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World Reformed Churches on Palestine: Christianity’s integrity is at stake!

To support the Palestinian oppression goes against Christianity’s understanding of justice. In a bold vote for clear actions, the General Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) made it clear that such theology goes against the heart of the Bible.

This global body, representing over 80 million Christians, held its 26th General Council from 29 June – 7 July in Leipzig, Germany. As the WCRC’s highest decision-making body the General Council issued a resolution with meaningful, action-driven solidarity and not only words of support.

The 2017 WCRC General Council in session

Although many Christians in the world still believe Israel’s lies and/or uphold Zionist theology, the tide is turning. The WCRC General Council stated unequivocally that “the integrity of Christian faith and praxis is at stake” since the Christian faith has been used to justify the oppression of the Palestinians. It rejected any use of the Bible “to legitimize or support political options and positions that are based upon injustice, imposed by one person on another, or by one people on another” as it strips the Word of God of its ”holiness, universality and truth”. The General Council agreed to initiate a programme of study and discernment on the theology used to legitimate the oppression of the Palestinian people, recognizing that such a study might result in the need for “prophetic action”.

Leipzig, Germany

Over 30 members from more than 10 countries drafted the proposal that served before the WCRC’s Public Witness Committee. Their proposal was debated and refined by the Committee in several sessions before it served before the delegates in the plenary asking their permission to submit the proposal to a decision making process. This decision was granted and in a next step hundreds of delegates from Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, the Pacific, the Middle East, North America and Europe debated the resolution with its action points in discernment groups before casting their votes in a subsequent plenary session. It was most encouraging that the voting was in favour of all six action points in the resolution. Although there was a fair amount of abstentions, no-one voted against any of the points! This means that no-one raised dissent in public.

 Delegates voted through a show of cards at the 2017 General Council of the WCRC. Orange cards meant “in favour of” and blue cards signified “not in favour of”, or “uncertain”

The General Council has urged its 230 member churches in 109 countries to examine their mission, education and investment relationships with Israel and to disseminate to members educational materials on the Palestinian situation. Moreover, they encourage and support delegations to visit the region to connect with the Christian community in Israel and in Palestine, to witness their oppression and to express support for their desire for freedom and self-determination. The WCRC General Council argued that the continuing denial of Palestinian rights does not only jeopardize the dignity of Palestinians, but it has also “cast a shadow over generations of Jewish Israelis who have borne the social, psychological and spiritual burdens of the role of the occupier.”

German theologian Jürgen Moltmann,
speaking at the recent global assembly of Reformed churches in Leipzig

Among other measures, the General Council instructed the WCRC Executive Committee to respond to the letter of 21 June 2017 from the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine (NCCOP) indicating what actions can be taken in response to the NCCOP cry for “costly solidarity” (see also Robert Cohen’s brilliant blog on “costly solidarity”). In their open letter to the ecumenical movement, the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine has called the situation “on the verge of catastrophic collapse” declaring that this the “last chance to achieve a just peace… and to save the Christian presence in this land.” They asked for honesty about Israel’s widespread abuse of international law. “We need brave women and men who are willing to stand in the forefront. This is no time for shallow diplomacy.” The General Council committed to respond to this letter indicating what actions can be taken in response to the Palestinian cry.

A South African, Rev. Dr Jerry Pillay, from the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa served as president of the WCRC at the time of the 2017 General Council. Hearty congratulations to Rev. Najla Kassab, a minister in the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL) who is the newly elected president of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC).

Rev. Dr. Jerry Pillay

Rev. Najla Kassab

South African churches who sent delegates to the 2017 WCRC General Council include the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa/Verenigende Gereformeerde Kerk in Suider-Afrika, United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA), Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa, Dutch Reformed Church (DRC)/Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK), Evangelical Presbyterian Church in South Africa, Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk van Afrika/ Dutch Reformed Church in Africa (DRCA)/(NGKA), Maranatha Reformed Church of Christ.

The WCRC decision follows a recent call from South African and Canadian Churches at the World Council of Churches’ Jubilee conference in Bethlehem on 20-22 June 2017. At this meeting they publically recognised Israel’s practices of apartheid and colonialism in respect of Palestine.

Bishop Zipho Siwa, President of the South African Council of Churches adding his signature to the South African and the Canadian posters at the WCC Jubilee Conference in Bethlehem

It also follows former prophetic actions by Reformed Churches in response to anti-Semitism, racism, and economic injustice. At the General Council in 1982 in Ottawa, Canada, the then World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) declared a status confessionis, declaring South African Apartheid a heresy, an action with global and ecumenical reverberations for ending that racist system. This led directly to the 1986 Belhar Confession of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in South Africa, declaring that individual, racial and social segregation is sin and incompatible with Christian belief. Belhar has been subsequently adopted by churches in the Reformed tradition in the North. In 1997 in Debrecen, Hungary, the WARC called for the initiation of a processus confessionis with respect to the question of global economic injustice. In 2004, the WARC issued the Accra Confession, which called for “a committed process of recognition, education and confession (processus confessionis) regarding economic injustice and ecological destruction.”

Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb from Bethlehem in occupied Palestine addressing the
2017 General Council in Leipzig

The resolution of the WCRC’s General Council:

PALESTINE – AN URGENT ISSUE OF FAITH FOR THE WORLD COMMUNION

This year marks 69 years since the creation of the State of Israel, and the General Council can reaffirm its commitment to justice, peace and security for the Israeli people and state. The creation of the State of Israel had a significant consequence: the loss of homeland for the Palestinian people, and the creation of 750,000 Palestinian refugees. It is also 50 years since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. It is time for Israelis and Palestinians to live alongside each other in peace, security and justice.

In an open letter to the ecumenical movement published on June 21, 2017, the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine has called the situation “on the verge of catastrophic collapse” declaring that this is the “last chance to achieve a just peace… and to save the Christian presence in this land.” They have appealed to the world church for costly solidarity with them to end their oppression and gain their freedom, through solidarity visits, reviewing theology, economic actions, and support for their freedom to exercise their religious, social and political rights.

Many of us have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears the painful realities of life for Palestinians. We have been witness to the daily, grinding humiliation of women, men and children; the deaths of civilians; the demolition of homes; the confiscation of water resources; the isolation and ongoing diminution of the Palestinian population of Jerusalem; severe restrictions on freedom of movement, education, commerce, electricity, healthcare, and access to holy places; the unlawful practice of administrative detention, including of children; and the taking of land through the construction of illegal settlements and a separation wall built on Palestinian land. Palestinians who live in the State of Israel, while citizens with the obligations of citizenship, also suffer injustice through discriminatory policies in housing, employment, and more. The re-configuration of Jerusalem in particular jeopardizes the historical place and shared identity of Jerusalem, which is part of its holiness.

We acknowledge and confess that the Christian faith has been used to justify the injustice against the Palestinian people.  Any use of the Bible to legitimize or support political options and positions that are based upon injustice, imposed by one person on another, or by one people on another, strip the Word of God of its holiness, its universality and truth. All who suffer share in the groaning of the Holy Spirit for the liberation of all peoples and their joining in one spiritual communion. The ongoing condition of occupation, and the continuing denial of Palestinian rights has cast a shadow over generations of Jewish Israelis who have borne the social, psychological and spiritual burdens of the role of occupier.

The General Council:

  1. Affirms that with respect to the situation of injustice and suffering that exists in Palestine, and the cry of the Palestinian Christian community, that the integrity of Christian faith and praxis is at stake.
  2. Instructs the General Secretary to initiate a programme to
    – Collect studies and materials that speak to the cry of the Palestinian people, and to make them available to member churches.
    ­- Undertake study and discernment, using the resources available from member churches and the ecumenical movement, regarding theology that has been employed to legitimate the oppression of the Palestinian people, recognizing that such a study might result in the need for prophetic action.
  3. Instructs the Executive Committee, with the Secretariat, to respond (before the end of 2017) to the letter of June 21, 2017 from the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine indicating what actions can be taken in response to their cry for costly solidarity.
  4. Encourages member churches to examine their mission, education, and investment relationships with Israel and Palestine in light of the witness of Palestinian Christians and to respond as they understand the Reformed communion’s commitments to human rights and the protections of international law.
  5. Instructs the Executive Committee to encourage and support (with practical help from member churches) delegations to visit the region to connect with the present day Christian community – the “living stones”- of the Holy Land, to witness their situation and express support for their desires for freedom and self-determination.
  6. Encourages the Executive Committee to seek to strengthen initiatives for dialogues, civil peace services, mediation, conflict prevention and transformation.
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Why advocate for Palestinian rights?

Why do civilians campaign publicly on the relentless matter of Israeli oppression of all Palestinians? Is it not a waste of time, an “irresolvable deadlock”, and a “disastrously confused situation”? Why willingly expose oneself to violence in its many forms? Why be involved in this struggle rather than in any of the many other causes in the world? Why focus on the exploitation of Palestinians and not on Israel, which also suffers violent attacks?

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As part of my recent doctoral study at Stellenbosch University, I interviewed 21 grassroots activists from South Africa and Israel who explained why they campaign for Palestinian rights. This study was one of the first to address a general shortage of scientific data on the ethical orientation of transnational activists in the Palestinian struggle and, more specifically, the first on South African and Jewish Israeli activism.

Views on Palestine-Israel and the Palestinians are often positioned as though there is “conflict” between two equal entities. As a result, people argue for a “balanced” or a “neutral” approach. Such logic masks the real dynamics of the situation and it denies the ethical challenges of Israel’s large-scale, institutionalised oppression. Any attempt to consider the arguments of the oppressor and the oppressed on an equal level is fundamentally flawed. The activists regard dialogue groups that are not structured, in form and in content, to reflect the power asymmetry between the Palestinians and Israel honestly as inappropriate and harmful. As one of the Jewish Israeli respondents, for example, explained:

It’s inappropriate to bring an oppressor and an oppressed in the same room to speak as equals. The one group is clearly, actively oppressing the other. I also think that it was inappropriate during South African apartheid to bring Blacks and Whites together in a room as though they were peers, for they were not peers. Some were ruling the others. In retrospect, I think what on earth, what must it have been like for the Palestinians to come in and hear us? There was yelling in the group and there were accusations thrown across the room. For a Palestinian who was living under our occupation, to hear us complaining or accusing them of things, how inappropriate. I feel very ashamed of our behaviour.

