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FULL ADDRESS: Kairos SA to Parliament

Parliament 2

PREPARED FOR: Solidarity Conference in support of the People of Cuba, Western Sahara and Palestine: South African Parliament, Cape Town, 6 February 2014.

TOPIC: Palestine: Intensifying the struggle for self-determination and efforts to bring about a lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, by Marthie Momberg.

Introduction

Honourable Mr Magama, Members of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Chair, Distinguished Guests: Thank you for this opportunity to present the views of Kairos Southern Africa.

Kairos Southern Africa is an ecumenical voice on local and international issues of justice from within the broader Christian community. We are connected to Kairos movements worldwide that are all inspired by the liberation theology tabled in the 1985 South African Kairos document.[1] This includes Kairos Palestine and its declaration of steadfast faith, hope and love from within the suffering of Palestinians.[2]

Our Christian message is that we need to love our enemy. In the spirit of this message we want to overcome the dualism that enables separatism. We recognise the humanity of both the oppressor and the oppressed, and our actions are informed by our vision for a reconciled, just peace between Israel and Palestine. This does not mean that we are prepared to compromise our message of vigorously opposing injustice.

Just over a year ago, Kairos Southern Africa accompanied a group of senior clergy from South Africa to Palestine and Israel. On their return, they declared that it “felt like walking into another apartheid ambush”. The group included the heads of the Methodist and the Uniting Presbyterian Churches, the Secretary General of the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa, the Deputy Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church, and a representative of the South African youth. I read from their media statement:

We affirm the right to security, self-determination and dignity for both the Palestinians and the Israelis. Real security is only possible through the exercise of justice. We are conscious how a literal reading of the Bible, one where the Israel of the Old Testament is confused with the State of Israel, can result in the oppression of people. We confirm that the crisis in the Holy Land is in essence not a religious conflict, but a political crisis brought about by the violation of international law.  As South Africans we believe we have a moral obligation to speak up and to stand with the oppressed.  We do not want to side against the Israelis, but we do want to uphold international law and fight against any form of injustice.”[3]

Today you will hear central themes from this message in our argument to support our request to the South African government.

  1. Whom do we regard as the People of Palestine?
  • Before the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, the land called Palestine was populated by several groups: descendants of Arab Muslims from the vast Arab/Islamic empire that dominated Palestine from the seventh century; Arab Christians who were the descendants of the world’s first Christians; and small indigenous Jewish communities that were remnants of Palestine’s ancient Jewish kingdom. These people were all Semites who lived together in harmony until the Western Jews began arriving in the late nineteenth century. Some of these Jews sought a safe haven, but some sought land to conquer.
  • After the wars of 1948[4] and 1967, we call the following people Palestinians: the 4.4 million people in the occupied Palestinian territories (i.e. the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem), the more than 6 million people who became refugees as a result of these wars and who are prohibited by Israel to return,[5] and the 1.4 million people who reside in Israel,[6] where more than 50 laws regulate their status at every level of life, relegating them to second-class citizens, based on ethnic and religious identity. Approximately three-quarters of the entire Palestinian population worldwide are refugees. All of them, Muslims and Christians alike, are our concern. The over half a million Israeli settlers in the occupied territories are not Palestinians, but illegal inhabitants in breach of international law[7] who nevertheless receive preferential treatment from Israel as the occupying force.

                 2.   What do we mean by intensifying the struggle?

If showing solidarity with the oppressed means merely issuing declarations, we say it is not enough.  If we as South Africans embrace the concept of Ubuntu, which emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes as part of our essential humanity as we participate and share in a network of interdependence and togetherness,[8] then we cannot confine ourselves to mere talk. We have to be much more actively involved.

Moreover, South Africans have a moral obligation to act, given our history of apartheid. Did the world not actively help to demolish our apartheid through boycotts, divestment and sanctions? Now the Palestinian Christians have asked the South African Christian community directly to act against Israel’s unjust regime.

What would constitute an appropriate response? Let us consider the options of a small entity occupied by a regional military super-power backed by the USA:

  • ­Is violent resistance against the violence of occupation a viable option? In 1985, the Kairos Document of 1985 recognised the violence of apartheid as the primary violence which elicited violent resistance from the liberation movements. The Kairos Document then, as Kairos Southern Africa does now, does not advocate violence. Instead we strongly advocate vigorous non-violent resistance.[9] We agree with the views of the delegates at the Kairos for Global Justice conference[10] who declared that:

“[s]ilence is an opinion. Inaction is an action … failure to resist the Israeli government…makes us accomplices in crimes against humanity, such as the crimes of apartheid and persecution as described in international law”.

  • ­What about negotiations? Israel claims that it wants peace and does enter into negotiations, but insofar as it does enter into negotiations, Israel does so in bad faith, as Israel continues, at the same time, to expand its settlements. Is there currently enough pressure to ensure that both sides will bring all parties to the table and honour international law and the outcomes of an agreement? We do not think so. The USA can hardly be seen as an honest and impartial broker in the peace talks between Israel and Palestine. Israel receives 25 per cent of the entire US foreign aid budget. Since 1976, Israel has remained the highest recipient of US foreign aid in the world.[11] Phyllis Bennis from the Institute for Policy Studies in the USA said that if the USA were serious about peace, it would tell Israel: “Stop building your settlements on Palestinian land.” Granted, the USA has made this request many times. If Israel continues to respond by refusing (as Israel has been doing all along), and if the USA is serious, it should then stop (1) funding to the State of Israel, and (2) protecting Israel in the United Nations. But the USA says and does none of this. The current negotiations are not bringing Palestine and Israel and the world closer to a viable peace.
  • ­Finally what about the option of non-violent resistance in the form of boycotts, divestment and sanctions? This is indeed what the civil society of Palestine called for in 2005.[12]

As South Africans, we should understand the urgency and the importance of Palestine’s appeal in the light of our own history. During the darkest hours of South African apartheid, an ecumenical group of South African theologians called the deepening crisis a Kairos moment of truth. They highlighted the danger of using literal, fundamentalist Biblical interpretations to rationalise theologies of oppression and state power. Such a Kairos moment, one which is decisive in history, may pass us by if we do not act timeously.

We are now faced by yet another form of apartheid, this time by Israel. We should note that  it is not considered apartheid in terms of what happened in South Africa, but is classified as a crime against humanity as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and as described by, for example, the Russell Tribunal and South Africa’s HSRC.[13]  We do not carry the responsibility of all history. We are responsible for our times. In that sense this opportunity is unique, it is for us to see, understand, and act upon, through non-violent means.[14]

However, the non-violent option of boycotts, divestment and sanctions is not favoured by pro-Israeli supporters. They tell us the situation is “complex” and that a “balanced approach” is necessary, hoping to lock their opponents into endless discussions to paralyse them. Their arguments also suggest that the two sides of the story carry equal weight and should be treated accordingly. Nothing could be further from the truth. How can Israel say that it wants peace, and simultaneously declare the construction of more settlement units, continue to build its Wall on Palestinian land, and continue all its other atrocities? Zionists argue that the people of Israel are “God’s chosen people” and that the “Promised Land” (which includes Palestine) was given to the Jewish people by God. They do not distinguish between the Biblical entity and the modern nation-state. They choose to read religious texts in a literal, divisive way in their justification of Israel’s attempt to transform the transnational and extraterritorial Jewish identity into a national, ethnocratic identity where Jewish citizens have more rights than others to establish political and economic control over the land.[15]  Like the South African theologians in 1985 who found the principles of love, inclusivity and pluralism in the Bible, rather than division, we reject fundamentalism and exclusivist interpretations of religious scriptures.

