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According to the Financial Times, South Africa has a population of nearly 50,000 Jews, the majority of whom are Ashkenazi. The country has a history of Zionist Jews that supported South African apartheid but also has a history of anti-apartheid, anti-Zionist Jews, including Koni Benson, a member of South African Jews for a Free Palestine, and Andrew Feinstein, a former African National Congress MP.

Feinstein’s father was a South African whose family had fled pogroms in Russia and landed in South Africa. His mother was from Austria and survived the Second World War while living in Vienna.

Feinstein appeared on the YouTube channel of Owen Jones which aired Jan. 5, in an episode titled, “Israel ‘Worse Than Apartheid’: South African Jewish Former ANC Politician Andrew Feinstein.” Owens is a British newspaper columnist, journalist, activist and political commentator.

During the interview, the former MP shared that his mother was hidden in a coal cellar for three and a half years and explained that whenever the Gestapo or the SS would search where she and her family lived, “they’d roll her up into a carpet and that would be pushed up against the wall.”


Feinstein also shared that in South Africa his mother was a part of a group called “Black Sash,” a women’s group that opposed apartheid. Feinstein said, as a member of the ANC he had access to Nelson Mandela.

He said Mandela stressed that apartheid in South Africa and Palestine were “the key moral issues of our time” and declared “Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinian people.” Feinstein said that is what “has motivated me.”

In the recent book, “Doppelgänger” by anti-Zionist Jewish political writer Naomi Klein, she unpacks the internal mechanisms of how the horrific genocide of the Jewish Holocaust has been stamped with special status. That status, according to Koni Benson of South African Jews for a Free Palestine, “justifies colonial occupation and all the brutality that it entails, as a twisted form of reparations.

It is important to see the Nazis and their racist eugenics as a continuum of the European settler colonial project that shaped the world we continue to reckon with.” Benson made these remarks at a “Global Day of Action Rally” at the Sea Point Promenade, in Cape Town, South Africa, in January. 

Benson, a historian, organizer, and educator in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of the Western Cape added, “Hitler himself said that the idea of the concentration camps came from the British and the South Africans.

The Germans’ first practices of genocide were right here in Namibia, where in response to resisting the dispossession of land, they exterminated tens of thousands of Nama and Herero people between 1905-1908. These practices were then imported back to Europe.”

A series of recent articles appearing in publications and media outlets, including Al Jazeera, explore this history as an example of what is happening today. “In southwest Africa, German settlers were pushing Indigenous people off their lands. When two ethnic groups rebelled and fought back, the Schutztruppe—or colonial guards—responded with such brute force that they almost wiped them out entirely.

The massacre of the Nama and Herero peoples between 1904-1908, now in present-day, Namibia is widely recognized as an international extermination attempt,” stated Shola Lawal in an article on Al Jazeera posted on December 2023.

Benson, in an article, titled, “Making Home, not taking it: Anti-Imperialism and Anti-Zionism from South Africa today,” wrote, “If the Holocaust is rooted in unethical European colonial politics, then that is what we need to address now.” 

Instead, the argument many Zionists were making at the end of WWII was that Jews earned the right to an exception to the de-colonial consensus, an exception born of their recent near extermination, victimization, and vulnerability, Klein states in “Doppelganger”.

So as this argument progressed, questions arose about whether European powers could establish nations based on ethnic cleansing, massive colonial violence, and land theft, as Caroline Elkins lays out in her 2022, 800-page book, “Legacy of Violence: A History Of The British Empire.” 

Benson further explained, “… then it is discrimination to say Israel cannot … and so it was framed as anti-Semitism to restrict Israel. The quest for equality was therefore reframed not as the right to be free, but the right to take land and colonize which of course suits Western powers.  As South African Jews for a Free Palestine, we reject this narrative and the colonial dynamics it justifies.” Follow @JehronMuhammad on X, formerly Twitter