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Heartland Initiative wraps up South Africa public diplomacy mission

The organization traveled to South Africa to dispel "common misconceptions surrounding the Israel-Arab conflict."

Gedaliah Blum of the Heartland Initiative (bottom left) meets with students at the University of Johannesburg, Feb. 22, 2024. Credit: Courtesy.
Gedaliah Blum of the Heartland Initiative (bottom left) meets with students at the University of Johannesburg, Feb. 22, 2024. Credit: Courtesy.

As Israel battles genocide charges filed against it by South Africa at the International Court of Justice, the Heartland Initiative last week embarked on a mission to bolster ties between the two nations.

The organization, founded by Gedaliah Blum and Yonathan Ben Yisrael to build global bridges with “all regions of Israel,” including Judea and Samaria, traveled to South Africa to dispel common misconceptions surrounding the Israel-Arab conflict, Blum said.

“Embracing relationships with Israel and the West could offer substantial benefits for South Africa, compared to the current trajectory of forging closer ties with Iran,” he stated.

“Through understanding and dialogue, we can overcome divisions and foster partnerships based on our shared history of resilience,” he added.

The Feb. 20-29 trip took Blum to Johannesburg and Cape Town, where he held extensive interactions with Jewish, Christian and indigenous South Africans, as well as conversations with political and business leaders.

Through dialogues with South African politicians, the Heartland Initiative sought to “foster a more complex understanding of Israel, challenging the simplistic view of the country as an oppressor and highlighting its aspirations for sovereignty and peace as a decolonizing entity.”

According to the Blum, Pretoria’s hostility towards Israel in international fora does not necessarily reflect South Africa public opinion.

“Against the backdrop of historical challenges such as apartheid, slavery and genocide, there’s a growing appreciation for the shared experiences and mutual respect for each other’s histories and struggles. These connections have facilitated dialogue and the potential for creating strong, enduring partnerships,” the organization noted.

Last summer, the Heartland Initiative hosted a large delegation from Africa, including South Africa, for a week-long seminar focussed on Israeli innovations in the area of food and water security.

Ben Yisrael revealed at the time that the organization also intends to send a delegation of about 20 Israeli business leaders and political officials to Africa.

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