Kairos to SA Government: Cut diplomatic and trade ties with Israel

The role of the South African government is unique in the world, given our country’s history of apartheid. Yet it lags behind in its solidarity with the Palestinians. Kairos Southern Africa asks for urgent, decisive action – not statements – in a formal request to the government of the Republic of South Africa:

KSA

18 July 2014

To: The Honourable Minister of International Relations Ms Maite E Nkoana-Mashabane
CC: The Honourable Mr. H.T Magama, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee of International Relations and Cooperation, and the Deputy Director-General for DIRCO c/o Mr Clayson Monyela

Kairos Southern Africa believes that all lives have the same value, and that all violence is destructive. The current and ongoing situation between Israel and Palestine poses a critical test for the international community’s commitment to international law and human dignity.

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.

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. Yet to date the South African government has failed to take tangible action in the form of support of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, because of pressure applied by the South African Zionist lobby, which insists on our government’s neutrality when it comes to Israel. As a result, South Africa now lags behind other countries in its solidarity with the oppressed in Palestine.

We see this inactivity as a source of national shame. We of all nations must actively help others who are systemically oppressed. 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.

In line with this endeavour, we ask you to:

  1. Sever all diplomatic and trade ties with the State of Israel.
  2. Implement boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
  3. Implement all the actions called for in the Cape Town Declaration of 6 February 2014.

We recognise the occupation of Palestine by Israel as the primary violent act. Israel uses negotiations and violence to prolong the pain, to intensify the occupation and to confiscate more resources. We condemn it absolutely. Israel’s widespread, ongoing, collective attack on the Palestinian people is a form of institutionalised, systemic violence practised in multiple ways on the besieged Gaza strip and occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank.

The violent resistance by Hamas is understandable, but we do not support it. We do not believe that this violence represents the will of the majority of Palestinians, who ask for active non-violent resistance in the form of boycotts, divestment and sanctions.

We call on you, our government, to do what is honest and just, so that we can be honourable international citizens.

We do not ask you to issue more statements, but to:

  1. Sever all diplomatic and trade ties with the State of Israel and with Israeli institutions and business.
  2. Implement boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
  3. Implement all the actions called for in the Cape Town Declaration of 6 February 2014.

God bless.

 Edwin Arrison (Rev.)
General-secretary

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Gaza: South Africa’s lack of solidarity a “national shame”

The South African government lags behind in its solidarity with Palestine because of pressure applied by the South African Zionist lobby. This inactivity is “a source of national shame” Kairos Southern Africa said at a press statement in Cape Town on 11 July 2014.

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Several civil societies as well as the ANC Youth League tabled their positions and their appeal to the South African government to members of the local and the international press. The joint message was clear:

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. Our government must implement BDS actions. An insufficient response will prolong the suffering and the damage. All violence must stop with immediate effect.

Here is Kairos Southern Africa’s full statement:

PRESS RELEASE: Response to Gaza violence
Friday, 11 July 2014
11:00, Cape Town

Kairos Southern Africa believes that all lives have the same value, and that all violence is destructive. The current and ongoing situation between Israel and Palestine poses a critical test for the international community’s commitment to international law and human dignity. In this context, we hold the following position:

  1. The occupation of Palestine by Israel is the primary violent act. We condemn it absolutely. Israel’s widespread, ongoing, collective attack on the Palestinian people is a form of institutionalised, systemic violence practised in multiple ways on the besieged Gaza strip and occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank.
  2. The violent resistance by Hamas is understandable, but we do not support it. We do not believe that this violence represents the will of the majority of Palestinians, who ask for active non-violent resistance in the form of boycotts, divestment and sanctions.
  3. On 10 July, the Palestinian unity government appealed to the United Nations Security Council to enforce International Humanitarian Law.
  4. Many Israelis and the majority of the Palestinian people are exhausted by the ongoing struggle. They want an end to the unbearable and inhumane situation; and they want to live normal, secure and hopeful lives. Therefore, they are calling for help on their governments and the international community to end to the ongoing occupation.
  5. The South African government has failed to take tangible action in the form of support of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, because of pressure applied by the South African Zionist lobby, which insists on the South African government’s neutrality when it comes to Israel. As a result, South Africa now lags behind other countries in its solidarity with the oppressed in Palestine. We see this inactivity as a source of national shame. In the light of our history, we of all nations must actively help others who are systemically oppressed.

