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Death of a mercenary Is South African Media complicit?

Hassen Lorgat

The SA Zionist Federation wrote that Daniel Perez, 22, had been declared a fallen soldier, and his body is being held by the Hamas terrorist organisation. He was the platoon commander in the 78th Battalion of the 7th “Storm from the Golan” formation and reportedly “made aliyah from South Africa with the rest of his family in 2014”. He was employed to kill Palestinians. The Federation added that they are utterly devastated by the tragic news and prayed for his memory (to) be a blessing. His father, Rabbi Doron Perez, serves as the executive chairman of the World Mizrachi Movement and said that he had prayed for better news. 

Instead of praise, Human Rights lawyer Ziyaad Patel believes that “it is utterly astounding that Perez’s death is being lauded in some Jewish Zionist quarters, when his recruitment into the IDF and the Zionist institutions which supported him, aid and abet such unlawful activities should be held accountable as accessories or co-perpetrators in egregious crimes of genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, crimes against humanity and in contravention of the antiterrorism laws of the Republic of South Africa.”

The strong sentiments in favour of the deceased have not been heard being uttered by the SA Zionist Federation when Palestinian children were and are being killed in Gaza and the West bank. The  Gaza Health Ministry reports that more than 12,300 children have died since the end of October, despite Israel claiming that it is trying to prevent civilian deaths. 

In addition, there is no criticism or vilification in the media about Perez serving in an army that is accused of genocide, all that is there is silence.

Just cast your mind back to a few years and you will recall the mass media frenzy around twin brothers Sallahuddin and Yakeen Thulsie, whom the mainstream media dubbed the Thulsie Twins. Notwithstanding being duped by a spy, and misled, the brothers were arrested in 2016 on charges relating to alleged Islamic State membership, held in custody since then and recently sentenced to eleven and eight years in jail respectively after a plea bargain saw them pleading guilty to planning to travel to Syria to join IS.

Or here is another scenario: how would the mass South African media report a story where a Muslim person who left South Africa to go to Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and protect his religious and cultural rights? One thing for sure you will not have the silence or presumed support through their double standards for the IDF soldiers from South Africa.”

Daniel is presumed one of hundreds of South africans serving in the Israeli Defence force which campaigners have dubbed IOF – Israeli Occupying Forces. The exact number of South Africans and other nationals serving in the IDF is unknown but Patel believes it to be around 75 collected in 2008-9 during the war on Gaza which the Israelis called  Operation ‘Protective Edge’. Many other activists believe the exact number of those in the IDF to be higher, but cannot be verified. The non-disclosure is part of Israel’s Hasbara strategies but activists warn that whether these are so-called dual nationals or lone soldiers, and the supposedly defenders of the “motherland” – they all are subject to the law and will be held to account.

Terrorism Probe

South African citizens – and progressive civil society organisations – has always been opposed to its citizens fighting for other countries.  The principal complainant is South African citizen Mr. Safoudien Bester and two civil society organisations the Media Review Network and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign have argued. 

Led by human rights lawyer Ziyaad Patel, they have lodged the South African Ziongate Terrorism Corridor Probe, which is a comprehensive criminal docket with the South African Police Services – Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation (SAPS – DPCI) and the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit of the National Director of Public Prosecutions (PCLU – NDPP) for criminal prosecution. According to the papers, their  complaint constitutes a request for criminal investigation into the violation of South African laws.

Specifically, they argue that 

    • Firstly, South African nationals and /or citizens who have either previously served or are currently serving in the IDF are breaking the provisions of the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act 15 of 1998 (Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act).
    • Secondly, these citizens doing military service in the IDF constitute participating in state terrorism and are violating certain provisions of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist And Related Activities Act 33 of 2004 (the Anti-Terrorist And Related Activities Act) and the Prevention of Organised Crime Act 121 of 1998 (the Prevention of Organised Crime Act)
  • The docket also fingers individuals, institutions and organisations that are complicit in the occupation and repression of Palestinians. The activities of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) fronted as an environmental and sustainable NGO agenda in South Africa but was involved in ethnic cleansing and land-grabbing from Palestinians. The docket also includes the patronage by prominent South African Jewish families and juristic persons, institutions and organisations are complicit for decades in “financing directly and/or indirectly the expansion of settlements, causing displacement and expulsion of civilian population through forced removals and ethnic cleansing, settler colonialism and greenwashing afforestation programmes of former Palestinian villages”. 
  • Finally, the South African authorities are obliged to act as these actions violate international human rights law and, in particular, the Rome Statute and its domestication of the International Criminal Court Act 27 of 2002 which obliges the authorities to “investigate any alleged suspected persons who may be responsible for the perpetration of war crimes and crimes against humanity that are inflicted upon a predominantly defenceless Palestinian population who remain besieged in the Gaza Strip.”

This docket was lodged before South Africa’s case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 29 December 2023 regarding Israel‘s conduct in the Gaza Strip in terms of the  Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip (South Africa v. Israel). Organisers believe that this case has emboldened them to campaign against these soldiers and those like the SAZF who support them.

What is significant is that the docket includes human rights violations such as ethnic cleansing and forced removals in East Jerusalem and the West bank, Hebron and so on, where these soldiers are deployed.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Naledi Pandor recently confirmed that the government would prosecute citizens for belonging / serving in the IDF. In a speech, the Minister put those South Africans fighting for Israel on notice thus: “We are ready. When you come home, we are going to arrest you.”

The progressive civil society groups have often complained about the slow pace of the authorities in this matter but have nevertheless welcomed the government’s ICJ case and the proposed action on the mercenaries.

The Israeli Defense Force fears that South Africa’s position may be followed by other countries, whilst Karen Milner from the SA Jewish Board of Deputies has defended these soldiers arguing that “these individuals are fulfilling a legal obligation to their cultural homeland…”

In reply, Executive Member from the Media Review Network Iqbal Jassat finds it laughable: I didn’t realise that to perpetrate mass killings, starvation, bombing and destroying hospitals, in the commission of a horrible genocide against Palestinians, is a “legal obligation” and “moral necessity” for Jews to “their cultural homeland”. If Israel is their cultural homeland, what is South Africa to Milner, he asked?

The issue of foreigners fighting in the IDF is complicated and involves dual nationals, foreigner volunteers and those who believe in the Jewish Right to return and the obligation to defend the motherland. Dedicated website “Mahal”, aimed at recruiting Jewish people, reveals how detailed and wide the recruitment strategies are, in support of an army that has been widely condemned for enforcing genocide.

 

Hassen Lorgat