful final status agreement will require courage and a willingness to take risks on both sides. Thus far, the Fatah movement has been unwilling to take such risks, and so it may prove in the future. If any such breakthrough is to occur, however, negotiations have to continue, whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. In seeking a lasting peace agreement, the obstacles are formidable and the future deeply uncertain. Nevertheless, we have an obligation, to ourselves and to future generations, to at least try. 

Co-signed by:

Mary Kluk, national chairman, SA Jewish Board of Deputies
Avrom Krengel, chairman, SA Zionist Federation



  1. 5 Mordechai, 03 Dec
    Dear Ms Kluk,
    With all due respect your article above is pretty pathetic and the excuses you make for meeting with the President of an organization who calls those who butcher Jews with meat clevers while davening in a Shule as martyrs while the wife and children of those butchered had just finished sitting Shiva for their loved ones...shame on you. You meet with a man who has formed a unity government with Hamas, who openly have as their prime goal the destruction of Israel and death of every Jew in the world. You meet a man who openly stats that his "country" will never allow a single Jew to live in it. You meet with a man who openly calls for any Arab who sells property to a Jew to be prosecuted for this and calls it a serious crime, and I could go on and on....There is no way you could ever justify your meeting with Abbas and your pitiful and disgraceful press release after the meeting. I hope that  you and the others who met with Abbas would  at least have the courage to admit it was the wrong thing to do and that you regret the meeting and your pathetic press release.
  2. 4 Choni 03 Dec
    Might I add to Mordechai's brilliant comment.
    By encouraging dialogue with the Ishmaelites you are violating the commandments of the God of Israel.
    That in itself disqualifies you from holding any leadership position. Any 'advice' to the Israeli government, especially coming from chutz la'Aretz, which includes a violation of God's commandments is 'Chilul Hashem'.
    To top it all, all you are doing is defending your exilic existence, and that of the Jewish community.
  3. 3 Boruch 03 Dec
  4. 2 04 Dec
    SOUTH AFRICAN JEWRY IN THE DARK By Shelley Glaser By last Wednesday night I had a case of the ‘black dog.’ Our electricity has been disconnected because of ‘load shedding.’ My kids were revising for end-of-year exams, and we practically had to light a bonfire on the dining room table so that they could guess at the words on their study notes. But it turns out we weren’t the only ones scrambling in the dark: that very day President Jacob Zuma had met with Abbas and awarded him the highest honour of our country, the OR Tambo award. The next day, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) sent me a notification, saying they had also met with Abbas and felt “reassured” by him. As a friend of mine says, there is nothing a two Prozac, a shotgun and a shovel won’t take care of.There was a plethora of outraged comments from fellow members of the South African Jewry on the SAJBD website. On Friday morning, an article appeared in the Jerusalem Post, describing the meeting between the SAJBD and Abbas as “despicable, disloyal and treasonous.” I posted the article on the SAJBD website. It took less than half an hour for the J Post article to go missing and then reappear, edited, an hour later without the subheading: “Meeting despicable, disloyal and treasonous – Zionist leaders.” My black dog was becoming very aggressive.So why was the SAJBD “reassured” by Abbas? All I can say is that South African leaders, because of our successful peaceful transformation from Apartheid, now like to take the lead in supporting ‘victims’ of social injustice. After all, it was our own Jacob Zuma who flew to Libya to offer our support and his ‘experience’ in negotiating a ‘peaceful’ settlement for none other than Gaddafi. The ‘Arab Spring’ had already sprung, though it was to jump backwards into a dark deep winter soon.Nelson Mandela, said of the Israeli-Arab conflict, “I cannot conceive of Israel withdrawing, if Arab states do not recognise Israel within secure borders.” Now, here’s a man who understood and identified the problem with Abbas, which both the South African Jewish leadership and Zuma seem to have missed completely.Both Zuma’s and the SAJBD’s actions, need to be seen in the context of political correctness and victimhood, which has flooded South African social justice and political movements, academic institutions, the New Left and university student organisations. Victimhood entitles ‘victims’ to special privileges. It’s what ennobles them as a superior class of people and gives them the right to oppress their ‘oppressors.’ It explains how the ‘Palestinian victims’ own laws and teachings that contradict the very moral fibre of Leftist ideology, can be ignored.Their terrorists’ actions are also justified, as can be recently seen by the manner in which the media reported the horrendous terrorist attack on Rabbis in the midst of their prayers at the Har Nof synagogue. It reveals that to have real political and social power today, you have to be a victim. As Daniel Greenfield, who is currently writing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century, explains that victimhood entitles victims to exclusive ‘suffering rights’. Apparently (according to themselves), no one else has ever been oppressed, felt pain, been abused, degraded or insulted, enslaved and ground down into the dirt, except the ‘Palestinians’ and their supporters, who now are grinding Israel into the dirt.The fact is, the SAJBD should have known better. Appeasement has never had any positive results of which I am aware. When the Nazis asked Jewish leaders in Germany to record the name of every Jew in their communities, they