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Dit gaan alles oor die grond

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

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

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

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

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

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

Palestinian loss of land 1946-2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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index0093Palestyne herdenk die Nakba (Die Katastrofe) in Jerusalem.

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

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA640x392_2170_264609media_29ebc6919dd74f69ad4b1c1ff51d929e_t607israel-5irangazaA 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-Zor

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

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

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

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

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

Weerstandsbewegings word gevoed deur diskriminasie en menseregteskendings.

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

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

Soos gepubliseer op 24 Aug 2014 in Weekliks – Rapport.

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Is Israel guilty of Genocide in its assault on Gaza?

If viewed from the perspective of international law – is Israel guilty of genocide in Gaza or not? To prevent the crime of silence, the Russell Tribunal held a special hearing. Richard Falk provides an overview of the findings.

Gaza-7Palestinians clashes with Israeli troops following the protest against the Israeli operations in Gaza at the al-Jalazone Camp in Ramallah, West Bank. Photo: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

On September 24, a special session of the Tribunal critically scrutinized Israel’s summer assault on Gaza, Operation Protective Edge, from the perspective of international law, including the core allegation of genocide. The process involved a series of testimonies by legal and weapons experts, health workers, journalists and others, some of whom directly experienced the fifty days of military assault.

Gaza-12Israeli soldiers rest next to artillery shells from an artillery unit near the Israeli border with Gaza; Photo:EPA/ABIR SULTAN

A jury composed of prominent individuals from around the world, known for their moral engagement with issues of the day, assessed the evidence with the help of an expert legal team of volunteers that helped with the preparation of the findings and analysis for consideration by the jury, which deliberated and debated all the issues raised—above all, the question of how to respond to the charge of genocide.

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine was inspired by the original Russell Tribunal, which was held in 1967 at the height of the Vietnam War. Convened by the great English philosopher Bertrand Russell and presided over by Jean-Paul Sartre, those original sessions assessed charges of war crimes committed by the United States in Vietnam. Subsequent tribunals included the Russell Tribunal on Latin America, which investigated the military dictatorships in Argentina, Brazil and Chile. The first Russell Tribunal proceedings on Palestine, convened in the wake of Israel’s 2008–09 assault on Gaza, were held in four sessions, from 2010 to 2012.

Gaza-11Palestinians paramedics lift the body of a man from the Al Shejaeiya neighbourhood, during a brief period of ceasefire requested by local rescue forces to retrieve dead and wounded from the Shuja’iyya neighbourhood in east Gaza City. Photo: EPA/MOHAMMED SABER

It should be acknowledged that this latest undertaking was never intended to be a neutral inquiry without any predispositions. The tribunal was held because of the enormity of the devastation and the spectacle of horror associated with high-technology weaponry attacking the civilian population of Gaza, which was locked into a combat zone that left no place to hide. The tribunal was also a response to the failures of the international community to do more to stop the carnage, or even to condemn Israel’s disproportionate uses of force against an essentially helpless civilian population that included the targeting of a variety of legally forbidden targets, among them UN buildings used as shelters, residential neighborhoods, hospitals and clinics, and mosques.

gaza2Southern Gaza Strip:Young relatives of four boys, all from the Bakr family, killed during Israeli shelling, cry during their funeral in Gaza City. Photo: MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images

Although the tribunal proceeded from the assumption that Israel was responsible for severe wrongdoing, it made every effort to be scrupulous in the presentation of evidence and the interpretation of applicable international law, and relied on testimony from people with established reputations for integrity and conscience. Among the highlights of the testimony were a report on damage to hospitals and clinics given by Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor serving in a Gaza hospital during the attacks; Mohammed Omer, a widely respected Gazan journalist who daily reported from the combat zone; Max Blumenthal, a prize-winning journalist who was in Gaza throughout Protective Edge and analyzed for the jury the overall political design that appeared to explain the civilian targeting patterns; and David Sheen, who reported in agonizing detail on the racist hatred expressed by prominent Israelis during the assault, which was widely echoed by Israelis in the social media and never repudiated by the leadership in Jerusalem.

