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Reports of Hamas Visit Erroneous

March 11, 1996
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Outcry over a possible meeting here between President Nelson Mandela and representatives of Hamas appears now to have been premature.

“It appears that the reports suggesting that representatives of Hamas were coming to South Africa were erroneous,” said South Africa Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris. “In this light, it would be wise if no individuals or organizations overreacted to suggestions that Hamas were coming.”

Mandela was condemned the recent series of terrorist bombings in Israel. But he said last week that he would be willing to meet with the Hamas representatives who were said to be coming for a conference next month in Cape Town.

Jewish communal leaders and leading South African politicians reacted sharply to Mandela’s statement, urging the president to not meet with the militant Islamic group.

“We did think they were coming – and, if they were, we did the right thing,” said Marlene Bethlehem, national chairwoman of the South Africa Jewish Board of Deputies.

“It is good to know that the Jewish community does not stand alone.”

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