Lior Haiat, spokesperson at the Israeli foreign affairs ministry, has leveled an extraordinary charge against South Africa, claiming that the anti-apartheid state “is functioning as the legal arm of the Hamas terrorist organization.”
This charge is without basis in fact. His effort to undermine Palestinian-South African solidarity and bludgeon a legal team that inspired millions around the world underlines why so many people are disturbed by how Israel operates in the occupied Palestinian territories and on the world stage.Israel, it will be recalled, long maintained close relations with apartheid South Africa and its white leaders.
As a country that overcame apartheid rule, South Africa is particularly well placed to bring the genocide case against Israel, a modern-day practitioner of apartheid as documented by credible Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organizations.
Haiat is not a credible figure to lob such charges.
Nevertheless, CNN dutifully repeated the allegation at least twice on Thursday last week and did not comment on the lack of any evidence.
Haiat has made numerous false charges on Twitter/X in recent weeks and over the years. He has also amplified the false charges of others by reposting them.
The foreign affairs ministry spokesperson has learned there are no repercussions for lies and misrepresentations.
Haiat tweeted in rage on 14 October at “those who spoke of ‘proportionality’ when Israeli babies were murdered and burned alive.” That tweet was a suggestion of no limits to Israel’s response, precisely what landed Israel in the dock at The Hague over South African concerns of intent to commit genocide.Later that month, he accused Save the Children of supporting Hamas.
“On October 7 there was no violence against children on both sides!” he reportedly claimed. “Only against Israeli children!!”Yet Defense for Children International - Palestine has documented that the Israeli military killed at least 13 children in Gaza on 7 October. Israeli forces killed another Palestinian child that day in the occupied West Bank.
Haiat not only had his facts wrong about 7 October and Palestinian children also being killed that day, but by reposting a 28 October tweet from self-described terrorism expert Dani Lerer, he showed a callousness toward the Palestinian children killed in the three weeks following 7 October. DCIP put the figure at 3,195 Palestinian children killed in that period with at least another 1,000 missing under the rubble of Israeli bombardment.The spokesperson also circulated lies and unverified information about 7 October when he reposted this tweet as well as a video from a Twitter/X account run by Israel’s foreign affairs ministry: There were not 40 Israeli babies “killed and burned” on 7 October. This was atrocity propaganda that enraged western politicians against Palestinians and cleared the way for Israel’s overwhelming violence, a reckless approach that may lead the International Court of Justice to determine Israel has committed genocide in Gaza.
The Times of Israel noted in early December that two Israeli infants were killed on 7 October along with 12 other children under age 10 – not 40 babies. Agence France-Presse has reported 36 children were killed in those Hamas-led attacks.
The Electronic Intifada, however, has helped expose that Israeli tank fire killed 12-year-old Israeli citizen Liel Hatsroni on 7 October in Kibbutz Be’eri. Her twin brother Yanai was likely killed by Israeli tank fire or crossfire.
Haiat also reposted similar atrocity propaganda advanced by author J.K. Rowling that Hamas had killed 40 babies. Both Haiat and Rowling irresponsibly helped foment the killing environment that resulted in Israel being brought before the ICJ.The video cited above from the foreign affairs ministry reposted by Haiat also wrongly claimed that there were “1,400 Israelis murdered.” In fact, most US news sources now assert 1,200 Israelis were killed that day in the Hamas-led attack, though these sources don’t generally note that some were killed by Israeli forces.
Of these 1,200 killed, a New York Times correction says Hamas “killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli authorities, not 1,200 civilians. More than 300 soldiers and police officers were among those who died.”
An apparent supporter of dispossessing Palestinians of still further land, Haiat reposted this claim from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that Israel includes some or all of the West Bank – or as the governor puts it: “Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria.”Haiat also bragged about efforts to block the nonviolent boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian freedom and equal rights. When nonviolence as a path to securing rights is closed off, violence becomes more likely. Haiat took satisfaction in that work then and it’s unlikely anything has changed now even with people around the world looking on in horror as Israel pursues what South Africa – and perhaps soon the ICJ – deems to be genocide in Gaza.
Far too many civilians on both sides have been killed. South Africa’s case, however, may finally be making clear for people around the world just how far Israel has taken matters – and has for decades with its apartheid and occupation policies.
Spinning genocide and apartheid is a losing cause in much of the world. Nonetheless, with many American and European politicians, Haiat continues to find a willing audience.