As a white South African Jew who has lived her whole life in South Africa, I found my home in the African National Congress. I joined the ANC with the singular focus of improving the lives of my fellow citizens, especially those of women in a country ridden by gender-based violence. I was also inspired by the example set by the many Jewish freedom fighters who fought side-by-side with the ANC in the liberation struggle and I hoped to follow in their footsteps.
Over the years that I have been part of and committed to the ANC, I have fought for the rights of the students, women, disabled and children of this country. I Have held numerous leadership positions, including the PYA deployee in the Wits SRC, ANCWL YWD mental health subcommittee, ANCYL Wits BTT Deputy Secretary General, ANCWL PEC Gauteng Spokesperson and as of recent I was running for ANC deployee for National Parliament in the upcoming elections in 2024. I have stood by the ANC and defended its positions.
When I joined, I made it clear to the organisation that I was an identifying, religiously observant Jew and that I stand with Israel, as my Jewish homeland. At the same time, I also made it clear that I stand with the ANC’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is to continue to call for “the return to the negotiation table to give effect to a 2-state solution that will see a sovereign State of Palestine peacefully co-existing alongside the State of Israel.” As I frequently stressed, neither belief contradicted one another – one could support the rights of both peoples at the same time.
Despite this, throughout my membership, I was continually confronted by people trying to shift my focus to a conflict taking place not in my country, not in my continent, but in the Middle East. This was not why I joined the ANC. I joined the ANC to contribute and be part of the historic mission of the ANC to create a “non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa in which the people as a whole shall govern and all shall enjoy equal rights.”
On the holy Sabbath of 7 October 2023, a Hamas terrorist attack of the utmost barbarity resulted in over 1300 of my fellow Jewish brothers and sisters being brutally murdered. Babies were beheaded and burnt, women raped and a further 130 civilians were taken hostage. It was the worst massacre of Jews in a single day since the Holocaust.
At this time of such great grief and trauma, I was truly hoping that my own party would show a level of compassion to what I and my Jewish community was experiencing and condemn those responsible. For a whole week I waited. I engaged with my structures and political leadership, explaining the hurt and pain that I, as a Jew, felt in the face of such savagery and hatred towards Jews. Time and again I stressed that condemning Hamas’s atrocities would not in any way sell out the ANC’s support for the Palestinian cause. I asked why the ANC, as a party who stands up for human rights, refuses to recognise the painful violations done to my people? However, no answer was given.
The final nail in the coffin for me, was coming out of my holy Sabbath to hear my party’s leader Cyril Ramaphosa tacitly justifying the way Hamas took up this issue and waged war. As for the mass murder of 1300 Jews, this was dismissed with an empty comment stating, “we send condolences to Israel.” As an organisation who stands for human rights, sending condolences is not enough.
If on the same day the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), Mahmoud Abbas, can release a statement, issued by his office stating, “his rejection and condemnation of all violence directed against civilians, regardless of who was behind it or the reason for it”, then why can’t the leader of the ANC, do the same?
All of this fell on deaf ears. Not once was there any empathy shown regarding these atrocities nor any condemnation of Hamas for perpetrating them. It hurts me deeply that the same organisation to which I and so many Jewish Struggle heroes and heroines, belonged to, cannot find in itself the moral integrity to condemn Hamas’s inhumane crimes against my people.
Through my engagements not once was any empathy shown. Nor was there any condemnation of Hamas’s atrocities committed against innocent civilians. It hurts me deeply that the same organisation to which I and so many Jewish Struggle heroes and heroines, belonged, cannot find in itself the moral integrity to condemn Hamas’s inhumane crimes against my people.
If the organisation cannot find in itself the basic empathy and moral integrity to speak out against the abominable actions of Hamas against my people, then for the time being, I cannot stand by the ANC. This breaks my heart, as I naively thought the ANC would put its South African citizens before a conflict miles away. The ANC has taken a position of justifying terrorism, and in so doing, forced me into a position where I cannot stand with them.
Today is a very sad day for me. I have unfailingly stood by the positions of the ANC and called the ANC my home, a home which I thought stood up for human rights and the rights of women and children.
If the ANC cannot recognise the killing of my fellow Jewish people as an unjustified evil, then I beg to wonder how much they recognise my life – as a South African Jew?
It truly breaks my heart that a time has come where I have to speak out against the ANC, a party which I served, scarified, advocated, committed my whole being to and called my home. But the party has given me no choice. I have a moral duty to stand with those people who advocate for human rights and speak out against those who justify them.
Accordingly, until such time that the ANC condemns these inhumane acts by Hamas, I Gabriella Nechama Farber cannot stand with the ANC. I look forward to the day the ANC changes its position and does the right thing. In which case, I will continue to serve the mission of the ANC.
Signed 16 October 2023
Gabriella Nechama Farber, a South African Jew.
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