Despite the threat of arrest, former Israeli prime minister and president Shimon Peres traveled to South Africa to deliver the keynote address at a pro-Israel event Sunday night.
The 92-year-old Peres was undeterred by threats from South Africa’s Muslim Lawyers Association to have him arrested and prosecuted for war crimes. South African Jewish leaders and the Israeli Foreign Ministry were able to stymie that move, though security was tight to prevent protesters from disrupting the event.
“No threat or attempt to harm us or the State of Israel will prevent me from standing on this stage, here in South Africa and to fight the just war of the State of Israel,” Peres said in his speech in Johannesburg, according to The Jerusalem Post. He went on to describe how Israel came into being “against all odds when it was surrounded by enemies and wilderness.” Israel has turned into a “morally just, progressive and democratic state” which respects human rights and pursues justice and peace.
The former president of Israel also addressed the protesters’s claims that Israel is an apartheid state, noting that Israeli law does not discriminate based on race, religion, or other factors. “Apartheid was racism and in Israel, racism is a crime,” he said.
“We were 650,000 people surrounded by 50 million Arabs,” he added, referring to Israel’s 1948 war of independence. “Without sufficient equipment or ammunition we fought for our rights. You call that apartheid? People tend to forget that we made peace with the Arabs,” referring to Egypt and Jordan.
During his visit, Peres also met with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the former wife of late South African president Nelson Mandela. Peres apologized to Madikizela-Mandela for his absence from Mandela’s funeral two years ago due to illness. Both Peres and Madikizela-Mandela found the meeting emotional. Madikizela-Mandela thanked Peres and the State of Israel for preserving Mandela’s memory and values. “There is a little of Nelson Mandela in all of us that shows us the way to peace, reconciliation and wholeness,” Peres replied. “Nelson was a dear friend to me, and his moral path was noble and courageous and lit the road to the future.”
A news report covering Peres’ speech and the surrounding protest is embedded below. Note the prominent presence of a yellow Hezbollah flag among the protesters.
[Photo: SABC Digital News / YouTube ]