South Africa’s second-largest opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, will march against Israel on Thursday to protest against the 100th Anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.
The EFF, well-known for its socialist leanings and for its leaders and members wearing scarlet overalls, vowed to turn the country’s capital Tshwane (formerly Pretoria), red as they march on the Israeli Embassy, with hundreds of the party’s members and supporters expected to attend.
On Twitter, the party’s charismatic leader, Julius Malema encouraged his followers to attend and “occupy the Israeli Embassy.”
“We love self-determination, peace and justice, democracy is our nickname. We are not free until Palestine is free, let’s occupy [the] Israel Embassy,” he said.
We love Self determination, peace & justice, democracy is our nickname. We are not free until Palestine is free, let’s occupy Israel embassy pic.twitter.com/UNnnNTZmbh
Supporters of the protest also tweeted to express their “solidarity with the Palestinian people,” with some comments also having an antisemitic slant.
Buti Amla wrote, “Our democracy is incomplete without the democracy of the Palestinians. Join the EFF on the November 2, 2017, to march against Israel apartheid.”
The party’s Pretoria branch tweeted on Tuesday night, “It is all systems go for Thursday’s March. The message is clear to the racist Zionist government of Israel that we need to free Palestine now.”
Another supporter, Phumezo Jijan, was quoted as saying, “Palestinians are under Apartheid oppression from the Israeli government. It’s our duty to support injustices like the world did for us.” “Are [you] not getting enough money from Jews anymore?” questioned one supporter, while another referred to the Jews as “devilish.”
However, not all EFF members were in favor of the protest, with some calling on the party to rather march against “corruption,” “poverty” and “Nigerian drug lords plaguing” the country. “Brother, we have enough of our own problems to deal with,” tweeted Simphiwe in response to Malema. “I’m an EFF supporter and I believe in the party… Let’s focus [on] here not there.”
Prior to Thursday’s protest, one EFF protester who only identified himself as Sbusiso said, “People must understand that we not fighting Israel but the injustices that are happening there. If Palestine had Occupied ‘Israelist’ land by force we would march against them.”
In response to Thursday’s impending protest, South African Jewish Board of Deputies chairwoman Wendy Khan told The Jerusalem Post, “We live in a democratic country where the right to protest is protected by our constitution.”
“As always, we believe that dialogue would be a more constructive approach in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – one that is actually intended towards encouraging both Israel and Palestine negotiate and talk peace,” she said.
The Israeli Embassy in South Africa did not respond to a request for comment at press time.
In 2014, thousands of EFF supporters led by Malema gathered outside the Israeli Embassy and demanded that then-ambassador Arthur Lenk leave or “we will come here in our numbers to remove him physically,” Malema said at the time.