Ex-mayor comes out guns blazing in support of Hamas
With his assault rifle and Hamas flag, former Johannesburg mayor and Al Jama-ah city councillor Thapelo Amad would have blended right in with those of the terrorists that attacked, killed, maimed, raped, dismembered, beheaded, abducted, tortured, and burned alive hundreds of innocent civilians in the south of Israel on 7 October 2023.
Proudly posing in a post on social media with an assault rifle and a flag with the Hamas logo on 21 November, Amad said, “We stand with Hamas, Hamas stands with us, together we are Palestin [sic] and Palestin [sic] will be free. With our souls, with our blood, we will conquer Al Aqsa.” The post has since been deleted, but Amad later defended the post, saying, “I stand firm by my post. I will never deter in standing for what I believe in. People should not be told how to protest in South Africa. I have the right to protest. The protest was peaceful.”
His post came just a few days after he told a local news outlet that he was setting his sights on becoming the next Gauteng premier, and that he would be the face of Al Jama-ah in the 2024 general elections.
The assault rifle post follows a previous post by Amad on 5 November inciting violence against anyone who supports Israel, in which he said, “Death to the Zionist Israeli and its supporters for killing innocent civilians, i.e. women and children.”
The post with the assault rifle came in the same week that placards reading “One Zionist, one bullet” and “Keep the world clean”, with an Israeli flag in a bin, were seen in a car parked in Sea Point, Cape Town. In addition, a placard outside a memorial service in Cape Town read: “Israehell = Zionazis.”
Professor Karen Milner, the national chairperson of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, says Amad’s assault rifle post “tells you everything you need to know about this party and the outrageous extremes that the anti-Israel fanatics are prepared to go to. It shouldn’t be necessary to remind people of the horrific crimes of Hamas, including documented rape, torture, and kidnap. These are the people that Al Jama-ah chose to align themselves with. The need to use a gun as a prop tells us all we need to know about the desire for peace. This pathetic posturing does nothing for the plight of innocent Palestinians in Gaza. Nor, clearly, is it in the interest of peace.”
She noted that “Amad’s latest inflammatory posts come less than 24 hours after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared that there’s ‘no place in South Africa for violence or threats of violence against those who hold contrary views’, and further urged South Africans not to allow the Israel-Hamas conflict to turn them against one another.”
“Amad’s posts exacerbated an already dangerous situation in which attacks on the Jewish community, a number of them violent, have increased almost 10-fold since the outbreak of the current conflict in the Middle East,” Milner says. “This kind of incitement is unacceptable for any South African, but it’s all the more deplorable from a political leader. We call on President Ramaphosa to address this very serious issue and for Councillor Amad to be strongly censured for his reprehensible conduct.”
Lior Haiat, the spokesperson of the foreign affairs ministry in Israel, says, “This is a despicable show of support for a terror organisation. This is a pure antisemitism of the worst kind.”
Communication strategist and safety expert Tim Flack reported Amad to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), complaining that his post constituted hate speech and incitement to violence.
Flack said the social media post was damaging to Jews in South Africa. “Given the historical context of violence and conflict between Hamas and Israel, endorsing Hamas, especially following its recent attacks in Israel, can be perceived as an endorsement of violence against Jewish people. This goes against the spirit of tolerance and respect for all ethnic and religious groups, which is a cornerstone of our democratic society,” Flack said.
“Amad’s public support for an organisation involved in such acts, and his use of imagery and language that could incite violence and propagate hatred aren’t only damaging to social cohesion but potentially dangerous. I urge the SAHRC to take appropriate action,” Flack said.
Advocate Mark Oppenheimer, who has appeared in the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court in a series of cases that seek to determine the boundary between freedom of expression and genuine hate speech, says, “The crime of incitement is found in the Riotous Assemblies Act, and any person who incites someone else to commit a serious crime is guilty of an offence and liable to conviction. So, when Amad calls for the killing of supporters of Israel, that would be an offence of criminal incitement.
“Arguably a hate speech case could also be made on the basis that when he refers to supporters of Israel, it includes Jews and Zionists, who are both protected groups on the grounds of religion and belief. The words themselves propagate hatred and are an incitement to harm,” Oppenheimer says. “The image of the Hamas flag and the use of the gun also demonstrate an endorsement of Hamas. Those words and the use of that symbol amount to the propagation of hatred and speech that is directly harmful, given that the image is made very soon after the massacre of Jews in Israel. And it may also be a tacit incitement of harm on the grounds that there’s an implicit call for action, which would make the image and the words both incitement in the criminal sense and also hate speech.”
Amad’s post came around the same time as President Cyril Ramaphosa’s weekly letter on 20 November, in which he said, “There’s no place in South Africa for violence or threats of violence against those who hold contrary views. There’s no place in our society for antisemitism.”
“Not since the 1930s and 1940s have Jews felt as besieged and vulnerable as they do today,” wrote Milton Shain, emeritus professor of history at the University of Cape Town and antisemitism expert, in Business Day on 22 November. “The [South African] government’s failure to condemn unequivocally the 7 October outrage in its immediate aftermath was especially galling. Today, South African Jews feel under siege. Calls have been made to close – by force if necessary – a Jewish school in Cape Town; Jews have been intimidated at places of work; Jewish-owned or associated businesses have been targeted; and some Jews have even been threatened in their homes. ‘The only good Jew is a dead Jew,’ articulated one person on social media.”
Now, as in the case of Amad, “Speed and connectivity are everything: the ‘new’ Judeophobes can take the age-old antisemitic narrative, link it to highly inflammatory images of real conflict and spread a toxic message of fanaticism and Jew hatred that can reach millions of people at the click of a mouse,” Shain said.