Jubilant chants of “Bi ruh bi dam Nafdika Ya Aqsa” echoed through the halls of Darul Islam high school on Friday evening, as the South African Muslim community welcomed a five man delegation from the Al-Quds International Foundation in Lebanon. The Al Quds Banquet was the first in a week of public programmes, which will also include an Al-Quds ‘victory rally’, and a public lecture at the Masjid ur-Rawbie in Portlands, Mitchells Plain.
About 800 tickets were sold for Friday’s evenings banquet, with all the proceeds going towards VOC’s own Gaza Water Project. The event was almost entirely sponsored by a local couple, who opted to forfeit their wedding reception to pay for the event.
The banquet got off to a late start, with the delegation only arriving at the hall at around 8pm. Their arrival was however met with a warm reception, with guests, led by former Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) president Sheikh Ebrahim Gabriels, leading the chants of ‘Bi Ruh! Bi Dam! Nafdika Ya Aqsa’. Gabriels delivered an address paying tribute to the people of Gaza, in welcoming the delegation to Cape Town.
He was followed by MJC second-deputy president Sheikh Ihsaan Taliep, who made special mention of the recent Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip. He assured the group that the South African community stood in solidarity with those affected by the conflict.
“When we saw the bombardment of the most obscene, sophisticated and modern military weapons reigning down upon children, women and defenceless men, the hearts of the people in South Africa were connected, and in solidarity with their brothers and sisters on those very lands,” he said.
The five man delegation included the Al-Quds International Foundation’s current director general, Yassin Hammoud. Taking to the microphone, he made special mention of South Africa’s struggles with Apartheid, noting that the people of Palestine were undergoing the very same struggle.
“My brothers in South Africa, I know that the flags are sitting here on the tables. But I know for sure that the people of Palestine are planted in your hearts,” he said, via a translator.
Hammoud also hailed South African communities concern for the safety and sanctity of Masjid al-Aqsa.
“We know you very well, because many of you come for Iktikaf at Masjid al-Aqsa in the month of Ramadan, and support and join us in our functions. This is not a mere coincidence. This is a collaboration towards happiness, which means liberation,” he said.
According to Hammoud, the conditions at Masjid al-Aqsa were at an all time low, with talks that the Israeli’s were looking to divide the mosque at some point in the near future. He also noted that women were now barred from entering the mosque, with tourists and settlers also regularly entering and desecrating the Islamic holy site.
“It does not stop at Masjid al-Aqsa, but it goes out to the people of Jerusalem. There is poverty of 80% , not because these people can’t find work, but it is a systemic poverty from the Israelis. There are about 2200 rooms of education that are lacking in the city of Jerusalem. They are even banning the children from studying and learning,” he reported.
The delegation is being led by well known historian, and Al-Quds Foundation founder, Dr. Saud Abu Mahfuz. He expressed admiration at the continued support shown by South Africans towards the plight of the Palestinian people, making special reference to the National Coalition for Palestine’s (NC4P) mass march on the 9th August.
“We watched you on Arab channels, and we followed you on the internet. The largest march in the world, the largest crowd, and the largest demonstration came from Cape Town to Gaza, to Jerusalem, and to Palestine,” he said.
Dr Mahfuz criticised the Egyptian government’s decision to close the Rafah border, which effectively barred aid from coming into the Gaza Strip. He stressed that as a result of this, the Palestinian people were still suffering even after the conflict’s conclusion.
“Winter is coming, and the people of Gaza are without houses, and even tents. 188 schools are completely damaged, 160 mosques are also damaged. Everything is either forbidden or closed,” he noted.
Following his address, Dr Mahfuz conducted a power point presentation which highlighted the oppressions suffered by the Palestinians under Israeli Apartheid. The presentation including a number of shocking images, including the dead bodies of a number of children who died as a result of Israel’s latest aggression.
The passionate and emotional addresses by the Al Quds leader moved the audience, some to tears. Many attendees spoke of how the recent conflict in Gaza had intensified their support for Palestine locally.
On Sunday, the delegation will take part in an Al-Quds rally, which will also take place at the Darul Islam Boys High School. The event, which is specifically targeted at the youth, will serve as a victory celebration for the recently agreed ceasefire in Gaza. The event starts at 14:00pm. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)