When one argues from the perspective of international law, the situation is actually very, very clear. Both Palestine and Israel need to adhere to international law, UN resolutions and other applicable legal rulings. Admittedly, there are periodically some incidents of illegal violence targeted at civilians by Palestinians, but these cannot be compared to Israel’s dedicated, discriminatory, systematic, systemic, institutionalised oppression of the Palestinians, which violates international law every single day and on multiple levels.[16]

The Israeli regime is in breach of legal aspects such as those belonging to the special regime of occupation, international human rights law,[17] international humanitarian law as specified in the four Geneva Conventions,[18] as well as various rulings by the International Court of Justice and resolutions by the United Nations’ Security Council.[19]

When South African apartheid violated human rights, the world quite rightly did not call for a “balanced approach” to the differences between the apartheid regime and the oppressed – the world condemned such practices unequivocally, as it should when human rights are violated in Israel/Palestine today.

3.         Kairos Southern Africa’s views on self-determination

We also support the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination in line with what international law allows. With regard to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, we want to highlight five points:

  • All violence against all civilians, Palestinian or Israeli, must end.
  • Israel, a country that calls itself a democracy, must stop its discrimination on the basis of race, religion or any other factor against its Arab citizens.  Israel must be held accountable for its violations of human rights.
  • The more than six million Palestinian refugees have a legal right to return. A resolution of this matter consistent with international law and equity is necessary.
  • The Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem must end. Until such time as this occupation does end, Israel as the occupying power must protect the Palestinian civilian population, administer the territory for their benefit, as specified by international law, and stop confiscating Palestinian land and resources under the pretext of “security”, or for any other reason.
  • The USA should not be the only broker in the peace negotiations and deals. In this respect the UN needs to meet its responsibilities.

Palestine has been under military occupation since 1967 – for 47 years. However the illegal confiscation of Palestinian land started through the actions of Jewish militia  before the State of Israel was declared in 1948. Since 1948 Israel’s land confiscation continues until this day as indicated by this map:

Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian Land: 1946 to 2014

The illegal ways by which Israel occupies the Palestinian territories effectively diminishes the possibility of self-determination. We are appalled that Israel uses its occupying power to take more and more land from the Palestinians whilst simultaneously destroying Palestinian infrastructure and making living conditions unbearable for Palestinians.[20]

In Gaza, the situation has reached an inhumane level. The living conditions, the depletion of livelihoods, and the decline in services and infrastructure for education, healthcare and water/sanitation are dire as a result of deliberate destruction. Miko Peled, a Jewish Israeli who served in the Israeli Defence Force, argues that Israel’s assaults on Gaza are part of a continuous campaign that started more than six decades ago with the infamous Unit 101, led by the late Ariel Sharon.[21] It is one of the most densely populated areas on earth, it now doubles up as an open air prison, since Israel controls the air space, the coastline and all land entrances to this area. There is no escape. A one-ton Israeli bomb can destroy an entire city block – on the first day of the Operation Cast Lead in December 2008, Israel dropped 100 tons of bombs on Gaza.[22]

In East Jerusalem and in the West Bank, Israel routinely demolishes houses, water wells and cisterns, roads, schools, animal shelters and other infrastructure; Israel displaces whole communities without offering them alternatives; the majority of Palestinians may not maintain or upgrade their own infrastructure; Israel confiscates valuable agricultural land in order to continue its building of the illegal Israeli Wall and settlements, and the movement of Palestinians is restricted by means of a series of checkpoints.[23]Amongst the many examples of double standards are the different roads for Israelis and Palestinians, and differences in the allocation of water resources and access to electricity. There is a military court for West Bank Palestinians and a civilian court for Israeli settlers. In these military courts, Palestinian children as young as 12 years old can be prosecuted. Each year 500 to 700 children are prosecuted, commonly for throwing stones. They are frequently arrested and detained at night, and more than half of them are held in prisons in Israel where they are tortured, abused and denied the right to have a parent present. The proceedings are held in Hebrew, although the children speak Arabic. Over 99% end in conviction.[24]

In the Jordan Valley, the Bedouin communities’ water consumption is about a fifth of the minimum recommended by the World Health Organisation. Nearby, the birds are singing in the lush green gardens of the settlements with their swimming pools and healthy crops. They are stealing our water,” a Palestinian community leader told me when I visited the region in 2011. “They plant flowers in the settlement and we don’t have water to drink.  The Israeli politics is to move us – should I then live in the air?”The Jordan Valley is the area furthest removed from the Green Line boundary with Israel, and it contains valuable agricultural resources. Israel controls 87% of this land.[25]

In a village where the Israeli Defence Force routinely uses so-called military practices to harass unarmed villagers who have no criminal records or charges against them, a child told me: “Our minds are not with our teachers when there is [military] training happening.”  Another said: “I started to cry when I arrived at my house after school and saw that it was demolished. We couldn’t remove anything from the house.”

“Our message to the world is to look at us as human beings” another community leader told me. “I am not a political person or a negotiator, but I need to feed my family. My message is for them to look at us as people who want our children to be educated.  I now need to drive a 35-40 km detour each day when I take my children to school because they closed my gate.  This means that our children are in the village while we are here and we cannot take care of them and their school work.”

Israel uses the pretext of “security” for its confiscation of land and its restrictions on where and when Palestinians may travel. Let me mention two examples that suggest another agenda:

  • When I monitored human rights violations in the World Council of Churches’ EAPPI programme,[26] we repeatedly reported that agricultural land which was allegedly confiscated by the Israeli Defence Force for military or security reasons was later used to plant settlement crops.
  • In September 2012, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a petition challenging the Israeli authorities’ refusal to let five women from the Gaza Strip travel to the West Bank to complete their master’s degrees. The Israeli Supreme Court accepted the Israeli’s position that allowing the students to travel through Israeli territory would “undermine the ‘separation’ policy which is based on both security and political considerations.” In doing so, the court effectively approved restrictions on civilian travel between Gaza and the West Bank, even where no individual security concerns are raised.[27]

We need to ask ourselves whether the Israeli government’s and its supporters’ outrage at the escalation in BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) actions against Israel is not perhaps hypocritical in view of Israel’s own restrictions on, and its oppression of, the Palestinians.

5.       A lasting solution

Kairos Southern Africa recognises that even ending the occupation and adherence to international law by both Israel and Palestine on its own will by no means solve all the problems.  The acts of an oppressor injure not only the oppressed, but the oppressor too, and the oppressor’s partners or allies. Some Christians in the United States, for example, recently confessed to the role their country played in both the Holocaust and in Israel-Palestine.[28] In South Africa we also have experience of how true this is.

At Kairos Southern Africa, we cooperate with South African, Palestinian and Israeli people who belong to the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) and who advocate for a just peace. These are people who share our values of inclusivity, pluralism and human dignity. We are not fighting people, we are fighting a system. We ask ourselves what will be necessary to ensure self-determination after occupation, and we want to be co-travellers with those who are willing to open themselves up to the Other, so that jointly we learn from one another, reconcile, and live a lasting peace.

6.         Kairos Southern Africa’s request

Any attempt to remain neutral in this kind of conflict is both futile and immoral. Neutrality enables the status quo of oppression to continue. It is a way of giving tacit support to the oppressor. We are not taking sides against the Israeli people, but we unequivocally reject the Israeli regime’s treatment of Palestinians. We want international law to be upheld, and join the struggle for justice by advocating non-violent resistance against any form of injustice.

In line with this endeavour, we ask you to actively accompany the Palestinian people in their quest for liberation and to be their voice in the international arena – as our late President, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, said, “we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians” and others in oppressive situations.[29]

The role of the South African government is unique in the world, given our country’s history of apartheid and the ways in which we overcame the institutionalised injustices of this system. In 2014 we celebrate our twentieth year as a democracy, and the United Nations has declared 2014 a year of solidarity with the Palestinian people. By not responding when we know about the injustices and human rights violations suffered by the Palestinian people, we will be allowing and enabling an act of omission. By responding insufficiently, we will prolong the suffering and the damage. This is our Kairos moment.

Kairos Southern Africa expresses a moral standpoint. We are witnessing a worsening situation. We see Israel using negotiations to prolong the pain, to intensify the occupation and to confiscate more resources. All of this must now stop.  We want all the injustices to stop now, as we wanted for ourselves during our own struggle.

For this reason we request the following from our government:

  • We want complete military, diplomatic and financial sanctions against Israel until it complies with all applicable UN resolutions and international law, and ends the occupation.
  • In the global arena, we want our government to lobby for the financial and other support for the Palestinians for socio-economic development after the end of the occupation.
  • We want our government to implement the above two requests and to table these request at both the African Union and the United Nations.
  • We also call on all political parties in South Africa to clearly communicate their stance on the plight of the Palestinian people and to make their views known timeously in the build-up to the 2014 elections.

[1] The Kairos Document is a theological statement issued in 1985 by a group of black South African theologians based predominantly in the black township of Soweto, South Africa. The statement challenged the churches’ response to what the authors saw as the vicious policies of the Apartheid state under the State of Emergency declared on 21 July 1985. The Kairos Document evoked strong reaction both in South Africa, and world-wide. This example of contextual theology served as an example for critical writing at decisive moments in several other countries and contexts such as in Brazil, the USA, India, Palestine, etc.

[2] Kairos Palestine. 2009. A moment of truth: A word of faith, hope, and love from the heart of the Palestinian suffering. Jerusalem. [Online]. Available: http://www.kairospalestine.ps. [2011, 20 December].

[3] 8 December 2012, Jerusalem.

[4] With regard to 1948, there are two very different narratives: what Zionists call a War of Independence (“we fought bravely and won against all odds and by the grace of God”) is to Palestinians and supporters of human rights the Nakba (the Catastrophe).

[5] The total number of refugees is estimated at 9.8 million by the Badil Resource Center. [Online]. Available: http://www.badil.org/en/resources-for-visitors-journalists-a-activists. [2014, 3 February].

[6]  The population of Palestinians around the world totalled 11.6 million in 2012, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. [Online]. Ma’an News Agency.  2012. PCBS: Palestinian population reaches 11.6 million in 2012. [Online]. Available: http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=552362. [2014, 3 February].

[7] In 2011, the settler population was estimated at over 520,000; the annual average rate of growth during the past decade was 5.3% (excluding East Jerusalem), compared to 1.8% for the Israeli population as a whole (ICBS), according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). 2012a. The Humanitarian Impact to Israeli Settlement Policies. [Online]. Available: http://www.ochaopt.org/ documents/ocha_opt_settlements_FactSheet_December_2012_english.pdf. [2014, 3 February].
All settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory “are illegal under international law as they violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of the occupying power’s civilian population into occupied territory. This illegality has been confirmed by the International Court of Justice, the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention and the United Nations Security Council.” UNOCHA. 2012b. The Humanitarian Impact of Israeli Settlement Policies. January. [Online]. Available: http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_settlements_FactSheet_January_2012_english.pdf. [2012, 23 September].

[8]Tutu, D. 2000. No Future without Forgiveness. London: Rider Books. (pp. 31, 166, 196).

[9] Although the use of arms against military targets is recognised as lawful under international law, as Bennis argues, we believe that the law only manages the conditions of war, whilst we want the war to stop. Bennis, P. 2012. Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. A primer. Northampton: Olive Branch Press.  (p..3).

[10] Kairos Palestine. 2011. The Bethlehem Call. [Online]. Available: http://www.kairospalestine.ps/sites/ default/Documents/The%20Bethlehem%20call.pdf. [2014, February 3]. .

[11] Kairos Palestine. 2011. The Bethlehem Call. (p.86).

[12]“Launched on 9 July 2005 by more than 170 Palestinian parties, trade unions, refugee networks, NGOs and grassroots associations, calling on international civil society organisations and people of conscience to “impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era”.  Barghouti O. 2013. Is BDS’ campaign against Israel reaching a turning point?   Opinion piece in Aljazeera. [Online]. Available: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/12/bds-campaign-against-israel-reaching-turning-point-201312225320764121.html. [2014, 3 February].

[13] United Nations. 2002. Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. [Online]. Available: http://untreaty.un.org/cod/icc/statute/english/rome_statute%28e%29.pdf. [2012, 11 October].

Russell Tribunal on Palestine. 2011. Executive summary of the findings of the third session of the RToP. A systematic and institutionalised regime. [Online]. Available: http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/ en/sessions/south-africa/south-africa-session-%E2%80%94-full-findings/cape-town-session-summary-of-findings. [2013, 21 September].

Human Sciences Research Council.  2009. Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid? A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law.  Cape Town: HSRC.

Roadmap to Apartheid. 2012. [Documentary film] Directors: Ana Nogueira, Eron Davidson, Nathaniel Cunningham. Cinematography: Ana Nogueira. Narrator: Alice Walker. USA. English. Producers: Ana Nogueira & Eron Davidson.

[14]Boesak, A. 2011.  Kairos Consciousness.  [Online]. Available: http://kairossouthernafrica.wordpress.com/ 2011/05/03/kairos-consciousness. [2014, 18 January].

[15] Rabkin, Y. 2010. Zionism a ‘terrible enemy’ of Jewish people. Cape Times, 10 March.

14 Braverman, M. 2010. Fatal Embrace. Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land. Austin, TX: Synergy Books. (p. 348);
Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). 2010. An Unjust Settlement. A Tale of Illegal Israeli Settlements in the West Bank. Jerusalem: Emerezian Est.;
Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). 2009. Silently Displaced in the West Bank. Jerusalem: Emerezian Est.;
Oxfam. 2012. On the Brink. Israeli settlements and their impact on Palestinians in the Jordan Valley. [Online]. Available: 160 Oxfam Briefing Paper. Available: http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/bp160-jordan-valley-settlements-050712-en_1.pdf. [2012, 1 August].;
Russell Tribunal on Palestine. 2011. Executive summary of the findings of the third session of the RToP. A systematic and institutionalised regime. [Online]. Available: http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/en/ sessions/south-africa/south-africa-session-%E2%80%94-full-findings/cape-town-session-summary-of-findings. [2013, 21 September].;
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 2012a. Demolitions and Forced Displacement in the Occupied West Bank. January. [Online]. Available: http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ ocha_opt_demolitions_factSheet_january_2012_english.pdf. [2012, 2 February].;
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 2012b. The Humanitarian Impact of Israeli Settlement Policies. January. [Online]. Available: http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/
ocha_opt_settlements_FactSheet_January_2012_english.pdf. [2012, 23 September].;
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 2011. Israeli Settler Violence in the West Bank. November. [Online]. Available: http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_settler_violence_ FactSheet_October_2011_english.pdf. [2012, 23 September].

[17] Protecting individuals in war and in peace.

[18] Covering civilians caught up in war and armed conflict areas.

[19] EAPPI. 2009:11.

[20] If Palestinians gain access to 50,000 dunums (12,500 acres or 3.5% of Area C) of uncultivated land, this could generate a billion dollars of revenue per year (The World Bank.)  UNOCHA. 2012c. Humanitarian Fact Sheet on the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea Area. [Online]. Available: http://www.unochaopt.org/documents/ ocha_opt_ jordan_valley_factSheet_february_2012_english.pdf.  [2014, 18 January].

[21] Peled, M. 2012. The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine. Charlottesville: Just World Books.

