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Cyril’s silence says a thousand words



When Jewish donors supported Cyril Ramaphosa in his bid for the presidency in 2017 and South African Jewry celebrated the appointment of a president who seemed to have common sense and decency, it’s unlikely that they imagined that one day, he wouldn’t utter a word of condemnation when 1 400 Jewish civilians in Israel, as well as people from many other nationalities, were slaughtered in cold blood by Hamas terrorists on 7 October 2023.

Johnny Copelyn, who backed Ramaphosa in his CR17 campaign for the presidency, told the SA Jewish Report that “The fact that Cyril sought to justify in some way the savagery of the Hamas attack on unarmed civilians in Israel and the kidnapping of 200 people including children and babies, is utterly atrocious, and will be remembered by all for the rest of his life.”

“A red line has been crossed,” says South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) National Director Wendy Kahn. “Our government’s bias on the conflict is bad enough. This is different. This was a systematic massacre. Any government with a modicum of humanity would have immediately issued unequivocal condemnation and sympathy for the victims of these heinous atrocities. Our government’s response was completely out of kilter with any decency and compassion. And its lack of concern for this traumatised community is a disgrace.”

Wearing the black clothing and keffiyeh of the very terrorists who committed some of the worst atrocities mankind has ever seen, Ramaphosa stood up on 14 October surrounded by similarly dressed cadres waving Palestinian flags, and essentially blamed the Jewish state for the massacre of its own people.

“We have a full understanding of how the people of Palestine have taken up this issue,” he said. “They are people who have been under occupation for almost 75 years. They have been waiting and waging a war against a government that has been dubbed an apartheid state.”

In spite of a cordial and even warm relationship with Ramaphosa in the past, the SAJBD didn’t hold back in its scathing response to Ramaphosa and the African National Congress (ANC’s) cold lack of compassion for the murder, rape, abduction, immolation, and organised massacre of Jews.

In an audio statement, SAJBD National Chairperson Professor Karen Milner expressed the sense of betrayal at Ramaphosa’s silence. “You use political slogans to justify your position when this is about basic respect for Jewish life. The Jewish community of South Africa loves this country and its people, and we’ll do everything we can to see it thrive in spite of the enormity of the betrayal of our president,” she said.

This was followed by a full-page letter in the Sunday Times, in which the SAJBD said that in the wake of Hamas’ actions, the week was “doubly harrowing” for South African Jewry as it came to terms with what happened in Israel and the silence of its president and government. “This week, we felt like second-class citizens,” said Milner.

Ramaphosa made some attempt to condemn the 7 October massacre in his newsletter on 16 October, but continuously equivocated it with the suffering of the Palestinians.

As for what this mean for the SAJBD’s relationship with the president, the ANC, and the government going forward, Kahn says, “They have let down South African Jewry and there cannot be business as usual. Serious issues need to be addressed going forward.

“I don’t blame anyone for having lost confidence in Ramaphosa and his current government,” she says. “What I can say is how impressed I have been with opposition parties who have unequivocally stepped up to support and stand up for South African Jewry. I’m grateful for the messages from the churches, some members of civil society, and the media. I believe that the majority of South Africans felt deeply for Israel and for us, and were horrified and embarrassed by the way our president and his government have behaved. Elections are near.”

“President Ramaphosa’s choice to wear a keffiyeh during his address about the situation in Israel and Gaza was a piece of political theatre clearly designed to show that his primary loyalty is to the Palestinians,” says political analyst Steven Gruzd. “What’s going to unfold in Gaza is something that the ANC will blame Israel for entirely.

“Ramaphosa has made some small shows of sympathy, but always equivocates and says that there are victims on both sides,” says Gruzd. “It’s a problematic way to look at what has happened over the past weeks in the Middle East.

“There were a lot of Jewish businessmen and women in this country that supported Ramaphosa heavily,” Gruzd says, “and this public display might turn some of those very wealthy donors away from Ramaphosa and his internal fights within the ANC.”

