Johannesburg Mayor Suspends Councillor Over pro-Israel Remark

Mayor complains that Mpho Phalatse attributed her personal opinion to the city after she said 'Johannesburg is a friend of Israel,' local media reported

A protest outside the U.S. Consulate in Johannesburg,  May 15, 2018, against the use of deadly force by Israeli troops against Palestinians at the Gaza border.
Themba Hadebe/AP

The mayor of Johannesburg announced Tuesday that he had suspended a city councillor for saying publicly that the city was a friend of Israel, South Africa's News24 reported.

Herman Mashaba, the mayor of Africa's second-largest city, said Mpho Phalatse's remarks "didn't adequately address the complexity and sensitivity" of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Addressing a South African Friends of Israel event on Sunday, Phalatse had said: "I would like to declare that I am a friend of Israel, and the City of Johannesburg is a friend of Israel!" 

Mashaba expressed disappointment that Phalatse attributed her opinion to the city, the report said, while a spokeswoman for her party – the Democratic Alliance, the largest party in the opposition – told the media outlet that the suspended councillor submitted an apology on Monday.

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The SA Jewish Board of Deputies, an umbrella representative of the country's Jewish community, was quoted in the report as decrying "attempts to silence South Africans who challenge the anti-Israel narrative. It is all part of an environment in which Israel is being demonized to a degree that bears no relationship to reality."

Last month, South Africa announced that it would recall its ambassador to Israel over the killing of Palestinians during protests at the Gaza border fence.

The country's ruling African National Congress party is a vocal supporter of the Palestinians, saying in 2012 that it was "unapologetic in its view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel."