South African Muslims Riot at Israeli Consulate Protest

An anti-Semitic demonstration by Muslim fundamentalists outside the Israeli Consulate in Cape Town turned violent when police, attempting to control the 500 protestors, were attacked with stones, bricks and iron rods.

Israeli flags, set afire by the demonstrators, were also hurled at police.

At least nine people were injured in last week’s demonstration, which the organizers, the Islamic Unity Convention, claim was “against Israeli aggression.”

Police responded by opening fire with rubber bullets and birdshot.

The protest followed an earlier demonstration by a group of Muslim fundamentalists April 16, when Jews around the world marked Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The demonstrators, carrying anti-Israel posters, confronted Jews attending a memorial service for the 6 million victims of the Holocaust at a cemetery in Cape Town.

There was a strong police presence at this protest, and there were no incidents of violence.

Parliamentarian Tony Leon, leader of the Democratic Party and himself a victim of anti-Semitism during a recent strike by the Congress of South African Trade Unions, cited the recent activities of Islamic fundamentalists as part of a growing trend here of militancy by many groups.

“It is being articulated in a very ugly and offensive way, particularly as far as the Jews are concerned,” he said, adding that it was important to take a stand on these issues and intervene where necessary.

Leon was assaulted during the strike, during which demonstrators bore posters proclaiming “Tony Leon Has an Illegal Nose” and “Leon is an Illegal Immigrant.”

Mervyn Smith, national president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, reacted sharply to the anti-Semitic protests, characterizing them as “a show of aggression which gets the anger and the resistance of the Jews of South Africa up as well.”

But Smith downplayed the strength of the demonstrators, saying they had “minuscule support” within the local Muslim community.

He added that the majority of Muslims living here were peace-loving and did not support the militant Hezbollah or Hamas movements.

In March, President Nelson Mandela drew the criticism of local Jewish leaders when he said he would meet with Hamas officials when they attended a conference here.

Within days, government officials said the reports of the planned conference were erroneous.

More recently, Leon said he had been assured by both Mandela and Deputy President Thabo Mbeki that they would not meet with Hamas, should the group ever come to South Africa.

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