According to the activists the nature and the dynamics of the Palestinians’ oppression represent a microcosm of moral challenges also found in other struggles in the world such as militarism, imperialism, paternalism and neo-liberalism. They view their concern for Palestinian rights, for problems in their local South African and Israeli contexts and for other issues, all as part of the same matrix. The Palestinian struggle does not duplicate these other causes, but it brings them into sharper focus and it increases the relevance of finding a just peace in Palestine-Israel.

To the activists all human lives matter equally and therefore the same yardstick – based on a shared humanity – applies to all. Just as compassion and altruistic love need to be applied with integrity and consistency, equality, justice, honesty and openness are seen as values that are required at all levels of interaction – within Jewish Israeli and South African societies, in their governments, media, religious structures, schools, between activists, in laws, state policies, the economy, in religious freedom and in urban reality.

Equality is regarded a basic framework from which to approach life and justice is understood as a means to restore. In light of their inclusive understanding, the respondents mentioned Israeli apartheid, all of Israel’s double standards and its embedded ways of oppressing the Palestinians as unacceptable disturbances that need to be solved. They have taken up the task of correcting the plethora of widespread, deliberately constructed and well-communicated Zionist lies that are used to cover up historical facts, reduce Palestinians to troublemakers and terrorists, and ratify and promote the oppression of Christian Palestinians through Christian Zionism.

For the activists, the Palestinian struggle is not too complex, too long-standing or too hopeless. There are many choices, such as for or against injustice, equality and transparency; for or against standing up for the marginalised; and choosing between violence and non-violent resistance through the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign.

Their commitments were not informed by nationalist ideals and/or by religious exclusivism. No matter what their personal religious convictions are, all shared the same value commitments. In fact, they utterly reject the claim that the Palestinian project is a religious clash, and instead highlight the detrimental roles of political Zionism and Israel’s militarist ethos of domination and power abuse under the guise of “protection” that co-exists within a self-destructive ethos.

For most their activism is underscored by a deep spirituality and an interconnectedness. They talk of liberating expansive identities that cross over to the “other”. One Jewish respondent compared it to sharing chocolate. “There are beautiful, generous people everywhere who want to help others”, he said, but their reach “depends on the length of their hands that hold the choc that feeds the circle around them”. He also remarked that some feed only their family, their neighbours, their community, their religious group, or those who look like them. He summarised his own inner change as “the expansion of your identity to something that is including other human beings that previously were the other for you and now the me and them became one thing in some way”.

 Mass public action is necessary and urgent. There is very real, extensive daily suffering – decades of it. The global public, governments, regulatory bodies, businesses, religious institutions and media mostly stand by without stopping the carnage. Global support for Israel maintains vested interests of power. The task is huge and the obstacles greater than those under South African apartheid. However, none of these activists shies away from the flood of outright criticism that call them “terror-loving, Hamas-supporting anti-Semites”, “traitors” or “self-hating Jews”; hides behind societal complacency or regards themselves as courageous. Their integrity and desire for moral consistency outweigh their need for personal comfort.

This piece was published in the South African newspaper City Press on 14 May 2017.

The complete study is available on Stellenbosch University’s website.

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Shocked South Africans call for public protest against the UK and Canadian stance on BDS

South African citizens (and many in the UK and in Canada) are – to say the least – shocked.

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Why did the Canadian and Brittish goverments pass motions to repress BDS? They must be under severe pressure from Israel and the Zionist lobby. For those who want the good things in life only for themselves and are willing to diminish a whole people in the process are really scared of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign, because it is winning rapid ground. Besides putting pressure on Israel, BDS also unmasks Israel’s lies about its longstanding, illegal oppression of the Palestinians in the name of religion and greed.

How can the UK and the Canadian goverments say that economic pressure as a way to achieve full civil and human rights for all in Israel and Palestine is illegal? The very same strategy played a huge role in ending apartheid in South Africa. Do the same countries not also have sanctions in respect of many other countries?

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In 2014 over a hundred thousand people from all walks of life took to the streets in Cape Town to raise awareness of Israel’s war on Gaza as can be seen in these photos. Now Cape Town’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign calls for a clear, public response against these goverments who supress free speech and non-violent, economic pressure on Israel through BDS:

PSC

PRESS RELEASE:

29 February 2015

BRITISH GOVERNMENT RESORTS TO REPRESSION TO COUNTER BDS CAMPAIGN AGAINST ISRAEL

THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT stated last week that it is will be illegal for “local [city] councils, public bodies, and even some university student unions … to refuse to buy goods and services from companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco products, or Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

Thus, any entities that support or participate in the global boycott of Israel or even products and companies that operate in illegal settlements will face “severe penalties.”(via “The Intercept).

