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Pro-Israel supporters prevented from protesting EFF march

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Around 2 500 Christian Zionists who planned to stage a peaceful protest countering the Economic Freedom Fighter’s (EFF) march on the Israeli Embassy last Friday, were forced to disperse or were stopped and sent home before they got close. Those who came to defend the Embassy, way outnumbered the 600 to 800 EFF protesters.
by TALI FEINBERG and MOSES MOYO | Nov 09, 2017

Police forced bus-loads of people to turn around, even impounding four buses, to prevent the Christian Israel supporters from getting to the Israeli Embassy. The police insisted that they would not be able to protect them from EFF protesters, who were becoming “aggressive and militant”.

A Christian Zionist leader, who asked to remain anonymous for his security, says he was taken to a police station, detained and questioned. “They said they only know of the EFF march and if we are not wearing EFF T-shirts we cannot be there,” he says. His people were forced off buses and told to leave the area individually, he says, as walking in groups would have been seen as an illegal protest.

However, once their protest was scuppered, some Christian pro-Israel supporters put on EFF T-shirts and joined the EFF march, so that if the Embassy was attacked in any way they would have been there to protect it, said the organiser.

He added that many EFF members fought to get onto the buses that had been arranged for Christian Zionists, harassing the people and physically pushing them off the buses. One bus was stoned by EFF members, and the driver refused to carry on driving.

He added that the Christian pro-Israel supporters hadn’t actually obtained official permission to gather, but they had warned law enforcement that they were organising a counter-protest “to protect the Embassy”, he said. The Christian leaders backed up their presence with an official letter from the EFF inviting “leaders of faith-based groups” to be there.

This leader’s colleague Masindi Mgwena adds: “If we were coming in peace, why did we need permission? You can’t be told not to be in your own home, and the Embassy is our home.

“We told them that we were going to be there in numbers, but they blocked our way, stopped our buses and pushed our people off. The police sabotaged us, ensuring we didn’t make an impact.”

He adds that both the EFF and police “made a point of intimidating our people and what we wanted to stand for”. However, they had decided beforehand to avoid confrontation, and refused to get involved in any physical or verbal altercations.

“We came on a principle of peace and must not allow any confrontation,” he says, and so they dispersed peacefully.

With bibles in hand, the large group of Christians went to defend the Embassy to show their heartfelt support for the State of Israel, which they say is “rooted in the Holy Scriptures”. They took on this mission waving Israeli flags and wearing T-shirts with the words “We stand with Israel” on them.

“It is ironic that the EFF has chosen to protest against the only democracy in the Middle East,” said one elderly woman who had left her home in Ekhuruleni in the early hours of the morning to be a part of this protest.

She and her comrades told the SA Jewish Report that they wanted to educate Julius Malema and his lieutenants that “Israel has been a functioning democracy in the Middle East for nearly 70 years and people of all faiths are welcome to visit it”.

Others said they wanted to make sure the EFF and those opposed to Israel in South Africa, “are under no illusion as to the many millions of South Africans, from all walks of life, who are supportive and appreciative of Israel and what it stands for”.

They also said that they felt that there are far more pressing things for the political parties like the EFF to be dealing with and “they should be putting the needs of South Africa first”, rather than “exploiting opportunities to grandstand”.

SA Zionist Federation Chairman Ben Swartz, said he understands that although the authorities may have agreed to the protest originally, on the day they saw the situation could be dangerous and so they encouraged pro-Israel supporters to leave for their own safety.

“We have it on good advice that many elements from the anti-Israel lobby are party to the planning and funding of this protest, which in turn reveals the political agenda which the EFF is supporting, namely, the demise of the State of Israel,” Swartz said.

“By attempting to destroy the relationship with Israel, South Africa and its people stand to lose the most. Time and time again, Israel has offered to co-operate across many vital sectors, including water, technology, agriculture and cyber security. This is a time to be focused on viable solutions for both the Middle East and South Africa.

“It is also with much gratitude, that we acknowledge and salute the thousands of South Africans who have stepped forward, in defence, love and support of the Holy Land and its right to exist as the national homeland for the Jews,” he said.

During the protest, Julius Malema called on the business community, universities and academics to cut ties with Israel. "We are saying to all South Africans, do not visit Israel until the land is returned back into the hands of the rightful owners,” he said.

EFF National spokesperson Mbuyiseni Quintin Ndlozi said in a statement:

“If South Africa can resolve its apartheid question by building a peaceful democratic state, we believe that so can Palestine. The EFF believes in progressive internationalism and thus we see our own struggle for economic freedom as intractably linked to the freedom of oppressed people of the world like Palestine. We will never rest until Palestinians are free.”

Israel’s Ambassador to South Africa Lior Keinan, wrote on Facebook: “The Israeli Embassy would like to thank the thousands of people who arrived today to show their friendship and love to Israel. Even though they were not given access to the Embassy, their message of support of Israel was loud and clear. We are humbled to call you our friends.”

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