JOHANNESBURG, Nov. 9 (JTA) – Jewish leaders here are concerned that the South African government has a pro-Palestinian bias in the ongoing Middle East conflict.
After the ruling the African National Congress organized a Palestinian solidarity demonstration in Cape Town last month, officials from the South Africa Jewish Board of Deputies met with Foreign Ministry officials in Pretoria to discuss their concerns.
“We were given a wonderfully warm reception,” the board’s national chairman, Russell Gaddin, said after the recent meeting. “Their foremost agenda is Middle East peace, and they want to be even-handed.”
Gaddin also said the delegation was assured that “any anti-Israel feeling pertaining to Israel’s links with the old South African government was yesterday’s history.”
After the meeting, ministry officials and Jewish leaders issued a statement that both parties “make an earnest appeal to both the Muslim and Jewish communities in South Africa not to let the Middle East conflict lead to disturbances in South Africa.
“Any statements, protests and demonstrations in favor of either side should be peaceful and non-provocative. We appeal to both sides in South Africa to ensure that their support for what happens in the Middle East should not inflame passions in our country and should ensure that civil peace will prevail.”
The ongoing violence was the subject of a heated debate last week in the Parliament, where some legislators were highly critical of Israel’s role in the clashes.
Gaddin later said he was “very disappointed” the debate ever took place.
“To have such a debate was nothing less than opportunism to try and catch Muslim votes, particularly in Cape Town,” where municipal elections are to be held in early December, Gaddin said.
The Jewish leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance Party, Tony Leon, said that by debating the Middle East crisis, legislators from the ruling ANC were “importing foreign conflicts for domestic political gain.”