25 November 2007 - South Africa gets the call, but not the point
A controversy has erupted in South Africa over a cartoon drawn by Zapiro, one of the nation’s most talented editorial cartoonists. The cartoon (below) mocks organized religion, setting belief in God equal to belief in Satan. It is a response to a controversy over the sacking of a columnist at an Afrikaans newspaper after he wrote an article arguing that Satanists were entitled to religious freedom.
The cartoon is pretty offensive, and is drawing the ire of the Muslim community because it depicts Allah. Zapiro probably did this on purpose, having taken a stand against the protestors in the Danish cartoon affair several months ago. Ironically, Muslim anti-Israel propagandists in South Africa have long made use of Zapiro’s largely ill-informed cartoons attacking the State of Israel, such as the one below:
What is most offensive to me about the anti-religious cartoon above is not that Zapiro depicts various deities, but that he tries to evade responsibility with his comment at the end: “P.S. SEND ANSWERS TO RAPPORT EDITOR TIM DU PLESSIS – NOT TO THIS CARTOONIST!” It may be tongue-in-cheek, but cartoonists (or bloggers, for that matter) are not above public criticism.
When it comes to the Middle East, the South African government shows a similar tendency to evade responsibility. It was the only democratically-elected government to argue against Israel at the International Court of Justice in 2003, yet it pleaded that this should not harm South Africa-Israel relations. Similarly, it has extended a hand of friendship to Hamas, and yet wonders why it is regarded as “unhelpful.”
Now the United States has grudgingly—at the behest of the Arab bloc, perhaps—sent a late invitation to South Africa to join the Annapolis peace talks. No doubt President Thabo Mbeki will wish to attend himself. Like Bush, he’s a lame duck looking for a legacy. (Which reminds me—Bush is now doing exactly what Clinton sought to do: achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace before leaving office. How ironic.)
The message that South Africa needs to get from reports such as UN Watch’s Dawn of a New Era? is that there are diplomatic consequences for coddling terrorists, and that doing so also has negative consequences for the peace process. Noah Pollak (no relation) has written a good blog entry about this. I’m not sure South Africa gets the message. I’m sorry to say that its participation may be a bad omen for Annapolis.