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South Africans support prosecuting Hamas for war crimes



As many as 70% percent of South Africans support prosecuting Hamas’s actions against Israel as a war crime, and more than half the population believe the South African government should be applying pressure to make this a reality.

These are some of the results of a recent survey commissioned by the Women’s Action Campaign South Africa (WACSA), conducted by Victory Research from 14 to 20 February 2024. The sample of 808 respondents are fully representative of South Africa’s adult population.

However, in the same survey, 40% of South Africans believe that reports of Hamas’s rapes and killings are Israeli or Western propaganda, and one in four believe that rape “can be justified in wartime”. Another 26% believe that “Israeli citizens aren’t innocent – they are complicit in their country’s behaviour towards Palestinians, and thus are responsible for what Hamas did to them.”

As many as 56% hadn’t heard of Hamas, and 62% didn’t know about Hamas’s attack on Israel. Yet when presented with details of the attack, 79% believe it was an unjustified act.

“Some South African political parties and commentators have denied outright the 7 October atrocities,” says Angie Richardson, a spokesman for WACSA. “Others claimed that Israelis brought the atrocities on themselves. The survey highlights the dangers inherent in this rhetoric.

“South Africa’s ongoing silence and denial of Hamas’s sexual atrocities is deeply disturbing,” says Richardson. “The burden of proof for rape has been raised impossibly high for Israeli women. Even in the face of so much evidence, I still battle to understand how anyone could disbelieve what happened. Our survey underscores the critical need for education, dialogue, and accountability measures to protect all people from these horrific acts.”

Richardson isn’t Jewish, but feels strongly about bringing attention to Hamas’s atrocities. “It’s apparent that being critical of Hamas’s actions can be dangerous, even among those who advocate for women’s rights. However, what Hamas did on 7 October is unprecedented. The intentional use of sexual violence as part of its operational plan can never be justified. This is why I’m speaking out.”

She had no doubt that when the results of the survey were released on 7 March , she would receive a backlash. “I haven’t told my family or friends, only my husband, who has been an amazing sounding board,” she said. “My reason for not telling people close to me is that I didn’t want to field their personal views. But I’m comfortable with my decision.”

WACSA was formed at the start of this year. “Many of us had never met, but through our networks, we found we were all asking the same question: ‘Why is no-one saying anything about the rape and sexual violence of 7 October?’” says another WACSA spokesperson, Bev Goldman. “Evidence is mounting of unfathomably savage levels of mass rape, mutilation, and other sexual violence against women, children, and some men in the 7 October atrocities. A detailed investigation by the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel found that Hamas militants intentionally used sadistic sexual practices to spread humiliation and terror.”

The survey comes as the United Nation’s special envoy on sexual violence in conflict, Pramila Patten, reported “clear and convincing information” that there were “reasonable grounds” to believe sexual assaults including rape and gang rape in several places took place during the 7 October attacks by Hamas; that some women and children hostages held by Hamas were subjected to rape and sexual torture; and that there were “reasonable grounds” to believe such abuses were “ongoing”.

It also comes in the wake of a global petition titled “Open letter to the Israeli and US governments and others weaponising the issue of rape”, which says, “In its current war against the people of Gaza, the Israeli government has chosen to weaponise the issue of sexual violence for political outcome.” The petition is signed by several South African women.

“WACSA believes that compassion isn’t a binary choice,” says Gabriella Farber-Cohen, another WACSA spokesperson and a student at the University of the Witwatersrand. “The Israel-Hamas war is complex, but it’s not hard to recognise both the devastating loss of life in Gaza and the horror and tragedy of Hamas’s brutal attack and sexual violence in Israel.”

Goldman says the organisation was motivated to do the survey because “the silence from local and government women’s bodies after 7 October disturbed us, and we felt that a survey of this kind was necessary for us to understand the lack of response. We needed facts so that we could launch our movement credibly and conclusively.”

She says they were relieved to learn that 97% of those polled agreed that both rape and gender-based violence was extremely problematic. “We were saddened that at least half of the respondents have experienced both, but that resulted in much-needed empathy for the victims of the attack.”

“Most South Africans, according to polls and statistics, are peace-loving, and to have almost 80% condemning 7 October, believing it to be unjustified, speaks volumes,” says Goldman.

“When 70% of South Africans affirm that they would support the prospect of Hamas terrorists being accused in an international court of crimes against humanity or war crimes, that’s a hopeful response,” she says. “So, too, is the fact that more than 60% of South Africans believe that Hamas is a violent resistance movement, and they disagree that it represents all Palestinians.

