With the memorandum of understanding (MoU) done and dusted, it’s time for the Government to “walk the talk”, writes an Al Qalam Reporter.
Gaza’s Hamas government on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the ANC Parliamentary Caucus to “introduce practical steps in mobilizing the international community to pressure Israel to end its occupation of Palestine.”
A delegation from Hamas’s “Change and Reform Bloc” is on a week-long visit to the country – and they have met representatives of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS-SA), ANC, SACP, COSATU, MRN and others with the view to strengthening South African- Palestinian relations.
The agreement was signed by Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud Al-Zahar and the ANC’s Chief Whip, Jackson Mthembu.
According to the MoU, the parties will endeavour to “introduce practical steps in mobilizing the international community to pressure Israel to end its occupation of Palestine, including working towards the full boycott of all Israeli products.”
It also said that the ANC Parliamentary Caucus “will use the oversight powers of South Africa’s parliament to ensure that the ANC’s 2017 resolution to downgrade the South African embassy in Tel Aviv to a liaison office is implemented by the South African government”.
However, Dr Lubna Nadvi, a researcher, academic and political analyst based at UKZN, told Al Qalam that it was time for the Government to “walk the talk.”
“This is a very welcomed and positive development in terms of strengthening the South African solidarity efforts with the Palestinian struggle for political self determination. Entrenching solidarity through the signing of an MOU can go a long way in advancing the cause for a Free Palestine.
“The ANC has for some time now been taking a firm policy position regarding support for Palestinians as a ruling party. However the challenge remains in the implementation of all the progressive stances it has declared over the last few years.
“The matter of the downgrading of the SA embassy in Tel Aviv remains as yet an unfulfilled promise. The claim that the ruling political party will use its influence and oversight powers in Parliament to ensure that the downgrading will take place, can only be taken seriously when it is actually implemented.
“In addition, civil society and SA Palestine solidarity groups have been calling for the shutdown of the Israeli embassy in Pretoria. While the ANC has not made a commitment to making this happen, it needs to at least walk the talk of making sure that the other things it has committed to …are actually realised.
BDS-SA has hailed the signing of the (MoU) as “a success for Palestine solidarity”, adding that it commends the ANC for its consistent support of the Palestinian struggle and BDS movement.
“We specifically welcome the ANC caucus’ affirmation that it will be overseeing the implementation of the downgrading of the SA Embassy in Israel to a liaison office. Earlier this year the SA Ambassador to Israel was recalled and has to date not been reinstated,” it said in a statement.”
South Africa has been discussing the downgrading of its embassy in Israel since May in response to Israel’s killing of protesters during the Great March of Return in the besieged Gaza Strip. That month South Africa’s National Freedom Party leader, Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam, tabled a draft resolution calling for the unconditional downgrade of the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv, saying: “Countries, including South Africa, have been far too patient while people are killed and international law is ignored.”
The calls to downgrade the embassy came just days after South Africa withdrew its ambassador from Israel due to Israel’s “violent aggression” in Gaza on May 14, where at least 55 people were killed by Israeli fire – on the same day when Palestinians were peacefully protesting the US embassy move to Jerusalem that coincided with Israel’s Independence Day.