It is with outrage and disappointment that we, in the South African Palestine solidarity movement, note the British government’s ban on free speech and political expression relating to public sector boycotts of Israel and its illegal settlement goods. This means that workers in British parastatal companies like British Telecom or Rail-Track or any arm of government such as the Department of Welfare, the Airports Authority, Customs & Excise, the NHS etc. could be dismissed for promoting such boycotts in the workplace and managers could be sacked for committing their branches to such actions.

Recent successful actions by pro-Palestinian groups in Britain against companies such as G4S, the notorious British security company, which operates in some Israeli prisons and illegal settlements (and shamefully, operates also in South African airports, a prison and numerous public enterprises) would be stopped in their tracks by this bill. We also note the almost immediate removal of anti -Israel Apartheid Week posters in London’s Underground this week by the London authorities following Netanyahu’s recent demands to the UK government to do so, as a sign of closer collusion between the racist Israeli government and their British counterparts.

The enormity of such a draconian crackdown in Britain on behalf of Netanyahu’s racist and increasingly fascist Apartheid Israeli government could best be judged by imagining if a similar ban had been put in place in the UK during the Apartheid years to prevent boycotts of South Africa by the British state, its organs and thousands of public sector workers. The backlash then from public sector workers would have been instant and extremely difficult to control. Sadly, the public sector in Britain is so diminished in size and the unions so cowed into subservience by decades of Thatcherite neo-liberal bludgeoning, that not much of an uproar has been heard – even from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party which is pre-occupied with internecine strife within its ranks.

No doubt, David Cameron, who is a self-confessed Zionist stalwart, calculated that his US patron and its compliant Canadian neighbour, would be right behind him. In fact Canada’s new “Liberal” government under Trudeau, almost immediately pushed a similar motion through his US-hired and bribed parliament. The US Congress, controlled now by rabid Zionist Republicans, is also pushing for blanket bans on any anti-Israeli boycotts in the US and even for the outlawing of demonstrations and media calls for such actions. These are the same governments of the West who have invaded sovereign states in the Middle East in order to achieve “regime change” and install “democracy”.

As things stand, the BDS campaign is the only meaningful and peaceful means of pressuring Israel and its Western allies to end its brutal and murderous occupation of Palestine and institute one democratic state where everyone will enjoy equal rights.

South Africans must not underestimate the implications of these Orwellian moves by the USA and its British, European client states. Their governments will use their massive economic and military influence to blackmail smaller, independent countries such as ours, to turn away from supporting the Palestinian struggle against the colonial Israeli regime and their systematic, incremental genocide.

As the stalwart anti-surveillance and freedom of speech activist, Glen Greenwald, living in exile in South America, stated in response to this British move:
“There is a very coordinated and well-financed campaign led by Israel and its supporters literally to criminalize political activism against Israeli occupation, based on the particular fear that the worldwide campaign of Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment, or BDS — modeled after the 1980s campaign that brought down the Israel-allied apartheid regime in South Africa — is succeeding”.

WE THEREFORE URGE THE ANC GOVERNMENT TO SPEAK OUT AGAINST THE BRITISH/AMERICAN CRACKDOWN ON FREE SPEECH AND TO REAFFIRM ITS SUPPORT FOR THE PALESTINIAN CIVIL SOCIETY’S CALL ON ALL PEOPLE TO BOYCOTT ISRAEL.

WE CALL ON BRITISH PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY WORKERS IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR, TO VIGOROUSLY CAMPAIGN AGAINST THEIR GOVERNMENT’S ATTACK ON BASIC DEMOCRATIC FREEDOMS OF SPEECH AND THEIR RIGHT TO PROTEST.

WE ALSO CALL UPON ALL PALESTINIAN SOLIDARITY ACTIVISTS AND SOUTH AFRICAN CITIZENS CONCERNED ABOUT THE BRITISH CRACKDOWN ON POLITICAL FREEDOMS TO SHOW THEIR OPPOSITION IN FRONT OF THE BRITISH HIGH COMMISSION IN CAPE TOWN ON FRIDAY 18 MARCH BETWEEN 13.30 AND 14.30.

Contacts: Mike Makin 0845039156 Martin Jansen 0828702025

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Jews from around the world: STOP THE KILLING — END THE OCCUPATION

Members of Jewish communities around the world are horrified by the violence that sweep the streets of Palestine and Israel. And so they call on Israel to end its occupation of Palestine. Justice and equality will bring true peace to the people of Palestine and Israel, they say.

We call on our Jewish communities, and our broader communities, to publicly insist on an end to the violence, occupation, siege and military response and instead demand equality and freedom for the Palestinian people and justice for all.

I signed their petition, and so can you by clicking here.

Why is it so important to endorse this kind of statement in public?