“When asked if there should be consequences for the Hamas terrorists responsible for the rape and torture of the Israeli women, 60% of respondents agreed that every international effort should be made to hold them to account,” she says.

Ninety percent of respondents believed that all rape victims should be supported, regardless of race, culture, religion or gender, Richardson says, and 73% believe that rape is never justifiable.

Farber-Cohen, the former spokesperson for the provincial executive committee of the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL), says, “My main reason for leaving the ANC was because it didn’t recognise Jewish lives and Israeli lives as lives worthy of protection. Just like it couldn’t sufficiently condemn Hamas for the atrocities committed on 7 October, and claimed that Israelis bought the atrocities on themselves, so, too, has it remained starkly silent on the rapes and mutilations which Israeli women suffered at the hands of Hamas.

“Once again, its double standards about women, gender-based violence, and human rights has been made horrifyingly clear. Further, through the findings of the survey, it’s clear how out of touch the ANC is with the public opinion of its South African citizens. One of the reasons for originally getting involved in the ANCWL was because standing up for women is close to my heart as a Jewish feminist. So, putting my energy into speaking up for Israeli women who were the victims of brutal sexual violence was an obligation which I had to fulfil.”

A media statement with the findings of the WACSA survey was scheduled to be released to media in South Africa and internationally on 7 March 2024, the day before International Women’s Day. The details of the survey and its finding will be made available through

“We hope to attract media attention to spread the findings as far as possible,” says Farber-Cohen. “Anyone can support the work of the organisation by sharing all forms of our media. This can be done through word of mouth, by sending content to friends, family, acquaintances, and colleagues, and through social media.

“Unfortunately, many of these women were murdered, and will never have the opportunity to say what happened to them,” she says. “Therefore, it’s our responsibility as the Jewish community to make sure their voices are heard, believed, and stood up for; that their stories aren’t forgotten, and the violence [they experienced] isn’t silenced.”

“WACSA calls on political parties, our government, civil society, women’s-rights organisations, and activists to condemn rape and sexual violence publicly wherever they occur,” says Goldman. “We call on the South African government to apply maximum pressure through international courts, the United Nations, and its close ties to Hamas, to ensure accountability and justice for victims and survivors, and the release of all hostages. The majority of South Africans would support this.”

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1 Comment

  1. yitzchak

    Mar 10, 2024 at 1:17 pm

    The ANC South African Government barely acknowledge the 7.10.genocidal atrocity ,how are they going to proceed with a prosecution? Minister Pandor and Zayin Dangor won’t watch the footage out of fear that they may vomit at its contents.If and when they watch their Hamas poster children in their liberation struggle around Gaza, all they need to do is ask the usherettes to give them a big popcorn box to improve their catharsis.

    Tomorrow the UNSC will have the report delivered. Those who can’t take it can cover their faces with a full hijab/kaffiya and like holocaust denial they will deny this one….”True moslems don’t do this”!

    The history of genocide will include 7.10 and not Gaza 2023-2024 as have Dresden Hiroshima Nagasaki not entered the legacy thereof.

    The warpers in the ANC?Hamas alliance would like to replace the Jewish Struggle and liberation by the palestinian liberation of the palestinians.It is we who fought all our antagonists ,most recently the Ottomans, then the British, and now the Arabs/Palestinians who cannot conceive of a Jewish (white) Liberation struggle against other whites (Nazis,British) and must fit into the preconceived notion that only people of colour can fight off their colonial masters. Remember Whoopi Goldberg who said that the nazi oppression of the Jews was not racism.because it was whites oppressing whites.

    The BBC 4 interviewed Quaddumi in Teheran (the Hamas representative and sometime visitor to South Africa)
    who was also interviewed by the long lashes reporter.What a difference.Hamas won’t accept their own narrative! The Israeli ambassador contradicted him and was booted out.Pandor was aggrieved because of the lese majeste.

    This war will end soon whether by surrender or force.We pray for the safe return of our hostages.
    Let’s not forget that the first ICJ decision for all its slant gave the SA government cold comfort.
    But interestingly the response for release of hostages came from the 4th Geneva Convention governing civilians not the Genocide Convention. Moslems have to shed their antisemitic views and their sharia delictions and join the world of nations.

    Both Moslems and Christians have different reasons for opposing Israel, some religious some geopoltical.
    Judaism and Zionism are both equal in our eyes and theirs.But let’s not allow people to say that they are not the same thing e.g. that it is a purely nationalist struggle.

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