With Israel trying to bomb Gaza into submission, South African Civil Society met privately with President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday urging him to take action – and he showed a “willingness to engage”, writes Ismail Suder.
While the “terrorist state of Israel” cranked up its killing machines against Gaza’s civilian population once again, activist leaders have notched up their call for Government to isolate the Zionists regime – and for ordinary South Africans to boycott businesses that do business with it.
This week representatives from South African civil society, trade unions and the ANC Youth League held a meeting with Zuma at his official residence in Cape Town, urging him listen to the hundreds of thousands of people who are calling for an economic and diplomatic boycott of Israel.
Muhammed Desai of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS South Africa) said the meeting with Zuma was fruitful.
“In the meeting with the President we expressed what the hundreds of thousands of South Africans want our government to do in support of the Palestinians. We made the call and case for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, as a non-violent form of constructive engagement to hold Israel accountable for its ongoing violations of human rights and international law. We further advanced the call for the recalling of the South African Ambassador from Tel Aviv and the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador from Pretoria as forms of diplomatic protest.
“During the meeting President Zuma listened carefully to all the views presented by the various organisations and indicated a willingness to engage. The meeting included representatives from the Jewish community that are opposed to Israel’s oppression to the Palestinians; it was important that the President could hear a (growing) alternative Jewish voice to the one that blesses and encourages the Israeli attacks against Gaza. The President explained the role South Africa is trying to play diplomatically while also acknowledging and considering our demands and not dismissing them. President Zuma also made it clear that this was an initial meeting and that it was the start of ongoing engagements with us, with another meeting scheduled in just over week.
“We felt that the spirit of engagement was very comradely and that the President was willing to work with us, towards finding a long-term solution to achieve peace and liberation of the Palestinian people. We will in the meantime increase our efforts to keep up the pressure on our government and businesses through mass mobilization, public protests and the specific advancement of the #BoycottWoolworths campaign.
Meanwhile, a rally organized by the Palestine Solidarity Forum (PSF) drew hundreds of people to the Durban City Hall last Sunday. Several more rallies and protests are scheduled for various cities across the country in the coming days.
Guest speaker Ronnie Kasrils, former Intelligence Minister, called on the Government to sever all ties with Israel and kick out the Israeli ambassador, Arthur Lenk.
Kasrils said the world had witnessed the hypocrisy of the European Union countries and the Unites States. He pointed out the speed with which they imposed sanctions on Russia (whom they blamed) when the Malaysian Airlines plane came down over Ukraine, but failed to act against Israel’s barbaric war crimes. “We call on our ANC government to lead the way and cut off trade and apply sanctions against Israel,” he said to loud applause.
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) SA urged conscientious members of the public to ramp up pressure on Woolworths, urging them not to stock Israeli goods – or face boycotts.
Tebogo Thotela, of BDS and Deputy President of the South African Union of Students, said this country was free, thanks to international pressure against Apartheid South Africa. That same pressure should now be applied on the racist Israeli regime until it backs down.
Representatives of multi-faith organizations also voiced support for the Palestinian cause.
Judy Favish, a spokeswoman for Jewish Voices for Just Peace, said that Jewish people who challenged the hegemonic Zionist narrative were ostracized. And those who condemned Israeli for its terror on Gaza were accused of being anti-Semitic.
“We believe that there is a need for our government to send strong signals to the Israeli state that the impunity with which Israel behaves cannot be tolerated any longer. We pledge our support for an end to violence, restorative justice, the lifting of the siege on Gaza and the negotiation of a new democratic society in which everyone has equal rights.”
Bishop Mike Vorster, of the Methodist Church, said Palestinians, both Muslims and Christians alike, were fighting for justice and freedom from oppression.
“This is not an Islamic/Jewish struggle, as there are Christians being bombed as well. Human beings are being killed because there is this myth that the land is God-given to some,” he said.
Dr Ahmed Manjra, who chaired the event, said Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates were complicit with Israel to subjugate the Palestinian people, and they should be ashamed. “Their time is up…they are on the wrong side of history,” he said.