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Cabinet Makes a treacherous U-turn on Israeli Ties.

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1 December 2023

ANC hypocritical “Talk Palestine, Walk Israeli” Policy is treasonous in the face of

Genocide in Gaza

The Cabinet meeting of 29 November will go down in infamy. South African society and the world

were watching, to see if the political leadership of the country would take forward momentum during

the brief pause in fighting, as the Israel Defense Forces rearm with gifts from both Washington in the

form of massive shipments of military hardware and intelligence from the Pentagon as well as from

Sandton with support for IDF warriors from the Ichikowitz Family Foundation.

On 21 November there was an overwhelming parliamentary vote – 248-91 – endorsing expulsion of

the Israeli ambassador from Pretoria. But emerging from the Cabinet meeting, the executive wing of

government has rebuked the democratic legislature in the most insulting way. According to President

Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Vincent Magwenya immediately after the Cabinet meeting: “As

things stand there is no decision nor a process that is considering the severing of ties with the Israeli


Magwenya is as wrong as he was in Kyiv denying Vladimir Putin’s bombing of the Ramaphosa-led

Peace Mission on 17 June, because of course there is a process: solidarity activism, which we will

soon be turning against the African National Congress leaders who, by rejecting the fight for

Palestinian liberation, are nurturing Israeli genocide.

More than 1000 members of a wide variety of political parties and civil society groups marched from

Mary Fitzgerald Square to Constitution Hill at the same time Cabinet was meeting on 29 November.

We were in mourning for what the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza counts as more than 15 000

murders of civilians by the IDF, of which more than 6 100 were children. More than 7 000 Palestinians

(including 4 700 women and children) are, additionally, feared to have died under rubble from Tel

Aviv’s bombing of 55 000 buildings, including scores of schools and hospitals.

The case for genocide charges against Israel’s political-military leadership is stronger every day. On

the surface, this case is being at least partially led by South African Foreign Minister, Naledi Pandor.

Her party, the African National Congress (ANC), long enjoyed exiled relationships with the Palestine

Liberation Organisation – which she now is turning her back on.

Although Pandor has joined foreign ministries in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Comoros, Djibouti, Colombia,

Algeria and Turkey to ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution of Benyamin

Netanyahu, this will likely go nowhere given the firm Western grip on the ICC.

The next logical step would be to invoke The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the

Crime of Genocide. We don’t expect Pandor to move forward in that obvious direction, nor to

support Boycott Divestment Sanctions, e.g. on the R9.2 billion in trade with Israel.In 2021, SA-Israeli trade was about 40% lower than at peak during the 1990s but still close to $500

billion annually. South Africa’s main exports to Israel are coal ($100 million), rough diamonds ($78

million) and grapes ($11 million) – the first of which should tap into emerging (Western-financed)

‘Just Energy Transition Partnership’ (JETP) plans to decarbonize South Africa’s coal mines to lessen the

climate crisis but without harming communities and workers. Even though the current JETP it is still to

get off the ground and has many conceptual flaws, a similar Just Transition labor-community-centric

approach to sanctions against Israel is needed. And that requires a committed state with a forthright,

principled ruling party prepared to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

A U-turn on breaking diplomatic relations?

On 20 November Pandor simply announced to Parliament, “Breaking off diplomatic relations with

Israel will be counterproductive as it will also affect our Representative Office in Ramallah, Palestine,

and by implication weaken the meaningful role that South Africa can play in the Palestinian cause.”

How different is this from the Zionist position, articulated by a centre-right opposition Democratic

Alliance spokesperson?

“By withdrawing diplomats from Tel Aviv, our government has left more than 25,000 South

African citizens to fend for themselves in a war zone, without access to emergency consular

services. Given that the South African embassy in Ramallah is entirely dependent on our mission

in Tel Aviv, South Africans in the State of Palestine now have no access to consular services, either.