v3-gaza-1Southern Gaza Strip: A Palestinian man cries as he holds the dead body of his young brother shortly after he got killed by an Israeli naval bombardment in the port of Gaza City in the morgue of the Shifa hospital in Gaza. Photo: Rex Features

The jury had little difficulty concluding that the pattern of attack, as well as the targeting, amounted to a series of war crimes that were aggravated by the commission of crimes against humanity. These included the imposition of collective punishment upon the entire civilian population of Gaza, in flagrant and sustained violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. A further notable legal finding was the rejection of the central Israeli claim that it was acting in self-defense against rocket attacks from Gaza. There are several reasons for reaching this conclusion: under international law, the claim of self-defense cannot be used in justifying response to resistance mounted by an occupied people, and from the perspective of international law, Gaza remains occupied due to persisting Israeli control despite Israel’s purported “disengagement” in 2005 (more properly characterized as a military redeployment). The rockets fired from Gaza were at least partly a response to prior Israeli unlawful provocations, including the mass detention of several hundred people loosely associated with Hamas in the West Bank and the incitement to violence against Palestinians as revenge for the murder of three kidnapped Israeli settler children. And finally, the minimal damage done by the rockets—seven civilian deaths over the entire period—is too small a security threat to qualify as an “armed attack,” as is required by the UN Charter to uphold a claim of self-defense. At the same time, the jury did not doubt that rocket fire by Palestinian militants into Israel was unlawful, as the rockets were incapable of distinguishing between military and civilian targets.

Gaza-9A picture taken from Israel at the southern border with the Gaza strip shows smoke billowing from behind a hill following an Israeli air strike on Gaza City. Photo: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images

The testimony made this issue complex and sensitive. It produced a consensus on the jury that the evidence was sufficient to make it appropriate to give careful consideration as to whether the crime of genocide had actually been committed by Israel. This was itself an acknowledgment that there was a genocidal atmosphere in Israel, in which high-level officials made statements supporting the destruction or elimination of the Gazans as a people. Such inflammatory assertions were at no time repudiated by the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or subject to criminal investigation, let alone any other official proceedings. Furthermore, the sustained bombardment of Gaza, under circumstances where the population had no opportunity to leave or to seek sanctuary within the Gaza Strip, lent further credibility to the charge. The fact that Operation Protective Edge was the third large-scale, sustained military assault on this unlawfully blockaded, impoverished and endangered population also formed part of the larger genocidal context.

gaza-2Southern Gaza Strip:Palestinian men help a local journalist who got injured during an Israeli airstrike on an office building hosting several media outlets in Gaza City. Photo:EPA/OLIVER WEIKEN

Despite these factors, there were legal doubts as to the crime itself. The political and military leaders of Israel never explicitly endorsed the pursuit of genocidal goals, and they purported to seek a ceasefire during the military campaign. The tribunal convincingly documented the government’s goal of intensifying the regime of collective punishment, but there was no clear official expression of intent to commit genocide. The presence of genocidal behavior and language, even if used in government circles, is not by itself sufficient to conclude that Protective Edge, despite its enormity, amounted to the commission of the crime of genocide.

What the jury did agree upon, however, was that some Israeli citizens and leaders appear to have been guilty in several instances of the separate crime of incitement to genocide, which is specified in Article 3(c) of the Genocide Convention. It also agreed that the additional duty of Israel and other parties to prevent genocide, especially the United States and Europe, was definitely engaged by Israeli behavior. In this regard, the Russell Tribunal is sending an incriminating message of warning to Israel and an appeal to the UN and the international community to uphold the Genocide Convention, and to prevent any further behavior by Israel that would cross the line.

1-Rescue-EPATwo Palestinian men flee their homes during a temporary ceasefire in the heavily-hit Shuja’iya neighbourhood in Gaza City. Photo:EPA

Many will react to this assessment of Protective Edge as without legal authority and dismiss it as merely recording the predictable views of a “kangaroo court.” Those allegations have been directed at the Russell Tribunal ever since its founding nearly fifty years ago. Bertrand Russell called the original proceedings a stand of citizens of conscience “against the crime of silence.” This latest session of the tribunal has a similar mission in relation to Israel’s actions in Gaza, although less against silence than indifference. Such tribunals, created almost always in exceptional circumstances and in response to defiance of the most elemental constraints of international law, make crucial contributions to public awareness—especially when geopolitical realities preclude established institutional procedures, such as recourse to the International Criminal Court and the UN Security Council and General Assembly.

When the interests of the West are at stake, as in Ukraine, there is no need to activate unofficial international law initiatives. However, in the case of Israel-Palestine, when the US government and most of Western Europe stand fully behind whatever Israel chooses to do, the need for an accounting is particularly urgent, even if the prospects for accountability are minimal. The long-suffering people of Gaza have endured three criminal assaults in the past six years, which have left virtually the entire population, especially young children, traumatized by the experience.

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The Russell Tribunal is filling a normative vacuum in the world. It does not pretend to be a court. In fact, among its recommendations is a call on the Palestinian Authority to join the International Criminal Court and present its grievance to the authorities in The Hague for their investigation and possible indictments. Even then, prosecution will be impossible, as Israel is not a party to the treaty establishing the ICC and would certainly refuse to honor any arrest warrants issued in The Hague. A trial could not proceed without the physical presence of those accused. It is notable that Hamas has joined in urging recourse to the ICC despite the distinct possibility that allegations against its rocket fire would also be investigated and its officials could be indicted for alleged war crimes.

As with the Nuremberg judgment, which documented Nazi criminality but excluded any consideration of the crimes committed by the victors in World War II, the Russell Tribunal process was flawed and can be criticized as one-sided. At the same time, I am confident that, on balance, this assessment of Israel’s behavior toward the people of Gaza will support the long struggle to make the rule of law applicable to the strong as well as the weak.

Gaza 13Palestinian mourners pray in a mosque during the funeral for those killed in a three-storey house belonging to the Abu Jamaa family the day before, in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo:MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images

For more information on the Russell Tribunal, click here: Russell Tribunal

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South African Churches urged to Pray for Peace on 16 March

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Many South African Christians do not know how Israel oppresses Palestinian Christians. Said the new leadership of the South African Council of Churches on 26.02.2014:

“…we urge churches to campaign for greater awareness on all Palestinian struggles in general and the plight of Palestinian Christians in particular. We also request churches to dedicate Sunday services on March 16th during the upcoming Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) campaign to reflect and pray for peace with justice in Palestine and Israel.”

Let us pray for both the oppressed and the oppressor. Let us ask to be enthused with wisdom and love when we speak up and act on behalf of the Palestinians. Let us ask to be guided to bridge the divide between people.

The SACC’s new leadership includes Bishop Z. Siwa as the new President of the SACC,  Dr Frank Chikane as the Senior Vice President and Father Michael Lapsley as Vice President:

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Bishop Siwa is Presiding Bishop (president) of the Methodist Church. He preached at former President Mandela’s funeral in Qunu where Mandela’s body was laid  to rest.

frank chikane

Rev. Frank Chikane is well known in the local and international evangelical community.

michael lapsley

Fr. Michael Lapsley’s work in healing of memories in post-apartheid South Africa is well known internationally. His arms were blown off in letter bomb in the 1980’s when he was chaplain in the ANC in Harare.

I congratulate the new leadership of the SACC and I believe that with this group, we start a new era. I also hold them in my prayers. May they be blessed with the necessary vision, the energy, the wisdom and the support in taking on the huge challenges in South Africa and abroad.

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Here is their full statement:

South African Council of Churches Triennial Conference Statement

The South African Council of Churches (SACC) held its Triennial Conference from the 25-26th February at the Willow Park Lodge under the theme “God of Life: Renew, Restore and Transform us for the service of Your Kingdom.” The SACC Conference drew inspiration and hope from the key text found in Isaiah 43:19: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland”, as it reflected on the state of the nation, the economy and the SACC.

On reflecting on the state of the nation, we give thanks and praise to Almighty God for the changes in our country since the birth of our democratic South Africa some 20 years ago. We recognise with thanksgiving and gratitude the many positive things that have been accomplished in these past years. We also, regrettably, express our concern that still much more must be achieved in the areas of education, health and social transformation. We were hoping that President Jacob Zuma would have used the opportunity in his recent State of the Nation Address to unfold a vision and action plan to address these issues as we move into the future but we were left somewhat disappointed that this was not the case. We are deeply concerned about the ever increasing corruption, service delivery protests and the unrest and violence it is bringing upon our land. Particularly disheartening is the fact that innocent people are dying at the hands of those who are supposed to care for them.

We are really concerned about the safety of our children as we observe the increasing numbers of rape, sexual abuse and murders of innocent little ones. We are deeply alarmed by the rising cultic and satanic practices, rituals and killings that seem to attract our youth. We realise that the context in which we do mission and ministry as churches has become a moral challenge. Hence we call on church leaders to not wait for government alone to address these matters but to seriously engage and address these on the ground.

On reflecting on the state of the economy, we express our deep concern over the widening gap between the rich and the poor in South Africa. We are therefore not surprised by the strikes and protests emerging from the mines and other sectors of business and society. Inequalities in society are bound to lead to social instability and this is what we are seeing daily in our country. Added to this is the escalating rate of unemployment and the struggles young people are encountering to find decent jobs. Resources are a gift from God for all and not just a few. We call on our churches to proclaim this biblical message as we seek to address the inequalities and economic discrepancies in our country, especially as we focus on the needs of the poor. We hope and pray that the latter would be seriously factored into Budget Speech of the Minister of Finance. We thus call for a fresh social dialogue on the trajectory of the political economy of our country.

The Conference also recognised that on the 7th May 2014 South Africa will hold its next General Elections. We take joy in the report of the IEC that more people have registered to vote than ever before and this includes 1.2 million new young voters. We encourage all those who have the right to vote to exercise it in the interest of our democracy and the development of our country. We call on all political leaders and parties to restrain from acts of violence and to refrain from endeavours to make certain areas as “no go areas” for other political parties to campaign. Indeed, we call upon churches to pray for, and participate at all cost to ensure that the elections are peaceful, free and fare.

The Conference also heard about the situation in Palestine and Israel and called for all parties concerned to work towards a just peace and reiterated our solidarity and support for all those working towards this goal. We urge churches to campaign for greater awareness on all Palestinian struggles in general and the plight of Palestinian Christians in particular. We also request churches to dedicate Sunday services on March 16th during the upcoming Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) campaign to reflect and pray for peace with justice in Palestine and Israel.

Against this background and in keeping with its theme, the Conference entered into a process in which it looked at the role and value of the SACC today, what it could do to renew, restore and transform the organisation, and the value Member Churches and partners could bring to the work and life of the SACC. This exercise injected a strong positive response and commitment of churches to the work of the SACC and created a new found spirit and joy to make it a formidable and strong organisation again.

All the material collected from the SACC conference will be processed, analysed and sent to the participants by the new SACC National Executive Committee with the intention of paving a new direction for the SACC which is expected to also impact on its future operational, management and organisational structures. We call on all our member churches and ecumenical partners to continue to pray for the renewal, restoration and transformation of the SACC and to also visibly and financially commit themselves to the work, life and witness of the SACC. We need to be in relationship with one another. We need to meet, pray together, listen to God and go out into the world to be His presence.

The Conference elected Bishop Z. Siwa as the new President of the SACC and Dr Frank Chikane was elected as the Senior Vice President and Father Michael Lapsley as Vice President. A new Executive Committee (NEC) was elected and would duly continue the work of the SACC. May we keep them in our constant prayers as we continue to pray, God of Life: Renew, Restore and Transform us for the service of Your Kingdom.”

ISSUED BY REV. DR. JERRY PILLAY ON BEHALF OF SOUTH AFRICAN COUNCIL OF CHURCHES.

FOR COMMENT:

REV. DR JERRY PILLAY: 0827193532

VUYANI PULE: 0822113285 / 0112417808 


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SOUTH AFRICAN COUNCIL OF CHURCHES
Khotso House, 62 Marshall Street, Johannesburg, South Africa
P.O Box 62098, Marshalltown, 2107, South Africa


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FULL ADDRESS: Kairos SA to Parliament

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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.

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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.

Gallery

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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Christmas 2013 – is it over?

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My images of a newborn child in a modest manger on a silent night are shattered.

This despite the sounds of carols, the aroma of home-baked cookies, my colourful Christmas tree and the joy of dear ones that uplift my being. My senses want me to believe that all is well and that Bethlehem is a place of holiness….

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Alas, no longer can I be so naive to view Bethlehem only as a place of wonderment.

2013 years later the Israeli Wall (an illegal one, higher and longer than the one in Berlin during the Cold War) cuts through the city.

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Houses (and just about everything else) are demolished there and in East Jerusalem, in Jericho and in many other places in the West Bank (also illegally, of course).

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Tourists flock to these cities believing that they are in Israel…..  but they are ignorant of the Living Stones – the People of Palestine – many who are the descendants of the first Christians.

Gaza remain under siege, children are still being killed by Israel and the living conditions are beyond terrible. Millions of Palestinian refugees may not return home for holy days, for family visits, to unlock their front doors or for any other reason. Tourists may continue to go there, of course.  And Israeli settlers thrive in occupied Palestine (once more, illegally).

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As I decorated my tree with trinkets from the Netherlands, from Germany, China, South Africa and Palestine at the end of 2013, I listened to Christmas carols differently. How can it be that I have sung these lyrics all my life without hearing how they perpetuate the continuing of injustices if we confuse the modern nation-state with the Biblical entity of Israel? How could I have been so insensitive to hail Israel and its newborn King without a thought for the immense suffering of the Palestinians at the hand of its oppressor, Israel, who is funded by a world power (the USA)?  What has been redeemed and what is there to celebrate if we perpetuate an illegal and inhumane oppression through our carols, our ignorance and our silence?

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Bishop Zipho Shiwa recently led the sermon at former President Nelson Mandela’s funeral in Qunu. He was one of the group of twelve South African church leaders who visited Palestine in December 2012.

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On their return home this delegation declared that entering occupied Palestine “felt like walking into another apartheid ambush”. Israel’s occupation of Palestine must end…. and there will still be a journey ahead.

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As South Africans we may no longer have apartheid, but we know all too well that we all still suffer from the injustices created under the oppressive system.  Our task in South Africa is not complete.

My 2000-year old, almost romantic images of Christ’s birth are replaced by my increased yearning for an inclusive peace on earth that honors the dignity of all.  This at least, is how I understand Christ’s message. What would Jesus (who was a Palestinian!) do?  Celebrate the past by ignoring the present? We need to problematize the concepts of “Bethlehem”, “King of Israel”, “Jerusalem”, etc. so that we do not hail the events of more than 2000 years ago by ignoring what happens in Palestine today. And perhaps we need to re-look our hymns, or at the very least, resist simplified interpretations of their words.

The joy of Christmas will fill every fibre in my being when we – people from different traditions and cultures – co-create a world where we do not diminish one another or engage carelessly with our planet.

May we allow all of ourselves to be free, in peace and joyful. May we know what it feels like to experience the blessings of the Christmas message every day of the year – forever and ever.

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Mandela: Intertwined lives

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“Peace, freedom and democracy for all South Africans!” proclaimed Nelson Mandela on his release from prison in 1990, also declaring himself as  “a servant to all in South Africa”. Today we are a nation in mourning.

After being condemned and locked away for 27 years as a political prisoner, Mandela received the Nobel Prize for Peace (1993) and became the first president of the new, democratic South Africa (1994).

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Mandela became the one who inspired diverse people to reconcile – those who struggled against apartheid, those like me who did nothing to end the injustices of oppression and even those who thought that inequality and racial separation were the best for all.

He showed us what it looks like when you grant others what you want for yourself.

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He availed himself to be Tata (“Father”) to all of us.  He served us through his humility, his warmth, his wisdom and his openness, and when with children he used to look as if he has never lost the unbounded joy of an unscarred child.

Madiba made me feel safe and cared for even though I was one of those who, for most of the time, did nothing to end the injust apartheid system. He, and many others who struggled against apartheid, fostered a climate in which I could face and acknowledge my guilt of inaction and therefore of complicity in maintaining an oppressive system.

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I mourn the passing of this beloved man. My heart is with his family and loved ones. My heart is with all comrades who struggled with him against oppression.

And yet…

…I also lament the ongoing pain, suffering, corruption, neglect, greed and other injustices in my country. I cry out for my land! I ache to see a dream in mud! Should we already mourn the loss of Mandela’s legacy? Where is our servanthood?

“Who have we become?” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu recently asked passionately. “Who have we become?”

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HOW DID WE LOSE OURSELVES?

Who do we want to be in the here and now?

The life of Madiba should be remembered through our attitudes and our actions.

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We are still here. It is our responsibility to shape the texture of every breath and every step.

I rejoice that I am not free from my memory of maintaining the oppression of others as I do not want to be free from it. I want to remember where I come from and how for many years I did not know how to feel fully human.  Now I shall continue to breathe and walk. My life is intertwined with all.

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Marwan Barghouti

SOUTH AFRICAN COUNCIL OF CHURCHES PRESS RELEASE

ON NELSON MANDELA

December 6, 2013.

 

Today the people of South Africa and the world, stop in their tracks to recognize the sad departure from his illustrious earthly life, of Nelson Mandela. The South African Council of Churches extends a special pastoral embrace to the Mandela family at this time. We are very much saddened by the news of the death of our Nations first President: A man of vision, courage and zeal for the liberation of humankind. He has lived a selfless life so that we may all enjoy freedom and the fullness of life, just as our Lord had purposed. Today we are a respected nation because of his tireless fighting spirit to free us from oppression, exploitation and sexism, and for this we thank God.

 

In his words Mandela said, “Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden, but never extinguished”. On the night of his sad departure, that flame of his goodness was held up by the grace of God, that it may remain to inspire and influence present and future generations to strive always to live for the common good, after the manner of Jesus Christ who said I have come that you may have life to the fullest.

 

Thus Nelson Mandela will not have died, but would have transitioned to a perpetual beacon of light for the democratic order that he led as the first democratic president of the Republic of South Africa.

 

We call on the nation to pay respect our former president deserves even at his death, by praying for his soul, his family and the nation. We call on the churches and all people of faith, to focus their worship services and prayers this weekend not only to mourn Mandela but also to celebrate his achievements and thank God for his life and example. The Mandelas are members of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and therefore we appeal to all denomination to support the leadership of the Methodist Church in all ministrations.

 

Today a special meeting of Church leaders and representatives of various denomination will be held at Khotso House, the Headquarters  of the SACC.   

 

For further information and enquiries, please call the President of the SACC at 0828931378

Issued by the South African Council of Churches, Khotso House, Johannesburg

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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:

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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.