As the voices of discontent grows against the visit of Shimon Peres, a group of South African Jews opposed to the Israeli apartheid regime plan to stage a protest outside an event the former prime minister is expected to address. The 92 year old Israeli statesman will be in Johannesburg for one night only on the 28th February to raise funds for the Zionist lobby in South Africa. But groups such as BDS South Africa, and now South African Jews for a Free Palestine (SAJFP), have expressed their indignation at his visit, labelling him a ‘war criminal.
The visit has been feted as ‘A Man of Peace’, a title the pro-Palestinian support groups have strongly criticised.
“Peres, claims to advocate for a ‘two state solution’ to resolve the Palestine-Israel conflict, but he is the same person who, as Minister of Defence in 1968, instigated the illegal annexation of Palestinian territory – on the only land that such a Palestinian state could be founded,” said the SAJFP, an organisation of South African Jews advocating for a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“It is supremely ironic that after undermining the very conditions for a just peace, Peres is hailed as ‘man of peace’.”
Peres was prime minister in 1996 during which time Israel launched a military operation called Grapes of Wrath. This was intended to displace those living in Shi’ite villages, forcing them to move North. The ultimate aim was to pressurise the Lebanese government into ensuring that Hezbollah stopped their attacks.
Some civilians tried to find shelter at UN bases, such as Qana. In what is now known as the Qana massacre, the IDF shelled this UN base killing 106 people. Israeli soldiers used antipersonnel shells maximising casualties.
Israel claimed that this incident was accidental but investigating human rights organisations were able to refute this when a video of an Israeli drone in the area was made public. Despite expressing regret over the incident, no one was ever made to take responsibility for it. This follows a familiar pattern going back to certain massacres in 1948, and apparent still, for instance, in the lack of accountability for the killing of four boys playing on a beach during the 2014 attack on Gaza.
In 2006 Chris McGreal from The Guardian asked Peres about his dealings with the apartheid regime. Peres response was, ‘”I never think back. Since I cannot change the past, why should I deal with it?” And indeed, it would have been dishonest for Peres to have expressed any regret: his desire for a ‘two state solution’ is really little more than a continued commitment to the policy of separate development.
“Peres’ reputation as a man of peace is even more preposterous in a South African context. As Minister of Defence in the 1970s Shimon Peres colluded with South Africa’s apartheid regime, defying an international arms embargo. 35% of Israel’s arms exports were in fact bought by Apartheid South Africa,” added SAJFP. VOC