MIDDLE EAST CRISIS
Hundreds march in Joburg in solidarity with Palestinians embroiled in bloody conflict with Israel
People marched through the Johannesburg CBD in solidarity with the people of Palestine on Wednesday. Many called for a permanent ceasefire and unrestricted access to aid.
In light of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, hundreds of people marched through the Johannesburg CBD on Wednesday, calling for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
The march started at the Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, paused at Nelson Mandela Bridge, and ended at Constitution Hill with many people demanding an end to what’s been described as genocide, an occupation, settler colonialism, and ‘Israeli apartheid’.
The demonstration was organised by the South African Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Coalition, South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), and Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), with the support of over 40 organisations including South African Jews for a Free Palestine (SAJFP), Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA) and Health Care Workers for Palestine.
On 7 October, armed militias from Hamas entered Israel and killed over 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took over 200 hostages. In retaliation, Israeli airstrikes have pummeled Gaza, with over 14,000 civilians estimated to have been killed, of which at least 5,800 are children.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Middle East Crisis news hub
On 24 November, Israel and Hamas agreed to a four-day pause in fighting which was extended by two days on 27 November. During the period of truce, Hamas has released 69 captives in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons and more humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza, according to Al Jazeera.
The heads of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Israel’s Mossad met in Qatar on Tuesday to discuss the extension of a truce between Israel and Hamas as well as the captives being held by the Palestinian group in Gaza.
Activist Maya Bhardwaj said a temporary ceasefire was not enough. “The power of the Zionist state and the occupation of Palestine continues, so we are here to show solidarity with the ongoing fight,” she said.
Bhardwaj said that the parliamentary resolution to cut SA’s diplomatic relations with Israel needed to be finalised.
On 21 November, parliament passed an amended resolution brought by the EFF, calling upon the government to close the Israeli Embassy in South Africa and suspend all diplomatic ties “until a ceasefire is agreed to by Israel and Israel commits to binding United Nations-facilitated negotiations whose outcome must be a just sustainable and lasting peace”.
Any decision on severing relations with Israel would have to be made by the Cabinet, which was due to meet again on Wednesday 29 November.
A human rights issue
Rina King, from SAJFP, said what is occurring in Palestine is a human rights issue, and an issue of forced removal, oppression and occupation. “As a Jewish person, I value life and I see that the Palestinians have been disposed of their land since 1948 and that’s the problem,” she said. King said that Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, intends to continue what she described as genocide and that pressure and solidarity with the people of Palestine was needed.
“As we speak, about 20 villages have had people chased off their land in the West Bank and that’s got nothing to do with Hamas,” she said. King said what is happening in Palestine is an apartheid system. “Palestinians are discriminated against and oppressed and unless we stand up and support them, the Israeli government will not change,” she said. “It’s not a Jewish issue, it is a human rights issue.”
Permanent ceasefire needed
Roshan Dadoo, from SA BDS Coalition, said they were calling for a permanent ceasefire and for unrestrained humanitarian aid to come into Gaza. “We are saying this is not enough. You can’t pause a genocide and then continue again as Netanyahu has declared his intentions to continue the bombarded of Gaza and we have seen incidents where occupation forces have continued despite this temporary pause,” she said.
Dadoo said that they wanted to see a possibility for Palestinians to return to their homes. “We want justice for the atrocities that are being committed, not just now although this is so clearly the worst, but from 1947 when people were massacred, villages were destroyed and Palestinians were forced into excel during that time,” she said.
A public health and mental health crisis
Dr Sandra Fernandes, a specialist neuropsychiatrist, spoke about the 247 healthcare workers who have been killed since 7 October. “We are here today to say that our own horror and trauma of what we are witnessing daily in Gaza, cannot compare to the severe trauma experienced by those inside Gaza,” she said.
As half of the population is under the age of 15 or 17, generational trauma will be expressed for years to come, with many people experiencing psychological long-term effects such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other conditions, according to Fernandes. “What will unfold in the coming days and weeks will be a diary of diseases and other physical diseases as a result of poor drinking water and the lack of proper nutrition, despite some of the aid entering Gaza,” she said.
“This is a public health care. It is a mental health crisis”.
Fernandes called for a permanent ceasefire, sustained and unrestricted access to humanitarian aid, an immediate cessation of the siege, and targeting of healthcare facilities, schools, public areas, and free movement of healthcare workers to all affected areas.
On this day in 1947
29 November is the date that the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the partition of Palestine in 1947. Resolution 181 called for the creation of an Arab state and a Jewish state but was never implemented on the ground. The date is also the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, an official observance adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1997. DM