By Anees Teladia
With elections commencing soon, supporters of Palestine need to put increased pressure on political parties and raise the question of Palestine. Those who support the Palestinian cause and people, ought to insist that the different political parties formally recognise the rights of the Palestinian people and that those parties highlight the violations against Palestinian rights by the state of Israel.
As the electorate, citizens now have dramatically increased influence and power over politicians. Citizens can influence parties to declare support for and intention to engage in asserting pressure against the state of Israel for their numerous human rights and international law violations.
Accordingly, local political parties such as the African National Congress (ANC), the Democratic Alliance (DA), the Congress of the People (COPE), the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the National Freedom Party (NFP) all have official and unofficial stances on the plight of the Palestinian people. This article will elaborate on the various party stances and attempt to provide the reader with insight into which party would serve the interests of the Palestinian people best, as well as who has been doing so consistently.
The ANC as a ruling national government comprises a wide range of ethnicities and races in its party composition. Many political activists stemming from both the anti-Apartheid struggle and post the inception of the new democratic South Africa, joined the ANC.
The ANC as a political party has on several occasions declared support for the Palestinian people and has through their time in governance demonstrated a significant degree of commitment to the Palestinian struggle. The ANC has been recognised as an ally by liberation movements inside of Palestine – an ally from which these Palestinian liberation movements take guidance, according to ANC Youth League provincial chairperson of the Western Cape, Muhammad Khalid Sayed.
The South African ambassador to Israel has under the ANC government, been permanently recalled. The ANC has on numerous occasions warned of implementing political actions which have significance in the international political community, in response to the human rights and international law violations committed by the state of Israel. These actions include downgrading South African relations with Israel.
The ANC has repeatedly shown examples of solidarity with the Palestinian people and their struggle. It has applied pressure on the Israeli government in several significant ways during its years in governance.
The ANC agreed that government must cut diplomatic ties with Israel due to the absence of “genuine initiatives by Israel to secure lasting peace and a viable two-state state solution that includes full freedom and democracy for the Palestinian people,” according to a speech by then South African Science and Technology Minister, Naledi Pandor, in 2018.
The DA has developed a certain reputation as being a Zionism-supporting lobby – whether it is in fact officially true or untrue. Many supporters of Palestine and critics of the DA have been sceptical of the DA’s stance on the Palestinian issue and the party’s ties to Israel.
Although much like the ANC in terms of possessing a diverse party composition in membership, the DA differs in that it does not explicitly express support for the Palestinian struggle, nor does it have as longstanding a history of political and human rights activists within its ranks.
The DA has repeatedly been seen in the media as a political party which simplistically advocates for a two-state solution – a solution which, according to international journalist and writer, Neil Clark is a highly improbable outcome – above all else, whilst criticising pressure that gets placed on the Israeli government by the ANC.
In an article written for the international media house, Russia Today’s “Op-ed”, concerning the viability and likelihood of a two-state solution between Palestine and Israel, Clark titled the article, “Israel’s election shows ‘the two-state solution’ is dead in the water”.
The DA has been accused in other written pieces of “legitimising” the atrocities committed against Palestinians by Israelis.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane has also come under fire for his visit to Israel and his meeting with the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.As DA leader, Maimane has continued to criticise the ANC national government’s decisions regarding the strategic reduction and weakening of SA’s diplomatic relations with Israel.
The political party known as COPE arguably stems from the ANC but is now regarded by some as a right-wing reactionary off-shoot in relation to its position on Palestine. In a media release, COPE blatantly opposed the recent political move to permanently downgrade South Africa’s mission to Israel, calling it “short-sighted” and accused the ANC national government of damaging South Africa’s international role-playing status.
It is thus not difficult to gather what the COPE stance is on the Palestinian issue, considering their website also holds as a feature image for the media release, a picture with the Israeli national flag next to the COPE party logo.
COPE party president, Mosiuoa Lekota has also been implicated in his fair share of controversy surrounding the Palestine-Israel issue. Lekota has been widely reported as denying that the state of Israel is, in fact, an “Apartheid State”.
The EFF, unlike the DA and COPE, takes a strong stance in favour of the Palestinian liberation movement. The party explicitly expresses support for boycotts divestment and sanctions against the state of Israel in the official 2019 party manifesto.
“The EFF government will implement incremental boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the apartheid state of Israel as a concrete form of solidarity with the Palestinians to end the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel,” says the manifesto.
The EFF appears to have an unapologetically hard-line approach in favour of the Palestinian people.
However, the carefully selected diction used in the manifesto statement suggests nothing different to the ANC’s official and unofficial stances on the Israel-Palestine occupation and conflict, which takes effect as being carefully considered and progressive actions and steps taken against the state of Israel in pursuit of peace and justice.
Founding member of the NFP, Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam suggests that it is the stance of the NFP to support the Palestinian people in their plight.
They support the downgrade of the SA embassy in Israel as a show of support for Palestine and as a means of asserting increased international pressure on the state. According to Emam, the NFP applies pressure in parliament, in favour of the Palestinian struggle.