The targeted killing of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, founder and
leader of Hamas, has generated widespread fury in South
Africa and in particular in its 800,000- strong Muslim
community. While no actual attacks against Jews were recorded
(so far) beyond a few isolated instances of verbal
harassment, the level of anti- Jewish invective, sometimes
combined with threats, has been raised to unprecedented
heights. A particularly worrying issue has been mounting
evidence that information-gathering by suspected Muslims is
being carried out outside important Jewish institutions,
including taking photographs.
There is strong support for Hamas amongst South African
Muslims. A major controversy erupted over an anti-Israel
march outside the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria, which featured
a six-year-old Muslim boy dressed up as a suicide bomber.
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies issued a press
statement condemning the march, saying that it had "crossed
the line between legitimate protest and criminal incitement"
and that the use of a child to promote suicide terrorism
constituted both child abuse and "an overt promotion of the
kind of murderous terrorist activity that has brought sorrow
and destruction to countless people all around the world."
The Board called on the South African government to publicly
distance itself from the events of the march and the
The Department of Foreign Affairs subsequently sent a letter
to the organizers of the march, saying that it was "deeply
concerned" about what had taken place. "Can we really get
satisfaction by subjecting young children to such symbols of
violence? Do we not run the danger of encouraging suicide
bombings in South Africa?" the letter read in part.
Anti-Israel sentiment is particularly rife in Cape Town,
which has the highest concentration of Muslims and in
addition has a history of Muslim extremist activity,
including terrorist attacks on Jewish and American
At a protest rally held in the city on the day of the Yassin
killing, prominent clerics made numerous vituperative
antisemitic statements, including calling Jews "a filthy
people" and the enemies of humanity who were corrupting
Muslim minds through their control of the world media. The
statements were made in the presence of Ebrahim Rasool,
leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in the
Western Cape, who failed to speak out against them even after
being called upon by the opposition Democratic Alliance to do
It was reported on a popular Cape Town radio show that a
pamphlet was being circulated in the city warning that if the
Jews did not condemn the killing of Yassin, then whenever
Sharon did something wrong, Muslims the world over, including
in Cape Town, were going to attack the Jewish people.
Further support was lent to the perception that the local
Jewish community was in some way answerable for the actions
of the Israeli government by editorial in two leading weekly
papers, the Mail & Guardian and the Sunday Times.
Both papers called on the Jewish community to speak out
against the Sharon government, and a columnist in the Cape
Times strongly intimated that the South African Zionist
Federation should be banned. Letters from the Board of
Deputies slamming the double-standards and selective morality
of singling out Jews in this way subsequently appeared in all
In elections held in South Africa last week, the ANC, the
ruling party, again achieved a landslide victory with over
two thirds of the national vote. The second party was the
Democratic Alliance (DA) with about 13 persons which is led
by a Jew, Tony Leon.