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Woolworths taking its clients to court: As a WW shareholder, here’s my perspective on #BoycottWoolworths

“And you do all this for a few pretzels and pomegranates?” the journalist from The Times asked me. I do it for all those whose houses are demolished, I do it for the workmen who need to queue since 2:00 at a checkpoint, I do it for Gaza, I do it for the children who are harrassed on their way to school, I do it for the farmers whose olive trees are destroyed or whose land is confiscated, I do it because I believe in human dignity for all. I do it for justice and freedom.

The journalist wanted to know why, as a shareholder in Woolworths, I am so concerned about the national boycott of Woolworths. Click here for a link to the audio interview with The Times.

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I am indeed very concerned – as a consumer, as a concerned citizen and as a shareholder. Corporate identity, or a brand, is not about window dressing or  fancy advertising. It is about embodying the values of a company on every single level. These values should inspire staff relations and also those with clients, shareholders and all other stakeholders. The values must be visible in every detail – in products, in the service, in the advertising…..down to the state of the restrooms. Yet Woolworths chooses to take its clients (of which some are shareholders) to court!

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My statement was one of a number by concerned shareholders that was read out at a media conference in Johannesburg on 18 November 2014. I also submit it through my stockbroker to Woolworths. Thus far I have had no reply from Woolworths:

Shareholder statement by Marthie Momberg for the Woolworths Annual General Meeting on 26.11.14:

As an investor in Woolworths I am compelled to reveal my concern about the image and the ethics of the company in which I invested a considerable amount of my savings.

The Woolworths brand is increasingly questioned. Woolworths imports products such as pretzels, couscous, matzos, coriander and fruit from Israel. The real issue is not the number of Israeli products on the shelves of Woolworths, but rather the existence of contracts between Woolworths and Israeli businesses. Israel is well known for its continued, systemic violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories (Gaza, the West Bank and East-Jerusalem). Peaceful, economic resistance against Israel and her partners is by no means a protest against Jews, but against a systemic regime of oppression. The boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (BDS) is part of an international strategy similar to the one which helped to end South African apartheid. Major businesses and churches, across the globe have already implemented BDS. They did so not because they are politically driven, but for ethical reasons.

Woolworths say they are an ethical company. Woolworths’ products are of outstanding quality and are loved by South Africans. It is the result of dedication, courage and a commitment to quality. And yet, with regard to their relation with Israel Woolworths argues that they adhere to the law and need not do anything more. Ethical behaviour demands moral leadership. Laws are prerequisites that apply to everyone. It codifies practices, ideals, norms and moral values as the minimum that is required in a society, whilst ethics starts where the law ends. What would the quality of Woolworths’ products be if their business strategy simply adheres to the law and ignores going the extra mile? As shareholder I expect a consistent, reliable integrity from Woolworths. It implies responsible ethics in line with the growing international appeal for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions against Israel. South African Karstens Farms has already demonstrated ethical leadership by cutting its ties with Israeli exporter Hadiklaim. Woolworths can be the first South African retail company to take this step.

As a person who values the human dignity of all I, together with South Africans from all walks of life, support ‘the non-violent boycott against Woolworths. With our history of apartheid South Africans have a special role to play in saying no to Israel’s decades long institusionalised violations of the Palestinians. It is now our turn to express our moral support with the oppressed. As shareholder I expect Woolworths to practice what they preach and to restore trust in the business. The integrity – and the viability – of a brand has to do with values that are embodied.

As shareholders we are concerned about Woolworths’ decision to take BDS South Africa to court whilst declining a face-to-face meeting with BDS South Africa and other human rights groups.

Corporates are arguably one of society’s most potent change agents for a sustainable world and a safer, cleaner, healthier and thriving society. Woolworths is a signatory to the U.N Global Compact (UNGC), the world’s largest corporate citizenship and sustainability initiative. The UNGC is underpinned by principles derived from international instruments including the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UNGC asks companies to embrace, support and enact, within their sphere of influence, a set of core values in the areas of human rights, labour standards, the environment and anti-corruption. On human rights it says: “Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.” Woolworths has developed enormous goodwill for the company with the company’s brand and reputation being wisely crafted on good citizenship and squeaky clean values. It is for precisely these reasons that Woolworths should pay attention to BDS. Why doesn’t it?

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Alan Horwitz, a Jewish human rights activist representing a group of Jewish Woolworths shareholders said:

I represent a group of Jewish shareholders in Woolworths and I think I must explain why as Jewish South Africans we have taken a stand to support the #BoycottWoolworths campaign. Israel, as we are well aware wrongly claims to act and speak on behalf of Jewish people all over the globe and Israeli actions over the last decade have featured violations not just of international law but also of Jewish ethical structures. We say this because Jews can only flourish, like any other people, in open societies that respect human rights at an individual and at a national level.

We find though, that Israel has systematically violated the rights of not just of Palestinians but of other minorities within the borders of Israel. We have seen over the last few months an escalation of quite fascistic behavior by the Israeli government and the right wing, which forms part of that government. The Israeli provocations in Jerusalem are leading to intense conflict and of course the illegal expansion by Israel of the Jewish settlements around Jerusalem are making the possibility of a negotiated and just settlement with Palestinians almost impossible. We have to say that boycott as a nonviolent response to state oppression is a completely valid and ethical response, and that is why we support this action and the #BoycottWoolworths campaign. Woolworths and other big South African corporations in the retail sector are public companies that have a responsibility in terms of our anti apartheid stance. Many Jewish activists were prominent in the anti apartheid struggle, we must continue to show the world that as Jews we will not tolerate Israel acting in our name in a a fashion which is fascist. We wholeheartedly support this boycott campaign. The Israel-Palestine conflict is something which degenerates daily, quite literally and really is time that we as South Africans take a very firm stand. Finally in conclusion, we find that Woolworths claims to be a very ethical company, that it claims to be at the forefront of good corporate practice and that is why perhaps it makes sense for Woolworths to be the front runner in this action of terminating relations with Israel.” For comment from Mr Horwitz contact 0825128188

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The #BoycottWoolworths campaign receives wide spread attention and support from various South African Government Ministers, artists, well known personalities and anti-apartheid stalwarts. To date, the management of Woolworths has refused to meet so that this issue can be resolved.

Last year Woolworths was ranked first in the RepTrak Reputation Index survey of South African companies in 2014. It was also rated in the top three of the Sunday Times Top 100 companies for 2013 and was included in the JSE Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) index for 2013/14.

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The pig’s head debacle: A disgrace to Palestinians, to Jews, to South Africans and to all others

Placing pigs’ heads on top of the meat others want to buy serves neither the Palestinian cause nor the boycott campaign against Woolworths. It disrespects all Jews, all Muslims, all animals, and all who advocate for freedom and dignity.

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Tactics of intimidation and disrespect belongs to an ideology of oppression. It is disguised violence. To argue that the end goal justifies the means is part of an outdated, dualistic, hierarchical framework which ignores relationships. Isn’t this the very thing that we try to move away from? Does it not go against everything the broader South African solidarity movement stand for? Can such tactics ever win people over to hear the cries of the Palestinians?

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Calling the incident “completely offensive”, Sumayya Omar, of BDS South Africa, said the group “condemned” the action. “We are completely distancing ourselves from the incident. BDS is not involved or implicated at all,” she said. Likewise, South Africa’s National Coalition for Palestine made it clear that the incident is unacceptable.

The following letter in the Cape Town newspaper, Argus (6 November 2014), written by a Jewish colleague in the local Palestine solidarity movement, is crisp and clear:

Dear Editor of Argus,

The action at Woolworths last Thursday as well as today’s press release by COSAS that it has placed a further three pig’s heads in Woolworths stores and is so planning to place ten more, is unacceptable both for reasons of principle and strategy.

