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S. African march glorifies suicide bombings

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CAPE TOWN, Dec. 1 (JTA) — The South African Jewish Board of Deputies is considering filing charges against the organizers of a march here that included boys dressed as Muslim suicide bombers, some even wearing mock dynamite sticks strapped to their chests. Last Friday’s march, arranged by the radical Muslim group Kibla to show Muslim solidarity with Palestinians “living under Israeli occupation,” has shocked the Jewish community. The march coincided with the 55th anniversary of the 1947 United Nations partition resolution, which led to the establishment of the State of Israel — an event also marked an hour earlier by a pro-Israel Christian group demonstrating outside Parliament. Two youths marching in support of the Palestinian cause wore Hezbollah headbands, followed by eight other young people carrying mock weapons. They led more than 300 demonstrators from a mosque close to downtown Cape Town to the U.S. Consulate, about a mile away. The marching children, some as young as seven, carried placards stating: “Death to America, death to Israel.” Marchers shouted, “One American, one bullet,” echoing a slogan using during the apartheid years to refer to white South Africans — one settler, one bullet. The march organizers asked the protesters to stop chanting these slogans. The children also staged a mock attack on a model of an Israeli tank and ripped apart an Israeli flag. Outside the U.S. Consulate, an Israeli flag was burned amid chants of “Death to Israel, death to Sharon.” Russell Gaddin, national chairman of the Jewish Board of Deputies, told JTA that the board respected the constitutional right to freedom of speech. “But this goes beyond freedom of speech. It was a disgraceful display of hate speech, incitement and anti-Semitism,” he said. “It glorifies terrorism, which has been condemned by the South African government itself.” Another strong condemnation of the events came from Mervyn Smith, president of the African Jewish Congress and a former national chairman of the board. Smith said, “It is scandalous that murderous thugs should be portrayed as heroes to young children. The sense of values seems to have been totally lost.” He added, “children should not be taught to continue the violence which is already claiming so many lives.” One of the march’s coordinators reportedly said children are vital in driving home the message that Palestinians were sacrificing their bodies to fight Israel. Abdullah Ederies, a member of Kibla, said, “We need to open people’s eyes to the murder happening in Palestine.” But Imam Gassan Solomon, spokesman for the more moderate Muslim Judicial Council, said, “As Muslims, we are duty bound to condemn terrorism.” He said it is irresponsible to expose children in a march of this kind, but added that the march and its message are merely symptoms of a bigger problem that needs to be recognized. There are some 15,000 Jews in Cape Town, while the Muslim population of the city is more than 500,000. Shortly before the march, Christian supporters of Israel demonstrated peacefully outside Parliament, only a few hundred yards from where the Muslim demonstration began. In the last of a series of weekly Friday lunchtime demonstrations that have taken place over the past nine months, about 20 Christians held flags and placards recalling the 1947 U.N. resolution. In addition to warm expressions of support from many local Jews and Jewish institutions, many passers-by stopped to express support to the pro-Israel group.

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