April 29, 1975: Hostage taking in South Africa

On April 29, 1975 a South African Jew took 20 people hostage at the Israeli Consulate in Johannesburg, South Africa

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – There are always things about government we don’t like: does this make taking hostages ok?

‘You can’t fight city hall’, or so the saying goes. The reasons why this is believed, I suppose, is that some things are simply too big to attack (figuratively at least!) and hence doing so is a massive waste of time.

Nevertheless, frustrations over measures taken – or not taken – by large entities do grow and at times those who are increasingly angry at what is not working to their satisfaction may entertain taking drastic steps. Even more drastic than Howard Beale (played by British/Australian actor Peter Finch) in the 1976 film Network.

Yet on occasion this outburst of anger in an effort to get a message across is iffy at best and ends badly.

On this day in 1975

24-year old David Protter, a South African Jew and assistant security officer at the Israeli Consulate in Johannesburg, took 20 people hostage at the diplomatic representation. By the time the incident ended four were dead and 32 more were wounded.

Protter apparently had a ‘grudge’ against the Israeli government and wanted to be flown to Tel Aviv, with the hostages of course, to explain some “principles”. There were allegations that the dead and wounded hostages might have been hit accidentally by police snipers who returned the gunman’s fire with bursts into the consulate.

Dealing with a super-crazy person was very difficult. At least he did not want to commit suicide and kill all the hostages.

Israeli security official at the Consulate

Protter apparently had ‘pro-Palestinian sympathies’ according to some hostages. In the end he was sentenced to 59 years in prison for his crimes.

I wonder if he ever resolved his ‘grievances’?

Read More Today in Terrorism

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

2 replies on “April 29, 1975: Hostage taking in South Africa”


Jihadis the most brutal terrorists? I can think of a comparison. Although their reign of terror was short, were not the Nazis every bit as brutal? I’m not talking about the Wehrmacht, but for certain the state agencies of the SS and Gestapo.

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