In principle it is conflating ‘ the Jewish religion’ with ‘the political state of Israel’. This is through linking a pig’s head to Jewish religious dietary laws that regard pork as impure and there are injunctions not to eat it. Their intention is anti-Jewish, and not simply anti-Israel. The action also demeans sentient life other than human, in this case about 14 pigs have been killed and beheaded to make a political point.

The action has brought pork into a store which also caters for Muslim consumers, whose dietary laws also forbid them to consume pork; this is an affront to them, and they are the main target of consumers whom this campaign is appealing to boycott Woolworths. Today’s press release confirms that it is COSAS’ explicit intention to deeply affront Jewish, Muslim and other consumers in order to shock them into realising the IDF’s carnage in Gaza (they refer specifically to the killing of schoolchildren through targeting artillery, tank and air bombardment on schools etc.), rather than engaging consumers with information about the attack on Gaza as well as the broader issue of Israel’s historical and ongoing violation of Palestinians’ human rights (including the right to self-determination) in order to raise their awareness and convince them to boycott Woolworths over the longer term. I think that the placing of the Pigs’ heads is already causing a backlash from the targeted consumers themselves.

This is a tactic of intimidating consumers into boycotting, for which there was a history in the anti-apartheid struggle in the 1980s where COSAS and other youth formations sometimes enforced consumer boycotts by punishing consumers who dared to break them – youths guarded the entrances to townships and searched people’s bags and containers as they came home, forcing those who had bought at forbidden shops to consume all that then and there; often this entailed forcing them to drink raw cooking oil, etc. They were able to do this because they had made the townships ungovernable. This is not the situation today where the ideas that legitimise or delegitimise opposing actions, is the terrain where this struggle is largely being fought outside of Israel/Palestine. In any event this is not a democratic but an authoritarian politics and I reject it both for its taunting of Jews and Muslims as well as for its undermining the growth of a movement that has legitimacy and mass support across the religious, ethnic/race and class spectrum.

COSAS thinks that the end justifies the means, but equally there is a greater risk that these means will start corrupting a noble end.

Yours truly,

Dr Paul Hendler
Stellenbosch

I am a Jewish South African against the demonisation of the Palestinian People and for a rational discussion of their circumstances.

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The Congress of South African Students (COSAS) has since expressed their disgust and distanced themselves from the incident. They said that only one person, Siphakamise Ngxowa, was involved and that he is suspended from the organisation. Ngxowa’s actions lacked the backing of COSAS even though he pretended otherwise.

COSAS STATEMENT ON WOOLWORTHS PIG HEAD INCIDENT
Official Statement of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) on the Lamentable Woolworths “Pig Head” Incident:

The Congress of South African Students would first like to continue pledging its solidarity with the people of Palestine. COSAS has nationally supported the advocating for freeing people of Palestine from apartheid Israel, we have done that through releasing press statements, doing interviews, attending the campaigns, marches and
addressing various events on the particular matter.

The Congress of South African Students has committed itself in forming part of this struggle without any hesitation because it is a just course. Democracy, peace and stability are deserved by any living human being; this is why we continue to pledge our consistent solidarity with the people of Palestine.

With the above being said as an organization we must go on to mention that it comes as a disappointment to us that establishments such as Woolworths continue to import goods from Israel, whilst there is no peace in that country and people of Palestine including children are brutally killed and murdered every day.

As an organization we indeed believe that Woolworths should continue to be lobbied until they join the rest of the country in being in solidarity with the people of Palestine. As an organization we do understand the importance of boycotts and sanctions as they also assisted our very own country when it fought against apartheid governance.
We are however of the view that when we do not agree with certain methods being used to push the struggle of the Palestinians forward, we are not going to be censored to raise it in fear of being labelled sellouts. When as an organization we resolved on participating in this campaign we never requested advice from anyone therefore even
now we will not seek approval of anyone to continue to participate in it and we again will not be threatened not to critique where we see fit to do so. South Africa remains a country in itself, which has its own beliefs and values it also has a constitution which guides it.

The Congress of South African Students is again also an organization which has its own constitution which guides it will never compromise on. As we continue to push forward this struggle we can never lose identity of who we are and what our primary principles are.

The Congress of South African Students joins the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) SA and the African National Congress in condemning the placing of the pig heads in the meat section of Woolworths stores around the Western Cape Province as a method to lobby Woolworths to stop trading with Israel. This particular method is
surrounded by a number of controversies when it comes to religion.

As the Congress of South African Students we view this method as seeking to provoke certain religions in order to push the campaign forward which we believe weakens and further mobilizes against the boycott as some religions may find this offensive and further provocative. We find this method ill-advised and not well thought as it has now
brought a certain level of instability in our own country religiously, which is not something that we should allow to happen. We cannot compromise peace and religious rights of our own people in order to push forward this struggle.

As an organization we would like to place it on record that it was not COSAS which led this campaign. There is no structure of the organization which set and resolved on this Pig Head campaign, we do however acknowledge that an individual by the name of Siphakamise Ngxowa was part of that action.

Siphakamise Ngxowa is currently suspended from the organization, in a suspension which was in effect before the Woolworths incident happened, which gives the organization all rights to distance itself from the mishap and clear itself from participating in it, as Siphakamise Ngxowa participated on the campaign in his own personal capacity.

It is further important we point out that no other member of COSAS in good standing was found in this debacle. The organization has noted that the particular individual continues to release statements and address the media on behalf of the organization posing as the chairperson of COSAS Western Cape, despite being suspended from the organization. We view this act as unprincipled, misleading and further bringing the organization in disrepute, the act by the individual will further be engaged and added when the appropriate structures of the organization considers his suspension further.

Statement issued by COSAS President General Collen Malatji, November 4 2014

South Africans on their return from the oPt: “We owe it to ourselves to act”

“We owe it to ourselves to act against Israel’s occupation and extensive abuses

they said. A civil society delegation of eleven South Africans visited Israel and the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem between 21 – 29 October 2014.

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Media release:

The delegation included former anti-apartheid activists Barney Pityana, Vusi Pikoli and Firoz Cachalia; civil society leaders Vuyiseka Dubula, Brad Brockman and Adila Hassim; politician Mbali Ntuli; author and political analyst Christi van der Westhuizen; and activists Adaiah Lilenstein, Bruce Baigrie and Keren Ben-Zeev.

We met Israeli and Palestinian civil society organisations, activists, politicians and local people to discuss the different dimensions of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Regrettably we were unable to enter Gaza due to the time constraints caused by the stringent permit conditions.

Based on our visits to Tel Aviv, East Jerusalem and the West Bank, our observations are the following:

Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed on a two-state solution in the Oslo Accords of 1993, in which a five year process would have culminated in an independent Palestinian state encompassing the West Bank and Gaza. The visit made it clear to the delegation that Israel’s military occupation and expanding settlement of the West Bank and East Jerusalem is eroding the viability of the two-state solution.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInstead of finding the Palestinian Authority in charge of the West Bank, the delegation realized the Israeli government and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) are in control of military and civilian affairs of the Palestinian population. Soldiers are seen everywhere. The West Bank is dotted with a network of military checkpoints, surveillance cameras, watch towers, segregated roads and a very high concrete wall that cuts across the territory annexing parts of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem (part of the Palestinian territory according to international law), to Israel. Palestinians’ movement is restricted through a permit system and IDs that relegate them to residents, as opposed to citizens. We witnessed Palestinians being herded through checkpoints in a system that is no better than cattle pens.

