The Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary member, Yusuf Cassim is facing major criticism over a recent visit to Israel, conducted as part of a DA educational visit to the region. This comes as speculation has purported that the delegation’s visit to the controversial Apartheid state was funded by a local Israeli lobby.
Speaking to VOC’s Breakfast Beat on Monday morning, Cassim said the trip was taken in light of the party not sharing any particular foreign policy stance on the Israel-Palestine issue.
“There will be hopefully future trips that need to be undertaken so that our members can understand the gist of the issues, and ensure that whatever policies that may or may not be drafted in the future, is one that reflects the realities on the ground,” he explained.
Whilst the DA held no official stance or policy on the matter, he noted there were several positions shared by the party, including that of the dismantling of the ‘Apartheid wall’, the active return of refugees, as well as the ending of the occupation. In this regard, he said their positions were no different than that of the South African government.
Whilst much of the reports have focused on the DA’s visit to Israel, Cassim acknowledged that the trip included visits to the Palestinian territories as well. He reiterated the point that future trips would need to be conducted, to ensure a full understanding of the conflict.
The visit comes amidst suggestions from Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu that the expansion of settlements in the occupied territories will continue. But whilst the party were yet to take an official stance, Cassim said they had always spoken out against the illegality of the settlements.
“Because we don’t have a comprehensive Middle East policy our media outcomes in the past, particularly the statements released by the party leader last year, basically outlines our position points on the matter…You’ll find that we have taken these stances in the past,” he suggested.
Reports have also emerged that a letter was written by Israel’s deputy ambassador to South Africa, Michael Freeman to airport security at the Ben Gurion Airport security, Tel Aviv. The letter supposedly urged security to treat Cassim with respect whilst he passed through the airport, and also described the DA as being on positive terms with the Israeli embassy.
But he sought to quell any misconceptions brought about by the letter, insisting it was common cause that the party would liaise with any foreign embassies prior to a visit.
“There were specific things said in the letter that does not reflect DA position, and we didn’t understand certain things were said in there because we don’t understand Hebrew. The translations obviously didn’t include specific parts of the letter,” he stated.
“Be that as it may, it would be quite interesting for South Africans to travel and really experience what happens there, and to really understand the type of attitudes that exist,” he added. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)