acquiesced. They chose the diplomatic policy of making political or material concessions to an enemy power in order to avoid conflict. Their hearts may have been in the right place, but their policy didn’t ingratiate them to the Nazis, just as the SAJBD’s actions will not do so for ‘us’ today.The appeasers of the world need to recognise that there is no way to placate the Islamic enemies. Provocation cannot account for Boko Haram’s kidnapping young Christian Nigerian schoolgirls and selling them into slavery. Frustration at the stalling of the peace process with Israel didn’t cause an Israeli Arab to drive into a crowd of people who were waiting at a light-railway station, killing a baby and an adult. Nor did this complaint make Muslim fundamentalists slit the throats of forty-seven people this past week in Kenya, for being unable to recite some lines from the Koran.Explanations for the actions of radical Islamists are not based on reality. They may make people sleep easier at night, but don’t change the reality of the situation. The fact is, that the Muslim and Palestinian leadership’s incitement of violence would not have such a receptive response if they didn’t have an pre-indoctrinated audience whose desire is not only the destruction of Jews, but of any Islamic non-believer, or infidel.It is interesting to note that while Abbas talked of peace, the SAJBD envisioned a peaceful co-existence through negotiated settlement. Abbas saw Islamic peace. It is as Greenfield explains a “peace that does not come from diversity, from accepting the existence of other nations, religions and peoples, but from unity through Islam and eliminating as many differences as possible.” This is made especially clear by the actions of these purported ‘Muslims.’The SAJBD should not have been so naive as to believe Abbas’ statements, when they announced that the “South African Jewish leadership welcomes the confirmation by President Abbas that he and his government remain committed to a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict with Israel, and to working with the Israeli government towards attaining that goal.”. It is well known that according to Islam, one is specifically licensed to lie in order to achieve Islamic goals and ‘higher purposes’.Worse still, Abbas stated, a mere three days after the SAJBD described their meeting with Abbas as “reassuring” that the Palestinians will never recognise Israel as a Jewish state.And further still, four days after the meeting Abbas declared he was no longer negotiating with the Israeli leadership and placed the issue recognising the state of the state ‘Palestine’ on the United Nations agenda.The SAJBD published a further statement regarding their meeting with Abbas reiterating their stand that negotiations between Abbas and Israel were essential and the only way forward. They described their detractors within the South African Jewish community as being right wing. This patriarchal approach was further evidenced by a person, who said he was a member of the leadership and the SAJBD, during a debate on the issue on a Facebook website. He described those who were unsupportive and embarrassed by the actions of the SAJBD as “a bunch of bored ignorant community members with nothing better to do troll on this site and accuse the leadership without even knowing a tenth of the behind the scenes plans.”Instead of answering rational questions posed by a very concerned public, the SAJBD further blocked certain members of the community from posting comments on their website. Ironically this approach is completely contrary to their approach to Abbas. In their most recent press release they stated “Damning and shutting out the other side is easy, it requires boldness (….) to talk to them and try no matter how difficult and even risky it might be, to find common ground.” A known Holocaust denier and one who incites violence is afforded far more respect than the members of the very community the SAJBD purports to represent.If there is a serious threat to South African Jewry, a secret plan and strategies in place to protect us, I would far prefer to know about them, than to be kept in the dark. After all it is leaders who are supposed serve their communities and not the other way round. The same person who insulted and personally attacked those who did not support his views suggested that we ‘owed’ the board for all the great work they do for us. Such in my view is not only undemocratic but further represents how the SAJBD treats its constituents.While the SAJBD has a new and young leadership, it seems to follow its predecessors’ penchant for pandering to whomever is in government, in the mistaken belief they are protecting their nation’s Jewry. Instead, they have made us a laughing stock. On Friday, one BDS South African BDS supporter posted “LOL” on the SAJBD’s press release comments. Iqbal Jassat, one of the leaders of BDS South Africa (an arch-enemy of SAJBD), tweeted on Saturday, that while Israel maintains that Abbas incites violence and hatred “the others @SAJBD sipped tea with him?”As one of Iran’s diplomats joked after Obama extended the deadline for Iran’s nuclear disarmament to July 2015, “I wonder what they put in his tea?” This is how the SAJBD, and consequently we too, are viewed, especially since immediately after the SAJBD’s tea with Abbas, he met with BDS South Africa and awarded them a gold medal of honour, congratulating them on their great supportive work for Palestinians.I guess I’ll need to take three Prozac then. I can’t find my shovel and shotgun in the dark. 


  5. 1 Mordechai 05 Dec
    By the way Ms Kluk & Mr Krengel, while the Israeli Governments position is to refuse to negotiate with Abbas and his PA  as long as they are in coalition with Hamas, you have no problem meeting with Abbas, and to add insult to injury you try to defend this meeting. Shame on you


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