Simon Wiesenthal Center accuses South Africa’s leadership of fueling antisemitism by its outrageous lies against the Jewish state
By David E. Kaplan
In South Africa, the best are its people, the worst its politicians.
This recognition was visually most evident at the 2023 World Rugby Cup final on the 28 October in France where on the one hand you had the inspiring victorious South African Springbok team and its multitude of devoted South African fans and on the other, in the VIP section on the stands – the failing President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa who with few achievements to show for himself as president, wanted to bake in the glory of his nation’s Springboks heroes. There could not be two contrasting images of absolute success and abject failure.
While the image on the TV screens of the players brought screams and applause from fans in their living rooms, the sight of Ramaphosa brought mostly grunts. For the Jews of South Africa, it was justifiably more than just “grunts”!
No longer just the anxiety about a failing economy, collapsing infrastructure, diminishing employment opportunities, rampant crime and systemic corruption, now add government-fueled antisemitism!
Some three weeks before the hoisting by the Springboks of the Webb Ellis cup in Paris, death squads from Gaza, reminiscent of Nazi “Einsatzgruppen” entered Israel’s south to murder, rape, decapitate, burn and kidnap Jews. While much of the world in the immediate aftermath were horrified and voiced their support for Israel with leaders like US president Joe Biden, UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak and French president Emmanual Macron paying condolence visits during a time of war, South Africa’s government was not only silent, but its foreign minister, Naledi Pandor called not the leadership of the victims but the perpetrators – Hamas – and offered South Africa’s support. No concern shown or any mention of the Jews massacred or kidnapped by Hamas, the ANC government then added salt to its wounding Jewish community by withdrawing its remaining diplomatic staff from its embassy in Ramat Gan citing reasons of Israel committing a “holocaust” and carrying out “Genocidal airstrikes”. One would think that with three Holocaust Museums in South Africa – Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban – the South African government would be better educated to know what a “Holocaust” and “Genocide” is and not falsely accuse Israel of either. Instead of displaying some sympathy and understanding of Israel experiencing the worst massacre of Jews since the real Holocaust – “the Shoah” – all it has done is stoke the fire of antisemitism as exhibited by anti-Israel protests on the streets of South Africa.
Interviewed by the South African Jewish Report (SAJR), a Jewish attendee to a Christian prayer gathering for Israel on Sunday 12 October on the Sea Point promenade, said:
“I’ve never experienced such vile violence and antisemitism in my life.”
He withheld his name for security concerns.
Attacked by the Hamas-supporting mob shouting “Allahu Akbar”, he “was strangled, kicked, hit, scratched, dragged, maligned, and almost pushed into the ocean.”
The coordinator of the Christian-organised prayer gathering, Vivienne Myburgh, told the SAJR that “they broke a 75-year-old man’s finger, threatened to shoot a woman,” and “stabbed a man in the arm. There were knives and guns. They burned a prayer shawl [tallis] and Israeli flags with glee. I tried to grab destroyed posters and flags, but the police told me, ‘Your life is worth more than this’, so I had to leave them.”
The message cannot be clearer than the words of PAGAD National Coordinator, Haroon Orrie, who wearing a Hamas headband, said outside the Sea Point police station:
“The time for action is here. We share one objective: to rid this country of Zionism.”
While South African Jews may pray for a variety of things, it will no longer include for the welfare of the South African government. South Africa’s Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein responded to the government’s evil support of Hamas by advising that the prayer for the Republic of South Africa composed by the late Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris in 1994 honouring the country’s transition to democracy, will no longer include for the government. The Chief Rabbi explained in a letter to the SAJR that:
“The [current] change is clearly due to the South African government’s ongoing support for Hamas. How can we pray for a government that supports an organisation responsible for the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust – an organisation whose official policy is to murder Jews and which poses an ongoing threat to the safety of the Jewish people and the State of Israel?”
“It’s not a decision that was taken lightly,” Goldstein added, but “…when the government crosses the line and adopts a stance this immoral, we can’t in good conscience pray for them.”
It is thus understandable that the Israel office of the Jewish global human rights organization researching the Holocaust – the Simon Wiesenthal Center – has weighed in releasing this press release dated 9 November 2023. It admonishes the South African government that “should be ashamed of itself” for “its outrageous accusation that Israel is committing a Holocaust against the Palestinians.”
Following the above press release, the director of the SWC and a frequent contributor to Lay of the Land, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, told the SAJR:
“You must also question the impact on Jews living in South Africa. The government doesn’t feel protective towards Jewish people in South Africa even though Jews are important citizens. If there’s no protection for Jews, Jews should reassess and analyse their situation.”
South Africans have reason to be worried both in the short term about their security and in the long term about the sustainable of its community that has dropped dramatically from a high of 120,000 to hovering precariously above 40,000.
With a long-standing romance between the South African government and Hamas, coupled with its warm embrace of Iran – both committed to the destruction of the Jewish state – is it any surprise that South African Jews are wondering if their own government is not by the message it sends, inciting future pogroms?
For many of South Africa’s Jews having planted one foot out the country in Israel, the other foot is now more than ever likely to follow.