South Africa’s civil society is intensifying calls for the government to take a firm stand against Israel, in the wake of a deadly offensive against Gaza. On Thursday, trade federation Cosatu and several other pro-Palestinian organisations called for the South African government to recall the South African ambassador to Israel and to expel the Israeli ambassador, Arthur Lenk.
Cosatu criticised what they deemed a brutal campaign that was subjecting people to collective punishment. They joined the call for people in South Africa to enforce the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign on any institution that related to Israel.
Cosatu international relations secretary Bongani Masuku said it was unacceptable for the Israel government to subject defenceless Palestinians to such brutal and barbaric attacks, and said humanity at large needed to be offended by Israel’s actions. He called for an immediate isolation of nation that had showed itself to be “the most barbaric state in the world.”
“I agree with the ANCYL that we must recall the South African ambassador, but also kick out the Israeli ambassador from SA. We must also call on other African, and other international bodies to do the same. We cannot send a message that, to simply murder in the way that they have is normal,” he said.
Recalling South Africa’s own struggle with oppression, Masuku said the apartheid regime would never have collapsed without the boycotts implemented by the international community. Thus, Cosatu would completely support the BDS campaign.
He also described local and international media as “accomplices” in the cruel hiding of oppression committed by Israel, calling on the media to stop being held hostage by Israel.
On Thursday, the ANC has also strongly condemned the attacks on the people of Gaza. In a statement issued, the ruling party reiterated their 2012 policy position on the issue, giving their unequivocal support for the people in their struggle for freedom.
“As we move towards the month of August and are reminded of the atrocities of Nazi Germany, surely we must ask the people of Israel has the term “lest we forget” lost its meaning,” said the ANC.
The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) called on government to immediately recall the South African ambassador from Israel, and also expel the current Israeli ambassador from the country. They urged government to cut ties with an Israeli government that “has no regard for international law or human rights”.
Meanwhile, Palestine solidarity groups led by BDS South Africa will be holding a protest vigil at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) head office in Pretoria on Friday. BDS spokesperson Mohammad Desai said they would hand over a memorandum calling for government to cut all diplomatic ties with the Israel, until the country brought an end to its siege on Gaza, and its Apartheid regime.
The vigil will take place on Friday after Jumuah and BDS has called on fellow organisations and individuals to join in on the protest. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)