Howard Sackstein claimed South Africa no longer feels like a safe space for Jewish people and they cannot call it home.

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola has rubbished claims that South Africa is antisemitic towards Jewish people in the country.

South Africa has been in the spotlight after it approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ) seeking several orders, including for Israel to immediately suspend its Gaza offensive, to stop forced displacement, to enable humanitarian access to thousands of displaced Palestinians and to preserve evidence.

In its judgment on Friday, the ICJ ordered Israel to take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance in the Gaza Strip,  but stopped short of ordering a ceasefire.

Watch Justice Minister emphasising that South Africa is not antisemitic

The ruling has sparked accusations from some Jews and even countries against South Africa, claiming the country is antisemitic and sympathetic to Hamas.


In an interview with Stephen Sackur on BBC Hard Talk, Lamola defended South Africa against claims made by Howard Sackstein, who said, “South Africa no longer feels like a safe space or home for Jews.”

“I sit here staring at my suitcase, contemplating whether it’s time to leave the only home I’ve ever known. I imagine my ancestors… For Jews, this country no longer feels like a safe space or “home.” The government has been captured by radical Islamists and their sympathisers,” wrote Sakstein in the Jewish Report.

Lamola labelled Sackstein’s claims as unfortunate, saying: “It’s a very unfortunate statement not backed by any facts, just a figment of his own imagination As you would have seen in the court papers, we argued that our case is not against the Jewish as a people, it’s against the Zionist State of Israel, the military operations that they are running of maiming and killing the Palestinians as a group in Gaza.”

ALSO READ: WATCH: SA is not Hamas’ legal arm – Lamola

SA safe for Jews

Lamola said South Africa is a safe place for Jews.

“In South Africa there is no threat, harm or whatsoever to the Jewish people. They continue to participate in all forms of social life. As you speak to me now, nothing has happened to him [Sakstein] and nothing will happen to him or any Jewish community on the basis of their creed sex or religion.”

Lamola vehemently stressed that South Africa is not antisemitic towards the Jewish people despite Sackur mentioning statistics showing otherwise

“There is no such [thing]. The president wrote in his weekly newsletter which he stated very clear that our action is not on the basis of antisemitism. It’s on the basis of our obligation as a nation believing in human rights to stand for the vulnerable children of Palestine.

“So, there is no antisemitism in South Africa against the Jewish people,” Lamola said.

Hamas allegations  

Earlier this month, Lamola also rubbished claims that South Africa is acting as a legal arm of Hamas.

This after the Israeli government hit out ahead of presenting its own JICJ case accusing South Africa of “functioning as the legal arm of the Hamas terrorist organisation,” and labelling the World Court case “one of the greatest shows of hypocrisy in history.”

At that time, Lamola stressed that South Africa’s case was not against the Jewish people.

“We have presented a case on behalf of South Africa, a number of Palestinians that are being killed in Gaza. We are not presenting any case on behalf of Hamas. So, that statement is baseless, it has got no merit, we do not have any mandate from Hamas.”

Lamola emphasised that South Africa’s case was not against the Jews.

“Our case is against the actions of the State of Israel. The actions of genocide that are committed in Gaza. In South Africa we have got a number of Jewish people doing business, living with us, and attending their churches in peace.

“So, the case is about the State of Israel and not about the Jewish people as a community,” Lamola added.

Netanyahu attacks SA

However, this did not stop Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accusing South Africa of “screaming” hypocrisy in pursuing its Gaza genocide case against Israel.

“We are fighting terrorists; we are fighting lies… Today we saw an upside-down world. Israel is accused of genocide while it is fighting against genocide.

“The hypocrisy of South Africa screams to the heavens,” Netanyahu added. “Where was South Africa when millions of people were killed or torn from their homes in Syria and Yemen, by whom? By partners of Hamas,” Netanyahu said.

ALSO READ: ‘Hypocrisy of South Africa screams to the heavens’ – Netanyahu

United South Africa

In November last year, Ramaphosa in his weekly newsletter “From the Desk of the President”, urged South Africans to guard against the Israel-Palestine conflict turning South Africans against each other.

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,” Ramaphosa emphasised.

Lasting peace

In his newsletter this week, Ramaphosa said a  genocide was unfolding in Gaza and “we had a moral duty to act.”

“As a nation that fought and defeated apartheid, we have a particular obligation to stand up for justice and fundamental human rights for all people, everywhere.

“Criticism of the atrocities committed by the Israeli military is not directed at any religious or ethnic group, and cannot simply be dismissed as antisemitism. Nor can our case before the ICJ be said to diminish the enormity of the Holocaust. On the contrary, it is the experience by humanity of the Holocaust and other acts of genocide that motivates our efforts to prevent anything of this nature from happening again, Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa called on all South Africans to rally behind the country’s call for justice for the Palestinian people, and for a negotiated settlement that will bring about a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

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


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