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Top South African rabbi critical of govt’s ‘support’ of Hamas, says US needs to stop ‘bad actors’ on continent

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FIRST ON FOX – Iran, Russia and China are sweeping across Africa, with the U.S. facing a crisis of influence. In South Africa, the government has aligned itself with the “bad actors” Russia, China and Iran. These are the main takeaways from an exclusive interview with South Africa’s chief rabbi, Dr. Warren Goldstein. 

Goldstein spoke with Fox News Digital in Johannesburg on Monday, on the eve of what promises to be a watershed presidential election in South Africa this week. Thirty years ago, the African National Congress (ANC) Party swept into power, carrying Nelson Mandela to become the country’s first democratic president. There have been remarkable achievements, but corruption, nepotism, failed government promises and catastrophic fraud-linked power blackouts have left democracy critically strained and many voters disillusioned. In Wednesday’s polls, for the first time, the ANC is likely to lose its majority. 

Across Africa, as democracies become weaker, countries which are strange bedfellows step out of the murky shadows. “The bad actors in international politics, China, Russia and Iran, are making a grab for the African continent,” Goldstein told Fox News Digital.  

Goldstein added “also realize that the African continent is suffering from a wave of jihadi terror in which Christians are being persecuted across the continent. In this context, South Africa in particular, and the African continent in general, is a beacon and can be a very important ally for the United States in promoting freedom and democracy.”

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South Africa’s chief rabbi, Dr. Warren Goldstein. (Office of the Chief Rabbi )

“American values are at stake on the African continent, and we need a much stronger American presence in the continent as a whole and in South Africa in particular”, he continued.

Responding to the growing worry of U.S. foes gaining ground in South Africa and the region, a State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital “we have a strong relationship with South Africa and that relationship is based on the priorities of the American people and the South African people, our shared values and our interests. We are committed to an affirmative agenda with South Africa, through which we work together to bring our nations’ respective priorities to the table.”  

The spokesperson added “The United States believes all countries may choose the countries and groupings with which they associate. South Africa is a sovereign country that can make its own decisions about how to engage others. The relationship between the United States and South Africa is broad, deep, and multifaceted, grounded in values, interests, and people-to-people ties that include our common journeys to uphold human dignity. We’re focused on making our relationship even stronger, to the benefit of Americans and South Africans, and we aren’t distracted by what others are doing.”

Analysts have often accused the ANC of telling the South African government, in which, until Wednesday, its members have a majority, what to do and say. This, Goldstein told Fox News Digital, has led to the country turning away from the West. “A very important thing to understand is the distinction between the ANC government and the South African people. They are very divergent in their values,” said Goldstein.

Biden and Ramaphosa

President Biden, right, shakes hands with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on Sept. 16, 2022 in Washington, D.C. The two leaders reaffirmed the importance of enduring partnership, and discussed their work together to address regional and global challenges. (Photo by Pete Marovich-Pool/Getty Images)

“The ANC government has aligned itself with Russia, China and Iran. The South African people do not share their values in this regard. And to note that this is going to be the first time in South African history the ANC is going to drop below 50% (in electoral votes).”

“It has lost the support of the majority of South Africans. And therefore, when America is considering the opportunities for alliances with South Africa, with the continent, it needs to look beyond the ANC government. That it is a waning force in South African politics, and it is eventually on its way out” 

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Iran in Africa

A woman holds up a poster of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (not seen) as they welcome him upon arrival for a state visit at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare on July 13, 2023. (Jekesai Nijikizana/AFP via Getty Images)

The South African government responded to Goldstein’s criticism, noting, “Firstly, it’s wrong to label the South African government with a political party,” Clayson Monyela, head of public diplomacy at South Africa’s Department of International Relations, told Fox News Digital.

“Decisions of the state are taken by the state and not the ruling party,” Monyela added. “The values that this government espouses are shared by the people it represents. The constitution of the Republic is the guide.”

