Israel activists facing increasing violence
Israel activists facing increasing violenceReuters

South African police arrested a "Palestinian" man in possession of several illegal firearms outside a pro-Israel rally in Johannesburg on Sunday, potentially preventing a violent attack on thousands of peaceful protesters.

The event saw more than 12,000 supporters of Israel, ranging from religious and secular Jews to Christians and other South Africans of all persuasions, turn out in support of the Jewish state's efforts to protect itself against Gazan terrorist groups. Participants heard speeches, waved flags and sung songs in a robust demonstration of pro-Israel sentiment in a country often associated with militant anti-Zionism.

But some opponents may have had a less then peaceful response in mind.

South African police on Sunday reported via Twitter that a "Palestinian national" had been apprehended outside the golf club in Linksfield where the event was taking place, equipped with "a rifle, revolver, shotgun and three knives."

The heavily-armed suspect has been taken in for questioning.

Unaware of the drama, the rally went on as planned. Organizers of the event posted several videos online showing large crowds waving Israeli and South African flags, listening to pro-Israel speeches and singing the Israeli national anthem "Hatikva".

The arrest is just the latest in a string of incidents in which pro-Israel activists have been violently targeted by anti-Israel extremists in recent months, against the backdrop of a spike in global anti-Semitism. 

Europe has been worst hit by the violence, which has even drawn condemnation from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

FranceGermanySpainItalyBelgium and the UK are just some of the countries where a wave of anti-Semitic crimes has hit headlines since the start of Israel's counterterrorism operation in Gaza.

In Holland, a Jewish woman faced death threats and a firebomb attack on her home after waving an Israeli flag. And even prior to Operation Protective Edge, footage from a pro-Israel rally in France back in June shows anti-Israel extremists attacking peaceful marchers with firecrackers, among other things.

In the US, a pro-Israel rally in Los Angeles was violently attacked by two Palestinian Arabs, and a group of Israel activists were subjected to anti-Semitic abuse outside the Israeli Consulate in Boston.