A prayer meeting in support of Israel in Cape Town, South Africa, was canceled on Sunday, after pro-Palestinian protesters attacked and threatened pro-Israel demonstrators with guns and knives, according to South African media.
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) branch in South Africa helped organize the prayer rally, saying about 3,000 Christians and some Jews were expected to attend before police ordered them to call it off. The ICEJ stated that Mandla Mandela, Nelson Mandela's grandson, was one of the main inciters of the violence on Sunday.
Reports from participants at the event said that one Messianic Jewish man had his finger broken when anti-Israel protesters tried to rip away his flag; another anti-Israel protester carrying a gun threatened to shoot another participant. One other man was slightly wounded by someone carrying a knife as well, according to the participant.
According to the South African GroundUp news agency, the pro-Palestinian protesters showed up at the Sea Point Promenade before the pro-Israel protest officially began and started clashing with police at the scene. Buses which were set to bring more pro-Israel protesters to the site were turned back as police used stun grenades and water cannons to disperse the assailants.
The violence escalated when a pro-Palestinian protester attempted to steal an Israeli flag from a pro-Israel protester. One photo from the scene showed pro-Palestinian protesters surrounding and harassing a pro-Israel one in a wheelchair, according to the report. The two sides reportedly shouted at each other as well.
According to the South African Friends of Israel, some of the pro-Palestinian protesters were seen waving ISIS flags.
ICEJ: They were seeking out who was Jewish
“It was very shocking to see the level of threats and violence today,” said ICEJ-South Africa national director Vivienne Myburgh. “They were seeking out who was Jewish. It is rare to see that sort of hatred and threats here, but they are emboldened by the position of the ANC [African National Congress] government. The local Jewish community is very rattled.”
Abeedah Adams, a member of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, told GroundUp that the protest on Sunday was not organized by their organization, saying "It was more spontaneous: people responding to the posters and the media about the pro-Israeli protest. I think there’s a very strong sentiment that we can’t allow that kind of Zionism: It’s not welcome in the City of Cape Town."
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies condemned the violence on Sunday, posting on Facebook "In a constitutional democracy people are permitted the right to protest. Depriving the Christian Zionists the right to protest in Sea Point today does not make the Hamas supporters activists, it makes them criminals and thugs."
Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis also condemned the violence on Sunday, stating that while anti- and pro-Israel protests had remained peaceful until then, violent disruptions targeted the planned peaceful prayer gathering in support of Israel.
"This violence deserves the condemnation of all Capetonians who value free expression in our open democracy," wrote Hill-Lewis. "Every person or group, of every belief and persuasion, has the right to protest peacefully in South Africa. That right is constitutionally protected, and for good reason—because in South Africa's past, certain protests were banned or violently suppressed, and opinions censored."
The mayor also condemned any hate speech uttered at protests, noting that he had received video showing a representative of the Pan Africanist Congress calling young Jewish children in Cape Town "murderers."
At a pro-Palestinian protest on Saturday, the PAC representative stated "We know where the murderers come from: They come from Herzlia [a local Jewish school] here in Cape Town.”
"Such hateful language should be similarly condemned by all," Hill-Lewis wrote. "Radical elements do not speak for Capetonians, and do not even speak for the protesters they claim to represent."
According to the mayor, the South African Police Service seized two firearms and arrested seven people amid the clashes.