In doing so, you side not with a nationality or with a religion at the cost of others, but with the values of justice, equality and a common humanity. It gives us the chance to transcend boundaries and to strengthen the good. Your signature inspires others who still hesitate. It is really a small step for each individual, but the collective value is enormous.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI took these photos on 9 August 2014 when Muslims, Christians, Jews and many others marched through the streets of Cape Town to protest against the War on Gaza.

Here is the full statement that asks for our public endorsement:

STOP THE KILLING – END THE OCCUPATION

As members of Jewish communities around the world, we are horrified by the violence that is sweeping the streets of Palestine/Israel, costing the lives of over 30 people, both Palestinians and Israelis in the past two weeks alone.

A two year old girl in Gaza was the youngest of four Palestinian children who were killed in the past two weeks. A 13 year-old Israeli boy is in critical condition after being stabbed nearly a dozen times. Over a thousand people were injured in the same period.

Fear has completely taken over the streets of Jerusalem, the center of this violence. Israelis shooting Palestinian protesters in and around East Jerusalem. Palestinians stabbing and shooting Israeli civilians and policemen in the middle of the streets. Israeli forces killing Palestinian suspects when they are clearly not a threat and without trial. Palestinians throwing stones at passing cars. Israeli mobs beating up Palestinians or calling on police to shoot them. Humiliating strip searches of Palestinians in the streets – all of these have become a daily occurrence in the city in which we are raised to pray for peace, as well as other places in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

While violence is visible on the streets, it is also occupying people’s minds and hearts. Fear is bringing out the worst of people, and the demand for more blood to be shed, as if this will repair the damage done. Fear and racist rhetoric are escalating the situation.

The Israeli government is once again responding in a militarised way: there have been hundreds of arrests; Palestinian access to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound has been limited; parts of the Muslim quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem have been closed to Palestinians; open-fire regulations have been changed to allow the use of sniper fire against children; a minimum sentence for stone throwing has been introduced, including for over 150 children arrested in East Jerusalem alone in the past few weeks; and now there are talks of enforcing a curfew, or even a closure, of East Jerusalem.

All these constitute collective punishment on the entire population of East Jerusalem with over 300,000 people. In the past, these measures have proven themselves ineffective at ending violence. Decades of dispossession, occupation and discrimination are the main reasons for Palestinian resistance. Further Israeli military repression and ongoing occupation and siege will never end the Palestinian desire for freedom nor will it address the root causes of violence. Indeed, the current actions by the Israeli government and army are likely to create further violence, destruction, and the entrenchment of division. Only justice and equality for all will bring peace and quiet to the residents of Israel and Palestine.

As a group of Jews from around the world we believe that immediate change needs to come from the Israeli government and Israeli people. It is incumbent on all Jews around the world to pressure the Israeli government – and those who follow and support its words and deeds – to change its approach. The military crackdown must cease immediately, Palestinians must be allowed complete freedom of movement. It is also a responsibility of Jewish people worldwide to obligate the countries in which we live to immediately cease the economic and military support of the ongoing Israeli occupation in Palestine and siege of Gaza.

We call on our Jewish communities, and our broader communities, to publicly insist on an end to the violence, occupation, siege and military response and instead demand equality and freedom for the Palestinian people and justice for all.

Sign the petition to send a strong message to Israel to end the occupation of Palestine.

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Who says Israel is guilty of Apartheid?

People often argue that “this and that were so in South Africa” and because “this and that are not so” in Israel, Israel is not an apartheid state. But such logic holds no water.

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What is apartheid?

An article in the newspaper Star (13 March 2014, by Solly Mapaila ) correctly argues that the Jewish democracy’s laws and practices fall squarely into the United Nations’ definition of apartheid. In other words, Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians is not defined in terms of the former South African situation, but in terms of international law which calls apartheid a crime against humanity (Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court 2002). The International Criminal Court’s definition of apartheid is

“the systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime” (2002:6).

Who says Israel is an apartheid state?

In 2012 the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination found Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territories “tantamount to Apartheid” and that

“many state policies within Israel also violate the prohibition on Apartheid as enshrined in Article 3 of the Convention.” (Erakat & Madi 2012)

Prior to that, in November 2011, the Russell Tribunal in Cape Town articulated similar findings.

Human Rights Watch in turn published a report titled “Israel/West Bank: Separate and Unequal” (2010) which details Israel’s discriminatory practices against the indigenous Palestinians.

And in 2009, the South African Human Sciences Research Council (2009:277) concluded their in-depth report as follows:

“Both colonialism and apartheid are prohibited by international law. This Report has found strong evidence to indicate that Israel has violated, and continues to violate, both prohibitions in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

An international team of scholars and practitioners of international public law from South Africa, the United Kingdom, Israel and Palestine conducted the study.

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Surely most South Africans recognise Israel’s crimes, right?

As we benefitted from the world’s active support in demolishing apartheid, one would imagine that South Africans would now keenly respond to a plea to the international community for  non-violent resistance against Israel’s discrimination, oppression and occupation of Palestinians.