We call on the South African government to do what is honest and just, so that we can be honourable international citizens. We do not ask our government to issue more statements, but to implement boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and to take the actions called for in the Cape Town Declaration of 6 February 2014.

The South African government must:

  • Adhere to its legal obligation under the Rome Statute to set up a special court to deal with war crimes, deal expeditiously with the Gaza Docket and with South Africans serving in the Israeli Defence Force.
  • Adopt the HSRC report that found Israeli guilty of Apartheid, and present it to international bodies, including the International Criminal Court, the United Nations and the African Union.
  • Stop financial transactions with Israeli settlement companies, banks, and companies involved in the settlements.
  • Lobby for financial and other support in the global arena for the Palestinians for socioeconomic development after the end of the occupation.
  • Support Palestinian students as a concrete act of solidarity and ease entrance into South Africa for Palestinians.
  • Support health systems infrastructure in Gaza, in the West Bank and in refugee camps.
  • Support the Robben Island Declaration for the freedom of Marwan Barghouti and all Palestinian political prisoners.
  • Support the Palestinian-led call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions issued by the majority of Palestinians by implementing complete military, financial and political sanctions against Israel until it complies with all the applicable UN resolutions and International Law, and ends its occupation; and table this matter at both the African Union and the United Nations.
  • Encourage witness and solidarity visits such as the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) programme.
  • Build and strengthen an international diplomatic bloc in solidarity with the Palestinian people, starting with Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS).
  • Campaign for Israel to be suspended from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network.
  • Encourage and support Palestinian reconciliation efforts.

ISSUED BY 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. This includes Kairos Palestine and its declaration of steadfast faith, hope and love from within the suffering of Palestinians.

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Gaza: Letter to President Zuma (+ Jewish response)

In response to the SA government’s statement, we at Kairos Southern Africa sent the following letter to the South African president:

20 November 2012

Honourable President Zuma

Re: The Republic of South Africa government’s response to the present killing of people in Gaza

As we write to you, over a 100 people have already been killed in Gaza, many of them civilians. We would want all violence to stop immediately.

According to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Israel “has the right, and indeed the duty, to respond in order to protect the life of its citizens but the measures taken are bound nonetheless to remain in conformity with applicable international law.” However the killing of civilians and inflicting of damage to their property are not allowed for under this law. Moreover, what should be clearly understood and articulated is that although the acts of violence by Palestinians and its impact on Israel should not be minimized, Israel’s overall power and security are not threatened by these acts. Israel is a military super power in the region.

We want to state that we hold Israel primarily responsible for inducing the current flare-up of violence in Gaza. Besides the killings and the damage to property and infrastructure inflicted upon the people of Gaza, there are also the effects of Israel’s military occupation (Gaza’s land, sea and air space are controlled by the Israeli military forces, turning Gaza into the world’s largest prison). Demolitions, water and land confiscations, the expansion of settlements and many other forms of illegal oppression are continuing at full speed in the West-Bank and in East Jerusalem. Nothing can excuse decades of systemic crimes and multiple violations of international laws being committed by the state of Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Some Gazans are involved in shooting home-made “rockets” into Israel, and while we disapprove of this, it is a reaction of an oppressed people to the much greater violence inflicted on the people of Gaza by Israel and also in response to Israel’s ongoing and systematic violence against the Palestinian people.
We believe that South Africans are morally obliged to support another people who suffer from a similar crime against humanity which can, in terms of international law, be described as apartheid (United Nations 2002). Therefore, as citizens of this country and as people of faith who hold all life dear and believe in human dignity for all, we do not regard a statement of condemnation as sufficient.
Israel’s ambassador in South Africa should be informed that South Africa strongly disapproves of what is happening in Gaza at the moment and be told to ask his government to stop the violence against civilians and their property in Gaza immediately.  Too many people have already been killed and our government should give Israel an ultimatum: if one more civilian is killed, the Israeli ambassador will be sent back to Israel and our ambassador will be recalled.

