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Zionist organisations condemn decision to downgrade embassy

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Palestine solidarity movements in South Africa have lauded the ANC elective conference’s resolution to immediately downgrade the embassy in Israel to a liaison office. The announcement was made at the ANC elective conference in Nasrec last night. Delegates from the North West, together with branches and regions from other provinces, championed the resolution. The ANC resolution followed a great deal of debate sparked by a recommendation of the ANC’s Policy Conference in July.

Speaking to VOC News on Thursday, BDS South Africa, who placed significant pressure on the ANC, said they welcomed the move.

“This is a huge step in the right direction and a massive gain for the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel movement. The ANC, Africa’s oldest liberation movement, which benefited from boycotts and sanctions against Apartheid South Africa, has provided direction and we look forward to others following suit,” said BDS spokesperson Kwara Kekana.

SA Jews For a Free Palestine, who are part of a growing network of Jews across the globe who oppose the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, said the move by the ANC actively applies pressure on Israel’s government to end its violations of international law.

“As members of the Jewish community we believe that this is one of the most practical things that South Africa can do to contribute towards a just peace in Israel-Palestine,” said Allan Horwtiz from the SAJFP in a statement.

Earlier this year a group of Jewish Israelis wrote a letter to the ANC supporting the call for a downgrade of relations and support of the BDS boycott of Israel.

But the decision was met with disappointment by the South Africa’s two main Zionist lobby groups, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the South African Zionist Federation. The organisations have questioned the motives behind the decision and claimed that certain individuals who have managed to “capture” the ANC’s international relations agenda including the BDS.

“We felt that the discussion in the International Relations Commission was orchestrated, with members walking in, supporting a downgrade, and leaving,” said Ben Swartz from the SAZF, in a joint statement with the SAJBD.

They believe the downgrade will do nothing for the Palestinian people and have a detrimental effect on South Africans.

“A downgrade will negatively affect the South African economy by jeopardising, tourism, access to hi tech and water technology,” said the statement.

Both organisations believe that it would effectively prevent South Africa from playing any mediatory role in bringing about peace or dialogue between Israel and Palestine.

But Horwitz disagreed with the notion of peaceful dialogue.

“Given the gross violations by Israel against the Palestinians people, it is clearly not justified to persist with a fruitless policy of meaningless engagement. A far tougher approach is needed.”

The Zionist organisations have vowed to “do all that we can” to ensure that the downgrade does not become a reality. VOC

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