South African parliament calls on government to shutter Israeli embassy

Lawmakers pass non-binding motion branding Israel an ‘apartheid state,’ as South Africa’s president claims Israeli actions in Gaza during war against Hamas ‘tantamount to genocide’

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

Pro-Palestinian supporters protest against Israel outside parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, November 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht)
Pro-Palestinian supporters protest against Israel outside parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, November 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht)

South Africa’s parliament on Tuesday passed a resolution urging the government to shutter the embassy of Israel, which the motion called an “apartheid state.”

A majority of 248 members of the National Assembly voted in favor of the non-binding resolution titled “Closure of the Israel Embassy in South Africa and suspension of all diplomatic relations with Israel” by lawmaker Julius Malema of the EFF opposition party.

The ruling African National Congress voted in favor of the resolution. But 91 lawmakers from opposition parties voted against it.

That government is not legally obligated to act on the motion.

The vote follows a significant deterioration in Israel’s bilateral relationship with South Africa, whose president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has called Israel’s actions in Gaza a “genocide.”

Pretoria is hosting a virtual meeting of BRICS — a group of major emerging economies that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — aimed at drawing up a common response to the Israel-Hamas war.

In this image made from video supplied by South Africa’s Presidency, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses BRICS leaders for a virtual meeting of leaders of developing countries, November 21, 2023. (South Africa Presidency via AP Photo)

Hamas terrorists on October 7 murdered some 1,200 people in Israel amid brutal atrocities and abducted 240 others, among other war crimes.

Israel moved in on Gaza with the stated goal of toppling Hamas’s terror regime there. According to Hamas health authorities, the death toll in Gaza has topped 13,300. These figures cannot be independently verified, and do not distinguish between civilians and active members of the Hamas terror group. The figure also does not distinguish between those killed in Israeli strikes and those killed by hundreds of errant rockets launched by Palestinian terrorists that landed inside Gaza.

In the motion, the South African Parliament called “upon the government to close the Israeli Embassy in South Africa until a ceasefire is agreed to by Israel and that Israel commit to binding United Nations facilitated negotiations whose outcome must be just, sustainable and lasting peace.”

It also said Palestinians have suffered “apartheid” by Israel.

Pretoria has recalled all its diplomats from Israel, while Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it had also recalled its ambassador to Pretoria for consultations.

During Tuesday’s “extraordinary meeting” of the BRICS nations, Ramaphosa again lashed out at Israel, while also condemning Hamas for the October 7 massacres and said both sides were guilty of violating international law.

“The collective punishment of Palestinian civilians through the unlawful use of force by Israel is a war crime,” Ramaphosa said at the start of the meeting of leaders and top diplomats from the BRICS bloc of countries. “The deliberate denial of medicine, fuel, food and water to the residents of Gaza is tantamount to genocide.”

“In its attacks on civilians and by taking hostages, Hamas has also violated international law and must be held accountable for these actions,” Ramaphosa said.

Amid the worsening ties between Israel and South Africa, a former mayor of Johannesburg posted online a picture of himself holding an assault rifle accompanied with the words “we stand with Hamas,” before quickly pulling it offline.

The since-deleted post by Thapelo Amad read: “We stand with Hamas, Hamas stands with us, together we Palestin [sic] and Palestin [sic] will be free. Without souls, without our blood, we will conquer Al AQSA,” screen captures of it show.

A screen capture on November 21, 2023 showing images published by a former mayor of Johannesburg, Thapelo Amad, with a rifle and a caption praising terror group Hamas. (Screen capture, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Al-Aqsa is the name of a mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It is the third-holiest site in Islam.

Amad, whose brief mayorship lasted only three weeks until April, yanked the post following media interest in the message, which is unusually combative.

Amad has not responded to a query on why he removed the post.

Lior Haiat, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, told The Times of Israel: “This is a despicable show of support for a terror organization. It’s making me sick to my stomach. This is a pure antisemitism of the worst kind.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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