About 300 people from different backgrounds and nationalities across South Africa, gathered outside the United States Consulate in Johannesburg, Thursday, to protest the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
The placard-carrying protesters representing both Israel and Hamas supporters, condemned the bombings and killing of civilians by both sides.
Those in support of Hamas demanded an end to the Israeli-occupied territories, while those in support of Israel, like the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, condemned the Hamas attacks on civilians in Tel Aviv, over the weekend.
Sympathizers of Hamas urged the United States to put pressure on Israel to withdraw from all Israeli-occupied territories as a condition for a peaceful existence.
Fay Rashid, who described herself as a South African-born Muslim with relatives in Gaza, expressed sadness at the impact of the war on ordinary people.
“It’s total destruction,” said Rashid. “Our people are dying. Little children are being harassed. Little children are being killed. The families are destroyed. We stand with our brothers and sisters so that Palestine can be free.”
Gamiem Boomgaard slammed Israel’s blockade of Gaza imposed after Hamas fighters launched a surprise attack in Israel on Saturday.
“There is no food, water, or drink,” said Boomgaard. “Nothing is going into the Gaza strip. Stop the killing of innocent people and give Palestinians the land that is theirs. They are killing innocent people. So, they must stop this now.”
Some disagreed that Hamas was the victim, and argued a two-state solution as suggested by several supporters, as a way forward.
Identifying himself only as Steve, one of the protestors said Hamas should be blamed for the current destruction, not Israel and that a two-state solution would not solve the current conflict.
“The way forward is a one-state solution in my opinion,” said Steve. “I don’t think there can be a Palestinian state within the bounds of Israel. I support the government that supports the security of Jews in this world. We support Israel.”
Wendy Kahn, national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, said there cannot be any justification for Hamas’ weekend attack on Israel, which killed concertgoers, children and elderly people in their homes. Hamas fighters also took more than 100 hostages.
“No! Hamas is not the victim,” declared Kahn. “They are the aggressor. And when you go and do something as callous and as vicious and as horrific as you did on the weekend, you should be condemned. We should be the ones protesting, not the people who are supporting Hamas.”
However, some called for peace a permanent end to the decades-long conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Mpho Masemola, who was at the demonstration told VOA that a two-state solution was the only way for both countries to end the conflict.
“We are saying the two-state solution should be implemented so that the Palestinian people should have a sovereign government and legitimate government.”
The two-state solution proposes creating two separate sovereign nations — a state for the Palestinian people alongside the State of Israel. While it has been discussed internationally for 30 years, no progress has been made on implementing it.
The South African government said the war is a result of Israel’s occupation, and officials with the ruling African National Congress have called Israel an “apartheid regime.” However, U.S. President Joe Biden described Hamas’s attack as a terrorist assault against Israel.