What is so shocking, is that so many South Africans do not know, or are not willing to acknowledge Israel’s apartheid crimes. The very people who suffered under apartheid and those who used to support apartheid, but say they have since changed, are now focusing on their own lives, their own comfort and their own problems and they turn a blind eye to another people who also suffer under apartheid. They forget that Palestinians helped to campaign for justice in South Africa during the apartheid struggle.

Does it mean that our transition to a post-apartheid psyche has only been cosmetic? In other words, is the change in our society superficial and not principled? Are we settling for pragmatic changes? Or perhaps we are ignorant about Israel’s crimes against humanity? Are we too comfortable to rock the boat?

Why do we turn away and continue to romanticise Israel? Why do we confuse the modern state with the Biblical entity? Why do Christians travel to the Holy Land and then ignore the descendents of the first Christians in the old city of Jerusalem, in Bethlehem, Jericho, Nablus, Hebron and elsewhere in Palestine? For how long must these people suffer while we, post-apartheid South Africans, look away and/or support Israel as some hero?  Can we really be happy, content and fulfilled as a new nation if we ignore a repetition of apartheid?  Is it fair to hide behind our own national issues and forget the world’s (and the Palestinians’) support in demolishing apartheid here?

A chance to know more…

If you want to know more, make sure to attend and participate in this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week. Our national initiatives from part of a worldwide campaign.

IAW

Find the schedule of activities in more than 45 cities and towns here.

REFERENCES:

Erakat, N. & Madi, R. 2012. UN Committee 2012 Session Concludes Israeli System Tantamount to Apartheid. [Online]. Jadaliyya. Available: http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/5588/un-committee-2012-session-concludes-israeli-system. [2014, 13 March].

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. Dir.: Ana Nogueira, Eron Davidson, Nathaniel Cunningham. Cinematography: Ana Nogueira. Narrator: Alice Walker. United States of America. ? ? min. English. Prod.: Ana Nogueira & Eron Davidson. Studio??

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. 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].

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Allenby Bridge: 11 hours of detention before Israel denied me entry

My camera captured the Allenby Bridge* as we crossed it at 11:00 on 1 December 2014. We were excited and on our way to the Kairos Palestine conference in Bethlehem in occupied Palestine.

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All went fine on the Jordanian side. As we crossed the bridge and entered the Israeli controlled border post, I remembered images of a murdered judge at this very same border crossing:

Mondoweiss
On 10 March 2014 Raed Zuayter, a distinguished judge and PhD holder, was killed by Israeli soldiers while crossing in a similar bus to the one I was sitting in. Zuayter was a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian origin. He was unarmed and a-political. His family is part of the Palestinian diaspora—refugees who had fled ethnic cleansing in 1948, war in 1967, and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. “How is his family and especially his wife coping?” I wondered. Judge Zuayter had travelled across the border to collect rental money to cover the medical expenses of their sick child. He never returned home and the child passed away in the same week. (Click here for more information.)

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In reading the rest of this post you may find the style to be mechanistic, staccato and distanced. I am sorry about it, but right now, I struggle to phrase the unfolding events differently.

At the Israeli border post we had to put our luggage onto a conveyor belt that led into the building. Those of us from Africa had to remain outside to undergo Ebola virus screenings. After waiting for approximately half an hour an official told us to stand on the central ridge of the road. It felt odd: a number of people standing in the sun for a number of minutes before being summoned back. We returned to our seats and were called one by one. A doctor took our temperatures. Those who were declared healthy could enter the building.

At the counter on the inside I was asked where I was heading to, why I wanted to go there, and so forth. Behind the glass screen the lady pointed to something on her computer screen whereupon her colleague said I should be screened. This is what I did not want.

After waiting for about an hour I was taken to a room. They locked the door and asked me to unpack my handbag and my small backpack with my tablet and a few personal items. My body was searched by a female soldier. I was told to take my purse, to hand over my phone and to leave everything else in the room. A man guided me to another room.

The fairly polite man made lotso of notes on a computer while a young woman with an incredibly smooth, beautiful cappacino-coloured skin questioned me. She kept her hands in the pockets of her jacket as if she was cold. It was winter, but I could not feel any cold. “Why are they not googling me?” I thought. Before leaving South Africa I closed my social media accounts, but I could of course not shut down the internet. They asked lots of things including why I returned to Israel for a third time, what I did on my previous visits, who I know there, and what were in my luggage. There were many questions, but I think I’m blocking some of them out of my memory.

The man called another young woman. She ignored me and they spoke in Hebrew. She left. The questions continued. They wanted to know what I do for a living. I told them I am a researcher and I spoke about the piece on policy making processes in South Africa that I finished days before my departure. They did not know that South Africans still struggle to build a better life for all. The questions continued. I felt calm knowing very well that they were constructing a profile of me on their system.

