Goodbye Ambassador Lenk, you won’t be missed

"Media coverage in South Africa is in fact overwhelmingly pro-Israel; your media junkets and continuous policing of content ensures it so." (Image: Times of Israel)

"Media coverage in South Africa is in fact overwhelmingly pro-Israel; your media junkets and continuous policing of content ensures it so." (Image: Times of Israel)

As far as trolls go, Arthur Lenk, Israel’s representative to Pretoria, was astutely ambassadorial. Mention Israel on Twitter and Ambassador would pop around to “celebrate” or “correct” the perception. He was a one-man PR stunt. True to his word, he represented Israel. Last week he bid goodbye to South Africans. Our co-founding editor Azad Essa says he won’t be missed.

In his treatise in the The Daily Maverick on July 3 the Israeli ambassador Arthur Lenk pointed out 11 things he had learnt during his tenure in South Africa.

Reading Lenk’s piece, it’s hard not to feel sorry for him. Imagine spending four years in a country and not learning anything? We can’t allow the good ambassador to return so misinformed.

“Africa and Israel have so much in common and have much to share with each other”

Ambassador, you may have spent too much time sipping cocktails with diplomats, but now is probably a good time to tell you that “Africa” is not a country. The last 60-70 years has seen Africa look to shake off occupiers, the same period has seen you cement yourself as an occupier of Palestinian land. You are exactly what the continent has been trying to shake off for the past 100 years. Today, you are making inroads into parts of the continent, but the relationship is laced with self-interest. You want votes at the Security Council in your favour and you want a larger sphere of influence.

“South Africa’s liberation story still has resonance and inspiration for so many of us around the world.”

South Africa’s liberation story is inspiring, and holds resonance worldwide. I can’t deny that. Is this why you continue to build settlements in the West Bank despite your closest ally, the United States, asking you not to do so? Is this why you continue to interfere with your neighbours under the guise of security and work closely with the biggest dictatorships in the region (Saudi Arabia and Egypt) in quelling the rights of the Palestinians? Remarkable use of a bedtime story.

“Transformation can only come from being forward-looking. Both Israel and South Africa were born from great tragedy.”

Pray, do tell, how forward-looking is the state of Israel? If South Africa needed to work on its foreign policy, let’s not forget that the forward-looking Israeli state provided arms for the apartheid regime in South Africa. The forward-looking Israel state also contracted a completely dependent economic relationship with the United States. What would happen to your forward-looking country if the US didn’t pay the bills?

“Despite solidarity and real empathy with other national freedom movements, in the main, South Africa’s struggle movements clearly rejected terrorism.”

Here again, I think you read the wrong history book. Nelson Mandela went to jail for 27 years for being a terrorist. The US government considered him and the ANC terrorists. Reagan said the ANC was involved in: “calculated terror ... the mining of roads, the bombings of public places, designed to bring about further repression.” Mandela was considered a terrorist until 2008.

You are engaging in a revisionist history, building a version that fits your worldview. “Oh he was a terrorist [but] he didn’t do this, or didn’t do that”. No, Mr Ambassador, don’t do that.

He didn’t go to jail for selling popsicles. He was a terrorist to the apartheid regime. Say it.

And you must be joking. How blatantly Islamophobic can you be by claiming that terrorism is exclusive to the “Muslim world?” Are you trying to say there is something inherently violent about Muslims, while at the same time praising your Ramadan iftars with South Africa’s great Muslim community? And do you really think violence and “terror” are the exclusive property of Muslims? What about your great allies (and sugar daddies) who went to war illegally in this “violent Muslim world” on a false pretence of weapons of mass destruction? It’s time you read some books, ambassador.

“I am astoundingly privileged on a personal level.”

I am a little disturbed that you learnt of privilege only after coming to South Africa. Is the education system really poor in Israel? Is it just you, or are all Israelis so oblivious to their privilege? Odd.

If you wanted to “share” or “repair the world”, you could look at what your government is doing to Gaza or the West Bank and just stop the brutality. Instead you come to Africa bearing gifts for poor black rural folk and talk about repairing the world. Take your vegetable gardens elsewhere. How patronising.

“My Jewish brothers and sisters have played a key role in South Africa over the years.”

Absolutely. While Israel propped up apartheid, many South African Jews fought against apartheid. Today, there are incidents of anti-semitism. At The Daily Vox, we have reported on these incidents vociferously.

Lucky, most of us can separate Zionist identity from Jewish identity and won’t allow either Zionists or anti-Semites to derail the call for justice for Palestinians. You should too.

“Surprisingly perhaps, South Africa’s Jews and Muslims have much in common.”

Now this part was extremely disappointing. Here, you show how little you know. Muslims and Jews in South Africa live among each other. This is South Africa, where race and class mean more than religion. You didn’t get briefed before you flew in?

But here’s something else you should know: those who won’t break bread with you (Muslim or otherwise) choose not to because of what you represent as an Israeli occupier, and not because you are Jewish.

The “good” Muslims who might hang out with you at inter-faith events, or invite you to talks, are apolitical. Your attempt to conflate the issue into a religious drama, hence your “surprise” that Muslims and Jews get along, is frankly detestable.

“Despite radically one-sided media coverage (one prominent media company literally has a daily item on its international page dedicated to demonising Israel) and despite limited engagement by the ANC, a majority of South Africans, of all backgrounds, are friendly to Israel and to constructive partnerships.”

Mr Ambassador, you are not making sense.

You claim on one hand that that the media is firmly anti-Israel and yet the majority of people are pro-Israel?

So does this mean that the South African media are not influential in forming public opinion? Explain it to me.

The truth, Ambassador, is a lot less welcoming.

Media coverage in South Africa is in fact overwhelmingly pro-Israel; your media junkets and continuous policing of content ensures it so. You enjoy support in many parts of the country and in many parts of the continent because they don’t know you are a settler-colonial state. Yes, the masses are uninformed about Israeli crimes. All they know is your vegetable gardens and goodie bags from Mashav.

Once they know what you are, they will not support you. And yes, we are working on that.

“The lazy use of the word ‘apartheid’ in regard to Israel is insulting to South African history and factually wrong.”

Do us all a favour: when you go back to Israel, can you check up on the 50-plus laws that discriminate against Palestinians, and let us know if it is bad enough to be apartheid? Also, could you clarify if the 100 Jewish-only housing colonies built on Palestinian land in the West Bank are still only for one people?

Also, could you clarify if the the wall built to divide Jerusalem from the West Bank, and the Jewish-only roads, and the permits Palestinians must carry, and the checkpoint through which they must travel are all still there? Because if they are, we will continue calling it apartheid.

And by the way, good on you to compare Israel’s “democracy” with the most authoritarian government in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia. At least you know what company you keep.

“Israelis and South Africans are already working together.”

Oh, I don’t know if you realise, but Israel and South Africa have been working together for the longest time. During apartheid you were the biggest arms supplier to apartheid South Africa. Of late, around 150 South Africans have allegedly fought for your army, and contributed to your list of war crimes. Oh, also you supplied the SAPS with water cannons used on the students in the Fees Must Fall protests in 2015 and 2016.

The Daily Vox

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