Palestinian civilians are under military law, which is discretionary and arbitrary and they rely on the institutions of the Israeli occupation for most services, as the Palestinian Authority has limited powers. Israeli military courts are run by soldiers and traffic offences are tried by military courts, which have no system of due process and do not comply with the rule of law. People resisting the occupation are also tried in the military courts. They are detained in terms of military codes and face random decisions and postponing of their cases or procedures such as “administrative detention”, which potentially leaves them imprisoned for indefinite periods without access to proper legal representation. Interrogation and torture are routinely used. Applications for permits to leave the West Bank for work and other purposes have to be made to the military administration. In contrast, Israeli settlers in the West Bank are under civilian law and enjoy all basic rights like their fellow Israeli citizens. The Israeli cabinet is currently considering a bill to restrict the independence of the court.

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In most of the areas that the delegation visited – East Jerusalem, Jordan Valley, Hebron and villages outside of Ramallah – we saw how settlements work on the ground. The number of settlers in the West Bank including East Jerusalem currently stands at over 515 000. The Jordan Valley has huge agricultural settlements in a water-scarce area. We were shocked to find out that Israeli settlers are allocated on average 6 times the amount of water than Palestinians whose usage is limited to 23 litres per day in some areas . Palestinians also on average pay three times the price for their water. Palestinians cannot build their homes, improve their access to water or engage in agricultural activities freely. In East Jerusalem and Hebron we saw how religious zealots physically displaced Palestinians with the support of the military. Many settlements include military bases. Soldiers and settlers are both armed, leaving Palestinians unprotected in the eye of violent acts of settlers.

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Between 2004 and 2014, 517 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem have been demolished, leaving 2028 people homeless, over half of whom were minors. During the delegation’s visit, the Israeli government announced the construction of another 1000 settler homes in East Jerusalem, the internationally recognised future capital of the Palestinian state. The delegation met with families physically displaced by Israelis who have invaded their homes, while soldiers were patrolling the area.

It has become clear to us through our visit that the settlement process and the mass dispossession and displacement of Palestinians are directly opposed to the goal of a two-state solution. It seems to be aimed either at the forcible transfer of the Palestinian population, which amounts to continuing ethnic cleansing or at the very least, the containment of Palestinians in a system of fragmented cantons. Violent suppression of demonstrations against dispossession and displacement is backed up by draconian military law.

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Palestinians are criminalised even when resisting the occupation without force and a staggering one-fifth of the population of the West Bank has been incarcerated since 1967. There are currently 6200 political prisoners.

The delegation’s visit to the Ofer military court revealed that these courts operate on the presumption of guilt in a hopelessly unjust administrative process controlled by soldiers. This is confirmed by the conviction rate of 99.7% .

Particularly abominable is the Israeli Defence Forces’ targeting of Palestinian children. An estimated 2 500 Palestinian children have been arrested between 2010 to mid-2014 . Approximately 400 children were between the ages of 12 and 15 years but some were as young as 5. Children are subject to torture and interrogation. Intimidation includes threats of sexual violence. While the delegation was in Hebron, an 11-year-old child was arrested by the military on his way to school and held without his parents or any legal representation for hours. We heard many accounts and were shown footage of these abuses.

It became clear to the delegation that Israel and the West Bank form one territory that is fragmented through a system of regulation and physical control through which resources such as fertile lands, water and state revenues are extracted for the benefit of Israeli citizens at the expense of Palestinians. These steps deepen the poverty and economic marginalisation of Palestinians. In Hebron we even saw how shops and market places are shut down in service of the grand design of the Israeli security state.

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Across class and geography, the Palestinians we met were clear they would be willing to live peacefully side by side with Jews, either in two states, a bi-national state or one state. As a nation which struggled and continues to struggle for justice, peace and human rights we have a particular responsibility to speak out on injustice where it is evident. As such, we call on South Africans, Israeli citizens and the global community to support the transition to a just and peaceful resolution that recognises Palestinians’ claims to human rights.

The delegation calls for:

  • An immediate end to the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, which remains under illegal blockade, and the removal of all settlements.

  • The Israeli government as well as Palestinian ruling factions to uphold the rule of law and to respect and protect Palestinians’ human rights under international law. All political prisoners must be released.

  • Support for the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel until international law is observed. Israeli society continues to largely be complicit in the maintenance of the Occupation and Israeli politics remains dominated by the right and ultra-right parties. Thus the international community must make the occupation economically, politically and morally costly for Israel until it is dismantled.

  • The South African government to consistently apply all relevant legislation, including the Foreign Military Assistance Act.After we have seen the reality on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territories, we hereby express our solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination.

 

During the eight days the delegates met and interacted with both Israeli and Palestinian civil society members and with political representatives in Israel and Palestine. Among other activities, the group visited the Jordan Valley to understand the politics of water and its impact on Palestinian farmers; they observed military court proceedings in the West Bank and participatee in a workshop in Ramallah to share South Africa’s experience of advancing human rights and social justice. The delegation will host report back events upon its return.

The fact-finding mission was facilitated by Open Shuhada Street South Africa and the Heinrich Boell Foundation. This statement represents the delgation’s personal views and not necessarily the official positions of any organisations.

Adaiah Lilenstein
Adila Hassim – Section 27
Prof. Barney Pityana
Brad Brockman – Equal Education
Bruce Baigrie – Open Shuhada Street
Dr. Christi van der Westhuizen – Author and political analyst
Prof. Firoz Cachalia – Wits School of Law
Keren Ben-Zeev
Vusi Pikoli
Vuyiseka Dubula – Treatment Action Campaign & Sonke Gender Justice

Media liaison: Layla Al-Zubaidi, 082 885 7878 or layla.al-zubaidi@za.boell.org

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Dit gaan alles oor die grond

Sou ’n mens die algehele duur van die Joodse koninkryke as onafhanklik beskou, het die Jode vir ’n totaal van net 414 jaar regeer.

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Geen gesprek oor die konflik in Palestina is sinvol sonder om die storie in die Ou Testament te gaan haal nie, skryf Dr. Chris Jones, ‘n teoloog by Stellenbosch Universiteit:

Aan wie behoort Palestina? Wie het die grootste historiese aanspraak op die grondgebied? Waarom is dit so moeilik om die konflik tussen ¬Israel en die Palestyne te besleg?

Om die dekades lange konflik in die Midde-Ooste beter te verstaan, help dit om die historiese wortels wat hiertoe aanleiding gegee het ook beter te verstaan.

In die proses is dit ook nodig om baie van die aanvaarde dogma oor byvoorbeeld die Sionistiese beweging en hul historiese aanspraak op Palestynse grondgebied in heroënskou te neem.

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Die grond waarop die Palestyne vir meer as 1 000 jaar gewoon het, is met die totstandkoming van die Israelse staat meestal met geweld en sonder hul instemming van hulle afgeneem.

Palestinian loss of land 1946-2005

Van die begin af was dit die Sioniste se doelwit om die nie-Joodse Palestyne van hul grond te vervreem.

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Sionisme was egter op ’n foutiewe kolonialistiese wêreldbeskouing gegrond waarin daar niks gevoel is vir die regte van inheemse mense nie.

Tussen 3 000 en 1 100 v.C. het die Kanaäniete op die grond gewoon wat vandag as Israel, die Wesoewer, Libanon en die grootste dele van Sirië en Jordanië bekend staan. Die Hebreërs het teen ongeveer 1 800 v.C. hierheen migreer.

Volgens opgrawings was Jerusalem teen hierdie tyd reeds ’n gevestigde stad. ’n Baie gesofistikeerde waterstelsel wat in daardie stadium moontlik agt eeue oud kon wees, getuig hiervan.

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Die Joodse koninkryke was slegs een van baie tydperke in antieke Palestina. Die uitgebreide koninkryke van Dawid en Salomo waarop die Sioniste hul grondeise baseer, het in totaal net 73 jaar geduur.

