Board challenges SABC-sanctioned lies about child hostages
On 2 November, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) not only invited a representative of a designated terror organisation, Hamas, in Tehran, Dr Khaled Qaddumi, to speak on live national television with a Hamas flag proudly displayed behind him, it also stood by as the presenter accepted his denial that children were kidnapped by the terrorist group on 7 October without challenging him.
“There were many lies and propaganda in what he [Qaddumi] said, but what was most upsetting and offensive was the fact that he denied that there were children and babies who are currently hostages in Gaza,” South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) National Chairperson Professor Karen Milner said. “We call for their release, and we call for every South African to recognise their existence and the crime that it is to hold these babies and children hostage.”
Protesting this interview, the SAJBD brought 32 giant teddy bears, representing the 32 Jewish child hostages in Gaza, and sat among them outside the SABC headquarters in Auckland Park on Friday, 3 November. They had posters saying, “SABC: A platform for lies”, images of the children’s faces, and at least one teddy bear wearing a t-shirt with the image and age of baby Kfir Bibas, thought to be the youngest hostage at nine months of age.
This lie about the child hostages is part of the widespread denial of Hamas atrocities that has spread since 7 October. This is despite Hamas members themselves filming their abduction of more than 200 people including babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, women, men, and the elderly.
In the interview, Qaddumi thanked South Africa for its support. He also said that the hostages were “prisoners caught from the field, trying to kill our children. They are either military personnel or they are settlers … they are equipped with weapons, killing our farmers in the West Bank”. The people taken hostage were mostly civilians who lived in Israel proper, far from the West Bank.
The presenter also said, “In contrast to the way this is being framed, you were not the attacker here [on 7 October] but you were responding to what has been a historical series of attacks.”
In a video of its peaceful protest and installation, the SAJBD said it had “brought these giant teddy bears to the SABC offices, reminding the national broadcaster of the faces of the dozens of child hostages still held in Gaza”.
“The SABC provided a platform for someone representing a radically racist movement that demonises and defames the Jewish people and openly calls for the killing of Jews everywhere in the world,” wrote the SAJBD. “Hamas is an organisation that rejects all initiatives to bring about peace between Israel and its neighbours, and throughout its existence, has worked to destroy every peace process through terrorist violence.
“Three weeks ago, on 7 October 2023, Hamas was responsible for the greatest act of mass murder, including inhumane acts of torture, against the Jewish people since the Holocaust. It has shown time and again to have persistently and shamelessly lied to the international community about its actions and aims, and cannot be regarded as being in any way honourable or trustworthy.
“In allowing the Hamas spokesperson to deny on national television that children are being held hostage in Gaza, among many other untruths in the broadcast, the SABC allowed propaganda to spread in our country unchallenged, effectively acting as a mouthpiece of Hamas.
“We bring these teddies to the SABC office today to remind it of what no-one should have to be reminded of – that babies aren’t bargaining chips. These innocent Jewish babies and child hostages, one as young as nine months old, aren’t ‘prisoners’, and they need to come home. To deny or justify their abduction is to deny their fundamental humanity.”
SABC offered a right of reply to Israeli Ambassador Eli Belotsercovsky. “I deeply regret that such a respectable news channel as the SABC has provided a stage for a representative of a terrorist organisation,” said the ambassador. “I think it’s regrettable, and I’m asking what next: will you interview a representative of Al-Qaeda, or maybe of ISIS [Islamic State]? With all due respect, I’m not going to answer or reply to these blatant lies and cheap propaganda that we heard yesterday. Hamas doesn’t deserve such a stage, Hamas has to be destroyed, and there’s no place for such inhumane organisations like Hamas that murders children, young women, old people, kidnaps them, and in a most cynical way, lies about the hostages.
“It cannot happen that in a democratic country like South Africa, such a respectable news channel provides a stage for such terrorists to express their opinions.
“Of course there are children [among the hostages]. Everybody knows it, you don’t need to ask me,” he said. “It’s also babies. It’s also old men and women. You have 15 men and women [held hostage] who are 75 and older.” He emphasised that the hostages had no access to the Red Cross, and “we don’t know if they are getting medication”.
“We’re talking about innocent people who haven’t committed any crime,” he said, describing most of the people taken as peace-loving kibbutzniks. “They’re not criminals. Palestinian terrorists in prisons in Israel were convicted for terrorism including the murder of innocent people. We cannot release them because they have been convicted,” he said, answering the presenter’s questions about a possible prisoner exchange.
“We’re also concerned about what’s happening in Gaza and the loss of human lives. Our war is not with the people of Gaza. Our war is with Hamas,” Belotsercovsky said.
The SA Jewish Report reached out to the SABC for a comment regarding the SAJBD’s statement and display, but didn’t receive a response at the time of going to print.