The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) on Sunday hit back at Sports, Arts, and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, accusing him of being missing in action and “disinterested in real matters” other than the Miss Universe pageant.
Earlier, Mthethwa announced that the South Africa government was withdrawing support for Miss SA organisers who insist on participating in the controversial Miss Universe pageant in Israel next month.
Stung by Mthethwa’s announcement, the SAJBD said: “Our minister of sports, arts, and culture has been noticeably absent these past 18 months.
“He has been largely silent about artists who appealed to him for help during the Covid lockdown.
“His response to the closing down of national heritage treasures like the Apartheid Museum and Lilliesleaf Farm was appalling.”
The SAJBD said the minister’s disinterest in upholding the real issues facing arts and cultural imperatives have been palpable.
“Yet when it comes to placating the radical anti-Israel lobby who demand that Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane withdraw from the Miss Universe Pageant in Eilat, suddenly Minister Mthethwa finds his voice,” said the SAJBD.
“It is quite clear that Minister Mthethwa’s view is a minority one.”
The board said a poll conducted by Newzroom Afrika on Thursday night as to whether Miss SA should withdraw from the Miss Universe event in Israel showed a plurality of nearly 2:1 in favour of her competing.
“The PSA protest attracted a bare handful of activists,” said the SAJBD .
“This is despite the barrage of intimidation by groups such as Africa4Palestine and SA BDS in the media have resulted in comments calling for them to stop bullying Lalela and for her to participate in the event
“South Africa has diplomatic ties and extensive commercial trade relations with Israel.
“It engages in events such as this one, such as hosting the Israeli Davis Cup team in 2018. The way we influence situations is to engage, not to withdraw.”
The SAJBD said it believed closing doors “merely isolates us” from contributing to finding peace.
“What better opportunity for a South African to be part of an event where she can connect with 70 countries around the world, including many Arab countries, in sharing our story of dialogue and peace-building?” asked the SAJBD.