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‘SA Govt must act on Gaza’

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While pro-Palestinian lobby groups in South Africa are satisfied with the ANC’s strong position against Israel’s assault on Gaza, they feel words must be translated into action from national government level. Local Palestinian activists are frustrated that national government has not heeded calls for the Israeli ambassador Arthur Lenk to be expelled from the country, despite mass marches across the country pressing for him to leave.

On Tuesday, the Media Review Network (MRN), the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA) and the Muslim Student’s Association (MSA union) echoed the statement of the ANC chief whip, Stone Sizane issued on 18 July, speaking out decisively against the blatant human rights abuses, unjustified violence and intended obliteration of the Palestinian people of Gaza.

“Whilst the organized Zionist military operation under the auspices ‘Operation Protective Edge’ is committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and even now genocide as is evident in the recent massacre in Shujaya district of Gaza, we as morally conscious citizens demand the immediate expulsion of the Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Arthur Lenk and the simultaneous immediate and permanent recalling of the South African ambassador from Israel,” the organisations said in a joint statement.

“As a democratic and constitutional state, the South African government cannot stand by as the atrocities continue. We therefore call on our government to show urgent political will and to take immediate action.”

On Tuesday, the Department of International Relations announced that former deputy foreign affairs minister Aziz Pahad would be sent to the Middle East to discuss the conflict with both sides. But commentators see this move as a means to quell the pressure from South African civil society for Lenk to be expelled.

The three organisations urged South Africa to stand firm in its resolve to support the Palestinian struggle for self determination. Its demands are:

-The immediate termination of the belligerent occupation of Palestine by the Zionist entity.
-Hold the Zionist State accountable for the historical injustices against the Palestinians.
-Release all political prisoners or alternatively bring them to trial in a civilian court.
-Lift the siege on Gaza and remove all checkpoints.
-The Rafah border post must be opened to allow free movement into and out of Gaza.
-We demand the immediate end to all settlement projects.
-Palestinian fisherman must be allowed to fish in the waters off the coast of Gaza.

The Palestinian solidarity groups said South Africans could not stand by and watch silently, while thousands of innocent civilians continue to be imprisoned, tortured, killed and expelled from their homeland. It was clear that Israel has not been bona fide in any negotiation with the Palestinians and continue to expand settlements which have already been declared illegal under international law, it added.

“If our voices in South Africa are not enough then our government needs simply to look towards the regions of Turkey, Jordan, France and other parts of the world where thousands from across the globe are standing in solidarity for the end of Zionist Israeli aggression in Gaza and are demanding the end of occupation of the Palestinian territories,” read the joint statement.

“The ANC has historically supported the will and aspirations of the people of Palestine. For this we commend you, but the time for action is waning and we urge that decisive and constructive steps must be taken now to cease diplomatic and trade relations with the Zionist apartheid State of Israel permanently.”

Meanwhile, the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) has written a letter of support to the ANC for its clear position on the situation in Gaza. The letters comes amid a war of words between the ANC and South Africa Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein on the ruling party’s condemnation of Israel’s military incursion in Gaza.

“The Muslim Judicial Council hereby wishes to express it heartfelt appreciation and support to the African National Congress on its noble and consistent official position on Palestine,” the ulema body wrote.

“We are proud of the position taken by the ANC in their condemnation of the atrocities committed against the Palestinian people and the appropriate call for the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador to South Africa and recalling of the South African Ambassador to Israel.”

Last week, Rabbi Goldstein publically rebuked ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte’s statement on Gaza, saying it was “replete with malicious and shameful lies that must be challenged in the cold light of reason and facts.” The rabbi further challenged Duarte to a public debate on the matter.

Added to that are widespread reports that the Chief Rabbi allegedly threatened Deputy Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Obed Bapela to disassociate himself from the statement and that it be removed from the ANC’s website. When Deputy Minister Bapela indicated that this would not be done, the Chief Rabbi allegedly warned there would be “consequences” for the ANC. VOC

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