The global ripple effect of the bloodbath in Gaza in which about 60 people were killed reached Nelson Mandela Bay on Tuesday as protesters gathered in solidarity with the slain Muslim nationals, calling for a boycott of “apartheid Israel”.
Speaking at the Port Elizabeth City Hall, where the protesters had gathered, Sheikh Shamiel Panday, of the Gelvan Park Taquaal Mosque, called on the South African government to boycott and impose sanctions on Israel.
Marches also took place across the country, including in Cape Town, with ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte and MP Mandla Mandela marching to parliament in solidarity with the Palestinian protest – called the “Great March of Return” – which started in March this year and has seen daily demonstrations along Israel’s border fence with Palestinian territory.
“We feel the pain and loss of Palestinian families whose loved ones have been killed by the indiscriminate killing machine that masquerades in the garb of the only democracy in the Middle East,” Mandela said.
“While we mourn their loss, we must not be fooled.
“Apartheid Israel’s brutality has continued unabated.
“It will not cease as long as the world stands by in silence while innocent civilians are maimed and killed.”
Political and religious leaders taking part in the march called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador in South Africa.
This follows the withdrawal of South Africa’s ambassador to Israel on Monday night‚ with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation issuing a strong condemnation of what it called “violent aggression carried out by Israeli armed forces”.
Monday was also the 70th commemoration of the creation of Israel‚ a happy day for most Israelis‚ which coincided with the opening of a new US embassy in the city of Jerusalem‚ a holy place for the Jewish‚ Muslim‚ and Christian faiths.
For the Palestinians‚ however‚ the day is referred to as the Nakba‚ or the catastrophe‚ and marked the start of displacement from their homeland by the creation of Israel.
While Palestinians see the eastern part of Jerusalem as their capital, Israel considers the entire city its capital.
Monday was the bloodiest day in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the 2014 Gaza war.
Most of the 60 Gazans killed were shot by Israeli snipers, according to Gaza’s health ministry.
An eight-month-old Palestinian baby also died as a result of inhaling teargas during the clashes.
At least 2 400 others were wounded. Panday said no country was committed to stopping the atrocities. “It has been going on for 70 years and nobody is doing anything except little pockets of people in different parts of the world,” he said.
“Port Elizabeth and Cape Town have deals, hidden agendas, that they want to get Israel to build desalination plants.
“That will boost the Israeli economy with billions of dollars when South Africa doesn’t even have the money. “We don’t feel our hard-earned taxes should be used to strengthen an apartheid government.”
However, Bay mayor Athol Trollip said the municipality had no plans with Israel to build desalination plants.
“Ask them to provide facts. I’m not going to respond to salacious fabrication,” he said.
“We have no contract to build desalination installations.”
Panday said the withdrawal of South Africa’s ambassador to Israel, Sisa Ngombane, was merely “a token of good faith”.
“We believe it is [temporary] and the ambassador will probably go back in two weeks.
“We admire the government for taking a stance, but we need a little bit more,” he said.
Also speaking at City Hall, Nelson Mandela University professor Janet Cherry said the deaths should be a turning point for the Palestinian people to gain worldwide support.
“In South Africa, we see this as a signal to express our solidarity with the Palestinian people.”
She likened the killings to how the Langa Massacre in 1985 had been a turning point for the global exposure that the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre had then received.
“It was a turning point because the international community responded with shock and condemnation and the tide turned,” she said.
ANC Eastern Cape provincial secretary Lulama Ngcukayitobi labelled the Gaza attack barbaric and a violation of international law. He said US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be held accountable.
“We call for the intensification of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS Movement] against the apartheid Israeli regime.”
The BDS Movement is trying to end all international support for Israel.
Ngcukayitobi called on International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to cut all ties with Israel and expel the country’s ambassador to South Africa, Lior Keinan.
Meanwhile, Britain called for an independent investigation into the violence on the Israel-Gaza border.
This after the US blocked a UN Security Council statement calling for a probe. Despite the bloodshed, the embassy inauguration went on as planned in Jerusalem.
Trump addressed the gathering by video. “Our greatest hope is for peace,” he said.
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies and South African Zionist Federation hit out at the decision to withdraw the ambassador to Israel.
“It is outrageous and displays gross double-standards against the Jewish state,” they said.
“While we‚ the [board] and [federation]‚ regret the loss of life of civilians‚ we recognise that Israel as a sovereign state has the right to defend its own border and its own citizens.”
A total of 114 Palestinians have been killed since March 30, while one Israeli soldier has been reported wounded.