S. Africa may cancel dual citizenship to curb IDF enlistment
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S. Africa may cancel dual citizenship to curb IDF enlistment

African National Congress considering change in bid to stop country's Jews from serving in Israel's army

Obed Bapela (R), a deputy minister in South African President Jacob Zuma’s office, who threatened to summon students who visited Israel to an investigation. (YouTube)
Obed Bapela (R), a deputy minister in South African President Jacob Zuma’s office, who threatened to summon students who visited Israel to an investigation. (YouTube)

The African National Congress, South Africa’s ruling party, is considering canceling the country’s dual citizenship policy in a bid to prevent South African Jews from making aliya and serving in the IDF.

Obed Bapela, a senior ANC official who heads its National Executive Committee on International Relations, said the “model” of dual citizenship may not have “a place in the world,” the South African daily The Sunday Times reported.

The government in Pretoria has been among the most hostile to Israel in recent years. South Africa’s minister of higher education Blade Nzimande, a member of the Communist Party, has openly campaigned to boycott Israeli universities and other institutions, and was denied entry into the country for a working visit to Palestinian Authority areas in April.

An ANC party conference discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the issue of South Africans serving in the IDF, in July. The issue would be taken up again in the party’s National General Council in October, the Times said.

The country’s Jewish Board of Deputies has accused ANC officials of singling out South African Jews.

While IDF enlistment was cited explicitly by Bapela and others as the reason for reconsidering South Africa’s acceptance of dual citizenship, no figures have been provided by the party for how many South Africans actually serve in the IDF. With a population over 53 million and large immigrant populations from Asia and other parts of Africa, any change to the South African constitution to enable stripping South African migrants to Israel of their citizenship may end up affecting millions of other citizens.

Jews account for an estimated 0.2 percent of the country’s population. It is not known how many currently serve in the IDF.

In July, Bapela called for an investigation of politically active students who had visited Israel under the auspices of the South Africa Israel Forum, since the visit brought the African National Congress into “disrepute,” he said.

The director of the South Africa Israel Forum, Dan Brotman, told the Israeli daily Haaretz that “some of the participants, who will be future leaders in South Africa, were under enormous pressure not to come or received threats over being kicked out of their political parties.”

“The goal is not to make them pro-Israel, but to expose them to a narrative they really don’t hear in South Africa,” he said.

Bapela said Israel was “offering free trips and holidays to embarrass the ANC,” adding that it was a “campaign by Israel to distort our stand on Palestine. We have a clear position that supports Palestinian freedom. No leader of the ANC in a private capacity or for the party will visit Israel. It will be putting the ANC in disrepute.”

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