Wendy Kahn

Concerted effort to stifle alternate narratives on the Israel-Hamas war


OPINION: There is concerted effort to stifle alternate narratives on the Israel-Hamas war

Intimidatory behaviour from anti-Israeli supporters speaks volumes of their outrageous determination to deny any counter-narrative a space in our country, writes Wendy Kahn.

"We do the same things that they're doing to us. If we are serious then we must fight wherever we find them. We must boycott them. We must go to their homes. We must go to their schools where they train people to go to Zionist Israel [to] kill our brothers and sisters in humanity. Let's decentralise the war! Let's take the war to them right here!"

These chilling words were said by People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad) leader Abdus Salaam Ebrahim outside the US consulate in Sandton last week.

Sentiments expressed at various protests reflect the goal of the various anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, Hamas-supporting groups that have been targeting and intimidating South African Jewry and other South Africans who dare show any support or sympathy towards Israel – to bring the war to them; stifle any form of alternate narrative on the Israel-Hamas war;

and harass and incite hatred against anyone who dares to express support for Israel.

As 96% of South African Jews have an attachment to Israel, according to a University of Cape Town Kaplan survey, it is clear who the primary target of these threats is. The same survey shows that only 1% of South African Jewry have no attachment.

While it may be convenient for Israel-haters to dredge up Jewish voices to support their narrative and to parade them as "proof of their lack of antisemitism", the majority of South African Jews have an attachment to Israel. Nevertheless, it continues to infuriate the other party that the Jewish community has the "audacity" to support their Jewish homeland, and they are using increasingly aggressive tactics to get Jewish people to toe the line.

Thus, Jewish businesses have been targeted, with anti-Israel protesters waging campaigns to institute boycotts against them. This, of course, brings back painful memories for Jewish people, who recall what happened in the 1930s when Jewish businesses were targeted in Germany.

And then Herzlia, the Jewish school in Cape Town, has been demonised and threatened in a way that should shock every South African. Incitement of violence against schoolchildren crosses hard lines, irrespective of one's political agenda. Again, this shows the depths to which these groups will go to enforce their narrative.

At a so-called "peace" rally held in Cape Town on Saturday, baseless, malicious and inflammatory assaults were launched against Herzlia. Outlandish allegations have resulted in appalling threats to the school.

How is it ever acceptable to make pupils the target of a campaign against Jewish people?

It is appalling that the school has been forced to increase security to protect its pupils. And

the protestors have the audacity to talk about human rights and the protection of children while they use them as a tool in their campaign to attempt to silence an alternate narrative.

Another human right they don't seem to uphold is that of freedom of expression. A billboard in the south of Johannesburg had a poster of Hamas' youngest hostage Kfir Bibas, a nine-month-old being held in Gaza, and called for his release. The poster was torn down. Two people came in the dead of night and pulled a gun on the security guard when he objected to the vandalism.

When the billboard was replaced, the people returned heavily armed, threatening those who stood in their way with violence. Clearly, the poster offends their narrative and they don't want the public to see the true nature of Hamas. It remains unclear how threatening security guards at gunpoint helps the people of Gaza.

But what would their strategy be if they didn't want to make South Africa "judenfrei", Jew-free, ultimately? On social media platform X, @toprefugee notes: "All Jews must leave South Africa."

Nazier Paulsen from the EFF posted on X: "Zionists are evil, bloodthirsty monsters and the quicker we criminalise it and start prosecuting perpetrators, the better for humanity. Would start with the @sajbd and @SAZionistFed and all its members."

At the ANC protest outside the Israeli embassy on 13 October, Firoza Mayet said: "Comrades, we have been in power for 30 years. Why is the Israeli embassy, the Zionist Jew Federation, the Jewish Board of Deputies on our soil? Why? Why comrades? We are in power. They must be expelled now."

The message is clear: Get rid of the Jews who are not conforming to our agenda.

Of course, it is not only Jews who support Israel and whom they abhor for not conforming to their beliefs. Christian supporters are also worthy of their abuse. For decades, Christian supporters of Israel have stood outside Parliament on Fridays at lunchtime to express their love for Israel. This is their constitutional right, which should not only be accepted but protected and celebrated.

On 3 November, an anti-Israel protester physically attacked them, ripped their Israeli flags out of their hands, pulled their balloons and posters calling for the release of civilian hostages held by Hamas out of their hands, and violently put a stop to their peaceful protest. Paulsen posted on X: "Here in Cape Town, we moer Zionists."

And this was just a precursor to the thuggish display seen at the Sea Point promenade on 12 November. Following a pro-Palestinian rally in Cape Town on Saturday, which had afforded them the right to march through the streets with Hamas and ISIS flags, they refused to allow other South Africans the same constitutional rights.

A Christian/Zionist prayer for peace on the promenade was applied for and approved by the City of Cape Town to allow for a call for the release of babies, children and other civilian hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza, as well as pray for all those affected by the war. But with their zeal to silence other voices, the anti-Israel protesters used force and

aggression, and thus attempted to silence the Christian march.

Their intimidatory behaviour speaks volumes of their outrageous determination to deny any counter-narrative a space in our country.

Israeli flags were burnt and torn up, and a pastor was attacked and his finger broken. A few bystanders were threatened too. The group then walked across the street to escape into an apartment.

That did not stop the protestors. Rather, they stood outside the security gates baying for the intruders' blood. In the ensuing violence, the authorities had to cancel the Christian Zionist rally. This is antithetical to the basic tenets of our democracy.

What are the anti-Israel groups frightened of? That South Africans will be reminded of exactly why this conflict started – Hamas crossed a border into Israel and abducted 240 civilians from their homes and has been holding children and elderly people hostage. That this shows Hamas is not made up of "innocent, glorified freedom fighters".

Whatever it is, the Jewish community and its allies will not be intimidated or silenced.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies continues to extend its sympathy to all the innocent civilians who are suffering, be they in Israel or Gaza. We also call for a peaceful outcome to the ongoing war. The threats, intimidation and incitement against fellow South Africans will in no way help find a resolution.

The irresponsible and aggressive rhetoric by anti-Israel, pro-Hamas groups, which include some government ministers and political figures, does nothing more than create an environment where attacks on the Jewish community and others who support Israel become mainstream. It is time for our political leadership to stop this assault on our constitutional values.

– Wendy Kahn is the National Director of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies

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