The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs has released a report stating that a record number of Palestinian homes were demolished by Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank and Gaza in 2016. The Israeli authorities demolished or seized 1 089 Palestinian-owned structures throughout the West Bank displacing 1593 Palestinians and affecting livelihoods of another 7 101. These were the highest figures recorded since the UN started collecting data in 2009. It is therefore with great dismay that I note that it is while Israel is on its greatest offensive yet in violating the rights of the Palestinians that we find South African ruling parties such as the ANC and DA caught in actions legitimising the Israeli government far more vigorously than ever before.
When it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, people globally expect South Africans to identify with the Palestinian cause due to Apartheid. Apartheid is a system of separation and institutionalised racism and the blatant similarities between the Apartheid SA regime and the current Israeli government is glaring – one just has to acknowledge the vast discrepancies in healthcare, education, housing, access to water and basic amenities and the general level of living between a Palestinian and an Israeli to realise the situation echoes that of the white and black man in Apartheid South Africa. Since its establishment, Israel has systematically discriminated against Palestinian citizens, and, for 49 years of its 68-year existence, has subjected non-citizen Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to a military regime characterised by colonisation and segregation. South African anti-apartheid stalwarts have seen the similarities: Desmond Tutu said a trip to Palestine in 2002 had reminded him “so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa”, and it’s not just Apartheid’s opponents who have reaffirmed the likeness; in 1961, South African Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd stated: “the Jews took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for 1,000 of years. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.”
With thousands of reports by renowned NGOs and organisations on the ground documenting Israeli human rights and international law violations over the years, the question of Israel’s morality has always been more than questionable. It is while South Africa, who is still recovering so acutely from the effects of institutionalised discrimination, should be leading the way in taking a stance against the Israeli regime that we are witnesses to the failure of our leaders of the most sordid kind. DA leader, Mmusi Maimane, is currently engrossed in a flamboyant trip meeting Israeli leaders, flaunting his disregard for fundamental human rights and happy to pose with Israel’s leader who authorises the killing of babies and justifies it as collateral damage. In a move that has exposed the DA’s policies to be pro the Zionist regime and its supporters, Maimane has reaffirmed that his cries of supporting Palestinian human rights in the next election campaign will only be poorly articulated lip service in an attempt to try and secure the Muslim vote.
Alternatively, not much more can be said for the leading ANC party. For years their support of Palestine has been defined by well-crafted press statements and conferences, but in terms of solid solidarity and officially supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against the Apartheid Israeli regime, there is little more than hypothetical allegiance and again, poor lip service. The ANC-led South African government has bilateral relations with Israel, does not support a single state solution with common and equal citizenship and rights and covertly legitimises the Israeli regime with its daily business dealings with it. Just last week, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation released a statement expressing their condolences for the death of five Israeli soldiers, killed in an act of resistance by the occupied people of Palestine – resistance deemed legal by international law. Instead of condemning the imprisonment of minors or the arbitrary murder without trial of Palestinians that happens on a daily basis in Israel, it is horrifying to see that our government finds it of more importance to publicly condemn the death of active combatants.
The misdeeds and immorality of the Zionist regime in Israel is undeniable, and the atrocities carried out against the Palestinians mirror those of South Africans under Apartheid most severely. It is with bitter disappointment and disgust that we are witnessing our political leaders forsake a cause they found themselves under most recently, and betray their ethics and principles for what can only be described as materialistic gain.
Dr. Aayesha Soni
Media Review Network
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