The recent statements made by South Africa's international relations minister about the country's actual boycott on official visits to Israel and on Israelis' visits have been reported by our media, but few have grasped the full meaning of the matter.
It's been more than a decade since South Africa became the ground zero of initiatives aimed at boycotting and isolating Israel. South Africa is perceived today, certainly in Europe and among the liberal Left in the West, as "the world's conscience," as a country which overpowered the apartheid regime, gave the world Nelson Mandela's leadership and is trying to sustain a regime of equality between black and white people.
It symbolizes to the world hope for a future of equality, while the actual reality – gaps, discrimination, corruption and violence – is irrelevant to its symbolic status. For those who want to be on the "right" side of the conscience in the world, South Africa points out the way.
So it's no coincidence that initiatives, phenomena and ideas against Israel which began in South Africa turned into global phenomena. South Africa was the country which hosted the UN human rights conference in the city of Durban in 2011 – a conference which turned into an anti-Israel festival and paved the way for misusing the human rights discourse in order to isolate and boycott Israel as a criminal apartheid regime, known as the "Durban strategy."
South Africa was the country which implemented an academic boycott policy against Israel in the unprecedented decision of the University of Johannesburg to cut its ties with Ben-Gurion University. South Africa is the country which began labeling products from communities located beyond the Green Line, and which engages in an actual policy of boycotting official meetings.
Moreover, South Africa also outlined the activity of Jews from the radical Left against Israel, and using them to ward off claims that the activity against Israel is infected with racism and anti-Semitism. The Jewish community in South Africa is one of the most Zionist and committed to Israel communities, but it operates in a hostile environment, and the very few Jews who act against Israel in the country get much more exposure.
And when phenomena born in South Africa reach the European leadership and US campuses, Israel and the Jewish organizations stand up to curb them. But at this stage, there is a need for significant investment and for a battle against a powerful trend.
So rather than directing most resources to the United States, some to Europe, and none to South Africa, the resource distribution pyramid must be turned over and significant resources should be invested in blocking or softening anti-Israel initiatives while they are still in South Africa. A successful battle in the epicenter will make it possible to prevent the damage from spreading to the rest of the world.
Former Knesset Member Dr. Einat Wilf is a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI)