A Rhodes university professor believes the South Africa government is far too sympathetic to the Israel regime. Prof Robert van Niekerk was commenting on the fact that South Africa has yet to take any decisive diplomatic action against the Zionist regime, despite calls for South Africa to recall its ambassador from Tel Aviv and expel Israeli ambassador Arthur Lenk. Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru have already recalled their ambassadors.
While the ANC has put out numerous statements in opposition to the brutal Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, various local Palestinian solidarity groups have expressed frustration at government’s hesitance towards imposing economic sanctions and boycotts against Israel. Van Niekerk, an associate professor of social and economic research, said government’s lack of concrete action was due to the positive diplomatic and trade relations it shared with Israel.
However, he noted a growing dissonance amongst the wider population of South African society, stemming largely from the fact a large majority were appalled by the conflict.
“The position is shifting, and what we are seeing is a complete dissonance between the populous at large, in particular those who experienced the brutality of Apartheid, and who identify with the oppression of the Palestinian people,” he said.
He emphasised that the current position of the ruling party was no different from that of the U.S and U.K during the 1980’s, who continued to have strong diplomatic and trade links with the Apartheid regime, despite millions of their own citizens calling for sanctions against South Africa.
Following Israel’s 2010 raid on an aid flotilla headed for Gaza, the South African government issued a strong statement against the states military aggression, at one point withdrawing its ambassador to Israel in protest.
Van Niekerk said he was curious to see that despite a far more serious Israeli onslaught on the people of Gaza, the Zuma administration was not making any moves to protest their action. He suggested the Zuma government had shown itself to be more “accommodating” to the Israeli regime.
“One has to ask oneself what ordinary ANC members feel about this, because the ANC as a party has come out very clearly against what is happening in Gaza,” he said.
He also suggested the country’s hesitance to take any proper stance against Israel may be motivated by government’s attempts to accommodate the interests of the U.S in order to maintain trade relations.
However, Van Niekerk suggested that even the U.S themselves were hitting a stage where continuously defending an Israeli regime, whose Operation Protective Edge had so far resulted in the death of more than 1800 innocent civilians, was becoming troublesome.
“Even with the shelling by the Israel Defence Force (IDF) of the United Nations school, the coordinates of which were clearly communicated to the IDF, The U.S itself felt prompted to say the act against that civilian shelter was completely disgraceful, and that they were appalled by it,” he noted.
Reports have emerged of some of the countries main opposition parties, including the DA, COPE, and ACDP, attending a rally in support of the Israeli offensive. Van Niekerk was surprised by their positions on the conflict, noting that these were the very parties pressing for South Africa to hold true to its constitutional values.
“Some of our constitutional values are around the protection of life, the right to liberty, and the right to civic freedoms. All these rights are something which the Palestinian people do not enjoy,” he said. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)