Where civilian casualties occur, families will have no available channels through which to arrange

repatriation of remains in line with traditional and religious rites. Citizens will now have to travel

to Jordan or Egypt, at great cost, in order to access emergency services from our government. The

poorest of our citizens, who cannot afford to travel into neighbouring countries, will remain

trapped and voiceless.”

In truth, the road trip from Ramallah to Tel Aviv takes an hour, and the trip from Ramallah to Amman,

Jordan takes just over two hours – although border crossing times and checkpoints are difficult to

predict. And as for the 25 000 South Africans, those are the estimated residents of Israel not

Palestine, including those with dual citizenship serving in the IDF.

So on the one hand, the activist balance of forces within South Africa is shifting quickly. Since

mid-October there has been an encouraging upsurge of protest in major cities in solidarity with

Palestine. In contrast, the SA Jewish Report recounts far smaller, less frequent rallies of Johannesburg

and Cape Town Zionists – amped by the SA Zionist Federation, SA Friends of Israel, and their allies in

Christian fundamentalist churches – and opposed especially by South African Jews for a Free

Palestine. These rallies still focus on the October 7 Hamas attack and ignore Israel’s settle-colonialism

and subsequent genocidal policies.

Notwithstanding South Africa’s November 6 closure of its Tel Aviv embassy, Israeli passport holders

are still granted a 90-day free visa, which is far better treatment than the Department of Home Affairs

gives citizens from the rest of the African continent, a group which has suffered both official and

societal xenophobia for at least 15 years.

South Africa’s Zionist lobby does have important personalities, however, who worry about ‘nasty’

consumer sanctions, especially against the Cape Union Mart retail chain because its founder Philip

Krawitz “received the Yakir Keren Hayesod award in Cape Town, raising the largest amount of fundsper capita for apartheid Israel during the 2014 Israeli ‘Protective Edge’ war on Gaza in which 2 251

Palestinians, including 551 children, were killed,” recounts BDS coordinator Roshan Dadoo.

The South African government regrettably still takes its economic-relations cue not from solidarity

movements in Palestine and South Africa, but from the Palestinian Authority (PA), whose 2013

rejection of BDS was celebrated by Zionists and opposed by local activists. That later led the PA to

clarify its partial support for BDS, to be applied only to a handful of goods imported to South Africa

from the occupied West Bank such as Sodastream.

Leading ANC officials, including Zuma as well as foreign policy bureaucrats, then felt it was legitimate

to reject full-fledged BDS on the grounds that so did the PA. Today, Palestinian Authority leader

Mahmoud Abbas is once again considered to be an ally of Washington and Tel Aviv.

The quality of South African representation in Palestine is difficult to determine, compared to the

self-described ‘vast’ information and foreign-investment invitations that the Department of

International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) offers visitors to its Israel-embassy website. The

stark difference between South Africa’s Ramallah office website and the same’s Tel Aviv website is

more evidence of this.

Why can the ANC cannot break with Zionism?

There is another factor: Pandor’s party, the ANC, is now facing asset seizure and could soon be

declared bankrupt, after it lost a massive lawsuit to a campaign-paraphernalia supplier in the

Supreme Court last week. The single largest reported donor to the party in 2023 was the Ichikowitz

Family Foundation, an office one block away from the U.S. Consulate, at 1 Sandton Drive, often used

by pro-Israeli arms dealer Ivor Ichikowitz for self-promotion.

The Ichikowitz Family Foundation is also an enthusiastic financial sponsor of the Israeli Defense Force

(IDF) troops dating to at least the 2014 Israeli attacks. Income for the foundation is rooted in Africa’s

largest military equipment firm, the Paramount Group, set up by Ichikowitz in 1994. Although the

company has gone through ups and downs, and although after a November 10 protest at an

armaments factory its spokesperson denied directly supplying arms to the Israeli military, Paramount


  • boasts of having opened an office in Tel Aviv in 2021
  • enjoys a 2022-25 joint venture with the largest Israeli arms company, Elbit, to improve

Paramount’s Mbombe militarized troop carrier for use by Ecuadorian security agencies;

No doubt, just as in 2014, there’s extensive behind-the-scenes lobbying by Zionists to prevent the

broke ruling party – facing a tough 2024 election – from fully cutting diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv.

