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Tale of two protests

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On Shabbat on 28 October, anti-Israel protesters descended on Jewish residential areas, waving Hamas flags and chanting inflammatory slogans. That they chose Shabbat for this demonstration was no doubt deliberate, but in the end self-defeating, since when they arrived at the Beyachad community centre, they could only stand outside an empty building, venting their spleen to the wind.

They did, however, have one small “victory”. On the outer walls of the building were posters showing some of the Gaza hostages, including babies, and these they triumphantly tore down. I personally witnessed these Jew-haters do their best in an effort to bait and intimidate our Jewish community, only for their efforts to fall flat. The Community Security Organisation was fully prepared for any eventuality, ensuring that no-one was in danger of injury. We thank the Joburg member of the mayoral committee for transport, Kenny Kunene, who was there in person and was emphatic in his determination to protect our community, as well as the South African Police Service and Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department for their assistance in ensuring that no-one was harmed.

Solidarity with our captives at iconic Johannesburg site

The contrast between what happened outside Beyachad and another demonstration taking place the previous day at the iconic Nelson Mandela Bridge in Braamfontein couldn’t have been more pronounced. The demonstration was organised by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) to draw attention to the plight of the more than 220 hostages and call for their release. Posters showed images of all the hostages, with a red balloon displayed above each one of them. We anticipated that there would be hostility from passers-by. Instead, we were overwhelmed by the empathy and solidarity displayed by ordinary South Africans walking to and from work, people who stopped to look at the faces of the captives, express their heartfelt sympathy, and even kneel down and pray. The display was meant to be up for only an hour, but in the end, it was up all day and during that time, not a single poster was removed or vandalised. This, not the hate-filled protests in our suburbs, represents the true face of the South African people.

Dirco gets down and dirty

As we well know, the humanity and fundamental decency shown by so many of our fellow citizens during these difficult times has been all but entirely absent with regard to our government, in particular the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco). While the country was celebrating the Springboks’ history-making World Cup triumph, Dirco was preparing yet another anti-Israel diatribe, this time directly attacking the SAJBD and specifically National Vice-President Zev Krengel. It was issued in the name of Minister Naledi Pandor, who during these past weeks made a personal call to Hamas and met the president of Iran, which arms and funds Hamas and helped plan the 7 October massacre, but has yet to reach out to the Israeli ambassador. In our response, we drew comparisons between Dirco’s attempted atrocity denialism and how Holocaust deniers deny the crimes of the Nazis, acting as if these are something for which proof still needs to be brought. We further noted that instead of calling for Hamas to release the hostages, a sine qua non for any progress to be made towards peace, not once in her statement had the minister even mentioned the issue. I was subsequently interviewed by SABC News. We won’t be silenced, even by vicious attacks like this, and our responses continue to be picked up regularly by all the main media outlets.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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