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  |  COSATU Press Statements

SA`s position on Israel commendable – SA Civil Society

16 August 2012

South African civil society including COSATU, the SA Municipal Workers Union, SA Students Congress, Open Shuhada Street, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Palestine Solidarity Alliance, Coalition for a Free Palestine, BDS South Africa, Media Review Network and others welcome the Department of International Relations and Cooperation’s foreign policy towards Israel and the “discouragement” of trips to Apartheid Israel.

Contrary to comments by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies as well as certain media sources, this is not a change but merely a reaffirmation of South Africa’s long-standing foreign policy towards Israel.

Israel continues to break international law with its brutal occupation of the West Bank, its siege of the Gaza Strip, its racist treatment of Africans and all the various human rights abuses it inflicts on Palestinians on a daily basis. Israel openly, and year after year, ignores international requests from the USA, EU, and the UN for it to halt its construction of its illegal settlements.

Given our history, we should not support countries like Israel that practice apartheid, disregard human rights and ignore international opinion – South Africa’s position, in the long run, will lead to real peace in the region. Clearly peace requires an end to the illegal occupation of the West Bank, so that Palestinians’ right to self-determination can be achieved. This can only occur through sustained pressure on Israel to end its occupation and a clear message must be sent to Israel that its Occupation will not be endorsed, even tacitly.

South Africa has been actively involved in negotiations in Swaziland and Madagascar and the notion that Israel is being singled out is simply untrue. We regret that once again this has been made out to be an attack on the Jewish community while many Jewish people in South Africa, Israel, and the world support an end to Israel’s Occupation and Apartheid policies. For example, we welcome the recent statement by members of the Jewish community that have distanced themselves from the SA Jewish Board of Deputies attack on our government (see below).

Shereen Usdin, Alan Horwitz and others:

SA Jews support SA government position on discouraging trips to Israel

“The SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) issued a pro-Israeli statement attacking our South African government for discouraging trips to Israel. This was done in the name of the "Jewish Community". We are part of the Jewish community and we distance ourselves from that statement. In fact, we strongly support the progressive position our government has taken. Trips organized by the Israeli lobby present a biased picture of Israel and seek to whitewash Israeli human rights abuses. As the SA government has already proposed, visits should only be undertaken if they are to genuinely pursue the peace process. Neither Israel, nor the SAJBD, speak in the name of all Jews and certainly not of ourselves.”

Zackie Achmat from Open Shuhada Street says:

"Every person of conscience in South Africa should support the government`s steps to ensure that Israel`s unlawful Occupation and racial oppression of the Palestinian people ends. Our activism must ensure that the government introduces visas for people travelling from Israel to South Africa and that we do not allow people from illegal settlements into our country except for family visits. Similarly, government must ensure that no money is sent from South Africa to Israeli organisations that steal Palestinian land and natural resources through armed force such as the so-called Jewish National Fund."

Dudu Masango from the SA Council of Churches says:

“The Israeli occupation, including the ever-increasing illegal Israeli settlements, are one of the root causes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel has to end its Occupation for there to be peace, till then, we must not give any signals that Israel’s Occupation is either OK or accepted. It is neither, and travelling to Israel will imply approval of Israel’s Occupation.”

Salim Vally from Palestine Solidarity Campaign says:

“We commend Ebrahim Ebrahim for taking this stand and for remaining resolute in the face of attacks from local Zionists and Israelis. This is a good step from our government in confronting Israeli apartheid. We call on our government to go further, to remain steadfast in its morally-correct position. We also call on our government to eject Israeli security agents from our airport, withdraw our ambassador from Tel Aviv and end all trade links with Israel. This until the apartheid state abides by international law, withdraws all its troops from Palestinian territory, lifts the siege on Gaza, dismantles all the illegal settlements, allows all Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, and until we see the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. “

Bruce Baigrie, University of Cape Town PSF:

“The UCTPSF commends our Government for reaffirming its foreign policy towards Apartheid Israel. We see this as a small step in creating the pressure required to force Israel to end its illegal Occupation and are proud that this step has been taken by our own Government. It becomes clearer everyday that the Occupation must end for there to any chance of real peace in the region.”