In a move that’s symptomatic of South Africa’s love-hate relationship with Western powers, particularly America, the ruling ANC government has finally taken the plunge to roll out the red carpet for Hamas’ leadership.
Construed to be a bold move given that at Israel’s prodding and demonisation of Hamas as a “terrorist” organisation, the United States and other western powers have had their ability to interact with Israel’s nemesis severely restricted.
South Africa of course doesn’t belong to that club which criminalises legitimate freedom movements as terrorist. After all, the ANC itself was treated as a leper by the Western bloc of powers at a time when Israel’s links and active collaboration with the apartheid regime was at an all time high.
Numerous studies and books have been published recording this collaboration. Beyond trade and cultural ties, South Africa’s National party ensured that apartheid was able to “flourish” via strong Israeli military and nuclear weapons ties.
Despite the clandestine nature of links, for both Israel and SA, it was a win-win situation. Why? Because neither of them had any regard for the humanity of vast majorities under their oppressive reign.
Since 1994, the expectation by Palestinians was that the defeat of apartheid would pave the way for their own liberation. They hoped that the installation of an ally who had shared the same battle trenches with their freedom fighters would mark a defining moment in their bitter struggle.
Of course this was not to be as contemporary history records. Not even Yasser Arafat’s embrace by Nelson Mandela, would alter the reality of an Israeli flag flying uninterrupted in Pretoria since 1948 to this day.
The rupture didn’t occur. And the freedom to live as free men and women with honour and dignity remains elusive. A free South Africa and the symbolism of Nelson Mandela’s iconic personality that stood in sharp contrast to oppression, didn’t translate into freedom for Palestine.
Will this breaking of new ground herald dramatic changes in the fate of Palestinians? We’ve always believed that opening of direct links between Hamas and the SA government is an essential step in their long walk to freedom.
After many stressladen clandestine journeys undertaken by my colleagues and I to various Arab capitals, we are relieved and in celebratory mood today.
The corridor to Hamas which we painstakingly battled to open over the last two decades, in order to challenge Israel’s blockade and isolation of its exiled leaders has now resulted in their first official state visit to South Africa.
The invisible wall that prevented Hamas leaders to enter South Africa as official guests of our government, has collapsed. The opening thus provided allows government, civil society, labour unions, media and all concerned to obtain Hamas’ views, opinions and legitimate demands first hand.
Those who hold onto archaic apartheid era views which prescribe Hamas to be a terror organisation, will howl and throw tantrums. This is to be expected.
However the signal this visit sends to domestic disgruntled anti-Palestinian lobbyists and foreign pro-Israel interest groups, is that South Africa is mature enough to adopt a paradigm shift in its foreign policy.
Hamas’ visit reflects this breathtaking shift. By the same token, its an acknowledgement of the resilience and power of Palestinian resistance.
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