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Cape Jews threatened as protests escalate



The Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has had enough of anti-Israel protests that are now clearly threatening Jewish life in the Mother City. At a recent protest outside the Gardens Community Centre, activists draped terrorist flags on the walls and openly harassed Jewish people.

“Over the past few months, the Western Cape Jewish community has been the victim of intimidating and threatening protests outside Jewish facilities,” said Cape SAJBD Executive Director Daniel Bloch, speaking on Friday, 19 May, “The protest at the Gardens Jewish Community Centre [on Thursday, 18 May] was the last straw. We’ll not stand by while our Jewish community is subjected to this kind of verbal antisemitic abuse all in the name of a conflict taking place in another country.”

Bloch was referring to a protest outside the centre, in which the Cape Town Hebrew Congregation synagogue (or Gardens Shul), the South African Jewish Museum (SAJM), the Cape Town Holocaust & Genocide Centre (CTHGC), the Jacob Gitlin Library, and kosher restaurant Café Riteve are based. Social media posts by protesters made it clear that the protests would be “in their face” and “right on their doors”, and said Jews were “Jewish supremacist monsters”.

“Our building is well secured, but those entering and leaving it were subjected to this hostility,” said Bloch. “They even shouted at and chased pedestrians who were simply walking down the street. We have and will continue to engage with the City of Cape Town and South African Police Service to protect our organisations, our community members, and pedestrians walking past our building. We know how quickly volatile situations can escalate into physical violence. As such, we’re taking the protests seriously.”

In response to his statement, the extremist organisation PAGAD (People Against Gangsterism and Drugs) released its own statement, rife with antisemitic conspiracy theories. “Our intelligence sector has been actively investigating the Zionist network in South Africa. We reveal that they, like in Ukraine, are setting up a ‘little Israel’ in Cape Town,” it said.

It accused the Western Cape government of “harbouring criminals”, and said that the public would “take matters into their own hands” by making “citizen’s arrests”.

“Israeli citizens with their dual citizenship regard Cape Town as their safe haven. The axis of resistance in South Africa sends a clear warning that we will not allow criminals to settle in our affluent areas and occupy our businesses, schools, and universities.

“This statement is merely a warning,” it continued. “We’re closely monitoring the Zionist establishments and organisations operating in South Africa. We offer our full support in decentralising the struggle against Satanic Zionist ‘Israel’.”

PAGAD said it supported “soldiers on the ground fighting for a South Africa free from the vices of the Zionist world order (one being gangsterism and drugs)”.

“The Cape SAJBD is extremely concerned by the aggression displayed and blatant lies told by PAGAD,” Bloch said. “We find the statement, ‘This is merely a warning’ to be hostile and threatening towards our community and anyone who supports Israel.

“The claims made against our community are yet more lies and misinformation to justify intimidatory, aggressive, and antisemitic actions against our community. We’re investigating further and exploring all options. We call on our government and local and international civil society, faith-based institutions, and communal leaders to condemn and end this blatant hatred shown towards the Jewish community.”

Returning to the events of the protest, Bloch says protesters chanted “One Zionist, one bullet” and “Death to Israel”. On the main wall of the centre, they deliberately displayed a Palestinian Islamic Jihad flag – a “symbol of a globally recognised terrorist organisation whose mandate is to destroy Israel and which is unapologetically antisemitic”. A Hezbollah flag was also raised.

“It was disturbing,” said Orli Barnett, education director at the CTHGC. “We had a school group at the centre. When it was time for them to leave, we had to be briefed by security guards with guns who had been brought in addition to regular campus security. Our pupils were from a school for children with learning difficulties and they were shocked.”

Bloch said this was the fourth such protest at this site. “For the past two months, the Cape Town Jewish community has been threatened, intimidated, and viciously maligned by anti-Israel organisations like the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the University of Cape Town Palestinian Solidarity Forum [UCT PSF], and others who claim simply to be ‘anti-Zionist’, not antisemitic.

“The Western Cape Jewish community has rights, just like any other South African citizen, and we don’t need to be the target of a conflict taking place in another country,” said Bloch. “These protesters have chosen the wrong venue to voice their concerns. If they truly believe in the rights of the Palestinian people and that Israel is in the wrong, they should take their complaints to the Israeli embassy in Pretoria. We won’t allow these illegal gatherings to disrupt our way of life any longer.”