Some Zionists appear truly frightened, angry and full of threats, according to the SA Jewish Report,

citing Sara Gon of the (right-wing) Institute of Race Relations:

“South Africa will have no influence whatsoever with whatever may pan out from here onwards.

He [Ramaphosa] also knows that the relationship with the Jewish community is over, and he

daren’t ask anything of it. The South African mission in Ramallah is likely to be left adrift without a

South African embassy in Israel, which has to be a necessary consequence of his decision. He

must know that the decision doesn’t just affect the rights of South African Jews; it will affect

South Africans of all stripes negatively. All of this is likely not to override the need to save his

presidency.”The behind-the-scenes battle may reflect how such threats are being expressed at a time of acute

financial hardship in Ramaphosa’s party. Financial and in-kind relationships with Ichikowitz have often

proven lucrative to South African politicians like Jacob Zuma and Kgalema Motlanthe and Cyril

Ramaphosa. The more durable problem associated with these leaders’ self-interest is, as prominent

Egyptian-French Marxist thinker Samir Amin concluded, that in Pretoria, “Nothing has changed. South

Africa’s sub-imperialist role has been reinforced.”

The ANC – being the party of monopoly capital- is inserted into the world capitalist system on this

basis and intervenes in international affairs to advance this class interests. Being also a party that

requires the political consent of the majority working class it can make shifts as a result of mass

pressure and for narrow electoral purposes. This is the context in which the ANC’s last-minute

support for the EFF parliamentary motion must be located. The ANC only supported the EFF motion

after close to 200 000 people marched in Cape Town and after over ten thousand Palestinians had

been murdered. It is clear that ANC strategists see the possibility of gaining greater electoral support

as Palestinian solidarity gains momentum. For the past 29 years the ANC refused to break ties with

Israel and, for example, endorsed the Clover takeover by an Israeli company which led to more than

2000 job losses. The roots of the ANC’s consistent refusal to break ties with Israel both diplomatically

and economically lie in its political evolution as the party of monopoly capital – closely aligned with

western imperialism. Breaking ties with Israel means upsetting white monopoly capital and this is

what the ANC is not prepared to do.

The reluctance on the part of the ANC is no different to its reluctance to upset the wealth and power

of the old white elite in order to create a better life for the black majority. To challenge the ANC’s

neo-liberalism and to challenge its refusal to cut ties with Israel requires mass mobilisation and

enormous public pressure. And this is precisely what has been happening over the past weeks,

especially in Cape Town. We are concerned that instead of recognising this public pressure as the

cause of the ANC’s support for the parliamentary motion, the ANC is being embraced by some in the

Palestinian solidarity movement as a progressive force in the Palestinian struggle. This is simply not

the case. What this really underscore once again, is the importance of struggle to build the political

confidence and consciousness of the masses,

Instead of uniting with the ANC more mass pressure is to be exerted on it, to ensure that Cabinet

implements the parliamentary motion and, in fact, that it goes beyond the motion and cuts all

diplomatic, economic, cultural and sporting ties with Israel. The more the ANC caves in, the more

confidence the masses will draw from this struggle and this confidence could flow over into the fight

against austerity and neoliberalism. Uniting and marching with the ANC will not instil confidence or

generate political consciousness. In fact this approach of uniting with the ANC is creating illusions

and confusions. The truth is their betrayal of the Palestinian masses for over 29 years is no different

to their betrayal of the black working class instead of breaking from a capitalist system that has

brutalised this country. Our principled unity depends on recognising who stands for justice for the

poor and oppressed and who stands for self-interest and political power. The success of our

movement depends on it.

Issued by GIWUSA

For comment call:

Mametlwe Sebei – 081 368 0706