By Yaseen Kippie
Pro-Palestinian solidarity groups across South Africa have condemned US President Donald Trump’s statement on the US embassy in Israel’s unprecedented move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump’s decision has sparked global outrage, with Hamas calling for a Day of Rage. On Thursday, protests broke out across the occupied Palestinian territories as Palestinians expressed their anger at the decision. Medics said at least 31 people were wounded by Israeli army gunfire. The status of Jerusalem – home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions – is one of the biggest obstacles to reaching a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in SA said Trump’s decision was a major step in undermining international law by recognizing Jerusalem.
“This is one step to too far; it cries for an end to usual timid and vacuous statements of so-called support for the Palestinians, a people who backed us during our struggle against Apartheid. There has never been a more important time for meaningful and real action to hold Israel accountable for its endless human rights abuses and violations of international law; simply put, for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel similar to successful 1980’s sanctions against Apartheid SA,” said BDS spokesperson Kwara Kekana.
Terry Crawford Browne, of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), says the move is illegal.
“In common with virtually every political commentator around the world, the PSC believes this is totally illegal in terms of international law. It is in violation of the Geneva convention on the occupation of the West Bank by Israel.”
Allan Horwitz from the South African Jews for a Free Palestine feels the move is a clear manifestation of Zionism.
“Zionism, which is not Jewish identity, is a very recent political movement which grew out of European anti-semitism, where jews were denied equal rights and suffered persecution.”
He says some Jews took up a misguided nationalistic response to the persecution.
“In our view, its a misguided response. We don’t believe Jerusalem must be a political capital, despite being a cultural and religious centre.”
Horwitz feels Trump has ironically exposed the only real solution to the conflict.
“Its ironic, in that Trump has shown that only the one state solution is a realistic objective. This move means any hope for Palestinian statehood has been squashed. We support that, because like in South Africa, there’s a multiplicity of languages, ethnicities and religions, under a secular democratic society, constitution and bill of rights. The solution is to have one country with a safeguard for national and cultural identities.”
Reverend Edwin Arrison, Chairperson for the National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P), says Christians across South Africa condemns the move.
“The South African Council of Churches supports the oppressed Palestinian people completely, not only the Christian Palestinians but all Palestinians. We stand with them and know they will not support this move by Donald Trump.”
Kekana said BDS did not expect much action taken by the South African government on this issue.
“We expect pro-Israel officials responsible for the issue of Palestine at South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) to issue a vacuous statement that says that they are “concerned” and an empty meaningless line about “support for Palestinians and the two state-solution”. We expect no real action or solidarity from these officials at DIRCO including those who, like Donald Trump, speak as if they are pro-peace while their actions tell another pro-Israel story.”
“Actions speak louder, it is the time for concrete steps to hold Israel accountable for its unlawful annexation of Palestinian land and its oppression of Christian, Muslim and all other Palestinians. We therefore call on the members, branches and leaders of South Africa’s governing party, the ANC, to expedite the resolution for the immediate downgrade of the SA Embassy in Israel when the ANC branches meet at next week’s ANC Elective Conference in Johannesburg.”
Meanwhile, the PSC has called supporters to a picket at St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town on Friday, 8 December 2017 at 1.30pm. Another march will take place on Wednesday, 13 December 2017. VOC