Palestinian Solidarity: Is South Africa in the Driver’s Seat?

Cape Town - South Africa

Recent events in South Africa have had a profoundly positive impact on Palestine.

It may not be music for this country’s pro-Israel lobby but certainly welcomed by the broad spectrum of solidarity movements active in pursuit of freedom and justice for the Palestinian cause.

These milestone events have provided Palestinian Resistance Movements, particularly Hamas, as well as solidarity activists, renewed hope that the pendulum is slowly but surely swinging away from the colonial settler regime Israel.

Among these current events that rekindled hope has been an important judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) and the equally significant Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the ANC Parliamentary Caucus and the Hamas-led one in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

The SCA judgment upheld an appeal by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) against an earlier ruling by the Equality court which found COSATU guilty of anti-Semitism and hate speech.

As explained by COSATU, it and its International Secretary Bongani Masuku were hauled before the Equality court by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies in an attempt to “silence and isolate” the federation and all supporters of freedom for the Palestinian people.

Having successfully appealed and delivered a crushing defeat to Israel’s lobby, COSATU has vowed to continue being vocal against the “apartheid rule of Israel” and to ensure workers’ rights to offer solidarity, freedom of expression and intensify Palestine’s struggle for justice.

“We will never keep quiet in the face of extreme barbarism of Israel against the Palestinian people. The ruthless massacre of innocent children, women and ordinary Palestinians in Gaza represents the continuation of the colonial, apartheid and racist policy of occupation against the Palestinians”, said Sizwe Pamla of COSATU.

The other development which has sparked excitement in the camp opposed to Israel’s obnoxious racist policies, is the groundbreaking MOU signed between the ANC’s Parliamentary caucus with its Palestinian counterpart. Important to note that the Palestinian delegation was led by Mahmoud al Zahar, a distinguished co-founder of Hamas, based in Occupied Gaza who survived numerous assassination attempts.

Held up as a hero of Palestine’s freedom struggle, al Zahar who lost members of his family including his sons during Israel’s carpet-bombing of Gaza’s besieged civilian population, continues to play a crucial leadership role. That Israel regards him as an “enemy” and a “terrorist”, adds profound value to his signature on the MOU.

Following the ANC’s December 2017 unanimous resolution to downgrade South Africa’s embassy in Tel Aviv, which a year later awaits action despite the recall of its ambassador, many activists will be skeptical, justifiably so, about whether the MOU is worth the ink its written on.

However as a former underground leader and subsequent minister in Nelson Mandela’s cabinet Ronnie Kasrils pointed out at a dinner hosted by the Media Review Network for Hamas, the responsibility to ensure that government makes good on its promises to the Palestinians, lies with civil society and human rights activists.

The commitment contained in the MOU seeks to introduce practical steps in mobilizing the world community in ending Israel’s occupation of Palestine. It further seeks to mobilize for an immediate end to the Zionist regime’s aggression, killings, torture and human rights abuses.

While Hamas was in parliament in Cape Town, a motion to rename one of Johannesburg’s prominent roads, Sandton Drive, after Leila Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was passed in the Joburg City council.

Though largely symbolic, a name change in the financial hub of this country to reflect popular admiration for Palestine’s freedom icons, is a huge step. Indeed it is in step with widespread public opinion which believes in standing up for Palestinian rights.

And to drive the message of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) home, Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape province, disinvited Israeli participants to its academic conference entitled “Recognition, Reparation, Reconciliation: the Light and Shadow of Historical Trauma”.

This has been a fatal blow, both to Netanyahu’s criminal regime as well as its lobby in South Africa. The organizers of the conference gave due consideration to the arguments presented by solidarity activists who cited Israel’s racist “nation-state law” and many more horrendous violations of fundamental human rights including the draconian laws of its military administration in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

As Palestine’s Resistance Movements develop more effective deterrence capacity to obstruct Israel’s military operations, its global campaign to harness meaningful support has shown encouraging results.

Mirroring South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, BDS has resonance. After all, as Ilan Pappe has warned, Israel’s incremental genocidal policies cannot be ignored. South Africa is thus well placed to respond to the myriad of dehumanizing conditions faced by Palestine.