JERUSALEM (Jun. 6)
Israel found itself this weekend in a diplomatic collision with South Africa. A recent announcement by Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Yosef Tekoah, that Israel will contribute $2,857 to the Organization for African Unity for food and medical supplies brought a bitter reaction from Premier B.J. Vorster of South Africa. He angrily rejected an explanation by the Israeli Consul General in Johannesburg that the donation “must be viewed in the context of Israel’s position in the world” and “was made in response to a request to all member states by the Secretary General of the UN.” Vorster’s reaction was echoed in the South African press over the week-end. The Israeli move also brought an official statement of condemnation from South Africa’s Jewish community, long one of the most loyal and generous supporters of the Jewish State in the world. In an unrelated but parallel development, Israel came under attack Friday by Arab diplomats on the UN Special Committee on Apartheid for allegedly selling arms to South Africa. Premier Vorster declared in an interview in the Johannesburg newspaper Volksblad that “No matter how one tries to understand Israel’s motivation, her explanation is unacceptable to us and cannot be justified. I wish to express my strongest dissatisfaction with it.” He declared he could not understand how Israel “which has itself a terrorist problem can justify a contribution to help other terrorists.”
The OAU, an umbrella organization which supports African “freedom fighters” against the remaining vestiges of colonialism on the continent and against South Africa’s official policy of Apartheid, has been supported by many Western governments, church groups and other humanitarian organizations. The Foreign Ministry said on Friday that the food and medicine ear-marked for the OAU had not yet been delivered and that inquiries about the desired mode of delivery have not been answered. Gershon Avner, deputy director of the Israeli Foreign Ministry who is currently visiting South Africa, said it was a misinterpretation to say the donation would aid terrorists because Israel is able to control the use to which the money is put. The South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the South African Zionist Federation declared in a joint statement, “We have great difficulty in accepting the report of Israel’s donation to the OAU though the amount involved is inconsequential.” The statement added, “Many innocent people in Israel have suffered from terrorists. The Jewish community in South Africa condemns any support for terrorists from whatever source and is confident that the government of Israel shares this view.” South Africa’s Jewish community numbers about 120,000. South African newspapers, rejecting the explanation of Israeli Consul General Yitzhak Unna who conceded that Israel did not expect the South African government to approve of her action but hoped it would “understand” Israel’s motivations, saw the Israeli donation as an attempt to buy black African votes in the UN against the Arab-Soviet bloc.
(While South Africa was accusing Israel of abetting black African “terrorists” Arabs at the UN denounced Israel for allegedly providing arms to South Africa and, by implication, approving South Africa’s racial policies. Israel’s denial that it was selling arms to South Africa was attacked on Friday by Nadji Jazzar, the Syrian representative to the Special Committee on Apartheid. He and Kamal Mustafa, of the Sudan, called the Israeli denial “misleading” and demanded that it be denied document status. The committee chairman, Abdulrahim Abby Farah of Somalia ruled however that all UN members have the right to record their views. Jazzar supported his charges by quoting from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Daily News Bulletin of May 4 a Jerusalem dispatch reporting that the Israeli Foreign Ministry admitted that Israel’s Uzi submachinegun was being manufactured in South Africa. According to that dispatch, the Foreign Ministry explained that South Africa was making the weapon under a sub-contracting arrangement with a Belgian firm which Israel had licensed in the 1950’s. Israel was, therefore, powerless to prevent it, the Ministry said, adding that Israel subsequently acted to bar such arrangements in the future without her permission.) Observers here were uncertain today whether South Africa’s angry reaction to Israel’s small donation to the OAU would affect the expanding economic relations between the two countries.