South Africa BDS Protesters Wave Hezbollah Flags, Urge Gov’t to Honor PFLP Hijacker
Members of the South African boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel urged local officials in Johannesburg last Friday to rename a street after Palestinian hijacker Leila Khaled, while expressing support for the Lebanese Islamist group Hezbollah.
The Johannesburg City Council last year adopted a resolution to honor Khaled by renaming Sandton Drive, where the US Consulate General is located.
Khaled rose to notoriety following her involvement in two airplane hijackings in 1969 and 1970 on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a designated terrorist organization in Europe and the United States that has killed scores of Israeli civilians since its establishment in 1967.
The group’s bloodiest attacks include a massacre of 26 people at Lod Airport in 1972, multiple suicide bombings that claimed more than 100 casualties during the Second Intifada, and a 2014 massacre of five worshipers and one police officer at a Jerusalem synagogue.
BDS South Africa has accused Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba and his allies in the Democratic Alliance party of delaying the street name change, which was championed by the ruling African National Congress and far-left allies.
Footage from Friday’s rally showed many demonstrators donning keffiyas and Palestinian flag scarves, chanting “Free, free Palestine,” and holding flags bearing the distinctive logo of Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy committed to Israel’s destruction.
While Hezbollah is designated fully or in part as terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, Arab League, and others, it has not yet been blacklisted by South Africa, despite urging by some experts.
Portraits of the late leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah were also held by some protesters, whose ranks included members of the South African Communist Party and the Muslim party Al Jama-ah.
The rally coincided with others organized by Iran and its supporters in honor of “Al-Quds Day,” held annually on the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Protests, which regularly feature calls for Israel’s elimination and the “liberation” of Jerusalem, were held this year in various Middle Eastern cities, as well as New York City, Berlin and London.
“BDS is going into shock-tactic mode, getting messages across in the most extreme way,” Jasmine Opperman, the Africa director for the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, told the South African Jewish Report of the Johannesburg protest.
“We must not underestimate the support for Hamas and Hezbollah in South Africa, where they are not deemed terrorist organizations,” she said. “There are known financial streams in the country because they are not illegal here.”
“A concerning question that remains unanswered is what the relationship is between BDS, Hamas, and Hezbollah, and if it is possible that money is flowing to BDS from both these organizations,” Opperman added.
Questions have previously been raised over the links between the BDS campaign and terrorist organization, with reports last year indicating that Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the PFLP are part of the BDS National Committee, the Palestinian coordinating body for the campaign.
A report released by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs in February claimed that convicted terrorists who were previously imprisoned “currently hold senior positions in NGOs which delegitimize and promote the BDS campaign against Israel.”
The BDS campaign declined to respond to the report, calling it “wildly fabricated and recycled propaganda” in comments to The Associated Press.