Wagner Group central africa

Demonstrators carry banners in Bangui, on March 22, 2023 during a march in support of Russia and China’s presence in the Central African Republic. – Central African Republic authorities have opened an investigation into the deaths of nine Chinese nationals killed in an attack on a gold mine in the centre of the country on March 19, 2023. Taking advantage of the vacuum created by the departure of the bulk of French troops, Moscow sent “military instructors” to the country in 2018, then hundreds of Wagner paramilitaries in 2020 at the request of Bangui, faced with a threatening rebellion.  (Barbara Debout/AFP via Getty Images)

However, the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA), believes the ANC pushes its cadres into influential government positions. On their own website, the ANC calls the positioning of their faithful ‘cadre deployment,” as if such a procedure was part of a military exercise.

South African genocide case against Israel at ICJ in the Netherlands

Public hearings in South Africa’s genocide case against Israel begin at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, on Jan. 11, 2024. (Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu via Getty Images)

In a document accompanying a court action in February, the DA stated “The ANC controls both the demand-side and the supply-side of senior administrative roles, State-owned enterprises (SOEs), boards, entities, and independent state institutions.”

This past Friday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the world’s top court, voted that Israel should “immediately halt its military offensive in Rafah.” South Africa had applied to the court to stop the attack in Gaza. 

Rabbi Goldstein said, “The ICJ ruling is not only an attack on Israel’s right to self-defense, it is also a threat to the United States of America and all countries of the free world. – when you can have, for example, a judge from Lebanon presiding over this matter, and countries representing, if you think about the United Nations, the vast majority of the members of United Nations do not come from free democracies. You cannot have dictatorships and their representatives determining when free democracies can defend themselves against the forces of terrorism and violence in the world.”

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South Africa election

President of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks to supporters during the ANC Siyanqoba Rally held at FNB Stadium on May 25, 2024 in Johannesburg. South Africa’s national and provincial elections will be held on May 29, 2024 to elect a new National Assembly and provincial legislature in each of the nine provinces. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Monyela defended the country’s actions, saying “The SA government’s principled position on the Palestine/Israeli matter has been vindicated repeatedly by the rulings of the ICJ. We approached the ICJ to stop the current genocidal acts being perpetrated by Israel against the people of Palestine. This is what all peace-loving people of the world, who believe in human rights and international law, should do.”

South Africa kicked out Israel’s ambassador and closed the embassy, but Goldstein told Fox News Digital that there is little antisemitism among ordinary South Africans. “Antisemitism in South Africa today is a fascinating paradox, which is very revealing about what is actually happening in this country. On the one hand, you have the South African government that has been the most anti-Israel, pro-Hamas, pro-Iranian government in the world when considering free democracies, which is a betrayal of the South African constitution and the values of this country.”

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Israel supporters in South Africa

Members of the Active African Christians United Movement pose as one of them blows through a shofar as others gather in support of Israel outside the embassy of Israel in Pretoria on Nov. 17, 2023. (Photo by EMMANUEL CROSET/AFP via Getty Images)

Goldstein continued” On the other hand, the South African Jewish community has experienced amongst the lowest levels of antisemitism of any Jewish community in the world. And so you have this paradox, an assault, an ANC government that has been pro-Iran, and a South African people that is welcoming of its fellow citizens of the Jewish faith together with all of the citizens of this country, this tremendous spirit of togetherness of unity and diversity, which is the motto of the country, really drawing from the spirit of Nelson Mandela, which is still felt to this day, which is utterly at odds with the spirit and the values of the ANC government.”

Monyela hit back, adding, “The challenge with this comment is the deliberate blurring of the lines between the ANC and the state. The South African Government is not anti-Israel and most certainly not pro-Hamas.”

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Anti-Israel protest in South Africa

A man brandishes a replica toy gun during a pro-Palestinian demonstration organized by the South African opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters in front of the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria on Oct. 23, 2023. (Marco Longari/AFP via Getty Images)

“It is the most ridiculous and outrageous thing to suggest”, added Monyela. “These false and manufactured narratives, including the baseless antisemitism label, are a blunt object meant to silence us from speaking out against the genocidal acts of Israel against the Palestinian people.” He claimed that “The ICJ has repeatedly agreed with us. Look at the comments of the President of France on the latest attacks in Rafah that killed innocent civilians. Even the White House has criticized Israel. The Israeli Prime Minister himself has called for an investigation. South Africa is consistent in calling for the respect of human rights and international law. Our position on the two-state solution is on record.” 

Fox News Digital reached out to the ANC for comment, but received no response.

Eve Glover contributed to this article.

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