South Africa’s ruling party denounced Israel’s military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, comparing it to the Nazi war against the Jews and eliciting a strong denunciation from South African Jewry.
African National Congress Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte condemned Israel’s strikes on Hamas targets as “barbaric attacks on the defenseless Palestinian people of Gaza,” adding that Israel has turned the “occupied territories of Palestine into permanent death camps.”
“As we are reminded of the atrocities of Nazi Germany, surely we must ask the people of Israel has the term ‘Lest we forget’ lost its meaning,” she said.
For Israel, she continued, “the notion of an eye for an eye has become perpetual massacre with merciless revenge, which has lasted for more than 60 years.”
All branches of the ANC across South Africa “will be joining the Palestinian solidarity and boycott, divestment and sanctions movement in organizing protests and pickets calling for the immediate end to Israeli violence against the Palestinian people,” she said, calling on members of all religious and ethnic groups, including Jews, to participate.
The ANC, she concluded, is “unapologetic in our view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel.”
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the Zionist Federation sharply condemned the ANC statement.
“Such naked invective is something one expects to find only on the more extreme wing of the anti-Israel lobby; coming from our country’s ruling party, it is nothing short of disgraceful,” the groups said in a joint statement. “Hundreds of deadly missiles have been and continue to be fired at Israel’s cities and towns. Not once in the statement issued in her name was Ms. Duarte able to even acknowledge this fact, let alone denounce it.”
The Board of Deputies was “particularly appalled” by Duarte’s comments comparing Israel and Nazi Germany, it added.
“Comparisons between Israel and the Nazi regime are obscene, not only because they are so grossly defamatory towards the Jewish state but because they belittle the unspeakable crimes of Nazism itself. It is self-evident that casualties resulting from a necessary and unavoidable military operation – casualties that Israel goes to considerable lengths to minimize – cannot be remotely equated with the systematic mass murder of millions solely on account of their being Jewish.”