Criminal complaint lodged against Benjamin Rattle, a South African serving in the Israeli military

Rattle’s social media posts appear to show him standing in front of destroyed buildings and rubble in Gaza

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Image from Instagram account of Benjamin Rattle

An example of one of the posts that was publicly available on Rattle’s Instagram account. (fair use)

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) has lodged a criminal complaint at Cape Town Central Police Station, calling for South African Benjamin Rattle, who is serving in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), to be prosecuted.

Rattle’s social media accounts indicate that he is from Cape Town but has also lived in Hermanus.

He posted repeatedly on Instagram stating that he was proud to be part of the IDF. One post showed a masked soldier with a light machine gun, standing in front of a bombed building and rubble in the Gaza Strip.

The caption stated “From the river to the sea we shall set Israel free.”

Another post stated “nice to take a little break from the battlefield” and another said “end of advanced training, on to 8 special months”.

Other posts include videos of IDF soldiers in the ruins of what appears to be Gaza.

The PSC complaint includes much of this material and states: “Although we are not able to come to any definitive conclusions about the posts and are not personally able to identify Rattle from the copied posts, we believe that the person ringed in red on the copied posts may be Rattle.”

The PSC calls on the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, and Police Minister Bheki Cele to launch an inquiry.

“By serving in the IDF and engaging in military action in Gaza, on behalf of Israel, Rattle appears to have contravened the Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act … and appears to have engaged in the crime of genocide and crimes against humanity, directly or indirectly or by common purpose or by association or under orders given by the IDF,” the PSC says.

“The Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act [RFMAA] regulates the rendering of foreign military assistance by South African juristic persons, citizens, persons permanently resident within the Republic and foreign citizens rendering such assistance from within the borders of the Republic; and to provide for matters connected therewith. … The RFMAA applies to all South African citizens and permanent residents and foreign residents who are within South Africa and prohibits such persons from rendering foreign military assistance …”.

Al Jazeera reports that over 33,000 Palestinians and over 1,100 people in Israel have been killed since the war began on 7 October. More than 13,000 of the dead are children. Just this week, seven aid workers for World Central Kitchen were killed by the IDF.

The PSC says in its complaint that over 1,200 people have signed an online petition calling on Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, to prosecute South Africans who join the IDF.

Pandor has previously warned South African citizens fighting for the IDF. According to the AP last month, she said “I have already issued a statement alerting those who are South African and are fighting alongside or in the Israeli Defense Forces: We are ready. When you come home, we are going to arrest you.”

Professor Usuf Chikte, on behalf of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, laid a criminal complaint at the Cape Town Central Police Station on Thursday. The complaint calls for South Africans who join the Israeli army to be prosecuted. Photo: Matthew Hirsch

Outside the police station on Thursday, the PSC’s Usuf Chikte told GroundUp that the PSC had been working on the issue for some time. He said they had a list of more than 70 names which they had submitted to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) but had so far been ignored.

“We are embarking on another campaign to ensure that the rule of law is not undermined in South Africa. There seems to be political will and the political will needs to be matched with action on the ground. It must lead to an inquiry.”

In the complaint, the PSC states that Rattle posts regularly on Instagram. “The posts suggest that Rattle is serving in the IDF as either a volunteer or a member of the IDF and that he may be on active duty in the Gaza Strip (“Gaza”) in occupied Palestine and that he is proud of his role in the IDF.”

“If the person in the copies of the Instagram posts attached hereto is Rattle, then that person appears to have breached two laws of South Africa and for that reason we are submitting these criminal complaints to the appropriate authorities in South Africa for urgent consideration and investigation and, if necessary, prosecution.”

Rattle told GroundUp: “I am currently stationed on the border of Lebanon while writing this, where more than 80,000 Israelis have had to evacuate their homes. Yes, I am proud to be here fighting for Jews to be able to live peacefully in their ancient homeland side by side with Arabs, who don’t wish to exterminate us.

“I think the South African government should be ashamed for their actions which have put the Jewish community in South Africa in danger and have stopped Jews trying to help the cause, coming home to visit their families.

“I have been in Gaza and I can tell you something, the poverty in South Africa is far worse than the living conditions in Gaza have ever been. So if I were the government of South Africa, I would focus on trying to fix the issues in my own country, of which there are countless, before getting involved in other countries’ problems.”

But this is false. By 2022 Gaza’s per capita income was half that of 1994, while per capita income in South Africa has grown substantially since 1994 and is far higher than Gaza’s. South Africa’s per capita GDP is $13,500 (2022 estimate) versus $5,700 in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (which includes the West Bank which is much better off than Gaza). By most reasonable measures, economic and political, the average South African is far better off than the average Palestinian living in Gaza, even before 7 October.

TOPICS:  Israel-Palestine

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