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ANC criticized for meeting with Israeli delegation

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There’s been stark criticism of the ANC’s International Relations Sub Committee meeting with Israeli officials, which some believe contradicts the party’s very own policies on Palestinian solidarity. On Tuesday, Edna Molewa, Chairperson of the International Relations Sub-Committee and Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe met with Israeli politician Tzachi Hanegbi and the ambassador of Israel to South Africa, Lior Keinan as well as representatives from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBOD) met in Pretoria.

In a statement issued by Molewa, she said a number of issues were discussed, including a recommendation of the recently held National Policy Conference (NPC) relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the downgrading of South Africa’s embassy in Israel. According to Molewa, the Subcommittee informed the delegation that a decision would be taken at the ANC’s upcoming National Conference in December.

The International Relations subcommittee also reiterated “the ANC and its Alliance’s commitment to the Two State solution and emphasized that urgent steps should be taken to resume talks between both sides”.

“The ANC remains committed to playing a constructive role in the Middle East peace process and within the international relations arena in general; and as such views regular engagement with actors across the political spectrum as key to its efforts,” the statement concluded.

The meeting even took members within the ruling party by surprise, with ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa saying they are still awaiting answers from the committee.

“We will await a report from the international relations subcommittee about how it could be that a subcommittee of the ANC has meetings with the Israeli government in view of the resolutions of the ANC about Israel. We have got a very clear resolution about our relationship with them in both government and the party,” he said.

While the discussion was not an official government meeting, it seems the Israeli delegation has suggested that this was an inter-ministerial meeting. Hanegbi himself tweeted that he was “in the first ministerial meetings between @Israel and @GovernmentZA in 5 years”.

Anti-Zionist group, South African Jews for a Free Palestine (SAJFP), said it was disappointed in the meeting that the ANC “has not rejected the Israeli PR strongly or forcefully enough”.

“Why would the ANC have held such a meeting in the first place?  How would the ANC view a meeting during the 1970s of, for example, an ally, Julius Nyerere’s Tanzania African National Union (TANU), meeting with a Minister from Apartheid South Africa? The ANC and the larger liberation movement would rightfully have condemned such moves and likewise Palestinians – as well as human rights supporting Jewish South Africans and our progressive Jewish Israelis allies also condemn this,” said SAJFP spokesperson Allan Horwitz.

The organisation said it hoped the ANC’s International Relations Sub-Committee was not attempting to derail the recommendation from ANC branches for downgrade of the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv.

“The downgrade is a concrete step beyond rhetoric. Israel must be held accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people and a clear message must be sent that there are no normal relations with an abnormal regime.”

The SAJFP said it was concerned that the ANC would meet with Hanegbi, described as a man with a “history of violence’. As president of his student union in 1980, he received a six-month suspended sentence for leading an attack on Palestinian students and has also served in the Israeli Defense Force. In July this year, through Facebook post, Hanegbi threatened Palestinians with a further round of ethnic cleansing. Hanegbi was also part of a group of Israeli politicians who in January this year backed a racist anti-African law.

“After many years of trying to change our society from within, we have come to the conclusion that an international campaign, such as the boycott against apartheid South Africa, is necessary to change the situation here. We believe that the time has come for further measures. Governments including the South African government should be downgrading diplomatic relations and their embassies in Israel, to send a clear message to Israel that its violations of international law are unacceptable. Ultimately we call on the ANC to strengthen its support for the BDS movement and Palestinian struggle,” Horwitz concluded. VOC

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