Outcry over Hamas visit to SA
South African Jewry is outraged by the visit to the country of a senior Hamas delegation to participate in the Fifth Global Convention of Solidarity with Palestine. This comes just weeks after Israel suffered on 7 October the gravest act of mass murder, including inhumane torture of Jews, since the Holocaust at the hands of this internationally designated terrorist organisation.
Still reeling in the aftermath of the brutal pre-dawn unprovoked attack in which 1 200 civilians were slaughtered, raped, maimed, and burned, and 240 people including babies, children, women, and the elderly were taken hostage into Gaza, the community has been angered by pictures on social media of Hamas delegates being warmly welcomed and embraced by representatives of political parties including the ruling African National Congress (ANC), the Anglican Church, civil society groups, and the Palestine solidarity movement.
“We are disgusted by Hamas’ presence in South Africa,” said the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.
Rolene Marks, the spokesperson for the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) said, “The SAZF condemns the audacious admittance of extremists and terrorists into our country by the South African government, raising serious concerns about their potential involvement in fomenting extremism within our borders.”
The Hamas delegation included politburo member Dr Basem Naim; Hamas representative in Iran Dr Khaled Qaddoumi; and Hamas representative in East, Central and Southern Africa, Emad Saber.
Naim has publicly and consistently denied that Hamas kidnapped innocent women and children, killed civilians, and raped women, putting it all down to “fabricated Israeli propaganda”. This in spite of the fact that Hamas terrorists filmed themselves perpetrating these heinous crimes and posted live images of them doing so for the world to witness.
Only a week ago, Naim referred to the hostages as “guests”. This week, before delegates in Johannesburg, he described 7 October as a “glorious operation”. Naim said the narrative that Hamas attacked civilians at a music festival was “fabricated”. He went on to say that though Hamas did in fact initiate an attack on Israel on 7 October, he denied that it had targeted civilians. This same man told Australia’s 60 Minutes: “Our fighters haven’t committed any crimes”.
His colleague, Qaddoumi, lied on SABC News and other international media platforms that there were any children being held captive in Gaza. This is in spite of the fact that following 50 days in captivity, Hamas started to release Israeli child hostages as part of a ceasefire agreement.
In Naim’s address to the convention he said, “I’m filled with pride and glory to be a son of this heroic city, which has openly declared its willingness to sacrifice and martyrdom for our sincere national objectives, and indeed, for the salvation of humanity from the nasty entity known as the Zionist entity [Israel].”
The Hamas representatives took centre stage at the convention, which was jointly organised by the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine and the Royal House of Mandela, fronted by anti-Israel lobbyist Mandla Mandela, Mandela’s grandson. It also commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Global Campaign’s launch and the death of Nelson Mandela.
Representatives of Hezbollah, Palestine Islamic Jihad, and the Palestine Liberation Organisation were also present.
Obed Bapela, the deputy chairperson of the ANC national executive committee’s subcommittee on international relations, told reporters at the convention that it was important to share South Africa’s struggle and engage with all parties.
On the SABC, Bapela said, “We haven’t declared Hamas a terrorist organisation in South Africa, so we’re free to engage with everybody and every organisation in Palestine.”
While the ANC didn’t condone violence, “Any persons oppressed anywhere in the world, they’ve got the right to take any means available for them to liberate themselves,” Bapela said. “If it means violence meted against those oppressing others, let it be. We’ve been through it ourselves. But always leave space for negotiations.”
The Hamas delegation also met with high-level members of the ANC including Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula, Nomvula Mokonyane, as well as members of the Communist Party at Luthuli House. At a press conference held on Wednesday, 6 December, Mbalula further pledged the ANC’s support and solidarity with the people of Palestine.
Members of Hamas and the Mandela family held a wreath laying ceremony in Pretoria on 5 December to mark the 10th anniversary of Mandela’s passing.
The SAZF said it was especially horrified at the fact that Qaddoumi, a Jordanian national currently serving as Hamas’s representative to Iran in Tehran, who has been sanctioned by the United States treasury department, was part of the Hamas team here.
“Qaddoumi, acting as the liaison between Hamas and the Iranian government, actively strengthens relations with Iran. This after the Iranian regime continues to proclaim its intent to annihilate the people and state of Israel, while Hamas has threatened to repeat the 7 October massacre over and over again,” it said.
Daniel Bloch, the executive director of the Cape SAJBD said the Board was “dismayed” by the ANC Western Cape’s hosting of Hamas representatives.
Drawing attention to the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign, he asked, “Does the ANC condone the actions of Hamas, responsible for the savage raping of countless women? These acts stand in direct contradiction to the principles and goals of the 16 Days of Activism and the United Nations.”
In a letter to BusinessDay, SAZF director of public policy, Benji Shulman, said, “Sanctions imposed by the United States state department can have secondary repercussions. South African entities engaging with this Hamas delegation may be held liable for potential effects on local financial assets.
“Like our support for Russia, our alliance with Hamas puts trade relations with democracies at risk, including the United States African Growth and Opportunity Act, which provides thousands of jobs.”
SAJBD National Chairperson Professor Karen Milner said Hamas wasn’t a freedom-fighting organisation, but one “dedicated to the violent destruction of Israel and which portrays Jews as being an intrinsically evil people who must be hunted down and killed wherever they might be. It says so in its charter, and its heinous attack on Israeli civilians on 7 October bears this out.
“Hamas proudly affirms its intention of perpetrating more massacres against the Jewish state. One of its political bureau members, Ghazi Hamad, confirmed that in a television interview on 24 October, when he declared that Hamas would carry out further such attacks ‘again and again’ until Israel was completely destroyed.”