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SAPS under fire over Israeli water cannons

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The South African government is facing a storm of criticism over the choice of water cannons used by the South African Police Services (SAPS) to curb local protest action. On Sunday, the City Press newspaper reported that water cannons used on demonstrators during the recent wave of #FeesMustFall protests may have been acquired from an Israeli company deemed complicit in the occupation of Palestinian territories.

The company in question, Beit Alfa Technologies (BAT), is accused of providing vehicles that are used against Palestinians in the occupied territories. In addition, BAT is also believed to have supplied riot control vehicles to South Africa’s Apartheid government.

The newspaper reported that 10 vehicles were acquired by SAPS on a quotation basis in 2007. The claims come despite the ruling ANC’s well-publicized stance in support of the Palestinian struggle.

Executive Director of the Afro Middle-East Centre, Naeem Jeenah expressed his disgust at the thought that South Africa was likely bringing in “security equipment” used by Israel against Palestinians, for use against citizens simply exercising their right to protest.

Jeenah noted that while government had officially stopped purchasing weapons from Israel in 1998, presumably once all Apartheid-era contracts expired, there were still weapons that have made their way into the country via the backdoor.

“There’s a weapon used in helicopters that was imported from a British company but it’s an Israeli made weapon that South Africa uses, something called the LITENING targeting pod. Now we have these water cannons, which wouldn’t go through the national arms control committee because it’s not military equipment,” he noted.

Jeenah stressed that all Israeli-made ‘security equipment’ need fall into the same category, as all were being tested and used against innocent Palestinians.

“That’s the worst kind of thing for any country to import from Israel. South Africa doing that is completely unacceptable,” he stated.

He also rejected suggestions the acquisition could be linked with the Apartheid government’s affiliation with Israel, insisting the matter was clearly the making of the post-Apartheid government.

“I really don’t think we should be blaming the relationship between Apartheid South Africa and Israel for what is happening in 2015…the fact that the spokesperson of SAPS tried to hide what the true origin of these vehicles was is an indication they knew what they were doing,” he declared. VOC

The ANC has confirmed its commitment to the Palestinian cause by supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. In view of this commitment, the Media Review Network said it would demand the ANC fulfils their undertakings by ensuring SAPS refrains from these questionable links.

“After 1976, the SA-Israel military and economic ties strengthened. The two countries saw themselves confronted with a common enemy. Alon Liel a former Israeli Ambassador to Pretoria declared: ‘We created the SA arms industry. We gave the know-how and they gave the money. We had Israeli officers co-operating with SA army during the Angolan war.’ Kibbutz Beit Alfa was in the forefront of this military relationship,” the MRN said in a statement.

“The MRN urges the SA government and in particular, SAPS, to reconsider its present ties with the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), in view of the sinister history between Apartheid SA and the illegal Zionist regime occupying Palestine.” VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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