[22] Op.cit. 166

[23] Article 55 of the Hague Convention stipulates that “the occupying state shall be regarded only as administrator and usufructuary of public buildings, real estate, forests, and agricultural estates belonging to the hostile State, and situated in the occupied country. It must safeguard the capital of these properties, and administer them in accordance with the rules of usufruct” (EAPPI 2010:100). This stipulation is ignored, as is evident from Israel’s confiscation of land and water resources, the home demolitions and evictions, the harassment, violence, vandalism and incitement (EAPPI 2010:12-95), as well as from the illegal Israeli Wall and its associated regime, the many checkpoints and transport restrictions, and the discriminatory court system whereby illegal Israeli settlers have access to a civil court and indigenous Palestinians are put on trial in an Israeli  military court (EAPPI 2009:24-79). Further evidence can be found in recent statistics on demolitions and forced displacements in the West Bank (UNOCHA 2012a).

[24] Military Court Watch. [Online]. Available: http://www.militarycourtwatch.org/page.php?id=a6r85VcpyUa 4755A52Y2mp3c4v. [2014, 18 January].

[25] The Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area covers around 30% of the West Bank, and is home to nearly 60,000   Palestinians. Of this land, 87% is designated as Area C, virtually all of which Palestinians are prohibited to use, It is earmarked instead for the use of the Israeli military or under the jurisdiction of Israeli settlements. The permitted water consumption is 20 litres/capita/day in most herding communities in the area, compared to the WHO recommendation of 100 l/c/d, and the average settlement consumption of 300 l/c/d. UNOCHA. 2012c. Humanitarian Fact Sheet on the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea Area. [Online]. Available: http://www.unochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_jordan_valley_factSheet_february_2012_english.pdf. [2014, 18 January].

[26] I served in 2011 in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

[27] UNOCHA. 2013. Fragmented Lives. Humanitarian Overview 2012. [Online]. Available: http://www.unochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_fragmented_lives_annual_report_2013_english_web.pdf. [2014, 4 February]. The petition was jointly filed in 2012 by an Israeli and a Palestinian human rights organization (Gisha and Al Mezan) on behalf of the affected women. Four of the women, who are now in their 40s, were forced to discontinue their studies in 2000, following the outbreak of the second Intifada and Israel’s subsequent revocation of travel permits for many Gazans between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. All four women hold various positions in civil society organizations promoting democracy and women’s rights.

[28] Kairos USA.2012. Call to Action. U.S. response to the Kairos Palestine Document. [Online]. Available: http://www.kairosusa.org/call/kairosusa.html. [2012, 11 August]. (pp1-2).

[29]Mandela, N. Address by President Nelson Mandela at the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. African National Congress website. [Online]. Available: http://www.anc.org.za/show.php?id=3384. [2014, 5 February].

Gallery

Feedback on session with Parliament’s Portfolio Committee: Good news!

As I sat in the Old Assembly Hall of our Parliament, I experienced the South Africa I am proud of. We, members of the civil society proposed actions in solidarity with Palestine, Western Sahara and Cuba. People from all walks of life debated in the packed hall. In the end (with the exception of four votes against the proposal) the Cape Town Declaration was overwhelmingly accepted.

The Cape Town Declaration is now the official voice of the South African civil society. It means that there is a formalised civilian voice that articulates clear, action-oriented resolutions.

parlement

On 6 February Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation held a public forum to support the campaigns for equal treatment and the right to self-determination of the peoples of Palestine, Western Sahara and Cuba. This followed Parliament’s decision that solidarity is and should feature as a strong element of South Africa’s internationalism.  The purpose was not to debate if action is required, but rather what kind of action is necessary.

We at Kairos Southern Africa spoke on Palestine, and we asked the following:

  • We want complete military, diplomatic and financial sanctions against Israel until it complies with all applicable UN resolutions and international law, and ends the occupation.
  • In the global arena, we want our government to lobby for the financial and other support for the Palestinians for socio-economic development after the end of the occupation.
  • We want our government to implement the above two requests and to table these requests at both the African Union and the United Nations.
  • We also call on all political parties in South Africa to clearly communicate their stance on the plight of the Palestinian people and to make their views known timeously in the build-up to the 2014 elections.

All these and more resolutions (see the full list in respect of Palestine below)  will shape Parliament’s Plan of Action.

Kairos Southern Africa is an ecumenical voice on local and international issues of justice from within the broader Christian community. We are connected to Kairos movements worldwide that are all inspired by the liberation theology tabled in the 1985 South African Kairos document. This includes Kairos Palestine and its declaration of steadfast faith, hope and love from within the suffering of Palestinians.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFour ecumenical accompaniers in the World Council of Churches’ EAPPI programme actively participated in the discussions. From left to right are: Marthie Momberg, Terry Crawford-Browne, Corbin August and Carol Martin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Honourable Mr H.T. Magama, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation addressing the forum.

It was great to see how people from different political parties and backgrounds interacted with one another. Their support for Cuba, Palestine and Western Sahara was not driven by political, religious or cultural interests, but by our shared humanity. We want to be free, and we grant it also for others.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At one point I sat very close to the spot where former Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, the mastermind behind apartheid in South Africa, was assassinated on 6 September 1966:

verwoerd

On that afternoon, a parliamentary messenger named Dimitri Tsafendas stabbed Verwoerd in the neck and chest four times before being subdued by other members of the Assembly. Tsafendas eventually escaped the death penalty on the grounds of insanity.

Five years before his death, Verwoerd said:

Israel took Palestine away from the Arabs after the Arabs lived there for a thousand years…Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.

It is now almost fifty years later. Kairos Southern Africa argued that South Africans face yet another Kairos moment:

As South Africans, we should understand the urgency and the importance of Palestine’s appeal in the light of our own history. During the darkest hours of South African apartheid, an ecumenical group of South African theologians called the deepening crisis a Kairos moment of truth. They highlighted the danger of using literal, fundamentalist Biblical interpretations to rationalise theologies of oppression and state power.

Such a Kairos moment, one which is decisive in history, may pass us by if we do not act timeously. We are now faced by yet another form of apartheid, this time by Israel. […]

4 Maps 2014 1946 to 2014

Different political parties attended the proceedings and the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) was the only party to distance itself from the Declaration.  They voted against it, and so did three members of the public.

This conference was a first of its kind in Parliament.  We look forward to the Parliamentary Plan of Action taking the solidarity campaign forward towards a peaceful resolution of the challenges facing the three nations.

Here is the full list of resolutions with regard to Palestine – with the points in no particular order:

  • Legal obligation under the Rome Statute to set up the special court to deal with war crimes: To expeditiously deal with the Gaza Docket and deal with South Africans serving in the IDF.

  • HSRC report that found Israeli guilty of Apartheid should be adopted by parliament and government and must be referred to international bodies including ICC, UN and AU.

  • Legal obligation to stop financial transactions with Israeli settlement companies, banks and companies involved in the settlements.

  • On the global arena to lobby for the financial and other support of the Palestinians for socio-economic development after the end of the occupation.

  • Supporting Palestinian students, as a concrete act of solidarity.

  • Entrance into South Africa for Palestinians must be made easier.

  • Health system must be supported beyond people capacity –  also infrastructure in Gaza, West Bank and refugee camps.

  • Support the Robben Island Declaration for the freedom of Marwan Barghouti and all Palestinian Political prisoners.

    Marwan Barghouti

  • Support the Palestinian-led call for boycott, divestment and sanctions issued by the majority of Palestinians. Complete military, financial and political sanctions against Israel until it complies with all applicable UN resolutions and international law and ends its occupation.

  •  Our government to table the above two at both the AU and UN.

  • All South African political parties to clearly communicate their stance on the plight of the Palestinian people and to make it timeously known in the build-up to 2014 elections.

  • Witness and solidarity visits should be encouraged, for example the World Council of Churches EAPPI programme.

  • South Africa should build and strengthen an international diplomatic block in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

  • For South Africa to campaign for Israel to be suspended from the SWIFT network.

  • Palestinian reconciliation efforts must be encouraged and supported.

