Christian protesters – victims of violence outside Parliament
Protesting peacefully in front of Parliament is a South African tradition, yet anti-Israel extremists violently attacked a Christian pro-Israel vigil there on Friday, 3 November.
The spark was lit a week earlier, when extremists at an anti-Israel protest in Cape Town called people to disrupt the weekly Christian demonstration outside Parliament.
They disrupted Christian supporters of Israel who held a gathering to protest against the terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians and highlight the plight of the 240 hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza.
“A group of aggressive Pro-Palestinian supporters came and stood in front of them, ripped their Israeli flags, pulled balloons and hostage posters, and intimidated the peaceful pro-Israel group,” said South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) following the attack. “A charge is being lodged with the police.”
The attack comes after an anti-Israel protest outside Parliament in April 2023, in which Israeli flags were burnt and protesters called out “One Zionist, one bullet!”
Vivienne Myburgh, the national director of the South African International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, was there on 3 November. “When we arrived this week, they were there in force, with ‘dummy’ bodies on the ground. There were probably about 20 to 30 of them. We just stood there peacefully, singing our songs, holding our posters. We decided to come in the opposite spirit. There was no aggression from our side, and very little engagement.
“I was standing right in front, between the pro-Palestinians and our side, when a black car came into that four-way crossing and stopped. This guy jumped out, and I immediately knew it was trouble. It was so quick. He lunged towards the guys holding the big Israeli flags, and pulled them out of their hands. Some people came and joined him.
“We had to grab a flag that was stood on, but we managed to get all but one of the flags back. It was shocking and unexpected. We can sense that the aggression is rising. Charges were pressed on Sunday. Some pro-Palestinians came and said they were sorry. There was no police presence because of the rugby tour at the same time, but afterwards, some police arrived and promised they would be there from now on.”
SAFI said this behaviour was “the result of South Africa’s political leaders openly praising internationally proscribed terrorist organisations like Hamas”.
“We call on [members of] the public to stand firm in their support and solidarity for the holy land of Israel, while remaining vigilant to ensure that they aren’t physically assaulted. We condemn this behaviour, and call on the ANC [African National Congress] government to ensure that every South African’s right to freedom of speech is respected, protected, and upheld,” SAFI said.
SAFI spokesperson Bafana Modise told the SA Jewish Report, “It’s important to note that South Africans are peace-loving people. We’re the people of Nelson Mandela. We would love to be agents of peace and reconciliation. As SAFI, we want to make it clear that the ANC, the EFF [Economic Freedom Fighters], and the BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] movement don’t speak for the majority of our people.
“We support a two-state solution. We condemn terrorist attacks on the people of Israel. We call for a reconciliation process whereby leaders across the world will come together to negotiate a lasting peaceful solution. We stand in solidarity with the only democracy in the Middle East, which is Israel.”
Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies (Cape SAJBD) Executive Director Daniel Bloch says, “The Cape SAJBD condemns these acts of aggression and violence against Christian supporters outside Parliament. It’s everyone’s constitutional right to freedom of expression, and pro-Israel supporters have the same right to protest as everyone else. We call on the South African government and all citizens to protect our rights and condemn the violence perpetrated by the anti-Israel movements.”
To the Christian protesters, he says, “We’re in discussion with law enforcement and the SAPS [South African Police Service] to protect the peaceful Christian rally and to ensure that the anti-Israel movements are restrained from intimidation and causing damage.
“As a result of the war between Israel and Hamas, we’re seeing this horrific conflict playing out in the streets of South Africa,” Bloch says. “While there has been an increase in protest action and the verbal rhetoric has been one of hate and intimidation, there have been no physical incidents. We’re fortunate that Cape Town has one of the lowest rates of antisemitism anywhere in the world.
“Everyone has the right to protest, however it should be done in a peaceful manner respectful of all our rights,” he says. “The Cape SAJBD will continue to work with law enforcement and the SAPS to protect every citizen. We call on all religious leaders to promote peace within our communities. While we may not share the same beliefs and opinions, that doesn’t mean we cannot live side by side in peace as South Africans.”
This isn’t the first time Christians have stood up for Israel and the Jewish state since the Hamas massacre on 7 October. Since October, senior Anglican cleric Reverend Canon Peter Houston has relentlessly made statements, written letters to the media and opinion pieces criticising the church’s silence in the face of Hamas atrocities.
On 10 October, Simon Goslett started a petition on change.org titled “The celebration of murder is never acceptable”.
“We, the undersigned Christians, recognise that Hamas, according to its own charter, seeks to destroy the state of Israel and commit genocide against the Jews,” stated the petition. “We condemn the murder, kidnapping, and rape of Israelis and other foreign nationals by Hamas militants. We assert that the Anglican Church of Southern Africa is wrong to conflate the struggle of ordinary Palestinians for greater autonomy and civil rights with the end goal of Hamas, which is the destruction of Israel.
“We’re disturbed that the involvement of Iran as part of its genocidal strategy to destroy Israel is overlooked,” the petition continued. “We believe that by avoiding naming Hamas and Iran in its resolutions and statements, the Anglican Church is disingenuous about the cause of ensuring that Palestinians gain their freedom in Gaza because they are under a yoke of religious fundamentalism and ideological totalitarianism.
“We state categorically that the murder of innocents is never acceptable, the desecration of corpses is never acceptable, the taking of children as hostages is never acceptable, and the celebration of murder is never acceptable.
“We acknowledge that, in every age, the church has in some way promoted, condoned, or remained silent in the face of antisemitism. We express our pain and sorrow that the church has repeatedly been complicit in the victimising of Jews, and that the Anglican Church continues to do so. We affirm how vulnerable Jews feel right now, having experienced the darkest day in Jewish history since the end of the Holocaust.”
More than 1 200 people signed the petition.