The Board of Deputies has requested an urgent meeting with the South African High Commissioner in London after his country’s decision to relabel Israeli settlement goods as originating in occupied territory.
A spokesman for the Board said it was “troubled” by the labelling move which has outraged South African Jewry and Israel.
The status of Israeli settlements were “an issue which is part of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians,” the spokesman said, and “not something to be unilaterally acted on by those in other parts of the world. It is disappointing that Israel seems to be the only country on earth to be singled out in this way.”
South African Jewish leaders have denounced the proposed step as “discriminatory, divisive [and] inconsistent with South African trade policy”.
In a joint statement, the heads of the South African Board of Deputies and the Zionist Federation along with the country’s Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein, said that they believed it “to be motivated not by technical trade concerns but by political bias against the state of Israel. All attempts to discuss these concerns, however, have come to nothing”.
They believed it indicative of the government’s “increasingly hostile attitude not against Israel, but towards acknowledging and engaging with how the Jewish community feels about issues relating to it”.
Last week its Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim said that South Africans should not visit Israel because it was “an occupier country”.
The South African High Commissioner, Dr Zola Skweyiya, has enjoyed good relations with the British Jewish community. Earlier in summer, he was a guest speaker at the UK launch of a book written by the South African Board of Deputies, which celebrates Jewish support for Nelson Mandela and the struggle against apartheid.