There is something worse emanating from South Africa than the Omicron Covid variant – and that is the stinking hypocrisy of its government.
I’m thinking about the whole issue of racism, and how the tables have been turned in the post-apartheid era – but sometimes in a most unhelpful way.
Eliyahu Kay, a 26-year-old South African citizen from Johannesburg, was murdered on Sunday, November 21 by a Hamas terrorist in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Yet no official South African representative bothered to attend the funeral or even offer an expression of sympathy to his grieving family. The sort of help that would normally be expected in such circumstances. Neither have they condemned the atrocity. Not even a Tweet!
Eli, a tour guide, had chosen to make Aliyah (immigrate) to Israel, to which he is entitled as a Jew, while also retaining citizenship of his birth country. He was on his way to pray at the Western Wall when the terrorist struck.
The situation was exacerbated when grieving relatives from South Africa were refused entry to Israel on account of the virus.
The Pretoria authorities have become so entrenched in their dogged anti-Israel position that they are no longer even capable of doing the decent thing diplomatically.
They have also distanced themselves from their own contestant in the Miss Universe contest because it is being held in the Jewish state.
Thankfully, in a case of beauty overcoming the beast, Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane has ignored pressure not to compete.
South Africa is not alone among national governments to express such blatant antisemitism, but this is a particularly shocking instance, in my view, because it was South Africa’s Jewish community who led the campaign to bring down apartheid in the first place.
I think of the redoubtable Helen Suzman who, as the lone MP for the anti-apartheid Progressive Party in the 60s and 70s, castigated the ruling white Nationalists at every turn over their stubbornness to move from their entrenched position of denying voting and many other rights to people of colour. I myself became politically active on her behalf.
The Jewish community, in large measure, were also responsible for building up the nation’s economy (with undeniable help from cheap black labour admittedly), which the present rulers appear to be doing their best to destroy.
It’s no use whingeing about how Western nations are now ‘punishing’ them over the new Covid variant by banning flights to Cape Town and Johannesburg. Perhaps they should consider whether such ‘discipline’ has come from a higher place!
Will those who are forever harping on about Israel supposedly practicing apartheid now picket the South African Embassy over the country’s blatant racism against one of its own citizens?
Meanwhile the ‘race’ card continues to be misused and abused with reckless abandon, with ex-England cricket captain Michael Vaughan the latest victim. He has been dropped from the BBC broadcast team for this winter’s Ashes series in Australia for an alleged comment for which there appear to be few witnesses, apart from the complainant.
In the process of dropping the cricketing world in a pile of horse-muck, Azeem Rafiq alleges that Vaughan, when Yorkshire captain in 2009, told a group of Asian players: “There’s too many of you lot; we need to do something.”
Vaughan categorically refutes Rafiq’s version of events. And yet, entirely against the foundational spirit of democracy and justice on which our great nation is built, Vaughan is pronounced guilty as charged without the due process of law to which he is entitled. Whatever happened to the dictum, ‘innocent until proved guilty’?
As many now know, Rafiq has since been exposed for racism himself – specifically for antisemitic messages he had posted on Facebook ten years ago. And did the Jewish community react by throwing stones at him after his admittedly profuse apology?
Not a bit of it. Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, simply accepted his apology as ‘heartfelt’ and ‘sincere’ – and left it at that.
I really warmed to the way Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn dealt with this, writing: “People do and say stupid things, especially when they are young. A belief in forgiveness and redemption is the foundation of any civilised society.”
Jesus dealt with this issue in a parable in which the king cancelled all the many debts a servant owed him, only for the servant to then harangue someone who owed him a relatively trifling amount. He had refused to forgive a small debt when he had been forgiven so much by the king. (See Matt 18:21-35)
It’s a picture of what Jesus has done for us on the cross, where he bled and died an horrendous death. Can we not bring ourselves to forgive our brother who perhaps made an uncaring and thoughtless remark about us? As Jesus also said: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” (John 8:7)
Back to my home country. Since we have now entered the season of Advent, during which we traditionally focus on both the first and second coming of our Lord, I presume the South African government, and all those so quick to accuse people of racism, will be entering into the Christmas spirit.
They might care to consider that, without the Jews, we would never have had Christmas. Jesus was born a Jew, and died a Jew, and is coming back as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev 5:5). He is returning as Judge of all and King of Kings. And, at some stage, we will all have to give an account of every careless word we have spoken (Matt 12:36). It’s better that we put things right now.
All of which needs to be set in the context that Israel could soon be in the eye of the storm of a major new conflict (sparked by Iran), which may well usher in the return of our Lord. Are we ready for what, for each of us, will mean either judgment or joy?