The second woman re-entered. Her tone was markedly different. She was visibly angry and irritated. It is perhaps correct to say that she was hateful. She fired groups of questions at me. When was the last time I saw so-and-so? Why do I have only stamps of Ethiopia and Namibia in my passport besides those of Israel? Where was my old passport? Why didn’t I have it with me? Whenever I answered, she interrupted me or sneered at what I had said. It was clear that she had done an internet search whilst the other two had recorded my personal details. Still, she wasn’t sure exactly where I fit in. She knew about NC4P (South Africa’s National Coalition for Palestine) and the Cape Town March for Gaza. They were also very aware of BDS (the international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign), but said nothing about our local boycott of Woolworths.

She wanted to know exactly what roles I play. I told her that besides being a member of Kairos Southern Africa and a researcher at Stellenbosch University, I hold no other positions. She was doing her best  to intimidate and unnerve me. I remained calm and polite. She was so very desperate to find an enemy in me and I refused to be it. All of this went on for about four or five hours. I don’t remember how it ended or at which point they gave up on me. However I do remember asking if having my profile on their system meant that I cannot enter Israel now or in future. The man said it is not up to them to say, they are just doing their job. He offered me something to drink and I asked for tea.

With my phone, but without my passport they took me to a narrow corridor with a row of chairs. After a while someone brought me about 100ml of weak tea in a white plastic cup. At last it was just me and a Palestinian woman with two young people – perhaps her children – sitting on the chairs. When the woman asked me if I was cold I realised that my legs were shivering uncontrollably. Even with effort I could not still them. I was still not feeling any cold.

The woman was summoned inside. While a man shouted loudly at her, her daughter stood listening on our side of the locked door. The woman came out, went back in, came out, went back in, waited once more and after a while the three of them were taken away. They received no tea. I don’t know where they were taken to.

All the while soldiers entered the doors to the left and to the right of the corridor. They slammed the doors loudly. We seemed to have been reduced to invisible particles of dust.

More time passed.

I sent a text message to the South African Ambassador in Jordan to say that I may need his help in fetching me and/or my colleagues later that night. At that stage my biggest worry was about them. Where were they? What happened to them? We agreed to not text one another in case one or more of us were interrogated.

At around 22:00 yet another woman instructed me to fetch my handbag and backpack, to follow her out of the corridor and to sit in the hall. The image on the wall was to say the very least, totally out of place and deceiving – there was nothing normal, free or colourful about the situation:

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I went through my hand luggage. My tablet was switched on and my book mark was missing.

I now started to remember my two pieces of luggage that entered the building on the conveyor belt when the sun was still shining. From where I sat I could see that they were not on the moving belt. By now I was indeed shivering from cold. I asked an official how and when I could try to find my bags and she opened a side gate and accompanied me to the other side of the hall. Finding both pieces and being able to put it on a trolley that I could push gave me a sudden sense of belonging. I had stuff. I had a life, a history, a place, a face.

During the course of the eleven hours they detained me, I passed through the hands of fourteen or more people. All seemed to just do their job without anyone accepting responsibility for the person or the situation. A Palestinian friend who is well acquinted with this situation described it in an email to me as “a sea of uncertainty, temporality, emergency and hopelessness.”

I texted my colleague Rev Edwin Arrison in South Africa. He told me that my two colleagues went through after seven hours of interrogation. Two more sets of people came to ask questions. I was relieved to hear that my visa was about to be issued. I waited.

Then a young man summoned me abruptly to follow him. As I stood up to follow the man who was already metres away, I realised that he was walking in the wrong direction. With a voice like the bark of a dog and without eye contact he said I was not allowed to enter Israel, but must wait outside the building. And there I was, one middle-aged woman dressed in pink with no sharp objects or explosives in her luggage (they searched my other bags too) under the guard of five armed soldiers, waiting in the cold of the winter’s night for the bus to return to the Jordan border post.

It all happened in such an abrupt, disjointed way. Perhaps similar to the way I tell the story. But actually it was a carefully orchestrated process, designed to humiliate, to provoke, to intimidate and to punish. Why not refuse me from the start and let me go? They seemed so desperate to find an enemy in me. Yet I refuse to allow the behaviour of others to dictate my own.

I am convinced that not all Jewish Israelis are bad people even though so many of them do bad things to other people. I do not hate them. I see their desperation to cling to an outdated narrative of a small, threatened people in a sea of hate. What they don’t realise is that they are held captive by their own choice!

It was cold outside the building. I asked to use the bathroom. A porter with an Arabic accent, a man who is no longer young (perhaps an Arab Palestinian Israeli?) rushed to my side from nowhere. He insisted on taking my trolley as a gesture of help and directed me to an opening in the wall of the building that was next to the hole of the conveyor belt. Like a real gentleman he parted plastic panels so that I could walk through it. He helped me pass the security gate and he watched over my things while I went to the restroom. When I returned, he helped me out again in a similar manner. He made me feel as if I was the most honoured person to have ever visited that border post.

When the bus eventually departed, I was the only passenger in it. Dr Molefe Tsele, South African Ambassador to Jordan, and one of his colleagues, met me around 01:00 on the Jordan side. He brought me a flask of hot tea and some biscuits.