En sou ’n mens die algehele duur van die Joodse koninkryke – vandat Dawid Kanaän in 1 000 v.C. verower het tot die uitwissing van Juda in 586 v.C. – as onafhanklik beskou, het die Jode vir ’n totaal van (net) 414 jaar regeer.

Palestina, die bakermat van die Christendom, het in die 7de eeu reeds ’n oorheersend Arabiese land geword. In 1516 word Palestina ’n provinsie van die Ottomaanse Ryk, maar dit was steeds nie mínder Arabies nie.

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Sedert 1882 het Joodse koloniste in Palestina begin vestig, maar tot en met die lente van 1948 toe Israel as staat gevestig is, was Arabiere verreweg in die meerderheid. Daar was egter steeds ook afstammelinge van die Semiete – die oorspronklike inwoners van die landstreek – wat Christene, Jode, of Moslems was.

In 1858 kom die Ottoman-grondkode van krag wat vereis dat landbougrond in die naam van individuele eienaars geregistreer word. Vir die eerste keer kon ’n landbewoner ontneem word van sy reg om op grond te bly, dit te bewerk en oor te dra aan ’n volgende geslag. Voorheen was hierdie regte onvervreembaar. Hierdie kode het dikwels gemeenskapsregte op eiendom geïgnoreer.

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Ná die val van die Ottomaanse Ryk en die Eerste Wêreldoorlog word Palestina ’n Britse mandaatgebied.

Die Balfour-deklarasie van November 1917 wat deur die Britse regering uitgevaardig is, het ’n Joodse tuisland in Palestina belowe. Dit beteken ’n Europese krag het ’n besluit geneem oor ’n nie¬Europese gebied sonder inagneming van die teenwoordigheid en wense van die grootste meerderheid inwoners van daardie gebied, die Palestyne.

Van 1936 tot 1939 het die Palestyne in opstand gekom, maar is met Britse mag onderdruk.

In 1947 toe die Verenigde Nasies se partisieplan aangekondig is, het dit grond wat onwettig deur Jode bekom en besit is, amptelik aan hulle toegeken.

Die destydse Sioniste-leier David BenGurion was uiters ongelukkig hieroor, want hy wou nog méér grond hê as wat deur die VN bepaal is – ten koste van die Palestyne, natuurlik.

Teen hierdie tyd was Amerika een van die mees aggressiewe voorstaanders van partisie. Die Verenigde Nasies het met die partisieplan een van hul eie kernbeginsels, naamlik dié van die reg tot selfbeskikking vir álle mense, geweld aangedoen.

In Desember 1947 het Brittanje aangekondig hy gaan op 15 Mei 1948 uit Palestina onttrek. Palestyne in Jerusalem en Jaffa het toe ’n protes teen die partisie uitgeroep en gevegte het feitlik onmiddellik in die strate van Jerusalem uitgebreek. In April 1948 was agt uit die 13 groot Sionistiese militêre aanvalle gemik op Palestyne in die gebied wat aan die Arabiese staat toegeken was.

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Met hul sterk militêre mag het die Europese Jode teen 15 Mei 1948 die meeste Arabiese stede in Palestina ingeneem. In teenstelling hiermee het die Palestyne nie beslag gelê op een van die gebiede wat deur partisie vir die Joodse staat gereserveer was nie.

Ná 15 Mei 1948 het die Arabiere toegetree tot die stryd, maar dit was die tweede fase van die oorlog – in reaksie op die massamoorde, uitsettings en onteiening wat oor tyd deur Sioniste aan hulle gedoen is. In hierdie tyd het ongeveer 700 000 Palestyne gevlug – van hulle is uitgedryf.

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index0093Palestyne herdenk die Nakba (Die Katastrofe) in Jerusalem.

In die winter van 1949 was meer as 750 000 Palestyne in ballingskap. In die koue het families in grotte, hutte en tente gebly – uitgehonger, dikwels binne sigafstand van hul eie groentetuine in Palestina, wat tóé deel is van die nuwe staat van Israel.

Sedert die Sesdaagse Oorlog van 1967 het Israel min gevoel vir internasionale wetgewing. Hulle het 52% van die grond in die Wesoewer beset en 30% van die Gasastrook, vir óf militêre gebruik óf die vestiging van Joodse burgers. Tans is dit veel meer.

Net tussen 1967 en 1982 het Israel se militêre regering 1 338 Palestynse huise op die Wesoewer vernietig. Sedertdien het hierdie vernietiging voortgegaan.

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Gedurende dieselfde tydperk is meer as 300 000 Palestyne sonder verhoor deur Israel se geheime magte aangehou.

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Die VN se Algemene Vergadering het hom intussen wel uitgespreek teen Israel se besetting van die Wesoewer, Oos-Jerusalem en Gasa – en teen Israel se ontkenning van selfbeskikking en dat dít ’n ernstige en groeiende bedreiging vir internasionale vrede en sekuriteit inhou.

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Die jongste geskiedenis is gekenmerk deur die bou van ’n sogenaamde “apartheidsmuur” tussen die Palestynse gebied in die Wesoewer, Oos-Jerusalem en Israel, met gepaardgaande inperking op die beweging van mense in hul eie staat. Palestynse huise, ander infrastruktuur en grond word in die Wes-oewer en Oos-Jerusalem onteien of vernietig en nuwe Israelse nedersettings brei steeds in die besette gebiede uit.

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Voorts is daar die onwettige verbruik van water deur Israelse setlaars en daarmee saam die inkorting van watervoorsiening aan die Palestyne in die Wesoewer, asook Israelse militêre intimidasie in die besette Palestynse gebiede.

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Dit lyk of Israel hul militêre stewels stewig in die gesig van die Palestyne wil hou. Dít is natuurlik olie op die konflik-vuur in Palestina.

Weerstandsbewegings word gevoed deur diskriminasie en menseregteskendings.

’n Mens kan weerwraak op grond van historiese onreg nooit regverdig nie, tóg sal dit ’n logiese gevolg wees – partykeer tot die uiterste gedryf, soos Hamas wat kort ná hul stigting in 1987 erken het hy wil Israel vernietig. Tog is dít nie genoem in sy Palestynse parlementsverkiesingsmanifes van 2006 nie.

Dit is nie goed genoeg dat politici net hierdie krisis bestuur nie, dit moet opgelos word. En dít kan slegs in ooreenstemming met internasionale wetgewing gebeur. Dit is al hoe ware, volhoubare vrede moontlik is. In hierdie opsig het Israel veral baie werk om te doen.

Soos gepubliseer op 24 Aug 2014 in Weekliks – Rapport.

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My brief oor Woolworths aan Die Burger wat nié geplaas is nie

Geagte Redakteur,

U berig ”Woolies wil nie sê wat die Moslem-boikot aan sy verkope doen” (DB, 01.10) noem nie dat ook Christene, nie-Sionistiese Jode en talle andere die vreedsame, wettige boikot teen Woolworths ondersteun nie. Dis deel van ‘n internasionale strategie soortgelyk aan dié een wat Suid-Afrikaanse apartheid help beëindig het.

Woolworths het handelsbande met Israel wat welbekend is vir menseregteskendings in die besette Palestynse gebied (Gaza, die Wes-Oewer en Oos-Jerusalem). Weerstand teen Israel behels nie ‘n protes teen Jode nie, maar teen ‘n beleid van grootskaalse menseregtevergrype.

