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South African Chief Rabbi Blasts Comments from Jewish Minister

April 25, 2002
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South Africa’s chief rabbi has accused a Jewish Cabinet minister of giving a green light to anti-Semitism in South Africa.

Cyril Harris particularly criticized Ronnie Kasrils for playing a prominent role at an anti-Israel rally in Durban on Holocaust Remembrance Day, standing near a banner reading “Zionism is Nazism.”

“For a Jew to stand up and say Zionism is Nazism is to give credence to the deeply anti-Semitic attitude that there is no room for a Jewish nation among the nations of the world,” Harris said.

Harris made the accusations against Kasrils, South Africa’s minister of water affairs, in a news conference last Friday following a debate between the two that was televised throughout South Africa.

The debate was conducted in two separate interviews.

Speaking first, Kasrils said the present Israeli campaign was “a mad gamble,” whose whole purpose was to drive the Palestinians out of the Holy Land.

Israel’s right to exist should be recognized, but Sharon “is the culprit and is the war criminal,” Kasrils said.

He maintained that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat had condemned Palestinian suicide bombings and that Arafat had shown “immense courage under fire.”

Last October, Kasrils founded Not in My Name, for “South Africans of Jewish descent” to express their support for the Palestinian cause.

He also compared Arafat to the leaders of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid, including Nelson Mandela.

Harris replied there is no peace in the Holy Land because the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors had not accepted the United Nations 1947 partition resolution.

He accused Kasrils of making a “totally false” comparison between the situation in the Middle East and the apartheid era in South Africa, arguing Israel was now in the “occupied territories” because it had been attacked in 1967.

“I strongly object to Ronnie Kasrils comments about Ariel Sharon being a war criminal. I didn’t know that in addition to being a minister, he was also a high court judge,” Harris said.

In a related development, Ebrahim Rasool, provincial leader of the governing African National Congress, accused Israel of not acting in the interests of all Jews.

Addressing more than 10,000 people at a pro-Palestinian rally in Cape Town on Sunday, Rasool said events in Israel had “brought South Africans together,” irrespective of their religious beliefs. He saluted the Israeli soldiers who are refusing to serve in the West Bank and Gaza.

Kasrils attended the rally, wearing a kaffiyeh.

Speakers called for South Africa to cut ties with Israel and for Israel to be isolated internationally.

Tony Ehrenreich, of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, an ANC ally, likened the situation in Israel to the anti-apartheid struggle.

“We will march against Israel and we will win; this struggle is a struggle against genocide,” he said.

Placards included: “Holocaust: 1945 Hitler, 2001 Sharon. No difference” and “Sharon and Bush, terrorist brothers.”

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