South Africa: a nation on edge

By Moira Schneider, August 14, 2014

South Africa's Jews are under severe pressure - and not just because they live in an aggressively anti-Zionist country. They are also being buffeted by a powerful internal debate over how to relate to Israel over its war with Hamas.

This week, Johannesburg Jewish teenager Joshua Broomberg , deputy head boy of King David High School in Victory Park, posted a photograph in which he and two Jewish friends sported "keffiyehs" to show "opposition to the human rights violations carried out against the people of Palestine". A petition of over 2,000 signatures urged the revocation of his school honours.

Meanwhile, 500 Jews – among them anti-apartheid veterans and other prominent individuals - took a half-page advert in the national Sunday Times saying they were "appalled" by Israel's actions.

All this comes amid poisonous anti-Israel feeling in the country at large. On Saturday, around 40,000 mainly Muslim protesters marched in Cape Town against Israel. The march, addressed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, was said to have been one of the biggest held in the city, rivalling those held during apartheid.

There have been repeated calls - resisted by government - for the expulsion of the Israeli envoy and for sanctions to be imposed against the Jewish state. This week, former president Thabo Mbeki called for a boycott of Israeli goods.

Last month, ANC deputy general secretary Jessie Duarte compared Israel to Nazi Germany and Gaza to the Holocaust death camps.

A few days later, an ANC volunteer posted a picture of Hitler with the caption: "Yes man, you were right".

In the wake of these two incidents, the Board of Deputies and the Jewish community have lodged separate hate speech cases with the SA Human Rights Commission.

Last updated: 4:05pm, August 15 2014