By that time my passport carried two red stamps, but it was back in my handbag. I am still South African. I am free.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAmbassador Dr. Tsele Molefe and his wife graciously and generously hosted me for two days in Amman. I am infinitely grateful to them for their wisdom, their warmth and their practical help.

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If you have read up to here, you probably realise that this post is a raw account. When I’m ready I shall try to reflect on the experience more coherently and perhaps also share some details of my simply wonderful encounter with family members of the murdered Judge Zuayter on my second day in Amman.

Finally – here is a short video recording made at Cape Town International Airport on my arrival – click here to listen to it.

* Allenby Bridge is called King Husain Bridge by the Jordanians.

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SWIFT sanctions against Israel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SWIFT SANCTIONS AGAINST ISRAELI BANKS

by Terry Crawford-Browne

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terry Crawford-Browne
19 August 2014

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South African Muslims reject violence in the name of Islam

 

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It is increasingly important and urgent for people of different faiths to stand together against a destruction of the sacredness of humanity. Let us who share the same values, take hands. As a Christian I support and have signed this petition by South African Muslims.

You too can sign their petition by clicking on this link.

Here is their full statement:

As South African Muslims, we reject the actions of groups that have adopted murder, kidnapping and violence against innocent people, the destruction of schools, sacred spaces and forced conversions, in the name of Islam. These include Boko Haram, Al Shabab, Al Qa’eda, and more recently, the “Islamic State”.

We stand in solidarity with Christians, Yazidis, Jews and Muslims who have been forced to leave their homes, and have experienced terror and trauma at the hands of those who claim to speak for Islam, but are behaving in a manner contrary to the tenets of our faith.   We are proud Muslims who stand for justice. We stand with communities that have been divided, with women who have been raped, with churches that have been razed. We stand with children that have known nothing but war, and death. We condemn the action of groups that use the religion of Islam to justify their brutality against innocent men, women and children of all faiths.

We acknowledge the legitimate concerns of groups that have been economically and politically marginalised, but call for political reform based on inclusivity. We also believe that military intervention, led by the U.S government, is inappropriate and more harmful. We call for the responsible use of terms like “jihadist” or “Islamist”. The human rights abuses perpetrated by these terrorists and killers have nothing to do with the concept of Jihad which is to “struggle” or “strive” for goodness. Their behaviour is contrary to Islam’s teachings, and are repugnant to Muslims worldwide.

The Islam that we know and love is centred on values of justice, mercy and compassion. It stands in solidarity with all people facing persecution.    These organisations – and the states that sponsor them – do not act in our name. We reject this hijacking and misrepresentation of Islam’s teachings. We further reject all forms of sectarianism – in the South Africa that we love, and in majority Muslim countries.      “Remember that people are of two kinds; they are either your brothers in religion or your brothers in mankind.” –  Ali ibn Abu Talib, Muslim caliph and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad.

Sign the petition by clicking here.

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South African march for Palestine: all expectations exceeded!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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The biggest march ever in South Africa

nc4p logoCape Town, 9 August 2014, 11:00 – 13:00:
Starting in Keizergracht in the city bowl of Cape Town and from there to Parliament – the same route people used to protest against apartheid.

TRANSPORT UPDATE: Free transport on Metro Rail if you can show a NC4P/BDS pamphlet or a Palestinian scarf or T-shirt.

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The humanity and the solidarity of every person counts. With this march we demonstrate our commitment to resisting Israel’s systemic injustices through non-violence.

The biggest march in South Africa under apartheid consisted of 90 000 people. The above photo is from the recent march for Palestine by 40 000 people. We hope to have many more on 9 August.


Since 9 August is Women’s day in South Africa, women will be in the front of the procession followed by religious leaders and everyone else. Please wear something that symbolises your affiliation – your university, your school, your religious tradition, and so forth. Like other South African ecumenical accompaniers who monitored human rights violations in Israel and Palestine on behalf of the World Council of Churches, I shall wear my EAPPI vest.

The march is organised by South Africa’s new National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P). Our aim is to receive a response from our government on our recent requests to them.

I don’t want to abuse emotional arguments, yet I believe it is a time for all in the world to feel shattered. As Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza says in a clip on YouTube:

The rights of Palestinians, even their children, are wholesale denied. And that’s appaling. It is an affront to the humanity of all of us.

Gunness succumbs to his emotions during a live interview with Al Jazeera when interviewed about an attack on a UN school shelter in which at least 15 people, mostly women and children, were killed.

We are shattered, but we are not paralysed. Let us – Jews, Christians, Muslims and others who hold the sanctity of life dear, speak up and act. An end to the violence in Gaza does not mean an end to the atrocities. Israel’s daily denial of granting Palestinians their humanity – in East Jerusalem, in Gaza, in the West Bank –  must stop. All of it. The solidarity, the intention, the words, the behaviour and the humanity of every single person counts.

Please share the details of the march widely and if you can, be there. Let us unite with all those who want a just and a viable solution. We endorse international law and those values that foster the flourishing of life for all.