A number of South African Jews have come out in condemnation of the Israeli aggression on the people of Gaza, by signing a petition calling on national government to severe all ties with Israel. Amongst those to have signed the petition are satirical cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, better known as Zapiro, and former South African tennis star Mark Kaplan.
Another prominent South African to have signed the petition is Prof. David Sanders, the founding director of the School of Public Health at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). He said it was vital for South Africans of Jewish decent to indicate their opposition towards Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip, as well as their attempted expansion of the Israeli state.
Prof. Sanders believed the recent developments in Palestine were causing more people of the Jewish faith to become aware of the effects of the Israeli occupation, noting similar protest by Jewish people in other countries across the globe.
“Equally it has polarised the Jewish community, with probably the majority supporting Israel. This is why it is important for Jewish people to make it clear that, being of Jewish decent is not the same as being a Zionist,” he said.
Sanders’ was concerned by the fact that many Palestinian sympathisers, including those amongst the Muslim community, were not able to differentiate between the ideologies of Jewish people and that of Zionists. This, according to him, has led to numerous anti-Semitic slogans and slurs, particularly on social media.
“I think that is extremely unfortunate, because it will not only not result in Israel becoming more aggressive, but also alienate the Jewish attempts around the world,” he explained.
He said that because Israel deemed itself a Jewish state, there was a widespread assumption that the Jewish community in its entirety supported a state that had shown itself to be “expansionist and oppressive”. Although conceding that the majority probably did, he said that many amongst the Jewish community were also struggling to understand the difference between being Jewish and being Zionist.
Sanders rejected the notion the current conflict was one based on religious differences, but admitted that this wasn’t being helped by the fact that it was being portrayed in that manner.
“I think it is much more that many Jewish people think that Arabs and Muslims are out to eliminate them, and of course there have been statements to that effect from Iran for example. Equally, with much justification, many Arab people feel the Israeli state is out to eliminate them,” he said.
He suggested the best possible solution to the conflict would be if a large movement of people within Israel called on their government and military to halt the aggression against the Palestinian population. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)