Letter protests South African Jewish leaders

CAPE TOWN (JTA) – A letter from a group of Jewish South Africans published in a Cape Town newspaper tells Jewish leaders who support Israel’s Gaza operation not to speak for them.

Nearly 100 Jews signed the letter, which appeared Monday in the Cape Times daily, attacking a statement supporting Israel’s decision to launch a military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The statement was issued by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, the South African Zionist Federation and the office of the chief rabbi on behalf of the community.

While the group recognizes the existence of communal structures, it is "distressed that they purport to speak for us and the many Jews who are uncomfortable with the destruction in Gaza, claiming one collective view for the entire community." The letter calls the approach of the communal bodies "irresponsible" in view of the divergence of opinion within the community.

It describes Israel’s response in Gaza as "inhumane and disproportionate collective punishment prohibited under international law" while "strongly opposing" the rockets Hamas has been firing into Israel. It calls on communities "vocal in their support for the Palestinians" to condemn the latter.

About 15,000 protesters marched on the South African parliament last week under the banner of the Muslim Judicial Council against Israel’s actions in Gaza.

"We call on the Jewish Board of Deputies not to exacerbate local tensions with statements that demonstrate a lack of compassion for Palestinian lives," the letter concludes.

Among the letter’s signatories were the principal of the University of Cape Town, Max Price, and the controversial cartoonist Zapiro.

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