Die veldtog van boikot, disinvestering en sanksies (BDS) teen Israel is die keuse van die meerderheid Palestynse burgerlikes (www.bdsmovement.net). So het die Gates Stigting onlangs al hul aandele in die G4S sekuriteitsmaatskappy verkoop, en plaaslik het Karstens Plase hul bande met die Israeliese uitvoerder Hadiklaim verbreek.

Woolworths sê hulle is ‘n etiese maatskappy. Tog voer hulle produkte soos pretsels, koeskoes, matzos, koljander en vrugte in van Israel. Woolworths sê hulle kom die wet na en hoef nie meer te doen nie. Wetgewing is egter net die basis van ‘n gemeenskap se moraliteit. Etiek begin waar die reg stop. As Woolworths regtig eties verantwoordbaar is, sal hulle gehoor gee aan die internasionale oproep om ekonomiese isolasie van Israel.

As Suid-Afrikaners hul identiteit as ‘n baken van hoop wil laat herleef, moet al die lae van ons samelewing met morele integriteit handel. Om handelsbande met Israel te handhaaf is net so onverantwoordelik soos om die Dalai Lama die land te weier.

Vriendelike groete,
Marthie Momberg

3 Oktober 2014

Yom Kippur: Why some South African Jews fasted for Gaza

Our religion and cultural beliefs require us to help repair the world. It is time the Jewish people as a whole begin engaging in our own version of liberation theology: Tikkun olam.

These are the words of a group of mostly South African Jews. They also said that religion means nothing if it does not serve justice. The group dedicated the most important dates on the Jewish calendar to reflect on what their Jewishness mean in light of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the recent bombing of Gaza.

This is how they explain their decision:

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The fast is a spiritual, social and political practice that is many thousands of years old. Most major religions and ethnicities practice some form of fasting whether it is a partial fast (the refusal of certain foods and drinks) or an absolute fast (the abstinence from all food and water).

Spiritually, its purpose usually includes forms of meditation or prayer, a physical cleansing, an interpersonal request for repentance, and an expression of solidarity with the poor.

In recent decades, however, the fast has also been transformed into an act of political activism and the long-term hunger strike has often come to be one of the most effective forms of civil disobedience out there. It is used both as an appeal to the oppressor’s conscience and also, more importantly, a method to galvanise supporters behind a specific social justice campaign. Most recently, the hunger strike successfully has been used by Palestinian political prisoners to call attention to their unjust incarceration. In some cases throughout the world, it has also helped stimulate popular action that has brought down authoritarian governments.

The holiday of Yom Kippur is widely accepted as the most important holiday on the Jewish calendar. On this day, we are requested to repent for all our wrong-doings during the previous year and resolve to not commit that transgression again in the future. If one is religious, one goes to Synagogue to pray and repent directly to God. However, even cultural non-religious Jews use the Yom Kippur fast as a time to reflect on where we have missed the mark, to correct wrongdoings and to mend relations with others.

However, one of the important points that many religious Jews make is that fasting and praying to God is not in fact the primary method of achieving atonement. Instead, being sincere about one’s regret for the wrong-doing and the rectification of one’s misconduct is fundamental (see also Isaiah, 58:1–13). This righting of wrongs should be done in the 10 days between Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur.

Since we have been raised and educated with the memory of the Holocaust which killed tens of millions of Jews, Roma, Homosexuals, Communists and others, we are acutely aware of the pitfalls of nationalism that seeks to place one group of people above all others. Nationalism therefore has no place in the Jewish community with its attempt to make reality the motto, The Chosen People, in the form of Zionism. We don’t believe that there is anyone who is ‘chosen’. We are all people with the responsibility to do right by others whether they find themselves in the Warsaw ghetto, physically imprisoned in Gaza or economically confined in South African townships.

At the forefront of wrongs we need to right, is the ongoing mainstream Jewish support for the Israeli colonisation of Palestine and its continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This is being done in our name, and we have not done enough to stop it. It is for this reason that we believe that Gaza is the most urgent issue for us to reflect on this Yom Kippur. We will be going out and physically fasting and raising money for those in Gaza who have suffered unconscionable horrors.

Religion is inherently a political construct. This fact has been recognised by liberation theologists who believe that religion is nothing unless it is in the service of justice. Antisemitic and Racist churches played major roles in upholding the Nazi regime and Apartheid respectively. In contrast, liberation theology has long played an emancipatory role against oppression. During apartheid, progressive churches and mosques became key sites of political organising and in Latin America, rogue Catholic priests helped mobilise and protect the population against oppressive dictators.

Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who South Africa hosted in our country following the US coup in Haiti, has said “It is better not to believe than to believe in a miracle from heaven…there is no Messiah other than the people”. With this he sought to say that religion’s relevance is in its fight against injustice and that God would see this as the true purpose of religion.

Dedicating our Yom Kippur fast to the people of Gaza follows this line of thinking. Unlike the dominant Zionist organisations, some of whom preach ethnic and religious nationalism and the bombing of Gaza directly from the bimah (the Jewish equivalent of a pulpit), our beliefs are based on tolerance, inclusivity and social justice. We think that this is what Judaism, and Yom Kippur in particular, is all about.

Case in point is the prophetic reading recited on the morning of Yom Kippur which in fact denounces people who fast as a substitute for working for social justice.

We have dedicated our fast to raising money for the Gaza Community Mental Health Program – a well-known and respected organisation founded by the first psychiatrist in the Gaza Strip, Dr Eyad el Sarraj. The GCMHP is renowned for helping Palestinians move beyond their collective trauma to recognise the basic humanity of all human beings.

Yet it is not good enough for us merely to give charity to such an important cause. Tzedakah, in its biblical conception, is about much more than this. It embodies the theology that Jews are obligated – rather than asked – to seek economic and social justice with the oppressed.

Our religion and cultural beliefs require us to help repair the world. It is time the Jewish people as a whole begin engaging in our own version of liberation theology: Tikkun olam.

Jared Sacks
Benjamin Fogel
Heidi Grunebaum
Lauren Segal (USA)
Koni Benson
Emma Daitz
Monique Marks
Steven Friedman
Ru Slayen
Rina King
Jill Chamsa
Janet Brenda Shapiro
Anonymous 1
Anonymous 2

The following non-Jews  fasted in solidarity with us:
Saydoon Nisa Sayed
Nina Butler
Clint Le Bruyns

Yom Kippur 2014 began in the evening of Friday, October 3 and ended in the evening of Saturday, October 4.

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SWIFT sanctions against Israel

It is called the “ultimate sanction that would really hurt”. It worked in South Africa. It can work in Israel too. Swift sanctions against Israeli banks will isolate Israel from the world system of trading. Israeli banks will be unable to pay for imports or receive payment for exports.

Fellow Capetonian activist Terry Crawford-Browne used to be an international banker. Yet when South Africa was on the brink of a civil war in the 1980s, he became an activist. At the time he used his expertise to implement Swift sanctions against South Africa.

The importance of this intervention cannot be underestimated. The SWIFT sanctions were a game-changer. They were powerful, effective, immediate and they gave impetus to the non-violent resistance in South Africa. Now Terry advocates for a smiliar step against Israel.

The Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication system, known as Swift, is a secure messaging system used by more than 10,500 banks for international money transfers. Swift sanctions are also considered against Russia – as a “the ultimate sanction that would really hurt”. Read the article here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFour South African ecumenical accompaniers who served in the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). From left to right: Marthie Momberg, Terry Crawford-Browne, Corbin August and Carol Martin. The photo was taken in the South African Parliament on 6 February 2014.

