Board condemns antisemitic threats at anti-Israel rally
More than 10 000 people filled the streets of Cape Town on Saturday, 11 November, seething with animosity towards Israel, the local Jewish community, and the Democratic Alliance Western Cape government.
A sea of people chanted cries calling for the end of the Jewish state, which was echoed by the event’s speakers. Some of the crowd and speakers also expressed support for Hamas. The march, organised by the Al Quds Foundation and the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), began at a mosque in District Six and ended at the Western Cape Legislature.
It was to these 10 000 people that one PAC (Pan Africanist Congress) speaker yelled, “We know where the murderers come from, they come from Herzlia, here in Cape Town.” This was echoed to millions of viewers watching on SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) News.
“The Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies [Cape SAJBD] is outraged by the recent antisemitic attack on our children,” says Cape SAJBD Executive Director Daniel Bloch. “During the pro-Hamas rally, one of the speakers openly attacked our Jewish school.
“We deplore this baseless, malicious and inflammatory assault on a proud and highly respected local school,” he says. “These mischievous and bizarre allegations and threats, concocted by the anti-Israel movement, constitute incitement against a South African school that has taught Jewish children about their religion for more than 80 years. This harassment has no place in a constitutional democracy that prides itself on upholding diversity.
“Chapter two of our Constitution contains the Bill of Rights, which is a cornerstone of democracy in South Africa,” Bloch says. “It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality, and freedom. The state must respect, protect, promote, and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights along with the right to religious freedom. Our schools and our children should be protected, just as we are.
“We already have assurances from both the premier’s office as well as the Western Cape department of education that Herzlia is in no way under threat from being de-registered or closed,” he says. “We further call on the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape provincial government, the national department of education, and the office of the president, to protect our children and condemn these pure acts of antisemitism, incitement, hatred, and aggression against South African children. The right to a decent education in a safe environment is a solemn one, vouchsafed by our Constitution to every child in our country.”
Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis also condemned the statement against Herzlia, saying, “We condemn any hate speech uttered by radical minorities at protests, especially when that hate speech is directed towards little children. We’ve received video footage of a representative purportedly of the PAC speaking at yesterday’s protest and calling young Jewish children in Cape Town ‘murderers’. Such hateful language should be condemned by all. Radical elements don’t speak for Capetonians, and don’t even speak for the protesters they claim to represent.”
The MJC said ahead of the event that, “We believe that the dispossessed land of the Palestinian people should be returned to its people. We call for the right to self-determination of Palestinians on their native land from the river to the sea. The Palestinians have an inalienable right to resist settler colonialism and apartheid by all means necessary within international law. We demand the right of return of all Palestinian refugees with full reparation.”
At the march, protesters made a number of demands, including that, “The Western Cape government pledges unequivocal support and solidarity with the people of Palestine, just as it stood by the people of Ukraine; that the premier of the Western Cape, Alan Winde, condemns the war crimes of Benjamin Netanyahu and promises to arrest him, just as he promised to arrest Vladimir Putin; that the Western Cape government condemns the apartheid state of Israel just as it condemned the Russian Federation; and that the premier condemns the United States for its hand in the mass killing of innocent people.”
Also at the march, African National Congress (ANC) Secretary General, Fikile Mbalula said South Africa was on the side of the oppressed Palestinians and supported the demarche of Israel’s ambassador to South Africa.
“We’re sick and tired of the apartheid state of Israel, and we must demonstrate it with our actions. As the ANC, I say here today, from Nelson Mandela to [Cyril] Ramaphosa, we stand with the people of Palestine,” Mbalula said. He said the ANC wouldn’t rest until the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was arrested.
“We want them to even add more pressure by closing down the embassy, that’s what we want, because the events on the ground don’t call for the recognition of the Zionist state of Israel – killing and bombing innocent children and people of Palestine,” Mbalula said.
March convener Yunus Allie said South Africa must cut ties with Israel permanently. “If you see what they are doing to our brothers and sisters, they are desecrating churches, mosques, children, and the elders. So, we need to come out to show that against this atrocity, this genocide, we can’t allow this to carry on.”
Adding to the call was Mandla Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela, who said, “We didn’t ask for a consultation process, we asked for the embassy of Israel to be shut down now!” Only people supporting Palestine were the “true sons and daughters of our liberator [his grandfather Nelson Mandela]”, he said. It wasn’t enough for the department of international relations and cooperation to demarche the ambassador. “We want you to give true meaning to what Nelson Mandela expects us to do. Expel the Israeli ambassador immediately!”
Mandela also called on protesters to disrupt a Christian prayer gathering to be held in Sea Point the following day, resulting in a violent confrontation. (See page 1.) “We won’t tolerate the apartheid state of Israel’s flag being flown,” he shouted to cheers.
Anti-apartheid cleric Dr Allan Boesak said, “That apartheid state that has been waging a war of extermination for the past 75 years against our people, shut it [the Israeli embassy] down! For every Palestinian child in a coffin, we say shut it down! Every piece of land stolen from our people in Palestine, we say shut it down! We cannot wait any longer.”
Economic Freedom Fighters MP Nazier Paulsen said, “This is a fight against oppression. We must continue that fight, and we mustn’t only march for Gaza when the bombs are dropping. Palestine has been occupied for 75 years and for the past couple of years, we have been voting for a Zionist political party here in the Western Cape.”
National Freedom Party MP Shaik Emam said, “This isn’t about Muslims, Christians, and Jews. We have our Christian brothers, our Jewish brothers, and our Muslim brothers and sisters here. What’s happening in Palestine is a Holocaust; what’s happening in Palestine is genocide.”
The Dean of St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, Michael Weeder, delivered a message on behalf of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba. “We need to call out the shameful partisanship of Western powers in this conflict, and to commend countries which have suspended their diplomatic ties with Israel, and call on those countries to review diplomatic ties with countries which are supplying arms,” he said. “If only the world leaders would invest half as much money and energy into peace making as they invest in war, we would have peace.”
Jewish community member Mervyn Bennun also addressed the crowd, calling for “Palestine to be free, from the river to the sea.”