Friday, October 26, 2012

Israel Must Be Shunned


RIGHT FIGHT: Adri Niewhof, a Dutch national who fought apartheid, talks at an O.R. Tambo lecture at wits and tactics to fight against the Israeli goverment abuse of the rights of Palestinians. Photo: Ihsaan Haffejee

Liezelle Kumalo and Fanisa Masia/The New Age

International boycotts and disinvestment, which were used as effective tools to fight apartheid should also be used to further the cause of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.

This call was made at a tribute to the longest serving president of the ANC, Oliver Tambo, at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) on Wednesday night.

The event organised by the Wits SRC also saw the screening of a special tribute “Have You Heard from Johannesburg”, highlighting OR’s campaign to isolate apartheid South Africa at a time when the ANC was viewed by the west as an agent of communist Russia or at worst a terrorist organisation.

Speakers said there were strong parallels between the two struggles against injustice and oppression.

They also pointed to the tactics used by Tambo to mobilise the international community against South Africa, and argued that the same strategies were needed to help the people of Palestine.

The Wits SRC reiterated its call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel despite Wits management distancing itself from the move.

This comes at a time when there is a strong movement in favour of boycotting Israeli products in South Africa.

SRC representative Tokelo Nhlapo said that the similarities between apartheid South Africa and Israel’s occupation of Palestine were too great to ignore. The Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Ebrahim Ebrahim’s statement for the event read: “Today, there is a similar international civil society solidarity campaign in support of the Palestinians against Israeli policies and practices of occupation and aggression.

“The ANC fully supports this international movement to pressure Israel to engage with the Palestinian people to reach a just solution.”

University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Prof Farid Essack, one of the guest speakers, said that Israel was an apartheid state and should be stopped.

“This is what is expected from the family of humankind. Not because we owe it to the Palestinian people but we owe it to ourselves,” he said.

International anti-apartheid movement organiser from the Netherlands Adri Neiwhof said that Tambo was “humble and a motivator”.

A boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigner against Israel, Neiwhof spoke of the success of a Dutch boycott campaign in helping to end apartheid.

However, the chairperson of the Gauteng SA Jewish board of directors said that Israel could not be compared to apartheid (South Africa) because it was a democratic country with democratic principles with a disputed territory in the mix. He said that the best solutions were for the two parties involved to talk, something Israel had been trying to do for the past 20 to 30 years.

“Palestinians have repeatedly rejected a peaceful settlement by responding with suicide bombers. An attempt to boycott Israeli products will never happen. How can Israel engage with people that continuously bomb them?” Katz said. He also said the South African government could play a constructive role in reaching a peaceful settlement between the two parties.
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