The Turkish ship Mavi Marmara.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Jewish community leaders in South Africa on Thursday denounced as a lie reports that local police are ready to arrest top IDF commanders involved in the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident for alleged war crimes.
A press release by Ben Swartz, chairman of the South African Zionist Federation and Jeff Katz, chairman of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, stated that “over the past week, organizations like BDS SA [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions South Africa] and the Media Review Network and sectors of the media have been loudly proclaiming that” the South African police “agreed to enforce arrest notices issued by Turkey against four Israeli military commanders.”
Further, “they have also claimed that they have documentary evidence that conclusively proves this,” said the statement.
The Jewish leaders said that “both of these claims have since been shown to be outright falsehoods.”
They explained that the South African police’s only action was confirming that they have received a formal request from Turkey to arrest the four former top IDF commanders.
The four listed are: former IDF chief-of-staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, former Navy commander Maj.-Gen. (res.) Eliezer Marom, former head of IDF Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin and former head of IDF Air Force intelligence Brig.- Gen. (res.) Avishay Levy.
Describing how international police cooperation works, the statement explained that in any case South Africa will only enforce an arrest warrant for alleged crimes beyond its borders once Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization) issues a “Red Notice” in that regard – which Interpol has not done.
The leaders indicated that “it is completely contrary to South African policy to undertake to enforce an arrest warrant issued by another country in the absence of such a Red Notice.”
Looking to poke holes in the BDS group’s narrative, they said that no written proof of South African police being ready to arrest the former IDF commanders existed since the press conference held by the group earlier in the week never produced promised proof.
The press release concluded, “Yet again, therefore, local anti-Israel extremists have been shown to have deliberately misrepresented the facts in order to push their obsessive agenda against the Jewish State.”
On Tuesday, South African journalist Gadija Davids and supporters held a press conference claiming victory that they had convinced certain South African authorities to agree to enforce Turkish arrest warrants against the former IDF commanders forwarded to those authorities.
A statement from BDS SA had said a decision by South African police to arrest the former IDF commanders “follows a four-year-long case involving a South African journalist, Ms. Gadija Davids, who was on board the Mavi Marmara when it was attacked in 2010.”
It continued, “Davids laid her first complaint with the South African Police Services and South Africa’s National Prosecutions Authority in January 2011.”
Late Tuesday, after many rounds of clarification, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon stated unequivocally that the reports of arrest warrants issuing are “not true and being spread deliberately by BDS activists as part of provocations against Israel.”
Asked point-blank if Ashkenazi would be arrested if he landed in South Africa, he said “no” without hesitation.
Part of the dispute about what had happened was that law enforcement in South Africa had not made a clear and direct statement to the public and the basis of the latest claim regarding the arrest warrants.
South Africa and Israel have butted heads over a number of issues in recent years, including relating to war crimes allegations, but until now there has been no formal move against top IDF officials.