South Africa – Israel Relations

The relationship between Israel and South Africa has become politically charged and heavily misunderstood from the South African side. It seems to come mostly from the heavy influence of hatred and misinformation from the BDS movement entrenched in the country and its government.

The Facts

Let’s get a big misconception out of the way first.

From Trade with Apartheid South Africa article -While Israel is widely accused of having been out of step with international trends by trading with South Africa in the eighties, the facts tell a different story. In 1986, during the height of Apartheid, South Africa’s main trading partners were, U.S.A. – $3.4 billion, Japan – $2.9 billion, Germany – $2.8 billion, U.K. – $2.6 billion. In defending Britain’s position at the time, Sir Alec Douglas Home referred to Britain’s heavy investment in South Africa and the strategic importance of naval facilities at Simonstown.

By comparison, Israel’s puny $200 million total trade with South Africa amounted to less than 1% of South Africa’s total trade.

The Apartheid regime could have been brought to its knees much earlier, had its oil supply been cut off. All its $2 billion annual oil import came from Arab states, mainly Saudi Arabia. A $1 billion barter deal was concluded with Iran, exchanging weapons from South Africa’s own armaments producers in exchange for oil. A similar deal for $750 million was concluded with Iraq. Is it not irrational that none of these countries is judged by the same yardstick that has been applied to Israel? Foreign investment was a major source of support to the regime. Arab countries accounted for one-third of the foreign investment in South Africa, totaling over 9 billion dollars. (Middle East Review, Summer 1985)

South Africans learning in Israel

Moving on we read about how Israel trained South Africans in Community Development and Leadership starting in the early 80’s. Surprised? Read all about that here in Coming out from the Cold.  

Israel’s love for Africa became a public government project when Golda Meir started a division nick-named Mashav, or Agency for International Development Cooperation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mashav is responsible for the design, coordination, and implementation of the State of Israel’s worldwide development and cooperation programs in developing countries. MASHAV believes that its greatest possible contribution to developing countries can be made in fields where Israel has relevant expertise accumulated during its own development experience as a young country facing similar challenges. MASHAV’s development programs are conducted through workshops and training in the fields of agriculture, education, and medicine and are funded jointly with multinational organizations such as the OAS, the Inter-American Development Bank, the UN development plan, UNESCO and the Food and Agriculture Organization. You read about some of this training in the article we linked above.  It was established on Golda Meir‘s initiative, in 1958, after her visit to Africa. Meir stated that it was the expression of empathy with victims of oppression, discrimination, and slavery. She came back from that trip “changed” as she herself said.

There is much more to say, but we hope this gives you a clearer picture of what Israel has done and truly feels for Africans of all countries.