Thousands march in Cape Town for Palestine
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
An increase in Jewish and Christian support for Palestinians was visible at yesterday’s inner-city rally that local police confirmed drew thousands of people to Parliament’s gates.
Public rallies for Palestine have since last month attracted mostly Muslims. But yesterday a group of Jews joined in, carrying placards reading “Jewish not Zionist”.
Zandie Sherman said she was Jewish but did not support Israel.
“Not all Jews are Zionists. Some of us are scared to speak out because we are bullied, shamed or ostracised by our families if we speak against Israel,” she said.
“There are many Jews around the world that do not support Israel and what it does to Palestinians. Israel believes that all Jews supports it. But this violence won’t be done on behalf of me.”
During the rally, Marthie Momberg, one of the leaders at Kairos Southern Africa, addressed the crowd. Kairos is a Christian organisation that “addresses social justice in South Africa and the Middle East”.
“When it comes to Israel, many South Africans disconnect from the principles of international law and basic decency. They confuse nostalgia for the Biblical Israel with the modern state of Israel. This blinds and deafens them,” said Momberg.
“Christian and Jewish Zionists tell us that God blesses those who bless Israel, and God has a separate plan for Jews. It is this kind of literal, exclusivist reading of sacred texts that promotes the deepening of the oppression of Palestinians.”
The enigmatic Archbishop Desmond Tutu – in his bright purple outfit – enlivened the crowd with his spirit too.
Tutu declared: “We will not become haters. We are lovers.”
“We are lovers of justice. We are lovers of freedom… Tell the world: ‘I oppose injustice. I am not anti-Jewish’.”
He added: “We were against injustice, oppression… everything that is evil. We did not become anti-white… I ask one thing: their struggle must be a just struggle. But it must not be that you say we are against Jews.
“We have Jews here who support our struggle.”
Nelson Mandela’s grandson, MP Mandla Mandela, told the crowd he would take their demands to Parliament.
He quoted his grandfather: “Our freedom is not complete without the freedom of Palestinians… This is your Parliament. We will take action.”
Western Cape ANC leader Marius Fransman also addressed the gathering.
“We are pushing for Palestine to become an independent state. We are struggling for the freedom of humanity,” he said.
Trade union Cosatu though called out the ANC-led government for its “indecisive responses and pandering to the Zionist lobby”.
“We have called for trade, cultural and academic ties with Israel to be terminated,” it said.
The government recently said it would not recall the country’s ambassador in Israel, nor expel the Israeli ambassador, in response to widespread calls.
Palestinian ambassador Nofal Abdel Hafiz, based in Pretoria, told Weekend Argus after the rally the “South African government has done a lot”.
“We can’t tell it to expel the Israeli ambassador. That’s a matter it needs to decide on,” he said.
Hafiz condemned Arab states though for not doing more to assist Palestinians.
The rally was scattered with posters, balloons in the colours of the Palestinian flag and T-shirts representing various NGOs, political movements and ideologies.
Also on display was a large banner bearing the names of all the Palestinian children killed since the latest violence erupted early July.
A group of protesters said they traveled from Port Elizabeth to join the rally.
Nomakhosazana Tyatya said they “came to Cape Town this morning”.
“We felt it’s a good thing to support Palestine. We were under apartheid. Their situation is the same,” she said.
Zim Keye added: “Our government must chase away the Israeli ambassador and our ambassador must come back from Israel.”
Erminio Fancel from the Netherlands said he had been to Palestine and Israel a “few years ago and spent two months talking to both sides”.
“I was very objective but once you start talking with people from either side that changes. The inequality and apartheid is so visible there,” he said.
“People are suffering much more on the Palestinian side.”
Emmanuelle Daviaud from France has been living in Cape Town for 22 years and made her way to a few rallies already.
“I think it’s important to block Israel. I’ve been following the situation for years and what happened now in Gaza is about territory and power. I don’t have an anti-Jewish position but an anti-Zionist position,” she said.