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There is much to do.

For a Summary of  some of Israel’s Breaches in Gaza by Dr. Paul Hendler, click here.

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From Robben Island: Palestinian Political Prisoners

Where better to launch an international campaign for the release of all Palestinian political prisoners than on Robben Island?

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This windswept island south of Cape Town persistently reminds me of immense cruelty, injustice and oppression… but also of perseverance, of an undying dream of freedom, of the ability of human beings to stand tall in the most horrendous circumstances.

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Before sentencing him, the judge in South Africa’s Rivonia Trail (1963 – 1964) asked the man who would become the new South Africa’s first president, Nelson Mandela, whether he wanted to plead guilty.  Mandela answered: “It is not I who should plead guilty, but the government of this country.”  Mandela and seven others (and in the subsequent years, hundreds more) were found guilty and banned for life to Robben Island.

In reading Mandela’s epic autobiography I was deeply touched by his and his fellow prisoners’ continued struggle against apartheid within prison. Their life on the island was to them yet another terrain to advocate against discrimination. It was not only the story, but especially the tone that inspired me and made me realise how much I have to learn about courage, tolerance, persistence and forgiveness.

I had this same feeling on Sunday 27 October 2013 when the wife of Marwan Barghouti read a letter he wrote to us from prison….

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Our boat left the Cape Town harbour early that morning for Robben Island.

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We were on our way to the launch of the international Campaign for the Freedom of Marwan Barghouti and all Palestinian Political Prisoners.

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The guests included representatives from NGOs, human rights organisations, trade unions, political parties, former South African anti-apartheid activists and 13 Palestinian dignitaries.

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Ahmed (Kathy) Kathrada, one of Mandela’s closest friends and comrades, was one of eight ANC members convicted and banned to Robben Island for life during the Rivonia Trail.

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Now, half a century later, the 84-year-old Kathrada launched the campaign for the iconic freedom fighter, Marwan Barghouti (54), commonly dubbed “Palestine’s Mandela”.

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Mrs Fadwa Barghouthi, the wife of Marwan Barghouthi read a moving letter from her husband addressed to us, the audience at the launch, in which he appealed for non-violent resistance.

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Marwan Barghouti is one of the first (and most popular) Palestinian Members of Parliament arrested and imprisoned by Israel. He was abducted in 2002 by the Israeli army and thereafter tried, convicted and sentenced to five life sentences.

At his trial in 2002, Barghouti refused to participate in its proceedings maintaining that his abduction and the Israeli trial were illegal and illegitimate. In 2011 the international Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) found that his abduction, arrest and transfer to Israeli territory was in violation of international law.

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The IPU, together with other international human rights organisations, have subsequently called for his immediate release.

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One day, Barghouti and all Palestinians will be free.

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May that day arrive soon.

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It is possible…

It is possible at least sometimes…

It is possible especially now

To ride a horse

Inside a prison cell

And run away…

It is possible for prison walls

To disappear,

For the cell to become a distant land

Without frontiers:

What did you do with the walls?

I gave them back to the rocks.

And what did you do with the

ceiling?

I turned it into a saddle.

And your chain?

I turned it into a pencil.

The prison guard got angry.

He put an end to the dialogue.

He said he didn’t care for poetry,

And bolted the door of my cell.

He came back to see me

In the morning.

He shouted at me:

Where did all this water come from?

I brought it from the Nile.

And the trees?

From the orchards of Damascus.

And the music?

From my heartbeat.

The prison guard got mad.

He put an end to my dialogue.

He said he didn’t like my poetry,

And bolted the door of my cell.

But he returned in the evening:

Where did this moon come from?

From the nights of Baghdad.

And the wine?

From the vineyards of Algiers.

And this freedom?

From the chain you tied me with

last night.

The prison guard grew so sad…

He begged me to give him back

His freedom.

“Prison cell”, by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008)

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As with the “Free Mandela” campaign, this international campaign is not about the release of one man.

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Barghouti is one of over 5 000 Palestinian political prisoners who remain incarcerated in Israeli jails, many of them children. Almost every Palestinian family has been affected by the political imprisonment of a relative.

  • Roughly 40% of Palestinian men (over 750 000 Palestinians) have been imprisoned by Israel at one point in time.
  • About 100 000 Palestinians have been held by Israel in “administrative detention” (the equivalent of Apartheid South Africa’s “Detention without trial”).
  • In the last 11 years alone, more than 7500 Palestinian children have been detained in Israeli prisons and detention facilities (including being held in solitary confinement). Such practices are considered illegal under international law.

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Invitation 30/9 – 2/10: Three award-winning films in Stellenbosch

Join PSC Stellenbosch for three great movies on Palestine-Israel followed by a  short discussion after each screening.

Palestinians, Israelis, Jewish South Africans and Americans produced these three award-winning films:

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Five Broken Cameras: Monday 30 September, Pulp Cinema, Neelsie Student Centre, De Beers Street, Stellenbosch. (Nominated as Best Foreign Film for 2013 Oscar Awards.)

Occupation 101: Tuesday 1 October, Arts Building, Room 225, Corner of Ryneveld and Merriman Streets, Stellenbosch. (Winner of several awards as best documentary.)

The Village under the Forest: Wednesday 2 October, Pulp Cinema, Neelsie Student Centre, De Beers Street, Stellenbosch. (Audience Award for Best South African film in 2013 at Encounters South African International Documentary Festival.)

  • Tea and cake will be served at 18:00 and the screenings start at 18:30.
  • Tickets @ R20 will be sold at the entrance.

We as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) Stellenbosch invite you and your friends and colleagues to all three screenings as we want to raise for public debate Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories, its impact on the brutalisation of both Israelis and Palestinians, and Israel’s breaching of international law.

Our panelists include:

  • Monday: Father Austin Jackson and a Muslim scholar. Facilitator: Adli Peck.
  • Tuesday: the Honourable Mr HT Magama (Chair of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation), Mr Nathan Geffen (past-Treasurer of the Treatment Action Campaign and now an investigative  journalist at Groundup). Facilitator: Dr Paul Hendler.
  • Wednesday: Mark Kaplan (Director of the film) and Heidi Grunebaum (author, screen writer and narrator in the film). Facilitator: Rev Edwin Arrison, Kairos Southern Africa.

PSC Stellenbosch does not take sides between countries, ethnic groups, and religions, and we stand for equality between genders and sexual preference groups – we are unequivocally against the oppression of a people and the violation of the international human rights laws. In this context we advocate for the ending of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, for a just peace and thereby for the dignity and freedom of all the people in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Why these films?

The Occupation is often portrayed as a complex conflict between equal parties – the Palestinians on the one side and the Israelis on the other. The mainstream media sometimes presents the conflict as having a religious dimension and this contributes to its seeming intractability. Perhaps you have the impression that the situation is too complicated for the conflict to be solved?

PSC Stellenbosch adopts an International Law and Human Rights perspective because there are clear guidelines under International Law, which help to clear the waters that have been muddied in this ‘debate’. We think that by having people look at all three films we are facilitating an awareness about the nature of the occupation as well as its status under international law.

With these points in mind – some background to the occupation and its breach of international law:

International law regards the Occupied Palestinian Territories  (OPT) under ‘belligerent occupation’, which is intended to be temporary.  However Israel has occupied the West Bank for 46 years and Gaza is still under siege.

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) (1965) provides the basis for, and the International Convention for the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (‘Apartheid Convention’) (1973) as well as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (‘Rome Statute’) (1998) define, apartheid as an international crime, not as it was practiced in South Africa, but as a system that:  1) denies people’s right to life and liberty; 2) imposes conditions to cause the physical destruction of a racial group; 3) implements measures to prevent a racial group from participating in the political/social/economic/cultural life of society; 4) divides the population along racial lines; 5) exploits  the labour of a particular racial group; and, 6) persecutes organisations and people opposing apartheid.

