All power - or kol hakavod - to the foreign ministry for arranging fact-finding trips to Israel for African journalists, particularly since the temptation exists to invite misleading comparisons with Apartheid, which several might have experienced first-hand. But is the ministry dishing out ALL the facts? Rhoda Kadalie wrote this article for Business Day after her mission:
"For me this visit was a chance to explore the Israeli narrative, given the dominance of the Palestinian narrative in the national, international and African National Congress discourse. I now realise that much of what I thought about Israel was based on ignorance and assumption. I returned home on Friday understanding why Israel feels assaulted by a world that is blatantly partial and hypocritical. Why Israel is always held to the highest standards of democracy when every other country flouts them intrigues me.
"Sometimes I think the world is jealous of a small country that has turned a desert into a garden, adversity into prosperity . Those who are prejudiced against Israel for ideological reasons do us a disservice when they portray the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in black-and-white terms. It has parallels in the way SA is portrayed in the international media — constant protests and police shooting at people demanding access to water, sanitation and housing . That is not all SA is about. It is the same with Israel, constantly and popularly portrayed as Holocaust survivors who have now turned on disempowered Palestinians. The nuanced nature of the two narratives are lost.
"An interesting statistic about the numbers of Jews that have fled Arab territories since 1948, rarely reported upon, caught my eye in an Israeli newspaper. In Algeria there were 140000 Jews in 1948, by 2008 none; in Morocco there were 250000, today there are about 6000. For more than half a century there was a flight of more than 850000 Jews from Arab lands, which, in effect, means that more Jews were forced to flee Muslim persecution than the approximately 762000 Palestinian Arabs who left their homes in the newly declared state of Israel. "
This is most probably the newspaper article that caught Rhoda's eye. Rhoda must have stumbled upon the Jewish refugees issue by happenstance. This in itself is alarming: should it not be an integral part of Israeli hasbara to tell foreign journalists about Jewish refugees - or even to introduce them to one or two - instead of leaving it to chance for them to discover such opinion-changing information for themselves?