The SA Zionist Federation (SAZF) has expressed its outrage at moves to arrest Shimon Peres when he arrives in South Africa this week. The former Israeli prime minister will be in the country this weekend for a fundraising dinner hosted by the Zionist lobby. Palestinian solidarity groups in South Africa have voiced their strong displeasure at the upcoming visit. This week, the Muslim Lawyers Association (MRN) said it was trying to secure his arrest on charges of war crimes, a decision the federation’s chairman Ben Swartz described as “ridiculous”.
“Shimon Peres has done more the Palestinian people than any other movement and organisation out there, he is the architect of the two-state which is likely the only solution that will see a peaceful resolution for the Palestinians and Israelis,” Swartz said.
“So it is absurd to think that people would want to arrest the man that won a Nobel peace prize along with Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.”
The MLA lodged documents with the South African Police Service and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to have Peres arrested for war crimes and for breaches of international customary law.
Attorney Yousha Tayob, a lawyer for the MLA says that the NPA and the SAPS will now have to conduct an investigation and if there is sufficient evidence to and enough information in the evidence provided by the MLA then they will have to go further to ensure prosecution and if that secures an arrest then the MLA will welcome it.
Swartz said Peres would be meeting with high level officials in the hopes of strengthening ties with the South African Jewish community and the broader South African community.
“Shimon Peres represents the true face of Israel in that he is the true face of effort to achieve a resolution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, he is a true icon of that and he needs to share his message to the rest of South Africa, we all need to hear it if we want to be part of resolving the conflict in a way that is good for everyone,” Swartz explained.
The two-state solution refers to a solution of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict currently under discussion, which calls for “two states for two groups of people.” The two-state solution envisages an independent State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel, west of the Jordan River.
Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) South Africa on Friday released a statement condemning the visit‚ which it says is also being opposed by South African Jews for a Free Palestine.
In response, Swartz said: “What it does show us is that the people such as BDS do not have the interest of the Palestinians at heart all they want to do is attack anything that is Israeli and anything that is Jewish.”
“If you really care about the welfare of the Palestinians you need to support the people that are seeking solutions and not make crazy statements that you should arrest them and put them in jail.”
On Wednesday, the MRN said it was deeply concerned at a report in the Jerusalem Post, which reports that “the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Embassy have contacted all relevant authorities in Pretoria to ensure that the BDS provocation will not hinder Peres”.
“This meddling in our judicial system raises some very serious questions. Is our hard won liberation and sovereignty being undermined? Is our judiciary being subverted? Has our judiciary been outsourced? Is the Israeli government treating us with impunity and declaring to the world that we are a banana republic?” said the MRN’s Ibrahim Vawda.
“Do we have the political will to reject this kind of explicit and blatant interference in our internal affairs? During the Umar al Basheer saga, we showed the political resilience to withstand outside pressures. Had the Sudanese embassy or Foreign Ministry put pressure on our government to allow Basheer to leave the country, the outcry would have been deafening.”
The MRN said it wants an assurance from the SA government that it will not allow the country’s legal and judicial processes to be subverted and sabotaged by a “foreign entity like Israel”. VOC