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Close Israeli embassy and implement BDS, say pro-Palestine groups

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Remarks by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, the SA Zionist Federation and the Democratic Alliance (DA) criticizing the South African government’s decision to withdraw South Africa’s ambassador to Israel has raised the ire of the pro-Palestinian movement. On Monday, the Department of International Relations announced it would be withdrawing Ambassador Sisa Ngombane in protest against the Israeli government’s open fire policy on unarmed Palestinian civilians in Gaza, protesting during the series of Great Return Marches.

According to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, these statements “shamelessly regret the loss of life before smearing as “anti-Semitic” those South Africans of all communities who deplore the Israeli government’s repeated barbaric conduct towards Palestinians.”

“That barbaric conduct by Israel is well documented by the United Nations as well as by the SA Human Sciences Research Council as meeting the legal criteria of apartheid as a crime against humanity. The use by the Israeli army of live gunfire against unarmed civilians in Gaza unquestionably also meets the legal criteria of war crimes. In addition, the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the appalling conditions imposed upon its two million residents meets the legal criteria of genocide,” said PSC in a statement.

Adding its voice, the South African Muslim Network (SAMNET) said arguments by the Israeli lobby that withdrawing the South African ambassador or expelling the Israeli ambassador will negate or compromise South Africa’s role in enabling diplomatic solutions are “spurious”.

“Israel simply ignores the international community; it does not engage with multilaterism Over the past six decades Israel has demonstrated that is has no intention of recognising Palestinians’ rights to statehood or freedom. Through increasing brutal cycles of the massacre of Palestinians and its ever-expanding land grabs accompanied by home demolitions and dispossession, Israel has made it eloquently clear that it will never negotiate an equitable and just peace with Palestinians,” said SAMNET chairperson Dr Faisal Suliman.

“At this point in Palestinian history only a complete and sustained isolation of Israel by the international community will force it to stop its genocide of Palestinians and we respectfully demand that South Africa leads the way by permanently expelling the entire Israeli diplomatic core, stop South African citizens from serving in any capacity in any Israeli government or quasi government body and prosecute any South African citizen found to have served in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) or its structures for crimes against humanity.”

“Notwithstanding the well-organised Israeli lobby all over the world that will justify its massacres by presenting Israel as a state besieged by so-called terrorists the reality is clear for all to see. Israel, as the fifth most powerful army in the world has used its military might to sustain its illegal occupation of Palestine. We cannot have the same cycle of massacres repeat itself over decades while we simply issue statements of condemnation and do little to achieve Madiba’s dream of a free Palestine. Clearly, we would not have freed ourselves from apartheid if the international community only issued statements and took no action to isolate the apartheid regime.”

The UN has annually for the past 70 years reaffirmed the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homes from which their parents and grandparents were forcibly expelled in 1948 – the year ironically in which both the apartheid government came to power in South Africa, and when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was enacted.

According to the PSC, Zionist apologists self-righteously claim that Israel has the right to defend its borders, and that massacre in Gaza should be blamed on Hamas or Iran. The reality is that Israel since 1948 has deliberately refused to define its borders and, in flagrant violation of international law, has continued over the past 70 years to steal more and more Palestinian land and water.

“In the 24 years since South Africa triumphed over apartheid system in our country, the ANC government has voiced its support for the people of Palestine, yet has dismally failed to take meaningful action to lead the international community in ridding the parallel system of apartheid that is inflicted by Israeli Zionists upon Palestinians,” added the PSC.

“Apartheid in South Africa was rightly denounced by the international community. Why however, is apartheid in Israel-Palestine of the so-called “two state solution” foisted onto the Palestinian people to exclude the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes? “Petty apartheid” humiliations in “Israel proper” include the fact that 93% of the land is reserved for Jewish occupation only. “Beyond the green line,” the West Bank is a “grand apartheid” bantustan, with even less autonomy than had the bantustans of apartheid South Africa.”

The organisation believes that withdrawing the South African ambassador for a few weeks (as in 2014) or downgrading our embassy in Israel to a “liaison office” are “grossly inadequate expressions of revulsion”.

“The PSC calls upon government to acknowledge the debt that we in South Africa owe the international community for our liberation from apartheid, and to pass legislation and enforce a full Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions programme against Israel.”

PSC has called on the SA government to:
1. Immediately to sever diplomatic relations with the apartheid state of Israel, and
2. To support a Palestinian application to the International Criminal Court of charges against the leaders of the Israeli government of genocide, apartheid and war crimes in terms of articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute.

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