SA Zionist Federation Disgusted by Billboards Abusing Mandela’s Name

The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) is disgusted by the recent billboards installed in Johannesburg by the antisemitic hate group Africa4Palestine.

The billboards make a dishonest comparison between Ayatollah Khomeini, the brutal and fundamentalist Iranian dictator, and world-renowned statesman, and perhaps the most famous 20th-century proponent of democratic values and peace, former President Nelson Mandela. 

It is worth recalling what kind of leader the Ayatollah was and the offence caused to South Africans by this false comparison. 

Ayatollah Khomeini, who took over Iran via a violent revolution in 1979, sent almost a million Iranians to their deaths during the Iraq-Iran war through the use of WW1-style rush military tactics. This included the widespread use of child soldiers and other horrifying acts. 

The Ayatollah’s policies were antithetical to the ideals of freedom of speech, with the most famous example being when he declared a fatwa ordering Muslims to execute author Salman Rushdie for blasphemy when he wrote The Satanic Verses.

Under the Ayatollah’s regime, there was considerable degradation of women’s rights, including locking women into inescapable violent marriages, declaring rape by a spouse to be legal, and lowering the age of marriage to 13 for girls. Khomeini also imposed capital punishment for homosexuality and the repressed rights of minority groups in Iran such as the Baháʼí.

For Africa4Palestine to compare this despicable man, who is neither African nor Palestinian, to our beloved former President Nelson Mandela for cheap political purposes is horrifying. There is a disturbing trend of apologists for the Ayatollah such as Judge Siraj Desai who, as a member of the Judiciary, has made similar comparisons, and against whom the SAZF lodged a complaint with the Judicial Complaints Commission.  

The SAZF is committed to democracy, peace and freedom of speech. The Ayatollah was an opponent of these ideals. We believe many fellow South Africans also will be appalled by this disgraceful use of Mandela’s likeness.  We call on Africa4Palestine to stop abusing his image but, given the antisemitic organisation’s atrocious ethical record, we doubt they will abide by our request. 

Rolene Marks
South African Zionist Federation – Spokesperson