You can listen to Terry explaining his plan on YouTube, and/or you can read a shorter version of his recent talk in Istanbul at the IPRA conference:

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SWIFT SANCTIONS AGAINST ISRAELI BANKS

by Terry Crawford-Browne

The international banking sanctions campaign launched in October 1985 by Bishop Desmond Tutu, Dr Allan Boesak and Dr Beyers Naude became the tipping point in South Africa’s relatively peaceful transformation from apartheid to constitutional democracy. It was a nonviolent strategy intended to avert a looming civil war. International trade and sports boycotts and numerous resolutions at the United Nations had created conscientiousness about apartheid, but in themselves could not defeat the system. The critical factor was the role of the US dollar as settlement currency in foreign exchange markets. Without access to the New York bank payment system, apartheid South Africa would be unable to pay for imports or receive payment for exports even from third countries such as Germany or Japan.

Under the “adopt-a-bank” strategy, the church leaders applied their influence with American churches to pressure the major New York banks to choose the banking business of apartheid South Africa or the pension fund business of the respective Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian and other denominations. The City of New York later added the choice between the City’s payroll accounts or the banking business of apartheid South Africa. Even the Bush (senior) administration in October 1989 surprisingly issued an ultimatum to demand compliance by the apartheid government by February 1990 of the first three of five conditions, namely: (a) the end of the state of emergency, (b) release of political prisoners and (c) unbanning of political organisations.

That was the background to President FW de Klerk’s announcement on 2 February 1990. Mr de Klerk has subsequently conceded that the threat contained in that ultimatum to close off all South African access to the American financial system motivated his decision to release Nelson Mandela and to begin constitutional negotiations. The fourth and fifth objectives of the banking sanctions campaign were: (d) repeal of apartheid legislation and (e) constitutional negotiations towards a democratic, non-racial and united South Africa.

[…]

Three decades later, banking technology has advanced dramatically. The pressure point in the international payments system is no longer in New York, but is now at the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) which is headquartered in Belgium. In essence, SWIFT is a giant computer cooperatively owned by 10 500 international banks in 215 countries that daily authenticates interbank payment instructions for more than 20 million international financial transactions. SWIFT’s function has been to replace the cumbersome and labour-intensive authentication system traditionally known as “testing,” which verifies the payment instructions of correspondent banks.

SWIFT is overseen by the central banks of the G10 countries, with the National Bank of Belgium being the lead overseeing authority. Every participating bank has a SWIFT code, the fifth and sixth letters of which identifies the country of domicile. As examples, South African banks are identified by the letters ZA; Israeli banks by the letters IL.

The impact of SWIFT is such that a bank that is not part of the SWIFT network is essentially excluded from the international financial payments system. Banking is the lifeblood of any economy. Just as all South African banks were complicit in funding and upholding the apartheid system, so too the role of Israeli banks is fundamental to the Israeli government’s illegal occupation of Palestine. Money laundering and financial crimes are now regarded as serious international threats, and thanks to forensic auditing can increasingly be traced and identified. In fact, given the advances in technology, Israel is much more vulnerable to a banking sanctions campaign than was apartheid South Africa during the 1980s.

Israeli banks fund the construction both the “apartheid wall” and the settlements, which the International Court of Justice in 2004 found to be illegal in terms of international law. The banks provide heavily subsidised mortgages to induce over 700 000 Israelis to live in illegal settlements such as Ma’ale Adumin, Har Homa and Zufrim as well as providing regular banking services in those communities. Israeli banks are also a critical factor in repatriating the financial proceeds to Israel of blood diamonds, drug trafficking and Israeli arms exports, all of which are crucial to the Israeli economy.

Just as South African banks during the apartheid era were actively engaged in “sanctions-busting,” so too Israeli banks all blatantly participate in illegal transactions under the guise of “national security.” It is impossible to separate legitimate transactions of Israeli banks from illegal transactions that violate international laws on money laundering and war profiteering. Accordingly, all transactions to and from Israeli banks must be deemed to contravene banking protocols such as international obligations imposed on financial institutions to “know your customer”(KYC) and other due diligence procedures to mitigate financial crimes.

Major international banks such as JP Morgan Chase, BNP Paribas, HSBC, Barclays Bank, Credit Suisse have recently been heavily fined for failures to meet such obligations. Seventeen European governments, including the Belgian government, in June 2014 warned their citizens of the reputational and other risks involved in financial transactions to and from the settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. All countries, even including the United States, regard the Israeli settlements as illegal.

Norwegian, Danish and Dutch pension funds and banks are already blacklisting Israeli banks. SWIFT declares itself to be “neutral” in respect of sanctions. Since sanctions often only apply in certain but not all jurisdictions, SWIFT cannot voluntarily suspend transactions unless regulations are enacted by laws of its home jurisdiction, namely Belgium and the European Union (EU). To date, the EU government statements about financial transactions with the settlements are warnings rather than regulations, but the “writing is increasingly on the wall.” The image of the banking industry is currently poor, and SWIFT and its 10 500 members would certainly not wish to be publicly identified as complicit with Israeli war crimes.

Given these developments. SWIFT earlier this year has expanded its operations to include compliance management registry, including sanctions screening and testing. To this purpose, SWIFT will conduct a two day conference in Boston, USA during 30 September to 1 October to establish standards to assist banks in addressing financial crime compliance regulations. This registry is expected to go live at the end of 2014.

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP) — which met in Barcelona, London, Cape Town, New York and Brussels between 2010 and 2013 – has already collated a huge volume of evidence on Israeli government violations of international law, including that its behaviour towards Palestinians meets the legal criteria of apartheid as a crime against humanity.

The recent Israeli bombardment of Gaza prompted the United Nations Human Rights Council on 23 July 2014 to establish a commission of inquiry on Israeli war crimes. Similarly, the RToP has now decided to establish an extra, extraordinary session to be held in Brussels during 24 and 25 September 2014 to investigate the implications of the latest Israeli war crimes in Gaza. Just as the campaign against apartheid was driven by international civil society, so too it is now imperative for civil society to apply pressure upon EU governments to meet their obligations in respect of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Given the outrage over the disproportionate and illegal Israeli government actions in Gaza, there is increasing recognition of the need for a permanent resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indisputably, just as the international community judged apartheid in South Africa to be a threat to world peace, so too is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Israeli government is a repeated violator of international law including the Geneva Conventions. SWIFT sanctions against Israeli banks offer a nonviolent instrument in the cause of peace in the Middle East to balance the scales between Israelis and Palestinians so that, unlike the failed US “peace process” and the Egyptian-brokered ceasefires, meaningful negotiations become possible.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign, which is supported by the broad spectrum of Palestinian society, has endorsed a proposal of SWIFT sanctions against Israeli banks. The proposal calls upon the EU governments and other members of the international community to require SWIFT to suspend transactions to and from Israeli (IL) banks until the Israeli government:

1. Agrees to relinquish its nuclear weapons, and to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty,
2. Agrees to release immediately all Palestinian political prisoners,
3. Agrees to end its occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem, plus Gaza, and that it will dismantle the “apartheid wall,”
4. Recognises the fundamental rights of Arab Palestinians will full equality in Israel-Palestine,
5. Acknowledges the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

Being directed at Israeli banks, SWIFT sanctions are targeted at the financial and political elites who have the influence and clout to alert and warn the Israeli government of the consequences of financial isolation from the international community. The intention is not to destroy the Israeli economy but, instead, to bring the highly militarised Israeli government to its senses. Once the Israeli government agrees to these conditions, SWIFT sanctions can immediately be reversed in order to minimize economic damage to the Israeli economy.

Terry Crawford-Browne
19 August 2014

Op soek na die waarheid

Op die vyftigste dag van die uitmergelende 2014 konflik tussen Israel en Gaza het ‘n groepie van vyf kerklidmate na ‘n DVD, Roadmap to Apartheid gekyk. Dié lede van die Fontaineblue Gemeenskapskerk (lid van die NG Kerk) wou graag meer verstaan van die konflik tussen Palestina en Israel. Dit mag onbeduidend klink – dit was immers net vyf mense. Tog het ek geleer dat ‘n verskuiwing in persepsies juis so kan begin – met een of twee mense wat kritiese, eerlike vrae vra.

