Over 1,500 Jews and Christians attended four pro-Israel events throughout South Africa focused on strengthening the local pro-Israel community and countering BDS and Israel delegitimization. The initiative was sponsored by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy (MSA) and Maccabi World Union.
The events took place June 3-10 in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban and were carried out in cooperation with the Zionist Federation in South Africa, the local Jewish community, and Maccabi World Union’s branch in South Africa.
Panels and discussion emphasized on working together with the local Christian leadership in raising support for Israel. At the same time, the Jewish community also provided talks and discussions on strengthening its activities and providing them with effective tools to deal Israel delegitimization and boycotts.
South Africa has long been considered the epicenter of the BDS movement, which was founded nearly 17 years ago during the now infamous Durban Conference in 2001. The forum was marked by repeated expressions of anti-Semitism by anti-Israel activists and condemned as such by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson who chaired the conference.
In recent years South Africa has seen increasing pressure from delegitimization organizations against Israel. In May 2017, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa declared that his country would “support the struggle of the Palestinian people.” He also joined a hunger strike in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Following the transfer of the American Embassy to Jerusalem and the events in Gaza, South Africa announced they were recalling their return ambassador from Israel. Moreover, there has been increased pressure within the South African ruling party (ANC) to lower the diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Furthermore, the ANC’s leadership has met with members of the terrorist organization Hamas. According to media reports, in December 2017 a Hamas delegation met with the ANC. In 2015, Khaled Mashal, former head of the Hamas political bureau, conducted an official visit to the country in October 2015, during which he met with former President Zuma. Mashal’s deputy, Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, also accompanied him the visit. That same year BDS South Africa hosted the terrorist Leila Khaled, a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who partook in the hijacking two passenger planes in 1969-1970.
As a result of such, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs has emphasized the importance of increased activity in the region, as well as standing steadfastness alongside the local Jewish community who are at the forefront of thwarting Israel delegtimization within the country.
Minister for Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan: “The reality in South Africa is deeply disturbing given the increasing prominence of the BDS movement within the country and the solidarity shown by the ANC towards terrorist organizations. I decided to focus my ministry’s efforts on activities in South Africa in order to strengthen the local pro-Israel community and their fight against BDS and terrorism.”