We also call on our government and civil society to instigate broad-based boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel until it ends its oppression of the Palestinian people in Gaza, the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, and until Israel abides to the international humanitarian law, the international human rights law and applicable rulings and resolutions of the International Court of Justice and the United Nations’ Security Council.

South Africa benefitted from the world’s solidarity during the apartheid years. We now have a moral
obligation to take the lead and call on the world to cut ties with Israel as an Oppressor. We as South Africans know very well that the acts of an oppressor injure not only the oppressed, but the oppressor too, and the oppressors’ partners or allies as, for example, Christians in the United States of America confessed recently with regard to the role the United States played (or failed to play) in both the Holocaust and in Israel-Palestine. Therefore we believe that our request will ultimately also be in the interest of Israel. South Africa should not be guilty of a violence of complacency, as it will impact on our psyche too. We should uphold our values of ubuntu whereby we are all interconnected and speak up on behalf of the Palestinians.

In the words of the Jewish scholar, Mark Ellis (2011)2:

“(t)he ethnic cleansing of Palestine is among
the defining moments of contemporary Jewish history[…]Israel will not stop itself. Palestinians cannot stop Israel. Many Jews and Palestinians want a way beyond this endless violence.”

We sincerely hope and pray that you will heed this urgent message seriously. We want the people of Gaza and those from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories as well as the hundreds of
thousands of Palestinian refugees in other countries to feel a strong sense of support coming from South Africa. We also want South Africa to take the lead and inspire other governments. Above all, we want to remember the pain of apartheid and the freedom we were granted. Human dignity for all is possible. South Africa’s voice should be crystal clear.

Yours faithfully

E. Arrison (Rev), GENERAL SECRETARY
(On behalf of Kairos SA leadership team: Rev Moss Ntlha, Dr Stiaan van der Merwe, Ms Dudu Mahlangu-Masango, Ms Marthie Momberg, Rev Dix Sibeko)

On writing a letter such as the one here, I am always prepared to receive the usual flood of outrage from those who regard all Muslims as terrorists, all Jews as threatened and all Christians as irrelevant.  (What about the rest?) Anyway, this time, I got a heart-warming response from a South African Jew, Paul Hendler:

Dear Marthie, I received the above from Carol. I noticed your name on the Kairos SA letterhead. Whether or not you participated in writing this document, I was truly inspired by its following a path that incorporates humanitarian law with an understanding of political power, domination and oppression of one nation by the state that claims the defence and security of another nation as its  sole priority. The language is powerfully simple so that a child could understand what is being communicated.

There is no glorification of violence here, but a call to protect all lives from the dangers and risks of destruction and tearing apart of the flesh, through an appeal to international law against barbarism by either side. At the same time the important point is made that while the state of Israel is not under threat, individual Israeli citizens clearly are, and particularly so the entire government of Hamas ad well as a significantly larger number of Palestinians, who when they are not being bombed are being squeezed and prevented from living in freedom by the stranglehold blockade.

This document seems to represent liberation theology at its best as it negotiates the difficult path between the universal values and the particular national liberation struggle. Of the three western religions, I am mainly aware of Christianity giving birth to this liberatory strand of thought – there are strands of this in American Jewry, although not in SA’s likud-befok Jewish community. And maybe my ignorance is doing a disservice to Islam. But then a significant segment of Christian churches took the same stance in SA. It is interesting – enriching – that a Jewish boy from Paarl is inspired by the writings of Christians (including this Afrikaans lady) about the political and ethical issues in Palestine/Israel.

Regards, Paul.

