By Hassan Isilow – Pretoria
The new government is facing a litmus test after civil society groups filled an urgent application with the public prosecution for the arrest and prosecution of South African-born Israeli Lt Col David Benjamin on charges of war crimes against Palestinians.
“The legal applications we have put forward today to the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions is a first step in many attempts of ours determined to see that all those who caused war crimes in Gaza and the entire Palestine are brought to book,” Dr. Shereen Ushid, a respected Jewish academic opposed to Israel’s occupation of Palestine, told IslamOnline.net.
Benjamin who is currently visiting the country at an invitation from Limmud, a global Jewish identify conference organization, to speak at three of its events on warfare.
He is accused of having legitimatized the use of white phosphorous in Israel’s recent Gaza war.
“It is very unfortunate that an organization such as Limmud could invite a person of Lt Col. David’s kind who was responsible for the mass massacre of innocent Palestinian women and Children,” insists Usidin.
“We believe it was disrespectful and a violation of women’s rights for the Limmud to invite a person such as Benjamin who has been involved in driving the war that massacred women and children in Gaza and all over occupied territories of Palestine.”
At least 1,417 Palestinians, more than half of them women and children, were killed in three weeks of Israeli air, land and see attacks.
Dr. Usidin joined on Sunday, August 8, a huge protest march in Johannesburg in honour of Gaza women mowed down by Israeli bullets, heavy war artillery and bio-chemicals.
The demonstration was organised by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Palestinian Solidarity Committee and other civil society groups.
Participants marched and camped outside a conference organised by Limmudu where Benjamin was scheduled to present a paper.
“The demonstration was very successful and I believe the message has been clearly driven home to the South African Government, Israeli authorities and the international community,” said Usidin.
Farid Esack, a respected analyst and professor of the University of Johannesburg, filled the application jointly with Dr. Usdin.
“Despite calls by civil society organizations and academics requesting government to stop Lt. Col David Benjamin’s travel to South Africa, he was allowed to come into the country- which we feel is very unfair and must be challenged by a legal process,” Esack told IOL.
He said if the government dodges this sensitive issue it will be seen as having compromised its moral history of being a defender of human rights.
“This legal application is a great test to both our government and the country’s judicial system.”
Shannaz Ebrahim, News Editor at the Voice of the Cape, agrees.
“I believe this application by the civil society groups will serve as a ground breaking test for our country’s Government and judicial system,” Ebrahim told IOL.
“South Africa needs to demonstrate its moral high ground and its international obligations if it wants to be taken seriously,” contends Zahid Asmal, the head of news research and innovations at the Johannesburg-based Channel Islam international radio.
Zahid noted that South Africa had fought apartheid and other forms of injustice so its government must not compromise with people associated with war crimes.
“South Africa is internationally respected and held in high esteem on moral issues because of its own past so it will be sad if our government compromised on this regard.”