He said the Cape SAJBD wouldn’t attempt to stop any protests as it believed in freedom of speech. However, it condemned the aggressive and threatening manner in which these protesters availed themselves, and wouldn’t allow the protests to continue in this manner. “We’re exploring all options, including engaging with the authorities as well as possible legal avenues,” Bloch said.

“I heard someone shout about the Holocaust through the microphone, although I didn’t pick up what they said,” said Barnett. “I saw one man wearing a black T-shirt with white writing saying, ‘One oppressor, one bullet’ and instead of the word bullet, there was a picture of a bullet.

“Usually, we try leave the campus before [they arrive], so this was new,” she said. “Although we’ve been there before during ‘peaceful protests’, this seemed more angry and vocal.

“The facilitator for the children visiting us was wearing hijab, so I imagine that she was Muslim, and when we got to the parking lot where they were parked, she was in tears. I don’t know why she was crying, and I didn’t get the chance to ask her. It was upsetting for everyone.”

Janine Rodgers, who also works at the Gardens Jewish Community Centre, said, “Workers and visitors to the campus are increasingly anxious, with disruptions to our daily work. Protesters often use violent language.

“The protests feel totally unfair and inappropriate. I’m unhappy about many of the policies of the People’s Republic of China, however I would never dream of protesting outside China Town in Cape Town. That would be completely inappropriate and prejudiced. Likewise, if we’re unhappy with the policies of one of the Muslim countries, it would also be completely unacceptable to protest outside a Cape Town mosque or Islamic community centre. However when it comes to Jews in Cape Town, we’re considered legitimate targets.”

“The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, PAGAD, Africa4Palestine, and the UCT PSF have exposed their clear antisemitic agenda by targeting the CTHGC, SAJM, and shul,” said Bloch. “In all their social media posts, they keep referring to organisations that have nothing to do with Israel, yet are Jewish. We find this repugnant, and cannot be interpreted as anything other than hatred of the Jewish community.

“There has been growing acceptance of this rhetoric, and that’s why vigilance and standing up to this hate is essential,” he said. “For now, we can expect to see more flags and chants. However, we cannot and will not accept this ‘new normal’, and will take whatever steps necessary to prevent this from continuing.

“The Cape SAJBD condemns these acts of intimidation, threatening behaviour, and clear antisemitism against the Jewish community. We’ll not stand idly by and allow members of our community to be harassed at our places of work, home, and worship. We’ll continue to fight to protect our civil rights to ensure that we can all practice our religion in a safe environment, free from discrimination, hate, and antisemitism. Jews, like all other citizens, are entitled to the rights enshrined by our Constitution. We call on local Muslim leadership and our government to stop these targeted protests at Jewish facilities.”

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    May 25, 2023 at 2:41 pm

    this anti semitic tsunami is swelling globally. SA Jews must go on offensive place Ads in media TV road billboards drive a WEDGE between Jews and the oppressive policies of the extreme right wing faction of the Israel Gov. These ads must clarify this difference Reach out to American Jewish billinaires for funding. RSA JEWS are facing the same political social climate of 1930s fascist nazi germany. this is analogous to 1970s when nat gov thought that they could ride out global anti apartheid wave

  2. Robert Mancusso

    May 25, 2023 at 5:05 pm

    The main purpose of these antisemitic protests is to intimidate Jews and make them feel disinclined to want to go to the Gardens Shul, the Jacob Gitlin Library or Café Riteve. If these protests continue in this fashion, they will succeed to some degree in this objective, so if something is not done about this quickly it will only get much worst, particularly on Yom Ha’atzmaut, Nakba Day or whenever there is a conflict with Gaza or an issue on The Temple Mount. Appealing to the ”sympathetic nature” of the Cape Town Muslim community in the hope they will deal with this matter is probably not going to work, as Anti-Zionist sentiment is openly encouraged within their community.

    Seeing is believing. I’d like to see exactly how The Cape SAJBD plan to stop these blatantly antisemitic protests outside of the Gardens Jewish Community Centre.

  3. Choni Davidowitz

    May 29, 2023 at 12:04 pm

    Julian Wendrow, The only extreme policies of the right wing government in Israel, is their extreme love of Tanach (24 books of Hebrew scriptures), their extreme love of the Land and people of Israel, and their extreme desire to rid the Jewish Land of Israel of the multitude of Arab terrorists who have murdered 4255 Israeli men woman and children since the 6day war.
    As for antisemetism in S.Africa, it is crystal clear that the only message is for Jews to leave this exilic graveyard. YOUR ONLY SAFE AND SECURE HOME IS ERETZ YISRAEL. This message applies to all of the diaspora.

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