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So skryf Ds Johan Pieters, leraar van die gemeente, op Fontianeblue Gemeenskapskerk se webblad oor die rol van Afrikaans-sprekende witmense en die soeke na waarheid:

Soos dit met hierdie kontroversiёle sake gaan is daar soveel mense, soveel menings. FGK se styl met kontroversiёle sake (soos homoseksualiteit, die bestaan van die bose, Belhar, saam-woon en die huwelik) is om te erken dat daar verskillende standpunte is. Ons glo ons taak is om te probeer om mekaar te verstaan, en dalk so ‘n gemeenskaplike konsensus te ontwikkel. Gesprek oor Israel-Palestina is dus ook nodig.

Wat het ek so ver geleer deur na die DVD te kyk en daaroor met mede-lidmate te gesels?

Dit het algemeen geword om Israel se optrede “Apartheid” te noem. Blykbaar is Sen. John Kelly die persoon wat eerste keer die vergelyking getref het, maar dr. HF Verwoerd het al in die 60’er jare al oor Israel as ‘n Apartheidstaat gepraat. Die video gebruik ons Apartheidsgeskiedenis om die Israel-Palestina konflik, en die impak daarvan op mense, in perspektief te stel.

Die eerste saak is dat ons, veral Afrikaans-sprekende wit mense (jammer vir die etiketering), hierdie konflik moet probeer verstaan. Ek is oortuig dat ons nie net anders na ons eie geskiedenis gaan kyk nie – en daarmee bedoel ek nie dat ons onsself nou nog meer moet treiter en aan self-veroordeling moet deelneem nie. Ek dink ‘n poging om die konflik te verstaan kan ons selfs help met ‘n stuk genesing en perspektief oor wat met ons gebeur het, insig in wat ons blindekolle was. Die vrug kan wees dat ons met groter deernis na albei partye se posisie kan kyk.

Die tweede saak wat my bybly, is die vraag na die waarheid. Hoe kies ek “kant” in ‘n situasie waar daar soveel teenstrydige perspektief en aansprake op feite is? Feite wat ek baie moeilik kan kontroleer. Vir my lyk die antwoord dat ek ‘n geloofskeuse moet maak. So ‘n geloofskeuse het nie te doen met ek “glo” Israel, of ek “glo” Hamas is “reg” nie. Dit het te make met ‘n keuse wat versoenbaar is met ons Godsbegrip – wat natuurlik self ook nie ‘n eenvoudige saak is nie. Die geloofsuitspraak wat ek maak is: “Ek glo dat God ‘n God van lewe is”, daarom moet ek wat die saak betref keuses maak wat “lewe” sal bevorder. Met lewe bedoel ek nie maar net fisies lewe nie, maar ‘n lewe wat met waardigheid geleef kan word, in gehoorsaamheid aan ‘n roeping, met betekenis en ideale geleef kan word – natuurlik sluit dit in dat daar ook toegang moet wees tot die middele om so ‘n lewe te kan leef.

Ek dink nie dat die konflik vir enige burger van Israel of Palestina ‘n moontlikheid van so ‘n lewe bied nie. Die konflik is ‘n konteks van dood vir albei groepe – net soos Apartheid ‘n konteks van dood was vir wit en swart in Suid-Afrika. Ek is wel oortuig dat (selfs al is die DVD net 50% akkuraat) die Palestyne in hierdie konflik die weerloses is, en dat God op ‘n “besondere manier” (as ek Belhar se formulering mag gebruik) aan die kant van die armes, swakkes en weerloses is. Die sterker een, die een met die mag in hierdie konflik is Israel. Hulle word deur God geroep om aan God se kant te wees, m.a.w. om saam met God by die Palestyne te staan.

Hierdie konflik is veel meer as net ‘n reaksie op “Hamas het drie Israeli tieners doodgemaak, en daarom het Israel gereageer.” (Terloops dit is nog ‘n ope vraag of dit regtig Hamas was wat die tieners doodgemaak het!) Dit is ‘n dekade-oue konflik oor saam-leef en saam-bestaan, dit is ‘n konflik oor aspirasies en vrese, oor vryheid en veiligheid, oor identiteit en mens-wees. Dit is dalk so eenvoudig soos: Hoe kyk ek na jou? Is jy ‘n mens of nie, iemand of ‘n niemand?

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Die foto’s in hierdie stuk is in Oktober 2011 geneem in die Wes-Oewer, Palestina. Die fotograaf is Jan-Egil Bergh van Noorweë wat destyds saam met my menseregte-oortredinge gemoniteer het. (EAPPI is ‘n program van die Wêreldraad van Kerke. EAPPI program = Ecumenical Accompaniment in Palestine and Israel.)

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The war of words in uncovering the truth about Palestine: Edwin Arrison and Charles Villa Vicencio

In South Africa, apartheid propaganda was ultimately cracked by the alternative media and some brave local and international journalists. This article was written by two leading South Africans:

The Power of Truth in Palestine

by Edwin Arrison and Charles Villa Vicencio

edwinEdwin Arrison

charles

History has a capacity to repeat itself, as seen in much of the media reporting on Israel’s attacks on civilians in Gaza and, now, the West Bank. The first casualty of war is invariably truth, driven by the spin of the aggressor. Writing in a different situation, the late Chinua Achebe observed: “Until the lion learns to speak, the tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter”. The level of energy expended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Defence Force and their acolytes around the world in ‘explaining’ Israeli aggression is reminiscent of the response of the apartheid government to the atrocities of its forces during the anti-apartheid struggle. Remember the bluster of PW Botha and the Muldersgate Information Scandal?

Apartheid propaganda was ultimately cracked by the alternative media and some very brave journalists in the mainstream media at home and abroad. Public opinion slowly began to change and today fewer and fewer people claim ever to have supported apartheid! This came at a huge cost. The Sowetan was banned in 1977 and its editor Percy Qoboza imprisoned. The Rand Daily Mail was closed in March 1985 and Anton Harber started the Weekly Mail, now Mail & Guardian. Max du Preez and Jacque Pauw launched the Vrye Weekblad in November 1988, which was driven into bankruptcy in February 1994 by legal costs that rose from defending its accusation that poison was being supplied to the security police to kill activists. Numerous community newspapers were banned or driven out of business.

The power of the pen penetrates slowly but ultimately undermines mainstream propaganda. It succeeds even when it fails. In the words of Emily Dickinson, “the truth must dazzle gradually … or all the world would be blind.”

The Standing for the Truth campaign in the 1980s exposed the abuses of the South Africa security forces. Groups within the church prayed for the “downfall of the government” in a high-profile campaign, the Belhar Confession declared apartheid to be a heresy in 1982 and the 1985 Kairos Document exposed the hypocrisy of both “church theology” and the use of religion in “state theology” to justify apartheid and security force atrocities. Grassroots South Africans were mobilised, calling for the country to be made ungovernable. The boycott of South African goods, a ban on the sale of weapons to the South Africa state and an economic disinvestment campaign spread around the world. Eventually, even Margaret Thatcher’s government in the United Kingdom and the Reagan administration in the United States of America (USA) called the South African government to heal – primarily, out of self-interest as street protests, campus unrest and boardroom challenges intensified.

Signs are beginning to emerge of similar trends against Israel’s recalcitrance and claims of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Anglican Prayer Book includes liturgy for the renewal of baptismal vows that calls us to turn our backs on the “father of all lies”. The unmasking of truth is a requirement for Christians who seek to live out their baptismal promises.