A 302 page HSRC (www.hsrc.ac.za) study of Israel’s policies found that Israel practices apartheid in the OPT through: a) Extra-judicial killings, torture and a separate legal system; b) Restrictions on the right of full development of Palestinians as a group such as those on their freedom of movement, place of residence, nationality, work, etc.); c) Impeding Palestinians’ education and running a segregated education system; and restricting Palestinians freedom of expression and opinion as well as their freedom of peaceful assembly; and, d) Dividing the West Bank into racial cantons, extensive appropriation of Palestinian land for exclusive Jewish use, arresting, imprisoning, and banning the travel of Palestinians and also targeting Palestinian parliamentarians, national political leaders and human rights defenders.

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Kairos Southern Africa on Syria

Once again, the drums of war are sounding in our region. Once again, the US is leading the campaign for this war, this time on Syria. And once again, the US and some European and Arab countries are justifying it in the name of democracy, human rights, and humanity itself.

These are the opening words from Kairos Palestine’s Statement on Syria (issued in Bethlehem, 2 September 2013). They close their strong statement with an appeal:

We call upon churches worldwide, as well as other civil society organizations and networks, to take a stand in opposition to this intended war which will not herald any just peace.

We commend the UK House of Commons’ decision to refuse participation in the possible war on Syria, and we urge the US Congress to do the same.

A Free Syrian Army fighter mourns at the grave of his father in a public park that has been converted into a makeshift graveyard in Deir el-ZorKhalil Ashawi/Reuters: A Syrian rebel fighter mourns at the grave of his father who was killed in a shelling by government forces

In response to the Kairos Palestine Statement on Syria, Kairos South Africa issued a press release last night:

washington postWashington Post

PRESS RELEASE:

Urgent appeal to President Obama and US Congress to uphold international law on Syria and the rest of the Middle East

3 September 2013

We note the two decisions President Barack Obama’s announced on Sunday 1 September 2013: his “decision as President of the US” (as he phrased it) to launch a targeted attack on Syria; and his decision to seek approval from the US Congress. In the same address, President Obama referred to his concern for “national security”.

We also hear the urgent “call upon churches worldwide, as well as other civil society organizations and networks, to take a stand in opposition to this intended war which will not herald any just peace” in Kairos Palestine’s statement on Syria (see attached).

As a Christian movement with inclusive and pluralistic values that honour the human dignity of all, and as citizens of a country that knows the pain of violence and oppression in the name of ideology, we cannot suffice with silence in this dire situation. We are gravely concerned for the Syrian people and for the potential impact on the region and on the rest of the world and want to say the following:

  1. We agree that the use of chemical weapons such as on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 in Ghouta should be condemned unequivocally. It is against international law, it is inhumane and it does not reflect the kind of world we choose. Those who are responsible for instigating the use of chemical agents should be held accountable. As such we shall welcome a thorough analysis resulting in credible intelligence on this matter.
  2. We interpret President Obama’s logic as contradictory and his application of international humanitarian law as inconsistent. He referred to the fact that chemical warfare is illegal and therefore requires a response. Yet a military intervention such as the one Obama suggests without the sanction of the United Nations will also be illegal. We cannot accept such blatant hypocrisy.
  3. Moreover, an illegal military strike by the US on Syria may deepen and broaden the conflict in the region and trigger the involvement of more countries resulting in a long and bloody war that can spill over to the rest of the world. The approximately two million refugees (which include thousands of Palestinians who were displaced during the 1948 Nakba) place an unprecedented strain on communities, infrastructure and services in host countries. What is at stake here is not only the national security of the US, but also (and at the very least) the security of the Syrians and those in the region.
  4. We call on President Obama and the US Congress to adhere to all international humanitarian and human rights laws in their interaction with Syria, to not hide or misrepresent these aspects in their political arguments and to not regard military intervention as the only option. To us, one more casualty will be one too many. Moreover, we urge President Obama and the US Congress to not desert the Syrians, but to urgently implement legal initiatives to condemn the use of chemical and other illegal warfare in Syria.
  5. We are appalled that when recently more than 1000 Egyptians were killed by the Egyptian army, the USA did not express its abhorrence. Another glaring example of Washington’s selective application of human rights and humanitarian laws in the Middle East applies to Palestine and Israel. Here the US attempts to broker a peace settlement without, for example, enforcing Israel to stop building settlements that are in clear violation of international law. Therefore we ask President Obama and the Congress to also uphold all international humanitarian and human rights laws and all rulings of International Courts and the United Nations in their international relations and peace negotiations with Egypt, Israel, Palestine and all other countries.
    1. Like Kairos Palestine, we condemn any calls for war. We call on all parties involved to do all in their power to reach a negotiated, peaceful and just settlement and we suggest that such negotiations take place under the auspices of the United Nations.
    2. We support Pope Francis’ calls for prayers and fasting on 7 September for peace in Syria.

The recently celebrated dream as expressed by Martin Luther King Jr is a dream of dignity for all people. However, creating and sustaining more and more division in order to serve ideological interests will not serve to realise this dream, but will increase the instability and tension for the women and children and minorities of the region. We want the realisation of this dream to apply to all as we believe that our spiritual task is not to be religious with the purpose to advance fundamentalism and exclusive narratives, but rather to become more human since all are created in the image of God.

Issued by:

Marthie Momberg, Rev Moss Nthla, Dr Stiaan van der Merwe and Rev Edwin Arrison,  on behalf of Kairos Southern Africa.

 Reuters
Reuters: Activists inspect bodies they say were killed in a toxic gas attack.
PS For Obama’s confidence about violating international law – click here.
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Wits University, South Africa: Morals or Money?

The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg is becoming embroiled in increasing controversy over its decision to charge students for having protested against an Israeli-embassy funded concert on the 12th of March 2013.

The charge against the #Wits11 includes nine students who are official Wits University Student Representative Council (Wits SRC) members.

Wits University’s Management publicly confirmed that its is under “financial pressure” from the Israeli lobby to charge its students. Wits University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Adam Habib, in a Business Day article, admitted that his university has come under financial “pressure from donors who support Israel,” and that, “there have indeed been some individuals who have threatened to withdraw their donations.”

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During the apartheid struggle, Wits was known for its active resistance against apartheid and its commitment to end the regime.  Now the university’s management seems to not apply the same principles with regard to resistance against Israel’s regime of oppression of the Palestinians.

In what is being described as a blow to the principles of “transparency and administrative justice”, Advocate J.A. Woodward S.C, who is presiding over the trial of the 11 Wits University students, “kicked-out” and prevented representatives of the media as well as members of the public from attending the #Wits11 trial.  The students  after a submission of “prejudice” was made by legal representative, Mr Joesph Mothibi, on behalf of Wits University’s Management (find more info here: http://tinyurl.com/ppqke8q).

SABC TV news coverage: www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ks-Cytfh6U

Business Day newspaper coverage: http://tinyurl.com/k4f3ck6

THIS IS HOW THE STORY HAS UNFOLDED TO DATE
(information by BDS South Africa):

[09 July 2005]After years of Israeli aggression, Apartheid policies and ongoing violence, Palestinians call for a boycott of Israel as a non-violent method to bring Israel in line with international law and respect basic human rights. The Palestinian boycott of Israel is modeled on the successful boycott of Apartheid South Africa.

[29 August 2012]The University of the Witwatersrand’s Student Representative Council (Wits SRC), the university’s official student body, unanimously passes a boycott of Israel resolution in line with policies of the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA).

[19 February 2013]Announcements are made that an Israeli-embassy funded concert is to be hosted on the 12th of March at Wits University. Media reports as well as the official Wits University advertisement confirm the financial involvement of the Israeli Embassy in the hosting of the concert.


