Vigils held in Cape Town for Gaza war

People gathered at Parliament and at the University of Cape Town to express solidarity with Palestine

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About 50 people held a vigil outside Parliament, organised by African Artists Against Apartheid, and supported by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Jews for a Free Palestine. The journalist shown in the photo is Roshdi Sarraj, a Palestinian journalist killed on 22 October. Photo: Matthew Hirsch

Two vigils in solidarity with Palestine took place in Cape Town on Tuesday evening – at Parliament and at the University of Cape Town (UCT) – to mark exactly a month since Israel’s bombing and subsequent ground invasion of Gaza began. The official death toll in Gaza has surpassed 10,000, mostly civilians. The bombing followed an attack by Hamas on Israel that killed about 1,400 people, also mostly civilians.

About 50 people held a vigil outside Parliament, organised by African Artists Against Apartheid, and supported by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Jews for a Free Palestine.

People bought flowers and candles. There were poetry readings and a rendition of anti-apartheid song Senzeni Na. There were moments of silence and reflection.

Hannah Kaniki, of African Artists Against Apartheid, told GroundUp that they felt it was important to mourn the lives lost. “We are showing that we are part of the larger Palestinian community as people who also suffered under an apartheid regime,” she said.

She said they called for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

Shaniae Maharaj, vice chairperson of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, read out a statement calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador.

After the vigil, those who had gathered made their way to the offices of the Zionist Federation of South Africa, where they left their candles.

UCT students and academics held a multi-faith vigil on Middle Campus. Photo: Ella Morrison

About 150 UCT students and academics held a multi-faith vigil on Middle Campus.

Calls were made for an academic boycott of Israel.

Dr Ruchi Chatuverdi said Israeli universities were “guilty of institutional complicity and active collaboration with Israeli military occupation and apartheid practices”.

Chatuverdi called on UCT to follow the University of Johannesburg’s 2011 decision to sever ties with Ben Gurion University after an official fact finding mission.

She cited a recent article in Africa is a Country that claims UCT of all South African universities has the most collaboration with Israeli academics.

“The burden on UCT is heavy, not least because of its own complicity and collaboration with decades of apartheid,” said Chatuverdi.

The group stood in solidarity with Gaza’s two largest universities – the Islamic University of Gaza and Al Azhar University – which “have both been carpet bombed and reduced to rubble”, said Chatuverdi.

Dr Asanda Benya denounced Israeli and Western universities for allegedly suspending students and disciplining academics for their solidarity with Gaza.

Julia Hope, a student activist from South African Jews for a Free Palestine, said the claim that anti-zionism is anti-semitism is a “well-funded, well-propagated lie”.

She criticised South African Jewish schools for requiring learners to sing the national anthem of a “foreign occupier country” and imposing research projects glorifying the actions of the Israeli Defence Forces.

Hope said a translated Hebrew prayer for the children of Gaza.

Dr Sa’diyya Shaikh led the crowd in the Surah Al-Fatiha (the Muslim prayer for the dead and dying).

She said, “This has never been a Muslim-Jewish conflict, this is a struggle against a brutal occupation and a racist apartheid state for over 75 years.”

Protesters projected the slogans “Zionism is racism, Zionism is fascism” onto the wall of the offices of the South African Zionist Federation in Cape Town last night. The building is also home to multiple Jewish organisations, many of them without any connection to Zionism. Photo: Matthew Hirsch

Gaza bombed

The Gaza Strip and West Bank are called the Occupied Palestinian Territories. They have been occupied by Israel since 1967. Since 2005 Gaza has been under siege. Israel has attempted to control imports, exports, and movement into and out of the territory, as well as its airspace and coastline. Consequently Gaza’s economy has shrunk and people have been living in abject conditions, as explained in this article by Adam Tooze.

There have been multiple military invasions of Gaza by Israel. And Hamas, the ruling power in Gaza, has frequently fired rockets at Israel. But the current escalation is far bigger than any previous one.

On 7 October when Hamas militants entered Israel and killed 1,400 people and took over 240 hostages, Israel responded by bombing Gaza and intensifying its blockade.

As of 7 November the death toll in Gaza stood at more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, many children, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.

More than 30 journalists and 89 United Nations workers have been killed in Gaza in the last month.

“We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It’s been 30 days,” the United Nations said in a joint statement on the weekend.

South Africa’s response to the conflict

There have been large protests in support of the people of Palestine in Cape Town in the past month. Protesters have demanded South Africa cut ties with Israel and expel the Israeli ambassador.

Earlier this week International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor announced that South Africa would withdraw its diplomats from Israel.

On Tuesday, the conflict was debated in Parliament.

Delivering her opening statement, Pandor called for an immediate ceasefire and for humanitarian aid to be allowed in the region.

She also called on the International Criminal Court to issue a warrant of arrest for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

South Africa’s main opposition party, the DA, said it was concerned by the rising death toll in Gaza and the West Bank while it condemned the Hamas attack on 7 October. MP Emma Louise Powell said the party stood in solidarity with both Palestinians and Israelis who sought a “two-state solution”.

Protests in solidarity with the people of Palestine are set to continue in Cape Town, with one being planned for 11 November. And a pro-Israel protest is planned for 12 November.

TOPICS:  Israel-Palestine

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