South Africa also maintains a warm relationship with Iran, and many have noted that the Hamas attack was possibly backed by Iran. “In addition, there are strong indications that Iranian money is partly financing anti-Israel and anti-Zionist movements in South Africa,” says Gruzd.

“There are certainly indications of strong Iranian support for Hamas. It has armed them, supported them politically, and I wouldn’t be surprised if evidence is found linking Iran directly to the attack on Israel.”

Political analyst Daniel Silke says, “The ANC has been erring on the side of a much more direct backing of the Palestinians as opposed to understanding any kind of insecurity that Israel feels. There’s no surprise that the ANC would come out on the side of the Palestinians while playing down the suffering of Israel over the past week or so.

“There’s no doubt that the ANC has certainly moved into a more non-Western positioning on a broad range of issues,” says Silke. “You’ve seen it in its very confused so-called ‘neutrality’ on Ukraine. It reflects being closer to a more non-aligned movement: China, Russia, and many of the rising and strong powers now in the Gulf, including Iran. South Africa’s diplomatic linkages with Iran are stronger now probably than they they’ve ever been.

“Ramaphosa knows it’s a winning issue for the ANC to be pro-Palestinian. There’s a domestic political imperative: the ANC is desperate to lock in support ahead of the election next year, to try and improve its position in the Western Cape, where you have a higher number of Muslims, who are more likely to be pro-Palestinian.

“This kind of reaction from South Africa is going to play out poorly in Western capitals, not that South Africa really cares anymore,” says Silke. “South Africa seems prepared to alienate the West. It also won’t play well with potential foreign investors. Ultimately, it will come back to bite South Africa in the future.”

Says South African Zionist Federation National Chairperson Rowan Polovin, “Ramaphosa and the ANC government have pledged their solidarity with those who deliberately murder, burn, and abduct innocent women, children, and babies. The ANC government continues to side with internationally-designated terrorists and despots.

“We find this morally abhorrent and a betrayal of the values of the South African Constitution. Ramaphosa and our government have chosen to side with evil. He ought to decide which side of history he wishes to be remembered: the side of morality and peace, or the side of hate and destruction.”

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  1. Alan Hirsch

    Oct 19, 2023 at 1:22 pm

    In the latest cabinet statement, just released, it says that ‘Cabinet condemned the cowardly attack by Hamas that killed and injured innocent people.’ A small step, perhaps, but it should be acknowledged.

    • yitzchak

      Oct 23, 2023 at 6:57 am

      A 1/2 truth Mr Hirsch
      Read the whole statement.
      The equation and eqivalence between the Hamas Genocide and Israel’s bombing of military targets in Gaza.
      A 2 state solution based on the land of 1947 iow not even 1967 borders.and reversing the partition plan of 1947.

      The Geneva Conventions 3 and 4 allow attacks on military targets….Hamas’s AI didnt foresee that the whole of Gaza would be desolated.Movement of endangered populations within the samr country IS permissible

      1) We truly have no partner in peace since hamas doesnt accept a 2 state solution .The ANC -Left coalition need to get their stiff necks around that one .

      2)Now we see the effects of a real blockade.Hamasstan is now finished.Let’s seal the border for good.

      3) Food and supplies only for our hostages held in Gaza. C’mon ICRC …get working.

      4) OMG all the SA jews for justice for palestine have taken an overdose of shtum pills..the bad news is there is no antidote!

      5) After Zapiro’s cartoon in Daily Maverick please halt contributions

  2. Jessica

    Oct 22, 2023 at 4:22 pm

    Ramaphoria was a laugh right from go for anyone familiar with the ANC’s socialist founding documents. Their backing of the “Palestinian” cause hence was a foregone conclusion, and their “condemnation” of the Hamas pogrom just another coverup for their ingrained racism and hatred of the West.

  3. Choni Davidowitz

    Oct 31, 2023 at 10:24 am

    The Lubavitcher Rebbe assured that it would be good for Jews in S.Africa and even better when Mashiach arrives. A word to the wise is sufficient. I say; Jews of South Africa (those who can) Get out of this exilic graveyard as soon as possible. At least, send your children. ISRAEL WELCOMES YOU.
    The Rebbe was wrong.

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