You are here

South African diplomat rejects Israeli "gift" of Apartheid trees

As reported by the New York TimesWashington PostIsrael National NewsSky News,Mail&GuardianIOLNews24  and several other news agencies South Africa's ambassador to Israel, Mr Ismail Coovadia (who recently completed his term in Tel Aviv last December) has rejected and is returning a "gift" presented to him by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The former anti-apartheid activist, active member of South Africa's ruling party the African National Congress and long-time diplomat has cited Israel's "Apartheid" policies toward the indigenous Palestinians as the reason for his action. The "gift" was a certificate [find a copy here:] indicating that 18 trees would be planted in honour and in the name of the South African Ambassador by the Israeli parastatal, the Jewish National Fund (JNF). In a hard hitting letter, Coovadia writes: 

"I have recently completed serving my term as the fifth Ambassador of democratic, non-racial South Africa to the State of Israel...regrettably, my permission was not sought [by the JNF nor the Israeli Government] to plant a tree/s in my or the name of the South African Ambassador on usurped land, the rightful land of the Palestinians and Bedouins. I reserve the right to the usage of my name...I have supported the struggle against Apartheid South Africa and now I cannot be a proponent of what I have witnessed in Israel, and that is, a replication of Apartheid."
"The 'Certificate' awarded to me by Mr. Rafael Barak, the Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the backing of the JNF, is nothing less than an offence to my dignity and integrity. I was not a party to, and never will be, to the planting of '18 trees', in my 'honour', on expropriated and stolen land...I shall be returning the 'Certificate' to the Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a humble request to remove the '18 my honour'."  


The gift 'Cetificate' to the former South African ambassador was co-signed by the controversial Israeli parastatal organization, the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The JNF is the subject of a recently released documentary titled "Village Under the Forest" by Emmy-award winning filmmaker, Mark Kaplan and Cape Town based Jewish scholar, Heidi Grunebaum [Village Under the Forest will be re-screened at the Bioscope next Thursday at 19h30 in Johannesburg, more info:]. The film explores the role of the JNF in building the "South Africa Forest" over the Israeli-destroyed Palestinian village of Lubya (destroyed by Israeli forces in 1948, during the Palestinian "Nakba"). The JNF is celebrated by Israel and its supporters for its forest building work, however, the JNF is also criticized by human rights activists and experts for its involvement in the Israeli oppression and "ethnic-cleansing" against the indigenous Palestinian people, and specifically the construction of forests above Israeli-destroyed Palestinian villages in an attempt to erase traces of Palestinian life.
The JNF tries to operate as a charity in some countries including South Africa, but is coming underincreasing protest by the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel movementfor its involvement in the Israeli displacement, forced removals and oppression of the indigenous Palestinian people. Recently, after months of nationwide protests, South Africa's largest toy retailer, "Reggies", terminated its charity relationship with the JNF.

More at 

Filed under: