Pharrell Williams will be greeted by 40,000 anti-Israel extremists protesting his performance Monday night in Cape Town.
The demonstration, organized by the local Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, is aimed at Pharrell for participating in a concert sponsored by the local Woolworth’s grocery chain, which activists single out for doing business with Israel.
Woolworths carries exactly three Israeli products: pretzels, figs, and pomegranates.
South Africa’s BDS movement is particularly rabid. Led by a young coterie of anti-Israel leftists–including some Jews–it enjoys the support of the country’s ruling party, and draws strength from radical Islamist sympathies in the local Muslim community.
The campaign against Woolworth’s has taken on antisemitic tones, with activists placing a pig’s head in the kosher meat section of a store in Cape Town to taunt the city’s community of about 15,000 Jews.
Pharrell, best known for his hit song “Happy” and for his upbeat collaborations artists from Beyoncé to Daft Punk, has held his ground for months, refusing to cancel his concert at the Grand West Casino in the face of threats by the that he would face “the biggest backlash” of any visiting artist in South Africa’s history.
The BDS movement regards Israel as an “apartheid” state. South African artists were often boycotted abroad during the apartheid era.
Post-apartheid South Africa has a poor human rights record on the global stage. Next door in Zimbabwe, the South African government has shielded dictator Robert Mugabe for decades. Earlier this year, South Africa failed to arrest visiting Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir for war crimes.
In 2001, South Africa hosted the UN World Conference Against Racism, which became a notorious antisemitic hate fest–and where the BDS movement was launched.