[22 February 2013]
In light of the 2012 Wits University SRC’s boycott of Israel resolution, the Wits University’s SRC formally writes to members of Wits University’s Management explaining that the hosting of such an Israeli performance on Wits’ campus is in violation of the cultural boycott of Israel as well as Wits University SRC’s own support for and endorsement of the cultural boycott of Israel. Wits University’s Management fails to respond to concerns raised by students.

[10 March 2013]The African National Congress (ANC) Youth League calls for a boycott and protest of the upcoming 12th of March Israeli concert at Wits University stating that:“we call on all students to boycott the [Israeli] concert as it only seeks to normalise apartheid Israel. No one must be seen singing with apartheid, particularly in South Africa where we have seen what apartheid policies can do.”

[12 March 2013]Wits University students, including members of Wits University’s SRC, protest the Israeli concert on their campus with the concert subsequently –and successfully– being cancelled. During the protest students are dragged on the ground, pushed against walls and assaulted by the pro-Israeli concert goers. Audience members of the Israeli concert verbally abuse the Wits University students shouting:“you monkeys go back to the jungle”. One of the Israeli-concert goers threatens to “kill” the student protesters and another physically hits a student with a broom.

[March 2013]The Israeli lobby begin to pressure Wits University’s Management to punish the student protestors using terms such as “barbaric” (used by Israeli musician, Yossi Reshef), “Muslim agitators” (used by pro-Israeli Professor Zaidel-Rudolph), “hooligans” (used by David Saks the Associate Director of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies), “a pack of baying hyenas frantic for blood” (used by editor of the SA Jewish Report), “thugs”, “savages”, “monkeys” and other expletives to describe the student protestors.


[08 March 2013]
The Young Communist League of South Africa (YCL) is one of the first organizations to indicate that Wits University’s Management is acting under pressure –and interference– from the Israeli lobby, specifically the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, to punish its students.


[08 April 2013]
Exactly one month later, Wits University’s Management admits to being in discussions with members of the Israeli lobby, including the SA Jewish Board of Deputies.


[16 April 2013]
Wits University’s Management, under pressure from the Israeli lobby, charges 11 students for protesting the 12th of March Israeli concert and appoints Joseph Mothibi from the corporate law firm, Norton Rose Fullbright, to represent the university in bringing charges against the students. Mothibi, is a director at Norton Rose Fullbright and specializes in representing clients from the mining, gaming and manufacturing industries. Tasneem Essop, one of the charged students commented in a press release:Vice Chancellor, Professor Adam Habib, is again wasting precious institutional funds to charge us students for practicing our constitutional right to protest. A right that he has a lot to say about in public, but fails to implement at his university. We demand that these unfair charges being brought against us students under pressure from the Israeli lobby be immediately dropped.”


[21 May 2013]Wits University’s Management publicly confirms that its is under “financial pressure” from the Israeli lobby to charge its students. Wits University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Adam Habib, in a Business Day article, admits after a long silence, that indeed his university has come under financial “pressure from donors who support Israel,” and that, “there have indeed been some individuals who have threatened to withdraw their donations.”



[16 July 2013]
Members of the media and public are “kicked out” of the trial against the #Wits11 and the trial is subsequently postponed to August 2013. 

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Support for the #Wits11 grows despite Israeli lobby pressures
South African anti-apartheid struggle stalwarts, leaders of major South African trade unions, members of civil society and several organizations have all come out in overwhelming support for the 11 Wits University students (the #Wits11) and their demand that charges for protesting against the 12th of March Israeli concert be immediately dropped. Supporters of the student protesters include former Robben Island prisoner, Ahmed “Kathy” Kathrada [http://tinyurl.com/bp4sbzu]; General Secretary of COSATU, Zwelinzima Vavi [http://tinyurl.com/pemu9ln]; trade unions including the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) [http://tinyurl.com/qeozzpj]; the National, Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) [see: http://tinyurl.com/d4oqaqo]; and several organizations including the South African Students Congress (SASCO), the Young Communist League of South Africa (YCL) [http://tinyurl.com/c876mlj], the African National Congress Youth League (ANC YL), the Wits All Residence Council [http://tinyurl.com/nntow2b], the Wits Postgraduate Association [http://tinyurl.com/nnfyt6f] amongst others. Ahmed Kathrada said in a recent speech: “Our University students, supported by our trade unions and civil society organizations are making it abundantly clearer by the day that [Israeli] apologists are not welcome in our country.”

Lend your support to the #Wits11
The #Wits11 are –rightly– remaining unapologetic for their protests against Israel. These student protestors remind us of how Apartheid South Africa’s rugby and cricket teams were once protested, disrupted and prevented from playing in Perth, London and other cities of the world due to South Africa’s apartheid policies and practices (see: www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3Idu4mXO34). Support the #Wits11 by sending a message of support to them, direct your message to administrator@bdssouthafrica.com and we will pass it on (you can also follow the students on Twitter using hashtags #Right2Protest and #Wits11).


BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS AGAINST ISRAEL IN SOUTH AFRICA (BDS SOUTH AFRICA)
Office 915 | 9th Floor | Khotso House | 62 Marshall Street | Johannesburg
PO Box 2318 | Houghton | 2041 | Johannesburg
T: +27 (0) 11 492 2414 | F: +27 (0) 86 650 4836
W: www.bdssouthafrica.com | E: administrator@bdssouthafrica.com
www.facebook.com/bdssouthafrica | www.twitter.com/bdssouthafrica

BDS South Africa is a registered Non-Profit Organization. NPO NUMBER: 084 306 NPO
BDS South Africa is a registered Public Benefit Organisation with Section 18A status. PBO NUMBER: 930 037 446

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Will South Africans boycott Israeli settlement produce?

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South Africa is the first African country to ban the false labelling of Israeli settlement goods. This is what the new wording looks like:

Settlement-good-labels-South-Africa-2013

(Photo by Open Shuhada Street.)

Ahava Dead Sea Cosmetics (sold in Truworths, Stuttafords and Foschini), Sodastream (sold in Pick & Pay Checkers and Spar) and Hishtil nursery plants and others can no longer use “Produced in Israel”.

Shoppers can now make informed choices, and they may also demand that Israeli settlement products be removed from shelves.  Traders who refuse to remove it, will face stiff penalties.

But will  South Africans make a moral choice when buying?

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I know from my own experience that many people simply don’t know that:

  1. the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza are Palestinian territories occupied by Israel;
  2. Israel’s illegal settlements in these areas use Palestinian resources (land, water, etc.) to produce products sold to the benefit of Israel; and
  3. both of the above area against international law: (1) Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jersusalem, Gaza are illegal, and (2) using the resources of occupied territory (Palestine) for the benefit of the occupier (Israel). It is also against South Africa’s consumer protection act to label produce incorrectly.

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When the announcement was made earlier in 2013, BDS South Africa supported the country’s Department of Trade and Industry’s decision to change the labels, but they remarked:

The wording of these special labels needs to be made clearer and BDS South Africa will be meeting with the Department of Trade and Industry in the course of the next few months to strengthen the wording of these special labels. However, BDS South Africa welcomes the DTI taking action against these Israeli settlement goods and companies. BDS South Africa further calls on the DTI and the South African government to now initiate a complete ban on Israeli settlement goods and companies.

Click here for the full BDS SA PRESS STATEMENT of 11 April 2013

It is important to realise this act by South Africa is in line with the actions of many international businesses and churches that boycott produce from Israeli settlements.

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The United Nations Human Rights Council, in an official report published earlier in 2013, confirmed the illegality of Israel’s settlements and also called on governments and private corporations to start considering economic and political sanctions against Israel for its illegal settlements enterprise. 

