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

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Media release:

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

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

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

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

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

The delegation calls for:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

South Africa: Palestinian lobby groups united in one voice to the government

375A number of South African groups – human rights, religious (Jews, Muslims, Christians, and others), civil society, political formations and trade unions stand in solidarity and in support of justice, equality and freedom, and in the strongest opposition to the most appalling atrocities perpetrated by apartheid Israel upon the people of Palestine.

378 372   376 382

383

371

Here is a link to a news clip on the press release, and also to an article by SABC.

373

Our full statement follows below:

nc4p logo

•••• MEMORANDUM TO THE SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT ••••

Israeli Attacks on Gaza and the rest of occupied Palestine –
A call for expulsion of Israeli Ambassador in South Africa

DATE: 28th July, 2014
FROM: The National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P)
SUBJECT: Israeli Attacks on Gaza and the rest of occupied Palestine – A call for expulsion of Israeli Ambassador in South Africa

The National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P), a number of South African groups comprising human rights, religious (Jews, Muslims, Christians, and others), civil society and political formations, as well as trade unions who represent the free citizens of South Africa and the world, stand here in solidarity and in support of justice, equality and freedom, and in the strongest opposition to the most appalling atrocities perpetrated by apartheid Israel upon the people of Palestine.

We stand here to express our outrage at apartheid Israel – its supporters, its justifiers, its beneficiaries, and its military media arm – for their relentless bombing and killing of the people of Palestine. The concern we communicate today is not only with the current cycle of violence against the Palestinian people, but the ending of the ongoing illegal occupation and other injustices against Palestine by apartheid Israel.

We express our deep concern at the rather lame, tepid and timid responses that have emerged from our government thus far on the matter.

Since 1948, the people of Palestine have suffered under the brutal, murderous Israeli occupation force. The nature of the Israeli occupation is violent, whereby it uses the dominant hand of a lawless military machine to subject and subjugate the Palestinians in order to confine them to a small, vulnerable enclave, surrounded by high walls and intimidating checkpoints. This is especially the harsh reality for the Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem today where a huge proportion of those killed in the last two weeks were women and children. Within the enclaves of Gaza – also known as the world’s largest open air prison – people are humiliated, degraded and deprived of basic human rights and medical care, on a daily basis.

The apartheid Israeli regime has unashamedly and without conscience taken up arms against a defenseless, occupied and oppressed people who live in a permanent state of siege and are subjected to constant bombardment with a wide array of weapons of mass destruction, including illegal chemical warfare. As the most powerful military settlement state in the region, their barbaric deeds have relentlessly continued and deepened the severe humanitarian crisis in which the Palestinians find themselves.

The facts?
• Israel has occupied and colonized Palestine since 1948 through expansionist policies, designed to rid the land of the Palestinian people;
• Israel has used its military, helicopter-fired missiles, F16’s, tanks and explosive devices on civilians in their homes that have killed over a thousand civilians, including more than 200 children in the last two weeks;
• Collective punishment of the Palestinian people – a longstanding practice of the Israeli government – is illegal, inhumane and absolutely unacceptable; instead of seeking political solutions, Israel regularly employs its military might to collectively punish the Palestinian people;
• The Israeli offensive has deepened the severe humanitarian crisis and suffering of the people of Gaza, with no intention by them of contributing to a lasting peaceful solution;
• Since the siege on Gaza, the social and economic situation in the Gaza Strip is at its worst in 40 years;
• 80% of Gaza’s 1.8 million people are literally deprived of food by Israel, as they depend on international food aid and suffer with an unemployment rate of 40% or more;
• Spare parts for hospitals and water purification cannot be imported and hospitals cannot keep life-saving equipment working.

The response of the people of South Africa?

In response to this immense tragedy we have been unequivocal in rejecting and resisting the immoral idea that both victim and perpetrator are responsible. We demand that apartheid Israel must be called to account now! We emphasise the particular responsibility that the South African Government has to act; it represents a nation born because of international solidarity with our struggle for freedom. Every single veteran of our country’s liberation struggle, including many leaders currently serving in Cabinet, who have ever been to Palestine have returned and proclaimed that life in the shadow of or under the apartheid Israeli regime is much worse than life under South African Apartheid had ever been.

In response to all of this, what has our government done?

Government has made some half-hearted statements about working in tandem with the other BRICS countries, with IBSA (India, Brazil and SA) and the United Nations, promised to send a delegation to lend support to efforts to mediate a solution, call the Israeli Ambassador, Arthur Lenk, in to receive a demarché (diplomatic note), and invite President Mahmoud Abbas to South Africa at an unspecified date.

It is obvious that none of these measures are serious. This is precisely why the Israeli Ambassador, and his accompanying choir, The Israeli lobby (the South African Zionist Federation and the Jewish Board of Deputies), can laugh them off or welcome them. These measures are intended to placate the people of South Africa who, in their tens of thousands, have taken to the streets to remind the African National Congress of what it proclaims and stands for.

