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Johannesburg to host ‘global’ anti-Israel conference

South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor is scheduled to open the event.

Jerusalemites watch a hearing at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, regarding the lawsuit initiated by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide, Jan. 26, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Jerusalemites watch a hearing at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, regarding the lawsuit initiated by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide, Jan. 26, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

The first “Global Anti-Apartheid Conference on Palestine” will be held at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on May 10-12.

The conference is billed as bringing together an international host of anti-Israel activists “towards a global movement to dismantle Israel’s settler colonialism and apartheid.”

According to the “concept note” posted to the event website: “The unprecedented collective efforts of the global solidarity movement have been inspiring. Yet, we have not reached the point where we can stop the U.S.-Israeli genocidal war, achieve justice for the indigenous people of Palestine, and dismantle Israel’s regime of Zionist occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid, as was done to the apartheid regime in South Africa.”

South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor is scheduled to open the event. Pandor has drawn criticism from the South African Jewish community for repeated incitement against Israel as well as threats to arrest South Africans who have served with the Israel Defense Forces should they return to the country.

The speakers’ schedule comprises a who’s who of the world’s most notorious anti-Israel antagonists, including Mustafa Barghouti, general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative party and a BDS leader; Zaher Birawi, a senior Hamas official living in the United Kingdom; and Ali Abunimah, founder of the anti-Israel Electronic Intifada website.

Rowan Polovin, national chairman of the South African Zionist Federation, told JNS that “the so-called ‘Global Anti-Apartheid Conference on Palestine’ is a continuation of the vile antisemitic hatred that was on display at the U.N.’s notorious 2001 ‘World Conference Against Racism’ in Durban, South Africa.

“That discredited conference launched the global antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which has worked tirelessly to delegitimize and demonize the world’s only Jewish state through the insidious ‘apartheid’ slander,” said Polovin.

“This new conference doubles down on that bigoted strategy while going even further by disingenuously trying to link Israel to the abhorrent crime of genocide. Outrageous descriptions of ‘Israeli occupation, colonialism, apartheid, and genocide’ are nothing more than malicious antisemitic propaganda meant to falsely accuse Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank,” she continued.

“The S.A. Zionist Federation utterly rejects the nefarious agenda of this conference. Israel is a vibrant democracy with laws ensuring equal rights for all citizens, regardless of race or religion. Perverting the suffering of apartheid while embracing terrorists who endorse violence against civilians is the height of immoral hypocrisy. We call on all fair-minded people to denounce this thinly veiled exhibition of anti-Jewish hatred cloaked in human rights language,” he said.

In 2001, the U.N. Conference against Racism in Durban descended into chaos when the agenda, originally promoted to focus on combating all forms of racism, became a forum to attack and vilify Israel and threaten the Jewish groups in attendance. Representatives from several countries, including the United States and Israel walked out of the main plenary session following the anti-Israel rhetoric.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Global Anti-Apartheid Conference on Palestine would be held at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, not the Sandton Convention Centre.

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