JOHANNESBURG (JTA) — A former South African Cabinet minister and two NGOs are calling for the war crimes prosecution of an Israeli soldier visiting the country.
David Benjamin, a former South African who is a lieutenant colonel in the Israel Defense Forces, came to South Africa to speak at three Limmud events on the subject of legal issues of warfare.
Activist Zackie Achmat called the invitation of Benjamin, who was the IDF’s legal adviser on Gaza from 2001 to 2005, “the equivalent of inviting Sudanese President Ali Bashir to a conference on genocide.”
The Palestine Solidarity Committee also called Benjamin a war criminal and said South Africans should be outraged by Limmud’s effort of “providing South African audiences with the Israeli army’s justification for their war crimes.”
Limmud, a global Jewish identify conference organization, defended the invitation. The South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the South African Zionist Federation also condemned the calls for Benjamin’s prosecution, saying they constituted an attempt to demonize Israel.
“This amounts to little more than a clumsy attempt at manipulating the judiciary for partisan political purposes,” the groups said in a joint statement. “Politically motivated attempts to undermine judicial independence as well as freedom of expression in South Africa should be universally condemned, as should any moves to import a foreign conflict to South African streets.”
Meanwhile, a former South African intelligence minister, Communist Party leader Ronnie Kasrils, who is Jewish, submitted a 3,500-page “Gaza docket” to a variety of government bodies calling for the prosecution of Benjamin and 70 other former South Africans living in Israel who hold dual citizenship.
It was unlikely that any action would be taken against Benjamin while he is in South Africa.
The first two Limmud programs featuring Benjamin were held in Cape Town and Durban during the first week of August. The final program was scheduled for Johannesburg on Sunday and Monday.