When a local activist group picketed outside the Saudi Embassy in Pretoria to protest against the Kingdom’s bombing raids on the Yemeni people, immediate condemnation of the march came from a rather unusual quarter – the Palestine Embassy in South Africa. So the puzzling question is: Why would the Embassy of the State of Palestine want to stop a perfectly legitimate protest action against the Saudi Government for its horrendous war on sections of the Yemeni people? The answer lies embedded in a press release sent out by the Palestine Embassy in Pretoria. It is about money–and lots of it – which the Palestine Authority claims it receives from the Saudi Government.
The press release castigated protesters, saying their campaign was “obscuring the struggle of the Palestinians”. In the same breath, the Embassy of Palestine also pointed out that Saudi Arabia was one of its “biggest providers of political and financial support to the State of Palestine.”
“The Palestinian people highly appreciate the historical support and solidarity presented by the Saudi Arabian King, government and people.
“The Embassy of the State of Palestine firmly refuses the usage of the Palestinian cause in favor of other agendas, and to achieve goals that do not serve the Palestinian struggle, hence the Embassy calls for abstaining from participating in such rallies.
“Again; the Embassy calls the activists and the solidarity communities for more coordination with the Embassy in all kinds of solidarity activities and events”.
Many who joined the march were ardent Palestine activists who believe that if they could condemn Israel for the oppression of Palestinians, then they were prepared to show equal outrage against the Saudis.
The march was organized by Khalifa Makgotlho, a member of the South African Council for freedom in Bahrain. “Saudi Arabia is an instigator of wars in the Middle East. They are the ones obscuring the liberation of the peoples of the Middle East” said Makgotlho in an interview with Al Qalam.
Dr Firoz Osman, an executive of the Media Review Network – South Africa and co-author of ‘Why Israel?’ said he was shocked by the cheeky statement from the Palestine Embassy.
“The atrocities committed against the Yemeni people by the Saudi Arabian regime are heinous, and comparable to Israeli crimes in Gaza. We unequivocally support the Palestinian people in their struggle for the liberation of Palestine and Al-Quds, but we regard the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) defence of Saudi crimes in Yemen as hypocritical. Our support of Palestine does not mean that we must ignore Saudi war crimes in Yemen.
“We strongly disagree with the PA embassy’s statement that Saudi Arabia is one of the “biggest providers of political and financial support to the State of Palestine.” Saudi co-operation and collaboration with Israel goes back decades, and the Saudi regime has long been rallying against Palestinian allies like Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas.
“In 2002, King Abdullah, rather than delegitimising Israel, normalised relations with Israel.
While Saudi Arabia is willing to kill thousands of Yemeni civilians to bring the Hadi regime back to power in Yemen, it did not lift a finger when Gaza was being bombed and thousands of civilians died during Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9; during Pillar of Defence in 2012; and during Protective Edge last year. Neither has the Saudi regime placed any pressure on Israel to lift its strangulating siege on the Gaza Strip.
“Far from providing support to the liberation struggle of the Palestinian people, the Saudi regime – like the PA – has actually been co-operating with Israel to entrench the occupation and siege of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip respectively “
Meanwhile, the KZN Palestine Solidarity Forum said that it was concerned by the “ruthless bombing of Yemen by Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners.”
“As a civil society formation which works to advance solidarity with the Occupied people of Palestine, it together with other solidarity groups believes firmly in the protection of the human rights of oppressed peoples’ the world over and hence it calls for the bombing and violation of the basic rights of Yemeni civilians, to cease immediately,” it said. AL QALAM