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SA olim stage protest against ANC government

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“Justice is with us,” former Knesset member Ruth Wasserman Lande told South African olim who gathered in Ra’anana on Friday, 2 February, to protest against the African National Congress (ANC) government’s accusations that Israel was committing genocide against the Palestinians.

In the wake of the 7 October massacre and war against Hamas, the ANC and its supporters have grown increasingly more hostile towards the Jewish state, culminating in the court case at the International Court of Justice.

South Africans in Israel wanted to voice their anger at the ANC, but also stand in solidarity with Jews in South Africa experiencing a rise in antisemitism.

The master of ceremonies, Truth be Told’s Dave Kaplan, made a point of saying, “The demonstration isn’t against South Africa or its people, but against its disgraceful government. I’m proud to stand here as an Israeli, but I’m ashamed of the government of my homeland for stooping so low. It’s a danger to Judaism.”

In spite of the inclement weather, the protest attracted between 150 to 200 people outside Yad Labanim in Ra’anana. The display of metal hearts, each bearing the name and face of a hostage held in Gaza by Hamas terrorists, was an aching reminder that though we could protest freely, 136 men, women, and children are still in captivity. At the time of writing, it was confirmed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) that 32 hostages had been killed and their families had been notified.

Wandering among the flag-bearing crowd, many expressed anger at the ANC, but also great concern about the growing hostility of the ANC and its supporters, and how it would affect the Jewish community. “My elderly parents are there, they cannot afford to make aliya, and I’m really worried,” said one flag-bearing protester who preferred not to reveal her name. Christian allies also showed solidarity at the gathering.

The outrage at the protest was specifically targeted at allegations of genocide. Many in the crowd have children or grandchildren serving in the IDF. Accusations of genocide are very personal to Israelis, who know their army follows the strictest code of conduct, and are still reeling from the “Black Sabbath”.

For South Africans in Israel, the feeling of being betrayed by the country they were raised in was palpable. “My father was born in South Africa, he served his country, and he would be outraged at what has happened,” said Harris Green of Truth be Told. “It’s a betrayal of the Jewish community who fought to end apartheid and contributed so much to South Africa.”

Other speakers included Telfed chairperson Maish Isaacson; South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) spokesperson, Rolene Marks (the writer); Simon Wiesenthal Center Chief Nazi Hunter Dr Efraim Zuroff; bereaved father Clive Chitiz; and a musical tribute to Israel’s fallen soldiers by Richard Shavei Tzion and his daughter, Tanya Yuspov.

Wasserman Lande, who was raised in Cape Town and graduated from Herzlia High School before making aliya, spoke about her experience of speaking to South African media during these past few months and how it failed to broadcast an interview with her that explained the Israeli experience. Addressing the ANC’s motivation for hostility against Israel, she said, “Justice is with us, the ruling party of South Africa has sold its soul to Iran.”

Clive Chitiz, whose son, Yaron, fell in battle in Gaza, reading the last interaction between them, spoke about how his son had assisted civilians in Gaza, and how throughout his 82 days of service, not a single bullet had been fired. Accusing Israel of the crime of crimes, genocide, is an appalling insult to the IDF soldiers who take every precaution to save civilian lives, he said.

Zuroff compared the ANC’s actions to the infamous United Nations declaration in 1975 stating that Zionism is racism. Marks challenged the crowd not to be silent, saying, “We weren’t silent during apartheid, and won’t be silent while the ANC acts as the legal arm of Hamas.”

Messages from Zev Krengel on behalf of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and Rowan Polovin of the SAZF were read out to a crowd that appreciated the sentiment of solidarity. Polovin encouraged those eligible to vote in the upcoming elections to do so.

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