 

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South African Government calls on international community

Statement by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mshabane, on international developments,

with specific focus on the Israel-Palestine conflict, Imbizo Media Centre, Parliament, Cape Town, 20 November 2012:

The South African Government is gravely concerned at the escalating conflict between Israel and Gaza. We strongly condemn the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli government, which has resulted in a significant number of deaths and injuries on both sides, particularly among Palestinian civilians, including children.

The South African Government calls on both sides to immediately halt all cross border attacks and agree to a ceasefire.  Israeli air and naval forces must cease their airstrikes and shelling into the Gaza enclave, which has already caused considerable material destruction in one of the most densely inhabited places on earth. We also call upon Palestinian militants in Gaza to immediately suspend the firing of rockets into Israeli territory.

An ominous development is the decision by the Israeli Government to call up 75 000 military reservists to active service, which would seem to imply that a large- scale ground assault by the Israeli army into Gaza is being seriously contemplated. The South African Government accordingly appeals to the Government of Israel to refrain from such a fatal step, which will not only result in the inevitable loss of a large number of both Palestinian and Israelis lives – but also further inflame sentiments in an already volatile region.

At the heart of the conflict lies Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestinian land, especially the continuing blockade of Gaza. The South African Government therefore urges the Israeli Government to halt these policies as they are an obstacle to negotiations for peace and contrary to international law.

The South African Government further calls on the international community to put pressure on both Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza to halt this escalation of violence, given that as close neighbours, they have no choice but to accept each other’s permanent presence and eventually reach agreement on peaceful co-existence through a process of negotiations, rather than through continuous conflict.

SA Government considers sanctions against Israel

South Africa was one of the countries who supported the Palestinian bid to the UN Security Council in 2011.  On 2 February 2012 the South African Minister of Arts and Culture made headlines when he told The New Age that the country’s government are in support of peaceful resistance against Israel’s transgressions of international law:

“We want to step up our support of the Palestinians ….  we have no problem with supporting the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel,”

These were his words after signing a cultural agreement between Palestine and South Africa.  BDS is an international movement with a lively presence in South Africa.

“BDS supporters argue that Israel’s continued illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, and expropriation of Palestinian land, water and other natural resources can only be stopped when sanctions against Israel begin to bite economically.”

See the full newspaper article here, or read the text below:

SA Pledges Support for Palestinians

Mel Frykberg | The New Age Newspaper

02 February 2012

The South African government might consider supporting sanctions against Israel as it explores a variety of peaceful methods to step up support for the Palestinians’ fight for freedom and independence.

“We want to step up our support of the Palestinians and are investigating a number of peaceful ways to upgrade this support. We have no problem with supporting the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel,” Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile told The New Age.

Mashatile was addressing a press conference in Pretoria yesterday at the Department of Arts and Culture, during the signing of a cultural agreement between South Africa and Palestine.

During the signing Palestinian Arts and Culture Minister Siham Barghouti and Palestinian Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture Musa Abu Ghreibeh, exchanged gifts with their South African counterparts, Minister Mashatile and deputy minister Joe Pehle.

Later on in the year the Palestinians will host South Africa’s Arts and Culture Week, where South African artists and cultural entrepreneurs will present cultural exhibitions from their country.

Mashatile’s statement presents a considerable upping of the ante in South Africa’s long-standing support for the Palestinians and the cementing of a relationship that goes back decades, to when the ANC was struggling against the former apartheid government.

“Your Excellency, we count the people of Palestine among those patriots who stood by us in our struggle for national liberation,” Mashatile told the Palestinian delegation as he recalled former President Nelson Mandela’s 1997 speech to honor the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

“Having achieved our freedom we can fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others face. Yet we would be less human if we do so,” said Mandela in 1997.

BDS supporters argue that Israel’s continued illegal occupation of the Palestinians territories and expropriation of Palestinians land, water and other resources can only be stopped when sanctions against Israel begin to bite economically.

“We are grateful for South Africa’s support for our efforts to become members of the international community and look towards you for guidance in our continued struggle,” said Barghouti.

The two delegations agreed that future cooperation would include language development, heritage preservation, literature exchanges and exhibitions.