By Anees Teladia
Israeli Apartheid Week is the highlight of the year for all supporters of Palestine, as unique emphasis is placed on the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This year, a special guest of Israeli Apartheid Week, Lema Nazeeh has come to South Africa to spread awareness on the Palestinian issue and advocate for the rights of the Palestinian people.
Nazeeh hails from the West Bank city of Ramallah. She is a diplomat at the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is a prominent political activist against the Israeli occupation. Nazeeh has several qualifications from various institutions and has been actively involved with the United Nations (UN) and the European Union. Wide involvement in human rights advocacy and Palestinian resistance has led Nazeeh to become subject to arrest and detention by Israeli forces on several occasions.
In-studio with VOC DriveTime on Wednesday, Nazeeh spoke about her involvement in the resistance to the Israeli occupation.
“I’ve been involved in human rights since I was a kid. I always wanted to be a lawyer. Then I was more active within my college with political activism. I finished my law degree and I continued my international criminal law master’s degree,” said Nazeeh.
“In my opinion, international law and being a lawyer advocating for Palestinian rights is one of the main tools to raise awareness and to hold perpetrators accountable. Especially the Israelis.”
“It’s a very challenging task… it seems that Palestine is one of the toughest conflicts and issues that can be solved because of the politics and the strong governments pressuring Palestinians. But we still believe we can win it [the conflict].”
Nazeeh stated that whilst the task of Palestinian advocacy can be tough, the law is on the side of the Palestinian cause because it (at least in principle) stands to promote justice.
“At a diplomatic level, I’m equipped with UN resolutions and international law. Not because it’s on the side of Palestine but because international law is on the side of the just. Our cause is a just cause, a human rights cause. Of course international law speaks in the interest of the Palestinians. Israel is committing crimes against humanity, war crimes and grave violations of human rights. The law said that.”
“I’m equipped with these legitimate arguments,” said Nazeeh.
“[In] countries such as South Africa, places in Latin America and so forth…these people know what it means to be a freedom fighter. They know what freedom means.”
South African support for the Palestinian cause, in the smallest ways, has a strong effect on the Palestinian people’s morale and strength.
“I’ve been saying that for every person I meet, I’m amazed with all the messages I’m hearing and songs I’m listening to. I don’t always understand the meaning, but I do understand the vibe and energy of the song,” said Nazeeh.
“It gives me energy to go back to Palestine, and I can say to them ‘okay we are not alone, a lot of people defend us. They know about us’.”
“I think it makes our lives easier, to know we are not alone.”
“Everyone in Palestine knows about the struggle of South Africa… we try to copy it within our own resistance.”
Nazeeh then elaborated on the struggle the Palestinian people face daily and how important the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is to their cause.
…Each year Israel arrests 500-700 Palestinian children. Each year. That’s a huge number. It’s a new generation being traumatised and terrorised. Israel is the only country that has military juvenile courts to persecute children. No other system in the world has a military court for children. That’s a grave violation of child rights. It’s outrageous. Eight-year-old children get arrested and persecuted in military courts with a military judge, a military prosecutor and with military laws. It’s crazy. Palestinian children and communities are under trauma with all we face under daily life.”
“BDS is one of the most important tools we can use. I think joining BDS is a great way to help. Promoting, campaigning and advocating with us for BDS, is one of the most important things you can do,” said Nazeeh.
“Israel is threatened by BDS because of all its success around the world.”
They [Israel] created a whole ministry to combat BDS activists and the movement of BDS internationally. They impose ten years bans on international activists and human rights defenders for promoting BDS. They conduct smear campaigns against the organisations and the individuals who promote for BDS. They are trying to silence the BDS campaign and the Palestinian resistance because it’s successful. More and more people are joining.”
Nazeeh highlighted that although the struggle is unbearable at times, they as Palestinians, remain strong and determined to persevere and keep the hope of liberation alive.
“I always think that Palestinians throughout history have kept the hope of liberation. That’s why we continue to resist.”
“We’ve never even thought about leaving as an option. We live with the idea that tomorrow will be a better day and that freedom will come,” said Nazeeh.
“When you have a just case, you have strength in resilience – in keeping resistance. Resistance is the most vital tool to keep believing and having faith. Resistance makes you stronger.”