Stop Barking – Start Biting

South African – Israeli relations are at an all-time low.

This is not surprising given that the Mbeki government has in the recent past harshly criticized the Jewish state’s violent behavior in the occupied territories and by insisting that Israel comply with all relevant UN resolutions.

There should be no doubt at all that most of South Africa’s 48 million people are fully supportive of their government’s stance – and would wish that more specific measures linked to a timeframe could be undertaken to bring the Zionist occupation to a halt.

Sharon’s continuous war mongering is evidence of his regimes insensitivity to mere slogans of censure. Hence criticism and condemnation of his policies from many sources falls on deaf ears. Over and above ignoring South Africa’s polite pleadings, Israel cares two hoots about diplomatic niceties as has seen demonstrated by the run-about given to Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad over the Mercy Mission which he intends leading to Palestine.

Is the contempt thus displayed towards South Africa and its vibrant civil society an act of arrogance or worse, a scornful way of saying “up yours”?

That this anti-South African resentment by Israel is playing out at a time when President Mbeki is furiously engaged in marketing NEPAD, may in all likelihood compel the government not to ruffle the Zionist rooster’s feathers. But being pressured to crow only from time to time while the crowbar is wielded by Sharon’s thugs, is not only inadequate – it is a downright insult to South Africa’s sovereignty.

Against this background it is therefore great news to read that Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Tutu has called for disinvestment from Israel against its settlements in Palestinian territories.

In an opinion piece published in the International Herald Tribune, Tutu said Israeli settlements were re-creating many of the conditions seen in apartheid-era South Africa.

“Yesterday’s township dwellers can tell you about today’s life in the occupied territories”, Tutu wrote. “The indignities, dependence and anger are all too familiar.”

To oppose the injustice and insecurity caused by Israeli policies, Tutu advocated disinvestments as the first, though not the only, necessary move.

Yes, indeed Arch, many more decisive moves to alleviate the plight of millions of dispossessed Palestinians are not only necessary but a pre-requisite to confront the last outpost of apartheid – Israel.

It is now imperative that the South African government moves from motions of censure to effective measures. It is equally compelling that ordinary people insist that their hard fought freedoms not be tainted with having ties with an appalling racist state in the process of threatening the disappearance of an entire society due to invasion and annexation.

The state of human sorrow that has attended Palestine’s demise is horrific and must be halted now.

(Mr. Iqbal Jasarat is Chairman of the Media Review Network, which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.)