While anti-Israel activists staged protests outside, former Israeli president Shimon Peres on Sunday defiantly addressed the Jewish community in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“Any threats or attempts to hurt us and Israel will not deter me from standing on this stage and fighting the just war of the State of Israel. I am proud to stand here tonight,” Peres, 92, said in his keynote address.
Streets were closed off across Johannesburg ahead of the event, and security forces were deployed to ensure that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement protests did not get out of hand. Peres’s office issued a statement before the event saying that the boycott movement had not succeeded in harming the event, which aimed to strengthen the Jewish community in Johannesburg and salute Israel.
Peres told the crowd, “You are a warm, Zionistic, and loving community. I know you are going through difficult times and I come to you today with a strengthening message of love from the citizens of the State of Israel.”
Addressing the protesters’ claim that Israel is an “apartheid state” because of its treatment of the Palestinians, Peres said, “There is not a single word in our law that discriminates against people, nothing whatsoever. Apartheid was racism and in Israel racism is a crime. We were attacked several times and we were outgunned and outmanned. We were 650,000 people surrounded by 50 million Arabs. Without anything, we fought for our rights. You call that apartheid? People tend to forget that we made peace with the Arabs.”