Over 1,500 Jews and Christians have attended pro-Israel events throughout South Africa which are focused on strengthening the local pro-Israel community and countering the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions and Israel delegitimization movements. The initiative is sponsored by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy (MSA) together with Maccabi World Union.
Four main events across the country took place from June 3-10. In cooperation with the Zionist Federation in South Africa, its local Jewish community and Maccabi World Union's branch in the country helped organize events which took place in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban.
Panels discussed working together with the local Christian leadership in raising support for Israel. In tandem, the Jewish community has also participated in talks on strengthening its activities and where they were provided with effective tools to deal with 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 2001. The forum was marked by repeated expressions of antisemitism by anti-Israel activists and condemned as such by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson who chaired the conference.
As a government body dedicated to advocating for Israel around the world, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs is deeply troubled by growing anti-Israel support brewing in the country. The ministry emphasizes 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 said: “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."
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 recent 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.
Additionally, according to media reports, the ANC’s leadership met with members of the terrorist organization Hamas. In October 2015, Khaled Mashal, former head of the Hamas political bureau, conducted an official visit to the country, 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 participated in the hijacking two passenger planes in 1969-1970.