World Bulletin/News Desk
A leading Jewish South African activist group criticized Israel over the latter's recent onslaught in the blockaded Gaza Strip while remembering the lives of both Palestinian and Israeli civilians lost in the 51-day conflict.
"Many Jews in our country are deeply troubled by the actions of Israel and the human rights abuses which are inflicted on Palestinians," Leonard Shapiro, spokesman for the South African Jewish Voices for a Just Peace, said in an address to a ceremony held to remember Palestinian and Israeli civilians who died in the recent conflict.
"Gaza still lives under a crippling land, air and sea blockade. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are living in the ruins of Gaza with no electricity, water or sewage infrastructure, while life in Israel remains unaffected," he continued to say in his address, a copy of which was e-mailed to Anadolu Agency.
The Cape Town ceremony drew South Africans from different faith groups to come together to remember the civilians who died from both sides in the conflict.
"Remembering the lives lost in Gaza and Israel this July and August is particularly important as the situation in Palestine-Israel has worsened," Shapiro said.
Shapiro, whose organization initiated the event, said that South African anti-apartheid hero Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu unveiled a plaque in memory of the Palestinian and Israeli civilians who died during the recent confrontation.
AA could not, however, obtain a copy of the Tutu's speech.
Others high-profile guests, who attended the event, included Imam Rashied Omar of the Claremont Main Road Mosque in Cape Town, Rabbi Greg Alexander, Rabbi of the Temple of the Israel Progressive Jewish Congregation and anti-apartheid activist Denis Goldberg.
Shapiro said the South African Jewish Voices for a Just Peace is a group of Jews who recognise that the South African Jewish community is not homogenous in its thinking, and that there are many different views on Israel.
Yet, he regretted that many Jews were afraid of speaking about Israeli abuses for fear of being ostracised.
"Israel undertook the biggest land grab ever in the West Bank, and Gaza still lives under a crippling land, air and sea blockade," Shapiro said.
Israel launched a military offensive against the Gaza Strip on July 7 with the stated aim of ending rocket firing from Gaza at its cities and towns.
Over 51 days of attacks, the Israeli military killed around 2,160 Palestinians and injured more than 11,000 others. Apart from this, the Israeli attacks either totally or partially destroyed thousands of Palestinian homes and facilities.
According to Israeli figures, 68 Israeli soldiers and five civilians were killed over the same period.
The Israeli operation finally ended on August 26 with the announcement of an indefinite cease-fire agreement.
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