South African Jews hits back against BDS with Mandela billboards

Campaign intended to counter BDS campaign that "hijacks Mandela legacy."

February 10, 2015 18:55
3 minute read.
Nelson Mandela South Africa billboard

Nelson Mandela South Africa billboard . (photo credit: Courtesy)


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The visit of Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled to South Africa has riled that country’s Jewish community, which announced it will hold a protest against the former airplane hijacker in Cape Town on Friday.

Khaled, 70, a former member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who took part in two airplane hijackings between 1969 and 1970, is now on a speaking tour.

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Arrested after the second incident, she was later freed in exchange for hostages held by the PFLP.

In an email to supporters announcing her tour, the South African BDS movement termed Khaled “an icon of the Palestinian struggle,” showing an image of her clutching an automatic weapon and comparing her to late South African president Nelson Mandela.

“Many Palestinians including Leila Khaled are today considered terrorists, like the ANC and Nelson Mandela were once classified terrorists, but our people consider, unlike the SAJBD [South African Jewish Board of Deputies], both Nelson Mandela and Leila Khaled freedom icons,” a spokesman for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which arranged her trip, told The Jerusalem Post.

“It is outrage against the glorification of terrorism by BDS as well as our commitment to peace that will see us take to the streets tomorrow,” the SAJBD ’s Charisse Zeifert explained Thursday.

“The South African Jewish community is committed to the ethos of tolerance, diversity, and respect that is enshrined in our constitution.

This is the climate that we have experienced until recently, and we believe is being eroded by the BDS’s continual intimidation and maligning of the South African Jewish community and use of threats of violence against those who reject their radical agenda,” she added.

The Jewish umbrella group also expressed its shock at calls for Jewish students to be deregistered issued following Khaled’s speech at the Durban University of Technology on Wednesday.

“We had a meeting and analyzed international politics. We took the decision that Jewish students, especially those who do not support the Palestinian struggle, should deregister,” said Students Representative Council secretary Mqondisi Duma, according to The Daily News.

Ahmed Bawa, the vice chancellor, responded to the memorandum, as well as a student protest during school hours, in a letter Wednesday to students and faculty.

Along with calling the “deregistration” demand “outrageous” and “preposterous,” he said it was “a deep violation of our National Constitution and every human rights principle.”

Bawa was commended by the Council of KwaZulu-Natal Jewry, which condemned the statement as “blatantly anti-Semitic.”

Tying efforts to exclude Jews to Khaled’s trip, the SAJBD declared that “ welcoming hate-mongers… to South Africa sends out a message that it is legitimate to discriminate against Jews, something that runs completely counter to the South African ethos of non-racialism, equality, and tolerance.”

Khaled was also slated to attend the opening of parliament, the BDS movement announced.

In an interview with The Star last week, Khaled admitted to still being a member of the politburo of the PFLP, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States.

“Palestinians had been replaced by people who did not own this land, who did not, at any time, have a relationship with that land.

It was such an injustice,” she told the South African newspaper.

Hillel International president and CEO Eric Fingerhut released the following statement prompted by media reports on events at Durban University of Technology: “Reports that student leaders at the Durban University of Technology are pressuring the administration to identify and expel Jews is positively chilling. Hillel International stands in solidarity with Jewish students everywhere in their right to experience a safe and welcoming higher education.

“With US campuses continuously tested by BDS, we are mindful of the short leap between contending with an anti-Israel movement and one that is dangerously and unabashedly anti-Semitic. We will not permit such hatred to take root on any campus in the world where Hillel can extend its reach and offer support.”

JTA contributed to this report.

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