Israel has denounced South Africa’s legal action at the international court of justice accusing Israel of genocide and war crimes in Gaza as amounting to support for Hamas.
Israel called the charge that it was intentionally killing thousands of Palestinian civilians – which the ICJ is expected to start hearing on Thursday – a “blood libel”. Jewish organisations in South Africa accused the ruling African National Congress of siding with terrorism and antisemitism.
But South Africa’s lawsuit seeking a halt to the Israeli assault on Gaza in response to the Hamas cross-border attack in October comes after years of deteriorating relations rooted in the ANC’s decades-long support for the Palestinian cause and the legacy of Israel’s close military alliance with the apartheid regime during some of the most oppressive years of white rule.
South Africa’s chief rabbi, Warren Goldstein, responded to the ICJ filing by accusing the ANC government of acting “as Iran’s ally and proxy in the Islamic state’s plans to destroy the Jewish state” and of supporting “Iranian proxy Hamas in its war crimes”.
South Africa’s Jewish Board of Deputies joined the criticism, accusing the government of continuing “to humiliate itself in the international arena” and saying it had “no shame” in using international courts for political purposes.
The board’s critics have responded by accusing it of acting as a proxy for Israel. Andrew Feinstein, a Jewish former ANC member of parliament, said the criticisms will have little traction inside the country.
“The chief rabbi and the Jewish Board of Deputies have never criticised anything Israel has done for as long as I can remember. It’s worth reminding oneself that the organised Jewish community in South Africa found it extraordinarily difficult to criticise apartheid until the mid-1980s. So we’re not talking about people speaking from a position of moral integrity here,” he said.
Feinstein noted that while Jewish South Africans featured prominently in the struggle against apartheid, they were shunned by the Board of Deputies, which claimed to speak for the majority of the Jewish community. The organisation collaborated with the white regime and chose instead to honour figures such as Percy Yutar, the prosecutor who sent Nelson Mandela to prison. [Continue reading…]