A crowd organised under the banner of South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) on Wednesday marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, demanding the reinstatement of South Africa’s ambassador to Israel, who was recalled in May after the killing of 41 Palestinians by Israeli armed forces.
Political party leaders including Congress of the People’s Mosiuoa Lekota and African Democratic Christian Party’s Reverend Kenneth Meshoe were part of the protest leaders. The crowd, waving pro-Israel placards, raised the Israeli flag high as they descended on the seat of the South African government.
“We believe [SA] relations with Israel must be strengthened, and not weakened. The people that are here, the majority of them are Christians who are saying to the [African National Congress] ANC, if you don’t listen to these thousands who are here to represent millions of Christians in South Africa who are saying do not downgrade the Israeli embassy, then next year Hamas which influences you won’t be there to vote for you,” said Meshoe.
“It will be Christians that they will be requesting to vote for them. We know that during the elections, they [ANC leaders] will be running to all churches asking for votes. They cannot ask for votes from people they are undermining and people that they are refusing to hear.”
Meshoe said whoever suggests cutting ties with the Jewish people of Israel “is undermining our faith”.
“Every year, you get thousands of Christians who go on a pilgrimage to Israel and we don’t want that to be undermined by people who are expecting votes from the Christians,” he said.
Pretoria recalled Ambassador Sisa Ngombane in May after the killings of Palestinians at the Gaza border, in an attack which left many seriously injured.
At the time, South Africa’s department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) reiterated its stance, that the Israeli Defence Force must withdraw from the Gaza Strip “and bring to an end the violent and destructive incursions into Palestinian territories”.
Today, Meshoe said the ANC-led government had “jumped the gun” on the matter.
“The ANC jumped the gun. News reports came out, with Hamas saying 50 out of the 62 people who lost their lives were their members. So the ANC punished Israel for the death of terrorists, people who were saying they want to go into Israel to take lives of innocent people. Obviously anybody who loves life cannot agree to that,” said Meshoe.
“I know that people reacted when they heard about the deaths. If we talk about what’s written in black and white, let them give you the information in black and white, which says the majority of people who died unfortunately on that day were innocent people. I have information … that 50 out of the 62 people who lost their lives were terrorists who wanted to harm the people of Israel.”
Commenting on Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters’ campaign to have the Israeli embassy shut down, Moshoe said it was “a stupid move”.
“If EFF curses Israel, watch what’s going to them next year in the elections. If ANC curses Israel, watch what is going to happen to them next year during elections. Let’s talk after the elections,” said Meshoe.
– African News Agency (ANA)