Israel Trade with South Africa is Minute, Updated Study Shows
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Israel Trade with South Africa is Minute, Updated Study Shows

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Despite claims to the contrary, Israel’s trade with South Africa is minute and Jewish opposition to apartheid is significant, an updated study by the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation indicates.

The revised edition of the popular monograph entitled “Jews, Zionism and South Africa,” includes expanded in formation on the response of the South African Jewish Community to apartheid. There is also a new chapter on the infiltration and exploitation of the anti-apartheid movement by anti-Israel forces.

The study was made by Yosef Abramowitz, a member of the B’nai B’rith Hillel National Student Secretariat and a student at Boston University, who, as a major in international relations and an intern at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), has done a great deal of research on these issues. The study was edited by Rabbi Stanley Ringler, formerly the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundations director of community affairs and development. B’nai B’rith Hillel is a sponsor of this report.


The purpose of the study, says Ringler, is to refute the libelous slogan of Zionism equals racism from being spread around American college campuses. “Well-intentioned student activists, for lack of understanding of the true character and purpose of Zionism, internalize the lie,” Ringler explains. “They accept the insidious propaganda about Zionism and condemn the alleged South African-Israeli alliance as a conspiracy of two racist states.”

Abramowitz states that the anti-apartheid movement has been infiltrated by an anti-Israel element. “While seeking to spread an ugly lie in an effort to undermine support for Israel, it threatens to compromise the purpose and legitimate goals of the antiapartheid movement,” he says.

Abramowitz calls the strategy to discredit Israel through South Africa a two-pronged attack: one, to highlight trade between the two countries, and two, to perpetuate the Zionism equals racism slur “with the understanding that since racism is evil, so too is Zionism.”


Pointing out that Israel is “constantly accused” of being one of South Africa’s largest arms suppliers, Abramowitz cites studies by the Congressional. Research Service and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, both of which indicate that Western nations, especially France, have been the biggest suppliers and that weapons have also been sent to South Africa by the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia.

In 1974, the year of the highest imports of major weapons by South Africa during the 1964-83 period, Israel had no sales to that nation. On the other hand, Jordan sold Pretoria 41 Centurion armored vehicles and 55 short Tigercat missiles.

As to nuclear programs, for which Israel has been accused of aiding South Africa, a 1979 report by the United Nations Security Council listed the United States, Great Britain, France, West Germany, and the Netherlands as the major nations cooperating with South Africa.

According to the Abramowitz report, Israel’s arms sales to South Africa have concentrated on the navy, “the least important part of the South African military in the preservation and perpetuation of apartheid.” In 1977-78, Israel delivered three guided missile boats; nine others were constructed in South Africa under Israeli license between 1978 and 1984.

In addition, Israel sold Pretoria six patrol boats. No weapons that could be used to repress the South African Blacks have been sold by Israel since the United Nations passed a resolution in 1979 boycotting arms to South Africa, the report says.


As for other trade, Israeli exports to South Africa have been modest, Abramowitz says. In contrast, 100 percent of South Africa’s oil from 1971-1974 came from Persian Gulf Moslem states, with Iran supplying 50 percent, Saudi Arabia 17 percent, Iraq 15 percent, and Qatar II percent. After 1974, the Arab states did not reveal their oil exports. It is believed that they went unreported out of fear of the effect such reports would have on the Arabs’ relationship with those African countries that had broken diplomatic relations with Israel.

The Shipping Research Bureau and Lloyd’s Voyage Records later disclosed that Arab oil exports to South Africa have remained high and that the Arab nations’ entire trade with the South Africans, which includes gold, food and livestock, was second only to that of the United States. (Arab states reportedly take in some $3 billion a year in gold from South Africa.)

Despite this vast trade by other nations with South Africa, the bulk of the blame has been laid on Israel and the American Jewish community. Accusations have not been made against Arab or Western nations, nor to Arab-Americans, British-Americans or any other groups, thus hinting that anti-Semitism plays a role in the charges.


As a reaction to apartheid, the B’nai B’rith Hillel National Student Secretariat study reports that the Jewish abhorrence of apartheid “is consistent with the tradition that made Jews part of the (U.S.) civil rights movement.”

Abramowitz points out that the Jewish community both in South Africa and elsewhere throughout the world has been in the forefront of the struggle to end apartheid. The study points out that B’nai B’rith International was on record against apartheid as early as 1966. The study also points out the anti-apartheid activities of other major Jewish organizations, most notably Jewish Community Relations Councils.

A new chapter has been added on the response of the South African Jewish community to the injustices of apartheid. The study points out that the South African Jewish community has long been the source of major white opposition to the apartheid system. On June 12, 1985 the South African Jewish Board of Deputies became the first white community organization to call for the removal of all apartheid laws and the total “rejection” of apartheid.

Copies of the study can be obtained from the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundations, 1640 Rhode Island Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036.

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