The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) has strongly condemned several attempts to disrupt Cape Town’s annual Israeli Independence Day celebrations.
On Monday night a small group of protesters which included members of the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Palestine Solidarity Forum (PSF) and SA Jews for a Just Palestine, attempted to disrupt the event by blockading the entrances and trying storm the venue.
SAZF Chairperson (Cape Council) Rowan Polovin, who witnessed the events, said the groups’ blockade “forced patrons including children and the elderly to climb over dustbins and obstacles to enter the building”.
“They were chanting ‘Free Free Palestine’ and ‘From the River to the Sea Palestine will be free’ and also tried to intimidate Jews who wished to peacefully celebrate the revival of our Jewish homeland,” he recalled.
After several attempts to get inside the building “they were eventually let inside the (lobby area of) the venue” where they continued to protest.
“They then tried to break down the door into the theater to storm inside and luckily were prevented from doing so,” Polovin said.
“In spite of this, the event was a great success. The Cape Town Jewish community came together to celebrate the rebirth of our Jewish Homeland and were not prevented from doing so - the atmosphere was excellent."
“It was a political victory for us and they failed,” he said, proudly.
Almost 500 people attended as Israeli music and dance sensation Tararam performed as the main act during the celebration.
SAZF Executive Director Julie Berman said the modus operandi of the BDS movement is clear.
“Under the guise of ‘peaceful protest’ they try to disrupt the function, and when they are prevented from doing-so, they cry foul,” she emphasized.
“The SAZF recognizes everyone’s rights to a peaceful protest, it also insists on having equal rights of freedom of expression and freedom of association - to this end we will continue to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day as per our constitutional rights,” Berman said.
Berman added that the behavior of the UCT Palestine Solidarity Forum “and their ilk” was a clear infringement of this right.
“We call on all South Africans to condemn this kind of thuggery,” she said.
This is not the first time anti-Israel groups have attempted to disrupt such events.
Earlier this year violent scuffles broke out during “Israel Apartheid Week” on both the Wits and UCT campus’s with BDS supporter’s verbally insulting, intimidating and threatening Jewish students.
Prior to this, in 2013, BDS supporters attempted to stop another Jewish-held Israel celebration ceremony at Gold Reef City theater in Johannesburg. This included phoning in bomb threats, releasing “stink-bombs” and jumping onto the stage in an attempt to disrupt the performance.
In a separate incident, also 2013, anti-Israel supporters successfully disrupted a piano recital by Jewish maestro, Yossi Reshef at Wits University.