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South African Jews criticize Ramaphosa’s ‘river to the sea’ chant

The South Africa Jewish Board of Deputies expressed its "revulsion" at "the introduction of a call to exterminate Jews" by the South African president.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

South African Jewish leaders have taken South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to task for leading a crowd in chants of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” over the weekend.

“The call to remove all Jews from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea equates to removing all Jews from Israel. The slogan and its call for the destruction of the Jewish state has its origin in the Hamas Charter, with its goal to see Israel as ‘Judenfrei’ or Jew free,” according to a statement put out by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.

Ramaphosa started the controversial chant at an election rally at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday, veering from a prepared speech which reportedly included language, omitted in the final speech, calling for the release of “hostages held in Gaza.”

The address was part of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress’ (ANC) final Siyanqoba (“victory” in Zulu) rally before elections on Wednesday. It was heard by thousands of ANC members in attendance and by a national television audience.

The South Africa Jewish Board of Deputies expressed its “revulsion at the introduction of a call to exterminate Jews from their Homeland” and for the “elimination of the only Jewish state.”

“The chanting of this slogan by a Head of State of a government that recurrently tries to express their commitment to a ‘Two State Solution’ as their policy on Israel and Palestine is hypocritical to the full.  How does a sitting president reject his own government and own party’s international relations policy?” the statement continues.

“This reconfirms our understanding that President Ramaphosa and his government are not looking for a peaceful solution to the tragic conflict, but rather to cause discord among fellow South Africans against its Jewish community.”

Pretoria serves as a “crucial base of operations” for Islamic terror groups, according to a soon-to-be released report by the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy.

The report’s publication comes in the wake of the International Court of Justice’s latest ruling against Israel’s military offensive in Rafah, in a case brought before the court by South Africa.

On Friday, the court ruled by 13 to 2 that the Jewish state must “immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

According to ISGAP Executive Director Charles Asher Small, “The ICJ’s ruling is a stark reminder that South Africa has become a hub for extremist activities across the African continent.” 

The report claims that the ANC “maintains close relationships with Qatar, Iran and terror groups like Hamas.” It also raises the possibility that Iran funded the ANC “in exchange for favorable outcomes in ICJ cases,” noting that the ANC’s “sudden financial stabilization” in early January 2024 remains unexplained.

The time has come for the international community “to recognize and address South Africa’s alarming connections with terror-supporting states and entities,” said Small.

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