We are not unmindful of the limitations of government which wields political power and needs to translate ideas into implementable policies. We are however deeply concerned that ‘implementable policies’ seem to be increasingly defined by the following factors:

a) A huge dose of mostly private interference by Israel’s lobby in South Africa.
b) The immoral comparison between the rockets of Hamas and the Israeli bombs (Imagine a wife abused for decades attempting to slap her husband – mostly missing her target and then being stabbed to death by him – And then being called ‘equally responsible for the violence’).
c) The intervention on behalf of apartheid Israel by a few government leaders who have not had the courage to open their mouths in public because they are aware that they are in defiance of official ANC congress resolutions.
d) A misplaced leaning on international structures such as the youthful BRICS and the tired UN, while doing admirable work on the ground in Gaza offers nothing but placatory noises. In fact, it is evident that other countries, including European ones, along with Brazil, Venezuela, Chile and Ecuador, have acted far more decisively against apartheid Israel. South Africa’s excuse about not wanting to act unilaterally is wearing rather thin. Seventeen European Union countries have issued guidelines to their citizens, businesses and other entities including Germany, the United Kingdom, etc., warning them against doing business with Israeli or international companies that have any sort of operations in the illegal, apartheid Israeli settlements or the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Similar guidelines must be issued in South Africa. It is frankly embarrassing that South Africa is actually having to play ‘catch-up’ with other countries’ advocacy and resistance strategies (see http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.603030).
e) Both the gentle and the not-so-gentle threats by the United States of America to reduce various trade preferences with South Africa, if South Africa was to put its money where its mouth lies in relation to apartheid Israel.
f) The lie that government must be seen to appease two local religious communities: i.e. Muslims and Jews. It is a lie because:
i) Under the guise of religious identity those who intervene on apartheid Israel’s behalf do so as an extension of that country’s foreign policy operations and must be treated as such.
ii) While South Africa belongs to all of its people, we do not expect our government to listen to the voices of those of who support racism and economic exploitation simply because those guilty of these are also South Africans.
iii) While under apartheid the most authoritative Afrikaner voices may indeed have been the Nationalist Party and the Afrikaner churches, the deeply moral (albeit stifled) voices belonged to the Bram Fischers, the Beyers Naudes, the Antjie Krogs, and the Jeanette Schoons. As the heirs of these national heroes, our government has to listen to such groups as ‘Jewish Voice for Peace’, ‘Stop the Jewish National Fund’, and the more than 100 leading Jews who recently and publicly denounced apartheid Israel’s invasion and massacre of Gaza.

We implore all structures of our government to:

1. Immediately recall the South African Ambassador in Tel Aviv, as a form of diplomatic protest;

2. Immediately expel the Israeli Ambassador Arthur Lenk from South Africa as a form of diplomatic protest;

3. Heed Palestinian civil society’s – as well as Amnesty International’s – call for a full military embargo on apartheid Israel;

4. Implement the decisions of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) conference in Durban in 2006 to: a) ban all products of Israeli companies operating in the occupied Palestinian territory, and b) ban entry of Israeli settlers into South Africa;

5. Hold South Africans who have enlisted in the Israeli occupation army accountable to legal prosecution, in accordance with South African laws;

6. Immediately act on the Gaza Docket currently lodged with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) which names several South Africans who served in the previous Israeli massacre in Gaza in 2008/2009.

The following economic sanctions must be implemented:

1. All state departments must implement the above guidelines so as to make sure that no contracts or tenders involve and/or support Israeli companies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

2. Caterpillar, the company handling house and other demolitions for apartheid Israel, should be excluded from all South African infrastructure and related projects due to its involvement in the construction of illegal Israeli settlements and involvement in the demolition of Palestinian homes.

3. G4S should be excluded from all South African government contracts due to its involvement in the illegal Israeli settlements, prisons and detention centres.

4. Implement ethical and international law policies that exclude international corporations complicit in Israeli violations of international law, including Caterpillar, G4S, Veolia, among others, from public contracts.

We demand that the following political steps be taken:
1. Move away from the history of Apartheid South Africa’s ‘cozy’ relations with apartheid Israel, and immediately implement strict visa requirements for Israelis entering South Africa who must be investigated for their possible involvement in human rights abuses and war crimes.

2. Make local municipalities “Apartheid Israel Free Zones” by not supporting any contracts for goods or services with Israeli or related companies involved in the unjust Israeli occupation of Palestine.

3. Send a communiqué to all MPLs, councillors, and municipal officials not to travel to apartheid Israel as per national policy.

4. Support BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) efforts to expel the Israeli Medical Association from the World Medical gathering taking place in Durban during 8-11 October 2014.

5. Support BDS efforts to expel the Israeli Architecture Association from the International Union of Architects being held in Durban during 3-10 August 2014.

6. Affirm courageous Jewish South Africans who stand up and resist the illegal occupation of Palestine by apartheid Israel.

7. Ensure the speedy implementation of the recent Human Rights Council decision to investigate war crimes as perpetrated by apartheid Israel in occupied Palestine.

Signed and supported by:

  • Ahmed Kathrada Foundation;
  • Al Ansaar Foundation;
  • Al Quds Foundation;
  • AMAL (Association of Muslim Accountants and Lawyers);
  • ANC Youth League;
  • Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel in South Africa (BDS South Africa);
  • COSATU;
  • Friends of Al Aqsa South Africa;
  • Islamic Council of South Africa;
  • Islamic Medical Association of South Africa;
  • Jamiatul Ulama South Africa;
  • Kairos Southern Africa; KwaZulu-Natal;
  • KZN Palestine Solidarity Forum;
  • Media Review Network (MRN);
  • MSA Union; Muslim Judicial Council (South Africa);
  • Muslim Youth Movement; Not In My Home;
  • Open Shuhada Street (OSS);
  • Palestine Museum;
  • Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA);
  • Palestine Solidarity Association University of the Western Cape (PSA UWC);
  • Palestine Solidarity Campaign Cape Town (PSC Cape Town);
  • Palestine Solidarity Campaign Stellenbosch (PSC Stellenbosch);
  • Palestine Solidarity Forum;
  • Palestine Solidarity Forum (UJ PSF);
  • Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC);
  • Pietermaritzburg for Palestine (PMB4Palestine);
  • SA-EAPPI;
  • South African Communist Party (SACP);
  • UKZN Theology & Development Programme;
  • University of Cape Town Palestine Solidarity Forum (UCT PSF).

NC4P Launch: Media Statement
Cape Town, South Africa
July 28, 2014

375