The spread of technology on a mass scale constitutes a major step forward in the pursuit of peace, with Twitter and Facebook opening the way for new levels of “Citizen Journalism”. This helps to counter some of the propaganda that undermines the quest for truth, with several sites committing themselves to valuable fact-checking on media releases that accompany the episodes of violence in Gaza – as well as reports on social media. Someone observed: “You are entitled to your own opinions but not to your own facts!”

The struggle for press freedom in Israel and among Israelis living abroad continues, and the response of spokespersons for the Israeli government intensifies against them. Responding to the January 2009 Gaza War, Gerald Kauffman, a prominent back-bencher in the British parliament, whose parents fled Poland and whose ailing grandmother was shot dead in her bed by Nazis, insisted that she “did not die to provide cover for the killing of grandmothers in Gaza”. He was branded a self-hating Jew at the time, but undeterred and exasperated, he has liked the current activities of Israeli soldiers to those of the Nazis. The strident voice of Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, is similarly dismissed in his exposure of the abusive use of religion to promote ultra-nationalist propaganda by some Zionists “who do not believe in God but believe [God] gave them Palestine.” The language-game intensifies and the list of ‘self-hating Jews’ grows ever-longer. Someone recently indeed suggested that even Jesus Christ would today have been called a self-hating Jew and anti-Semite.

There are also brave journalists that in balanced and restrained ways expose the atrocities of the Israeli invasion in a graphic manner. Channel Four’s Jon Snow describes the impossibility of not killing children as Israeli bombs and mortar-fire are used in Gaza City and its surrounds, hitting schools, make-shift clinics and UN facilities. The Washington Post reports on Israeli reservists refusing to be part of the invasion. The increase of such reporting in the United States of America, the European Union and the Gulf States has led to marches and protests in the major cities in these countries. This ultimately increases the pressure on pro-Israeli governments to rethink their support for Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights and political integrity.

In the meantime, the war of words, accusations and counter-accusations continues, while desperate deeds multiply. This is a context within which one asks why Hamas continues to fire rockets into the steel dome protecting Israel. It is a strategy that Israel exploits to its own benefit. The overkill of Israel in the slaughter of civilians is, however, even more perplexing. Palestinian children, who have never know peace in their entire lives are being killed, parents and family members fight back and a generation of desperate young people is being socially-engineered into determined enemies of Israel. With each child killed, a new wave of retaliation is unleashed.

The old adage that if you have the capacity to tell a lie consistently enough, it will be regarded as the truth, is only partly true. The Israeli propaganda war is being increasingly undermined by the ‘tales of the hunted’, as was the case in media reports of the killing of Hector Peterson, Ashley Kriel and other brave martyrs in the South African struggle.

The reality is that there are more Western interests at stake in the Middle East than there are in South Africa, tucked away on this southern tip of Africa. It is also clear that some Gulf States are offering support to Israel as a way of pursuing their own interests in the broader Sunni-Shite conflict. These realities make the Palestinian conflict a more difficult one to overcome than the struggle against apartheid. War, violence and slaughter is likely to ebb and flow in Palestine for the foreseeable future and this has a capacity to wear down even Israel’s loyalist supporters. It is not going to go away until Palestinian human rights are recognised, borders are opened and the democratic rights of Palestinians are recognised in the land of their birth. The apartheid government was forced to concede this reality.

So what is the way forward?

  • Support for an unconditional cease-fire between Israel and Palestine, executed under even-handed international supervision, with an irrevocable timetable for delivery on the lifting of the Israeli siege, the opening of borders and the beginning of a peace process in an ever-intensifying conflict.
  • An immediate start of unconditional negotiations between the authentic, elected leaders of both Israel and the Palestinians, which includes Hamas. Like them or not, Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections, and currently Hamas and the Fatah faction of Palestinian Authority are exploring rapprochement initiatives.
  • The exposure of the truth underpinning a conflict that has endured since 1946. This needs to include the squeezing of Palestinians into ever-smaller pieces of land, reminiscent of South African Bantustans.
  • The end to Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Israel already occupies 78% of what was formerly called Palestine, while continuing to build illegal settlements on the West Bank. This squeezes the Palestinian people out of their own land, making a two-state solution increasingly impossible.
  • Solidarity with the Palestinian people as reflected in the Palestinian Kairos Document.
  • In the absence of an agreed seize-fire, accompanied by a timetable for lasting peace, there needs to be unqualified support for the boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. This is one of the few viable ways of supporting the non-violent campaign of the Palestinian people. Failure to do this makes us complicit in the violence that continues to unfold in Gaza and the West Bank.
  • Remembering that the United Nations declared apartheid to be a crime against humanity, campaigns need to be intensified to ensure that Israel’s policies in the occupied territories are dealt with in a similar manner.
  • Truth, resistance, solidarity and unfettered negotiations are limited endeavours. They offer no quick-fix. They do provide a modest alternative to war. What is clear, is that the churches have a responsibility to stand with people of other faiths and all people committed to truth and human dignity to affirm the words of Nelson Mandela: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” We can say no less, and commit ourselves to act accordingly.
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South African march for Palestine: all expectations exceeded!

We hoped 100 000 people would join the march for Gaza on 9 August 2014. We were wrong!

While an accurate number of participants is not readily available, a Mail & Guardian photographer in attendance estimated there were “well over 100 000, possible even close to 200 000 people”. There is no doubt that the massive march was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, the city has ever seen.

People came from different parts of the country – Benoni, Lenasia, Johannesburg, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth and many other places. When the first marchers were half way up Adderley Street in the city centre, the tail had still to leave the starting point in Keizergracht.

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What a day. Imagine all these women, men and children walking side by side, singing together….”we are marching, we are marching, we are marching…..” and chanting “free Palestine!”

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Whilst the city started to fill up with people hours before the march started, the organising committee gathered at the St George’s Cathedral in the city bowl to pray before the proceedings:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATwo members of the National Coalition for Palestine’s (NC4P) steering committee with the Palestinian Ambassador to South Africa. From left to right: Moulana Abdul Khalique Allie from the Muslim Judicial Council, Rev Edwin Arrison from Kairos Southern Africa, Abdel Hafiz Nofal from the Palestinian Embassy.

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As we left the St George’s Cathedral to join the procession in Keizergracht, the streets not earmarked to be part of the march, were already lined with protesters:

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Nobel Laureate, retired Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, talked to the audience in his own special way before we marched:

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He accused Israel of behaving like a “barbaric bully” in Gaza. He also said that violence leads to violence, and rejecting the oppressive Israeli regime does not mean rejecting Jews. “We are not against Jews” he said as the crowd cheered him.

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We were indeed joined by a group of Jews – also to the loud cheer of the crowd:

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The march was led by cyclists, a brigade and drummers.

“We’re from Burundi, but we’ve come to add our voices,” said the spokesman of the drummers, who wore a T-shirt with the words “Africans understand colonialism” emblazoned across the front.

 

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On our arrival at the South African Parliament, we handed our petition to Mr Mandla Mandela, a member of Parliament. We asked for decisive action from the South African government against the Israeli attacks, killings, displacement and destruction of the Gaza Strip; and an international inquiry into the conduct of the Israeli forces in targeting and destroying humanitarian infrastructure in Gaza. Several speakers also asked for the Israeli Ambassador to be expelled.

We as South Africans expressed our unity with Palestine. As a colleague said, maybe our government has not yet cut ties with Israel, but the people of this country have done so. The boycott of Woolworths also continues.

The peaceful, disciplined march was without any incidents. It was organised by the newly formed National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P) which consists of 30 religious and civil society organisations, trade unions and political parties.

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