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Jewish supporters of Rise Mzansi ‘betrayed’ by anti-Israel agenda



Jewish supporters of Songezo Zibi, the leader of Rise Mzansi, feel “betrayed” and “conned” as high-ranking party members have been posting antisemitic and anti-Israel disinformation online since the 7 October Hamas attacks in Israel. Many have withdrawn ongoing support for the party.

Prominent Jewish backers of this newly-formed party are angry following the alleged antisemitic and anti-Israel stances held by key figures within the party. It has raised questions about the party’s alignment and the integrity of its leadership, putting its viability in jeopardy.

Community members were drawn to Zibi’s calm and moderate approach as a fresh African political voice, and provided support from donations to advice and guidance. However, after 7 October, as new members joined, party members took a strong anti-Israel stance.

Zibi supported South Africa’s case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), advocating a war-crimes investigation into Israel, and calling for a ceasefire. Furthermore, he promoted members to prominent parliamentary and provincial positions who harbour vehement anti-Israel views, which some supporters described as “rabidly” antisemitic.

Louise van Rhyn has been selected to be number six on the Rise Mzansi parliamentary list. Van Rhyn has thousands of followers on X (formerly Twitter), and has used her platform to disseminate and repost wildly anti-Israel disinformation. In one of them, she posted five broken heart emojis and reposted someone saying, “Israel stole the organs of 80 Palestinian bodies, then dumped them in Gaza.” The post continues: “For decades, we’ve known about the Israeli organ banks – some of the largest in the world. And we also know that the Israelis never donate organs as they’re usually stolen from Palestinian prisoners.”

In one post she said, “This makes me so angry. The Zionists have infiltrated all the important decision-making bodies in the world. And we have allowed them!”

There are more than 200 examples of such posts and reposts, including posts by known Israel haters Roger Waters and Andrew Feinstein.

Anti-Israel activist Irfaan Mangera, whose X handle is #StopTheGenocide, is a member of the party’s national leadership. He previously served as the youth activism programme manager at the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation. He wears a keffiyeh at party and public gatherings. In 2021, he posted on Twitter: “We maintain – there can be no peace without justice. The two-state solution isn’t viable. Israel is a settler colonial apartheid state and must be treated as such. Boycott, divestment, and sanctions now!”

He called early on for the closure of the Israeli embassy in South Africa, posting in 2021, “We’re here to call for the closure of the Israeli embassy and expulsion of apartheid ambassador #GazaUnderAttack.”

Jitendrakumar (Jeets) Hargovan, number 17 on the parliamentary list, has “Free Palestine” in his X handle. He posted a picture of the Israeli flag with the words, “Israel is a terrorist state.”

Several party members, including author Erika Bornman, have posted “problematic” anti-Israel posts and reposts online, with one businessman describing them as “despicable and outrageous”.

Those close to Zibi told the SA Jewish Report they imagine he would be “horrified” by this antisemitic narrative. However, Zibi did not respond to questions by the SA Jewish Report.

“Many Jewish donors and supporters have written to complain,” said one source.

One concerned member of the community who has been passionate about his involvement in Rise Mzansi described some of the comments posted online as “flagrantly antisemitic”, and told the SA Jewish Report, “The leadership of Rise Mzansi is aware of these diabolical comments by members of the party, and Songezo will be judged based on what he does about it. We’re all dismayed by this rogue element that has hijacked the plane. Many of us had front row seats to Zibi’s ideas, views, strategy, and manifesto, and now feel a profound sense of betrayal.”

The SA Jewish Report has spoken to a number of supporters who for personal reasons did not want to be publicly named.

A well-known Johannesburg businessman said his company supported Rise Mzansi in good faith, hoping that its leader would focus on local issues.

“Had we known then what we know now, we would never have backed Rise Mzansi. We’re upset and feel betrayed. We’re ashamed that our support has gone towards empowering the promotion of an anti-Israel, antisemitic agenda.”

One businessman said he saw the writing on the wall from the get-go, and withheld all support.

“Sadly, for those who cared to look beneath the surface, it wasn’t hard to uncover the involvement of the anti-Israel lobby within the new party, as Irfaan Mangera, a member of its national leadership, appeared on its website and was active in the media. While celebrating his ‘human rights’ achievements, Mangera saw no double-standard in aligning it with his role as a youth activism programme manager at the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, which is openly hostile to the existence of Israel, or celebrating his support of the Free Palestine movement on social media platforms.”

When confronted with this early in 2023, Jewish fundraisers aligned with the party “turned a blind eye”, he said, or claimed, “somewhat incredibly” to be unaware of it.

Though the alarm was raised, no-one could have imagined life after the 7 October massacre and the degree of destructive reach and influence the anti-Israel lobby held across a range of organisations, the businessman said.

“Rise Mzansi can’t have it both ways, asking for our support while allowing calls for Israel’s destruction and our way of life. The Jewish community must demand a clear narrative on Israel and a far higher standard from those who ask for our support,” he said.

“No-one is asking Zibi to kowtow, we’re asking him to do the right thing,” said a source close to the party. “There should be intolerance for all forms of prejudice within the party, and that extends to [that shown to] Jewish people.”

“The South African Zionist Federation has strongly condemned the support that Rise Mzansi has given to the African National Congress’s attempts to put the Jewish state on public trial at the ICJ and delegitimise her right of self-defence,” said National Chairperson Rowan Polovin.

“We’re concerned that the party’s staff and parliamentary list include individuals who support the antisemitic BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] movement and regularly promote anti-Jewish conspiracies and blood libels in public. A party that claims to support the two-state solution cannot have members who promote such agendas. We advise our community to give due consideration to the above when deciding whether to provide financial or electoral support.”

Community member Alan Fischer is the party’s fundraiser. He referred all questions about this issue to Mabine Seabe, the party’s national communications director. Seabe said donors were presented with the party’s set of principles, ideology, and political outlook as outlined in “our politics” documents.

He wouldn’t be drawn on whether the party would address members who had posted offensive comments online.

Instead, he said, “At all times, our foreign policy should reflect our values of human rights and constitutional democracy based on self-determination, government by and for the people, and social justice. This applies to the Middle East, where our consistent position has been that there should be an immediate ceasefire, a return of all hostages, and peaceful negotiations aimed at securing lasting peace and the existence of independent and sovereign states of Israel and Palestine.”

One of the party’s lead Jewish supporters, who won’t be contributing any more, said, “I feel like we’ve been slapped in the face.”

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  1. F

    Apr 19, 2024 at 8:07 am

    Being Anti Israel is not being anti Semitic. Well done to Rise Msanzi for standing up against genocide in #Palestine

  2. Wein

    Apr 19, 2024 at 10:40 am

    This article just shows that they care about humanity. Being anti Israel and against Zionism is not being against Jewish people.

  3. Andrew

    Apr 20, 2024 at 11:39 am

    Why are all these people that claim to be ‘betrayed’ anonymous? Are they not confident in their opinions? And did they think that being a donor meant that they got to influence policy?

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