OPINION by Iqbal Jassat
South Africa’s increasing interest in Palestine and its woes is beginning to manifest in ways that’s likely to attract more antagonism from Israel and her lobbyists.
Currently a number of South Africans are in Israel to gain first-hand insight of conditions faced by Palestinians under Occupation as well as experience the political and humanitarian situation there.
Delegates include Prof Barney Pityana, Adv Vusi Pikoli, MPL Mbala Ntuli, Adv Adila Hassim, Prof Firoz Cachalia, Dr Christi van der Westhuizen and Brad Brockman.
In a statement issued by the joint organizers of the trip, the Heinrich Boll Foundation Southern Africa [HBF] and Open Shuhada Street [OSS], they undertake that the delegates will meet and interact with both Israeli and Palestinian civil society “working to end the conflict and advance human rights and social justice, as well as political representatives…”. Among other activities, the group will visit and observe military court proceedings in the West Bank, visit the Jordan valley to understand the politics of water and its impact on Palestinian farmers.
As they wrap up their fact finding mission, we at Media Review Network, are keenly anticipating a thorough and detailed report back. We hope that the quality of their findings will unleash greater momentum within South Africa to fulfill aspirations and desires of Palestinians to gain freedom, dignity and justice.
We are well aware that the mission will in all likelihood draw the ire and fire of a deeply wounded pro-Israel lobby in South Africa. Their hostile reaction to any critique of Israel’s apartheid policies is by now predictable. It’s a phenomenon closely associated with blind support, which lately has over spilled in hate campaigns as is evident in the insulting treatment meted to Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Cachalia, Pityana and colleagues must brace themselves for a barrage of attacks from the Israeli lobby corner, some of whom have already resorted to demonizing via twitter and Facebook. Its ugly and undignified, yet synonymous with the type of “hasbarah” (propaganda) Israel expects its army of defenders to undertake.
The visit nevertheless raises expectations within South African civil society as to whether the findings will propel the Zuma administration to review its foreign policy on Israel. For instance the skewed approach of so-called “even handedness” is an unfair disadvantage to Palestinians as an Occupied people as against the unlimited advantage enjoyed by Israel in every sphere of economic, social, cultural, military and political link resulting from full diplomatic relations.
That racist profiling informed by Islamophobia gave the group a taste of Israel’s apartheid as soon as they arrived there, with the detention of Section27’s Advocate Adila Hassim – albeit for three hours of interrogation, raises the hope that Pityana and his colleagues will not spare the Zionist regime.
Iqbal Jassat is an acclaimed writer, analyst and commentator and one of the founder members of MRN.