Cape Town - Two different sets of pro-Palestine protesters were arrested on Sunday as the police and security guards locked down a pro-Israel rally attended by thousands in Cape Town’s city centre.
A day after tens of thousands of pro-Palestine marchers protested against Israel for the death of civilians in Gaza, thousands of people from Cape Town’s Jewish community “broke the silence” at a rally held at the Jewish Museum on Sunday, showing their support for Israel.
Security at the rally, organised by the Zionist Federation Cape Council, was tight, with security guards searching people before they entered the venue – The Piazza, opposite the Jewish Museum – in Hatfield Street.
Police closed the road to cars.
Five people were arrested for allegedly inciting violence and disobeying a policeman.
The Save Gaza Group condemned the arrests of the five pro-Palestine demonstrators.
“We demand their unconditional release and right to protests against Israeli brutality and all other forms of oppression.”
Shaheed Mahomed, from the Action Forum in Support of Palestine, said the group arrested had been driving in the area. Police spokesman Colonel Tembinkosi Kinana confirmed the arrests.
“Five people, four men aged from 30 to 43, and a 36-year-old woman, were arrested for conspiring to commit crime. They are expected to appear in the Cape Town Magistrate’s court on Monday. ”
They were held overnight at Cape Town police station.
Ben Levitas, chairman of the Zionist Federation Cape Council, said the Jewish community had demanded a rally to show support for Israel.
“There has been a lot of anti-Israel demonstrations, and this is to show support for Israel,” Levitas said.
“People are calling for death and we are upset because these are lives lost on both sides.”
On the calls for the South African government to cut ties with Israel, he said: “It will be a disaster if South Africa pulls sanctions on Israel. What I would like to see is the destruction of Hamas, who are holding the people of Palestine to ransom.”
Reverend Barry Isaacs, founder of Transformation Africa, said many Christians supported the Israelis.
He accused South African leaders of not speaking up when Christians were being attacked.
“Our leaders did not speak up when Boko Haram kidnapped 200 Nigerian Christian girls, but when Israelis stand up for themselves, they talk. The silence has been broken. God’s purpose is to bless the world through Israel,” Barry said.
Meanwhile, scores of Palestine supporters gathered at the Sea Point Pavilion on Sunday to picket against Israel’s military action in Gaza.
The picket started 30 minutes before the pro-Israel rally.
There was a brief but heated altercation when a motorist waving an Israel flag drove slowly past the protesters. A protester grabbed the flag.
Police intervened and returned the flag to the motorist, who drove off.
One of the leaders of the protest, Haroon Orrie said: “This is a clear tactic from SAPS to undermine us. If you want to be arrested you will stay here. For this is what will happen. They are in support of the Zionists.”
Kinana said the group had moved from Sea Point to the Grand Parade.
“After the police had warned them for the third time, the protesters proceeded in a motorcade towards Buitenkant Street, not far from the place where the pro-Israel rally was held.
“At that stage, the police started arresting the members of the group who had defied the lawful orders to leave the place.”
He could not say how many had been arrested.
Protest organiser Mogamat Francis said the picket had been peaceful. “The picket is to show injustice in Palestine.
“It is just us friends and family getting together to conscientise the public on what is going on because the news is only giving one side of the story.”