“Boycotts by ordinary people make it possible for international civil society to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and assist – in concrete ways – to put an end to Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies. We are calling on all South Africans to join us in the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign by boycotting products such as Sodastream, Ahava and all others Israeli goods sold in South Africa”. (Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, BDS South Africa).

 

He is Jewish, South African, and against the demonisation of Palestinians

Cape Town’s pro-Human Rights and its Zionist communities are known for their hot debates in the local newspapers.  Ben Levitas is one of the regular writers.  Here Dr Paul Hendler – a Jewish friend – answers Levitas in a wonderful letter:

Cape Argus 12 April 2013:

Ben Levitas (“Israel’s apartheid label is a slanderous fabrication”, Cape Argus, March 13) should know that Israel’s apartheid label is based on a 302-page Human Sciences Research Council (www.hsrc.ac.za) study of Israel’s policies.

Apartheid

Notwithstanding Israel’s classification of the occupied Palestinian territories – the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza – as unoccupied, international law regards them as being under ‘belligerent occupation’, which is intended to be temporary.  However Israel has occupied the West Bank for 46 years and Gaza is still under siege.

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) (1965) provides the basis for, and the International Convention for the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (‘Apartheid Convention’) (1973) as well as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (‘Rome Statute’) (1998) define, apartheid as an international crime, not as it was practised in South Africa, but as a system that denies people’s right to life and liberty; imposes conditions to cause the physical destruction of a racial group; implements measures to prevent a racial group from participating in the political/social/economic/cultural life of society; divides the population along racial lines; exploits the labour of a particular racial group, and persecutes organisations and people opposing apartheid.

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Levitas argues that the Israel/Palestine conflict is primarily a religious one, hence the situation cannot be analogous to apartheid. In the occupied territories, the HSRC study finds that ‘Jewish’ and ‘Palestinian’ identities are socially constructed as groups distinguished by ancestry or descent as well as nationality, ethnicity, and religion, and therefore meet the requirement of ‘racial groups’ as referred to in international law.

The study assumes that not all the six aspects of apartheid as defined above have to be identified in an existing system to conclude that it is an apartheid system, but that there should be a sufficient number, which in combination constitute a systematic regime of racial oppression. It concludes that Israel practices apartheid in the occupied territories through the following activities –

  • extra-judicial killings, torture and a separate legal system;
  • restrictions on the right of full development of Palestinians as a group such as those on their freedom of movement, place of residence, nationality, work and so on;
  • impeding Palestinians’ education and running a segregated education system;
  • restricting Palestinians freedom of expression and opinion as well as their freedom of peaceful assembly; dividing the West Bank into racial cantons, extensive appropriation of Palestinian land for exclusive Jewish use; and
  • arresting, imprisoning and banning the travel of Palestinians, and targeting Palestinian parliamentarians, national political leaders and human rights defenders.

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Levitas argues further that there are two hostile states, Israel and Palestine, and that Israelis need to protect themselves. The study acknowledges the merit of Israel’s claims for security. It notes that the devolution of power to the Palestinian National Authority and Legislative Council (created through the Oslo Accords) has been only partial, and that Israel retains ultimate control. It concludes that Israel’s security actions are disproportionate to its security needs, their primary purpose being to prevent Palestinian opposition to racial domination.

Levitas’ argument that it is the countries ‘hosting’ the Palestinian refugees who are guilty of perpetuating apartheid demonstrates a cynical opportunism in its denial of the role of Zionism in creating the refugees. In this regard, I recommend Benny Morris’ 2004 interview with Haaretz (http://www.counterpunch.org/shavit01162004.html).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe illegal Israeli Wall built on Palestinian land

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA demolished Palestinian house in East Jerusalem

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Levitas’ criticism of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel for ignoring anti-semitism is inaccurate – BDS South Africa commemorated the Holocaust in January and is opposed to anti-semitism and all forms of racism within and outside of its ranks. In arguing that the BDS campaign apportions all the blame to one side Levitas neatly sidesteps the crucial point that the systematic implementation of a colonial policy by Israel oppresses the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

I write as a Jewish South African who stands against the demonisation of the Palestinian people, and for an objective account of the facts of their circumstances.

 Paul Hendler, Stellenbosch

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Dr  Paul  Hendler is the Director of a business that enables sustainable human settlements in South Africa that are socially and economically just and viable.  

To me Paul is a living example of that kind of justice and human dignity that is not only directed to the “own”.  It is great to hear his voice in public.

Click to read Hendler’s reply to Levitas in the Cape Argus, 12 April 2013.

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Press statement: Jewish South Africans during Pesach/Passover

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South African Jewish people reflect on their own freedom versus those of others as they are about to prepare for the Passover of 2013:

The festival of Pesach (Passover); our freedom is unfulfilled while others are oppressed

25 March 2013 / 14 Nisan 5773

As Jewish people around the world prepare for the festival of Pesach (Passover) that commences this evening (Monday 25 March), Stop The Jewish National Fund (StopTheJNF South Africa) would like to wish all who hold dear the values of freedom, liberation and justice a “Chag Kosher v’Sameach”

While Jewish families around the world recall the enslavement of our ancestors, we recognise that celebrations of freedom will always be tainted by bitter tears when there are people who remain oppressed. Members of StopTheJNF South Africa are particularly pained that since the establishment of Israel in 1948, Jewish people will be celebrating ‘freedom’ whilst complicit in the oppression of the Palestinian people. Further we recognise that our own authentic freedom will remain unfulfilled while the  Palestinians are denied theirs. In this light, as Jews of conscience, we will continue to speak out against injustices committed by Israel in our name: the brutal siege of Gaza and an occupation of Palestinian lands which sees the ongoing dispossession, humiliation and brutalisation of the Palestinians.

We also note the suffering of the Syrian people who are being butchered in a savage civil war, the murder and rape of countless women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the deprivations of the Tibetan people denied their national and religious rights by China – these are just some instances of the denial of basic freedoms which we condemn and will remember as part of our Pesach celebrations.

Allan Horwitz for “StopTheJNF South Africa”. StopTheJNF South Africa is an organization initiated by Jewish South Africans committed to justice and rights for the Palestinian people and Jewish Israelis.

For more information, contact StopTheJNF National Spokesperson, Allan Horwitz:

082 512 8188

stopthejnf.rsa@gmail.com

www.stopthejnfsa.org

The new South African pass book

“On Monday, 21 March in 1960 police opened fire, without order, on a crowd that had gathered at the Sharpeville station to protest pass laws, stipulations that required Africans to carry books and produce them for law enforcement officials on request; 69 unarmed people were killed and another 180 were injured.” (Cape Town Magazine.com)

A friend and colleague, Seth Naicker reflected on these words and asked if we have reason to celebrate human rights on 21 March 2013:

Today while we enjoy our public holiday, we must be in tune with the origins of this day March 21st- a day impacted by the painful and traumatic loss of life captured in the title “Sharpeville Massacre 1960”.

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Today we live in a democracy where people can move freely without the dehumanising process of being regulated  by a pass book or as it was known back then ‘dompass’-meaning stupid pass.

However while the dompass is no longer required in our post Apartheid and 2 decade old democracy, we must ask ourselves:

•what is modern day dompass?

•what access is denied to people and upon what bias?

•who are the gate keepers regulating the dompass and who is trying to get in?

•am I gate keeping or am dompass burning.

I still see the dompass when people have to ask for access to what is their human right! The right to quality education, the right to work, the right to eat, the right to shelter, the right to speak, the right to disagree etc.

We have walked a long road to Freedom as a nation, but the journey is far from over and the quality of the Freedom is still riddled and gated with modern day dompass injustices.

 May ours hearts and pursuit of justice, equality and human rights continue to beat  in our every breath that we take and every step that we make, remembering that our human rights are resting on the shoulders of people who were had to fight and die for us to acquire our right to humanity.

 A blessed human rights day!

 Seth Naicker.

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