Israel has the same right to existence as other democratic states, ACDP president Kenneth Meshoe said on Sunday.
“We are here to say we do not believe what is coming out of the media, we can read and we know the truth,” African Christian Democratic Party leader Meshoe said at the SA Zionist Federation rally in support of Israel, held in Johannesburg.
“Just as the USA, Germany and Britain has a right to exist, so does Israel. Any human being has a right to existence, whether we agree with them or not.”
Meshoe said he was saddened by the deaths in Israel and Palestine as a result of the ongoing conflict.
“The loss of life, especially when it comes to women and children, is saddening.”
“Hamas must be told to stop using women and children as human shields. They should move from firing rockets from residential areas in Gaza.”
Meshoe wore a t-shirt bearing the words: “Israel We Stand By You.”
Israeli Ambassador to South Africa Authur Lenk said the rally demonstrated that thousands of South Africans wanted peace in the Middle East.
“We want peace and co-existence in Israel and Palestine. South Africans have shown that a long lasting peace is possible if we stand together.”
The crowds waved Israeli flags and held placards that read: “Free Palestine from Hamas”.
Many wore shirts printed with pro-Israeli slogans.
Shembe leader Bishop Phakama Shembe pledged his church’s support for Israel.
“I love you SA Jews, I will always stand by you. I love you Israel,” Shembe told the crowds who cheered and waived the Israeli flags in response.
A master of ceremonies announced just before 4pm that, according to the SA Police Service, the crowd’s head count had passed 10,000 as more peopled streamed in.
Outside the venue, groups of Palestine supporters held their own protest.
The group held placards that read: “Free Palestine” and “Down with Zionists”.
Earlier, a section of the crowd burnt an Israeli flag.
The Palestine supporters dispersed around 3pm, while the Zionist rally ended just after 4pm.
Authorities say least 9,000 Gazans have been wounded and rights groups have estimated that more than 10,000 houses were destroyed or badly damaged by Israel, the Agence France-Presse reported.
More than 250,000 Palestinians — about 15 per cent of the population –have fled their homes in Gaza. About half of the territory is deemed unsafe for civilians. SAPA