Friday, October 15, 2010

Cosatu's fight against (in)justice is not based on anti-semitism....Is it?

The 86th session of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) Tourism Committee conference will be hosted in Isreal, next week.

SA Tourism was invited, but are unable to attend. "Cosatu saluted the SA tourism ministry on Thursday for not attending a tourism conference to be hosted by Israel"

It is no surprise that Cosatu is happy about SA tourism's non-attendance. Cosatu openly supports the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign against Israel, which Cosatu says is an Apartheid state.

Cosatu has been accused by right-wing, conservative Jews (and some others) for being not only anti-Isreal, but anti-semitic too. The Jews argue that while the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians needs to be resolved peacefully and quickly, Cosatu's focus on Israel as an 'apartheid state' is not only unjustified, but smacks of anti-semitism.

Cosatu denies these accusations, claiming that calls to boycott Israel are not anti-Israel per se, nor anti-semitic, but simply part of their continued fight against injustice wherever it may occur

Cosatu is right to support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign. After all, Cosatu has led the ethical and moral transaformation in South Africa. Cosatu fought against apartheid, and continue to highlight the injustices that pervade the world.

Here are some other BDS campaigns that Cosatu vocally supports:

BDS Saudi Arabia

Cosatu has led multiple marches on the Saudi Arabia embassy in Pretoria. Cosatu continues to fight for the rights of Christians, who are all too often oppressed and repressed. These marches aim to highlight the religious intolerance of the Saudi authorities.

Here's why Cosatu continues to march on the Saudi embassy:

"Saudi Arabia's treatment of religious minorities has also been described by both Saudis and non-Saudis as "apartheid" and "religious apartheid"

Testifying before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on June 4, 2002, in a briefing entitled "Human Rights in Saudi Arabia: The Role of Women", Ali Al-Ahmed, Director of the Saudi Institute, stated: Saudi Arabia is a glaring example of religious apartheid. The religious institutions from government clerics to judges, to religious curricula, and all religious instructions in media are restricted to the Wahhabi understanding of Islam, adhered to by less than 40% of the population. The Saudi government communized Islam, through its monopoly of both religious thoughts and practice. Wahhabi Islam is imposed and enforced on all Saudis regardless of their religious orientations. The Wahhabi sect does not tolerate other religious or ideological beliefs, Muslim or not. Religious symbols by Muslims, Christians, Jewish and other believers are all banned. The Saudi embassy in Washington is a living example of religious apartheid. In its 50 years, there has not been a single non-Sunni Muslim diplomat in the embassy. The branch of Imam Mohamed Bin Saud University in Fairfax, Virginia instructs its students that Shia Islam is a Jewish conspiracy."

BDS Jordan

Cosatu's fight for women's rights is widely known. Cosatu has been particulalry pro-active in highlighting the lack of women's rights in Jordan. The apartheid style discrimnation of women in Jordan has led to Cosatu's calls for the South African government to break all diplomatic and trade ties with that country.

Here is why Cosatu is furthering the cause of women in Jordan:

"While Jordan, compared with many other Middle Eastern countries, scores quite highly in democratic league tables” , human rights, especially women’s rights perform poorly.

Article 340 of the Jordanian Penal Code stipulates: "He who discovers his wife or one of his female relatives committing adultery (with a man) and kills, wounds or injures one or both of them, is exempt from any penalty." Another clause states: "He who discovers his wife or one of his female relatives with another in an adulterous situation, and kills, wounds or injures one or both of them benefits from a reduction in penalty. When an attempt to cancel article 340 did not succeed, MP Mahmoud Al-Kharabshehm, speaking for 31 other MP's, said: "The changes will lead to a degredation of Jordanian society, affect the Jordanian family, and remove the deterring element embedded in article 340."

Furthermore, women do not have the same status as men with respect to nationality. A Jordanian man may marry a foreigner and pass on his nationality to his children; women can not. Women can't even pass on their nationality to their husbands

BDS Bangladesh

In staging demonstrations against the persecution of Buddhists in Bangladesh, Cosatu have managed to raise the profile of this community. Cosatu has opposed what is tantamount to Apartheid style torture and forced removals by the Bangladeshi government

Here's why Cosatu continues to hold demonstrations and rallies in support of Bangladeshi Buddhists:

"The Buddhist communities of Bangladesh are under pressure from the military and police not to practice Buddhism, and Buddhists have suffered abuse, arrest, and even rapes. The government encourages Muslim settlement in Buddhist areas, as part of its campaign to promote Islam. According to Jumma exiles, torture and murder of Buddhists is a frequent occurrence"

BDS Iran

Cosatu has called for the boycott of all good manufactured in Iran. This has been in solidarity of the Gay and Lesbian community of Iran, who continue to be subjected to Apartheid-style state executions and persecution

Here's why Cosatu has called for Iranian products to be pulled from South African shelves:

"On July 19, 2005, when two teenage boys, Mahmoud Asgari, 14, and Ayaz Marhoni, 16, were hanged in a particularly brutal manner in Iran for the crime of homosexual activity. Although Iranian officials insisted that the death sentence was for the rape of a third boy, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, has said otherwise.

But Asgari and Marhoni were not alone. According to the Iranian gay and lesbian rights group Homan, the Iranian government has put to death an estimated 4,000 homosexuals since 1980. According to Scott Long, director of the Human Rights Watch Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program, Iranians who are suspected of being gay commonly face torture. Hossein Alizadeh of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said Iran gays live with “constant fear of execution and persecution and also social stigma associated with homosexuality.”

BDS Israel

Despite Israel's commitment to a peaceful and speedy resolution of its conflict with the Palestinians, Cosatu continues to fight apartheid-style practices by the Israeli apartheid state.

Here's why Cosatu's anti-Israel marches, boycotts and demonstrations against Israel are not anti-semitic in nature, but rather fall in line with Cosatu's other campaigns against injustice around the world:

"Israel's Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty seeks to defend human rights and liberties in Israel. Israel is the only country in the region ranked "Free" by Freedom House based on the level of civil liberties and political rights

In 2010, Israel was also the only country in the Middle East to be ranked "free" by Freedom House's "Freedom of the Press report, ranking the highest in the region."

Women in Israel have been guaranteed gender equality since the establishment of the state in 1948. This has enabled women to actively participate in Israeli life. The Israeli Declaration of Independence states: “The State of Israel (…) will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”

Israel has no entrenched constitution, but freedom of religion is anchored in law. While the Basic Laws of Israel that serve in place of a constitution define the country as a "Jewish state," these Basic Laws, coupled with Knesset statutes, decisions of the Supreme Court of Israel, and various elements of the common law current in Israel, also protect free practice of religion in the country. Legal accommodation of the non-Jewish communities follows the pattern and practice of the Ottoman and British administrations with some important modifications. Israeli law officially recognizes five religions, all belonging to the Abrahamic family of religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Druzeism and the Bahá'í Faith. Furthermore, the law formally recognizes ten separate sects of Christianity: the Roman, Armenian, Maronite, Syriac, and Chaldean Catholic Churches; the Eastern Orthodox Greek Orthodox Church; the Oriental Orthodox Syriac Orthodox Church; the Armenian Apostolic Church; and the Anglican Evangelical Episcopal Church.

Rights for sexual minorities in Israel are considered to be the most tolerant in the Middle East. A national gay rights law bans some anti-gay discrimination"

So, back to the question:

Does Cosatu’s support of the BDS campaign against Israel smack of anti-semitism?

I'm not sure

I would be in a much better position to answer that question if BDS campaigns against Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bangladesh and Iran actually existed


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