South African leaders tell country’s Jews to reject ‘Nazi-like’ Israel

Ruling ANC party calls Israel a ‘blight on humanity,’ that must be treated like a pariah; Jewish community says Pretoria showing double-standard, veering into anti-Semitism

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

African National Congress delegates cheer the closing speech of newly elected African National Congress (ANC) President, Cyril Rampahosa, on the final day of the 54th ANC conference at the NASREC Expo Centre in Johannesburg, December 20, 2017. (AFP/Wikus De Wet)
African National Congress delegates cheer the closing speech of newly elected African National Congress (ANC) President, Cyril Rampahosa, on the final day of the 54th ANC conference at the NASREC Expo Centre in Johannesburg, December 20, 2017. (AFP/Wikus De Wet)

South Africa’s ruling party on Tuesday slammed Israel’s recent actions at the Gaza border, comparing the IDF’s efforts to prevent Palestinian protesters from breaching the border fence with Nazi Germany’s cruelty against Jews.

Also on Tuesday, the country’s Jewish community leaders condemned their government for recalling the the South African ambassador to Israel in light of Monday’s deadly riots at the Gaza border.

The African National Congress “views with complete shock and dismay the Israeli armed forces’ massacre of peaceful Palestinian protesters,” the party said in a statement.

“We watched in complete disbelief as a people, who continuously remind us all about the hate and prejudice Jews went through during Hitler’s anti-Semitism reign, will exhibit the same cruelty less than a century later,” the statement read.

The ANC, which says it was once a “target of a Nazi-like Apartheid regime,” vowed never to accept a government that “regards other human beings as insignificant.”

On Monday — the day before Palestinians marked their nakba, or the “catastrophe” of Israel’s establishment in 1948 — thousands of Palestinians protestors participated in the so-called March of Return, some of them deploying violence as they tried to cross the border fence into Israel. The IDF used riot dispersal methods, and in some cases live ammunition, in an effort to prevent any infiltrations.

A Palestinian man uses a slingshot during clashes with Israeli forces along the border with the Gaza strip east of Khan Younis on May 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said 60 Palestinians were killed and over 2,700 more injured in Monday’s clashes along the border. The IDF said Tuesday 24 of those killed belonged to terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Israel has blamed Hamas for the deadly violence, saying the terror group encouraged and led the protests, which included attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to breach the border fence. The IDF hd said Sunday that Hamas planned to send armed terrorists through any breach in the fence to “massacre” Israelis.

Tuesday’s lengthy ANC statement accused Israel of “crude viciousness,” comparing it to South Africa’s past apartheid regime.

“No amount of pontification by Israel or its government propaganda or its citizens, can be able to camouflage their participation in a systematic oppression of the Palestinian people,” the statement charged.

“All South Africans must rise up and treat Israel like the pariah that it is. In our struggle against the apartheid regime, governments did not give us support initially, but the people did… Just as progressive Dutch and British people, on their own volition, rejected White South Africa, so too must South Africans of Jewish faith and culture also stand up and reject Israeli oppression of Palestinians.”

The statement concludes with a call of all South Africans to show the world that “we regard the Israeli government and its armed forces as an outcast and blight on humanity.”

The statement also slammed Monday’s “nonchalant and insensitive” inauguration of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, saying it “will forever be drenched in the blood of those innocent people, particularly the children as well as women who perished through the barrel of their guns.”

People watch as US President Donald Trump speaks on a video screen during the official opening ceremony of the US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

US President Donald Trump’s recorded video message screened during the embassy opening “shows the callousness and how far removed from reality the US foreign policy is and how much disregard he views the lives of Palestinians.”

The ANC recently resolved to call on the government to downgrade its embassy in Tel Aviv to a “liaison office,” but it is unclear if and when Pretoria will do so.

‘Outrageous double standards’

Meanwhile, two of the country’s leading Jewish communal organizations said Pretoria’s decision to recall the ambassador was “outrageous and displays gross double-standards against the Jewish state.”

The death of civilians loss of life of civilians is regrettable, but “we recognize that Israel as a sovereign state has the right to defend its own border and its own citizens,” the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the country’s Zionist Federation said in a joint statement.

“Israel is facing a real danger with the incitement by Hamas of its own population to storm the security fence and attack Israeli civilians.”

By withdrawing Ambassador Sisi Ngombane, the South African government is “essentially walking away from playing any meaningful role in finding a sorely needed resolution to the conflict,” the joint statement went on.

The South African ambassador to Israel, Sisa Ngombane, with then-president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, February 28, 2013. (Issac Harari/Flash90)

“The rhetoric used by the government has already spilled into anti-Semitic comment on various social media platforms and the biggest losers are the South African Jewish community, and other peace loving South Africans. This is a victory only for extremism in the Middle East,” the Jewish organizations said, calling on Pretoria to reconsider its decision to recall Ambassador Ngombane.

Ngombane, who has been serving in Israel since 2013, is currently the dean of the African Diplomatic Group, which includes 16 countries. In this position, he was scheduled to host a reception at his Ramat Gan residence later this month.

The South African Foreign Ministry on Monday had announced that it was recalling Ngombane due to the “indiscriminate and grave manner of the latest Israeli attack” on Gaza residents.

Hamas welcomed South Africa’s decision, calling on other nations to follow suit.

“Monday’s massacre of 59 unarmed protesters is reminiscent of the bloody Sharpeville massacre perpetrated by the apartheid South African government in 1960,” the Palestinian terrorist organization said in a statement.

On March 21, 69 black South Africans were killed by the regime’s police force as they protested racist laws.

On Monday, the South African Foreign Ministry had condemned “in the strongest terms possible the latest act of violent aggression carried out by Israeli armed forces along the Gaza border.”

The Palestinian victims were participating “in a peaceful protest against the provocative inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem,” the statement read.

It also reiterated its call for the Israeli army to “withdraw from the Gaza Strip,” even though Israel uprooted all permanent military and civilian infrastructure there in 2005.

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