SOUTH AFRICA'S Christian population demonstrate against downgrading the country's embassy in Tel Aviv during a solidarity march for Israel in Pretoria, July 24, 2018..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
More than 5,000 South African Christians demonstrated in Pretoria on Wednesday, calling on the government to reinstate the country’s ambassador to Israel and not to downgrade its embassy in Tel Aviv.
The protest, which was led by the South African Friends of Israel, marched on the country’s Union Buildings – the seat of the South African government – to handover a petition signed by more than 40,000 people calling on Pretoria not to cut or downgrade ties with the Jewish State.
African Christian Democratic Party leader Reverend Kenneth Meshoe reiterated that most South Africans support Israel.
“You [Israel] are loved in South Africa. Those who have told you South Africa is against you, they are wrong. There are millions of South Africans who love you. Those who hate you are a minority. The majority of Bible believing Christians love and thank you. Israel,” he said.
Congress of the People leader Mosiuoa Lekota called on South Africa to return its ambassador to Israel. Pretoria should not take sides on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said, adding that only through diplomatic ties between South Africa, Israel and the Palestinians, can the leaders speak to each other and find a peaceful resolution. “This march is not about taking sides. It’s not against the Palestinian people.
This march is not taking sides with the Jewish people against the Palestinians… We are South Africans who support peace” in the Middle East.
Lekota said that “We cannot support or accept that some of the young people and some of the people who support Palestine now use our country as a platform to attack Israel. All of us must be humble enough to know that we can contribute, but we can’t tell the Palestinians or the Jewish people how to solve their own problems in their own countries.”
South African Zionist Federation chairman Ben Swartz said that various interest groups including Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, the Arab League and BDS organizations have “aggressively lobbied the South African government to adopt the position of severing ties with Israel, while practically none of them table any credible solution other than the call to annihilate the State of Israel.
“The actions of the South African government are patently flawed for many reasons and do not serve the interests of the South African people,” Swartz said. “Such a move [downgrading ties] will be contrary to South African foreign policy, which has always called for engagement with all parties [involved] in a conflict.
This has been the consistent of stance of the South African government in all conflicts including Africa and beyond for the last 24 years.”
He added that downgrading ties between South Africa and Israel will have a negative impact on the country’s Christian community, which numbers about 45,000.000. South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein thanked all those who had joined the march, and those who support Israel.
He blessed the demonstrators with Judaism’s priestly blessing (Numbers 6:23–27), saying that it was the blessing given by the high priests at the holy Temple, which stood in Jerusalem.
“The Bible says that we should choose life and choose the path of blessing, and we want our country, South Africa to choose the path of life and the path of blessing,” Goldstein said, as the crowd cheered loudly. “South Africa is a democracy, and in a democracy the government listens to the people. And what do the people say? We love Israel. We want South Africa and Israel to be close. We want South Africa to love Israel, and we want Israel to love South Africa.
In the name of the millions of South Africans, we say to the South African government: ‘Choose the path of blessing.’ “And in the merit of that,” the chief rabbi continued, “May God bless South Africa.”
In response to the march, the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria said on social media: “We always knew Israel has many friends in South Africa.”
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