Rhoda Kadalie, the former South Africa Human Rights Commissioner who founded the Gender Equity Unit at the University of Western Cape in South Africa, and received an honorary doctorate from Uppsala University in Sweden, passed away in Los Angeles on Saturday at age 68.
The granddaughter of Trade unionist Clements Kadalie, Rhoda Kadalie always spoke truth to power, which in South Africa included her being a staunch defender of Israel against the establishment’s and the media’s official antisemitic line.
In 2012, after South African leftist activist Moira Levy renounced her Jewish roots in response to Israel’s alleged bad treatment of illegal African migrant workers, Kadalie wrote (Rhoda Kadalie in Die Burger):
The Left is quick to condemn Israel when matters at home should shame us into silence. South Africa supports dictator Robert Mugabe who drove more than 3 million Zimbabweans out of his country. Destitute and jobless, Zimbabweans spread around the world seeking better fortunes elsewhere. Swazi King Mswati with his Bentleys and Rolls Royces is bankrolled by the South African taxpayer and in addition, these dictatorships enjoy electricity supplies from Eskom because they cannot supply it themselves. As the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, we have much to be humble about, not to speak of the recent Marikana massacre (the killing of 34 miners by the South African Police on August 16, 2012, during a wildcat strike – DI). While we nestle in the bosom of China with its history of human rights abuse and occupation, we dare to condemn a country that has made numerous attempts to meet its opponent halfway. Instead of using our expertise at political negotiations to help Israel and the Palestinian territories sort out its deadlock, Israeli-bashing has become nothing but a euphemism for antisemitism.
Hundreds of refugees are pouring across Israel’s borders seeking refuge from the tyrants South Africa supports. Around 60,000 Africans live there illegally and in contrast to South Africa, the Israeli government has offered those who agree to leave voluntarily a free airline ticket and a grant of 1,000 Euros. We fail to understand that every country has immigration and refugee challenges. The question is: how are these resolved? Here our self-appointed watchdogs single out Israel for condemnation while Middle Eastern despots ruthlessly crush democratic uprisings, butcher their own people and violate the human rights of protesters, the rights of women, gays, and Christians and send waves of émigrés across their borders.
That South Africa refuses to understand this and continues to single out Israel for criticism shows what a two-faced lot we are. Bashing Israel has become a self-promotion industry and the disinvestment campaign is its marketing tool. We should be attracting Israelis to our shores as the ideal foreign direct investment destination for Israelis. With its huge growth potential and features that set it apart from other African countries, SA’s large Jewish community with its numerous Jewish institutions and a rich cultural life has a vested interest in maintaining cordial relations between the two states.
Rhoda Kadalie’s son-in-law Joel Pollak wrote an op-ed in Politicsweb on April 8 (Rhoda Kadalie’s journey to Trump supporter) in which he revealed that “Rhoda was also an early supporter of President Donald Trump, and remains so today. Her journey holds lessons for a nation still wrestling with race and democracy.”
“While she supported affirmative action and the idea of redistribution, known as ‘black economic empowerment,’ Rhoda opposed those policies when they meant lowering standards, or giving big deals to “disadvantaged” ruling party insiders,” Pollak recalled, adding that “when Mandela’s successor, Thabo Mbeki, embraced racist conspiracy theories about HIV/Aids and backed Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe in his anti-white fulminations, Rhoda was among the first South Africans to speak out in protest.”
According to Pollak, Kadalie broke with George Soros, and spoke out in defense of Israel, “defying the pro-Palestinian consensus on the left and speaking out against the antisemitism that often crept into anti-Israel activism. She infuriated her critics, but earned a wide base of readers and fans.”
“A close observer of American politics, Rhoda was skeptical of the rise of Barack Obama, seeing him as largely an empty shell. When then-Sen. Obama (D-IL) visited Cape Town and delivered a speech, she declined to attend, on principle. Few foresaw, as she did, that his presidency would end in disappointment. Conversely, Rhoda took an interest in Donald Trump, seeing him as a skollie — a ruffian, in South African slang — who would shake up a complacent American establishment.”
May her memory be blessed.