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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist


Ramaphosa urges citizens to guard against Gaza conflict turning South Africans against each other

Last week police had to intervene in a confrontation between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine supporters at a demonstration in Cape Town.


President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged South Africans to guard against the Israel-Palestine conflict turning South Africans against each other.

Ramaphosa made the remarks in his weekly newsletter “From the Desk of the President” on Monday.

Polarising conflict

The president said the conflict between Israel and Palestine has long been a “polarising conflict” that has deepened divisions in societies and communities way beyond the Middle East.

Ramaphosa said the conflict in Gaza called for solidarity, tolerance and dialogue

“No matter how strong our views on this matter, we must guard against this conflict turning us against each other as South Africans.

“Our Constitution protects everyone’s right to freedom of opinion and expression, to freedom of association and to demonstrate … There is no place in South Africa for violence or threats of violence against those who hold contrary views. Nor is there any place for any form of prejudice, racism or chauvinism.”

Last week, police had to intervene in a confrontation between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine supporters at a demonstration in Cape Town.

“While this incident is troubling and unacceptable, we must commend all those South Africans who have participated in orderly and peaceful demonstrations in several parts of our country,” Ramaphosa said.

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Pogroms

Ramaphosa also dismissed a report suggesting that government is ‘encouraging pogroms’ against the South African Jewish community.

The president said what is happening in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank provoked strong emotions.

“For some, the murder of Israelis and the abduction of hostages on 7 October has further hardened sentiment that Israel has the right to use whatever means at its disposal to defend itself. At the same time, there are others who view the collective punishment of the people of Gaza by the Israeli government as a war crime,” Ramaphosa said.

“It was disappointing, therefore, to read an article in a leading Israeli newspaper by a representative of a local Jewish organisation suggesting that our government is ‘encouraging pogroms’ against the South African Jewish community.

“This has never happened in the history of democratic South Africa, nor will it ever be allowed to happen,” Ramaphosa said.

Ceasefire

Ramaphosa called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

“As a government and as a people, we stand firm in our call for justice for the oppressed Palestinian people, for their rights and aspirations to be fulfilled, for the immediate cessation of hostilities, and for there to be accountability for the deplorable killings of civilians in this recent conflict. We maintain that peace will not be possible until Palestinians are free.

“Yet, support for the Palestinian struggle cannot be equated with anti-Semitism. There is no place in our society for anti-Semitism, just as there is no place in our country for prejudice directed against any individual or community on the basis of race, religion, belief, political view or sexual orientation,” Ramaphosa said.

ALSO READ: SA ambassador in Hague delivers referral to ICC for war crime probe against Israel

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