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Hamas leaders’ presence in SA for a Palestine solidarity convention stirs controversy

Hamas leaders’ presence in SA for a Palestine solidarity convention stirs controversy
Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni (Photo: EPA / Yahya Arhab | Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images | Rawpixel)

The ANC plans to meet a delegation of Hamas leaders visiting South Africa, but the SA Jewish Board of Deputies says it is ‘disgusted’ by their presence.

The visit to South Africa of a senior delegation of Hamas – the Islamic Resistance Movement – now engaged in a bitter war with Israel, has sparked controversy.

The SA Jewish Board of Deputies has condemned the visit by members of the organisation that launched an attack on Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking scores of people hostage.

Israel retaliated with a relentless bombardment of the Hamas stronghold of Gaza, which has killed at least 13,000 people, also mostly civilians and many of them children.

The ANC has said it would meet the Hamas leaders.

Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the government had no plans to meet them – but did not rule out the possibility.

Asked if the government would meet the Hamas leaders, Dirco’s Clayson Monyela said, “Absolutely not. No meetings with Hamas… at least not with Dirco.”

According to a press release, “Hamas politburo member Bassem Naim; Hamas representative in Iran Khaled Qaddoumi; and Hamas international relations director for East, Central and Southern Africa Emad Saber had arrived in South Africa to participate in the Fifth Global Convention of Solidarity with Palestine.” 

While here, the delegation would meet representatives of political parties, civil society groups and the Palestine solidarity movement “to provide updates about Israel’s onslaught on Gaza, and to hear South African views on the global solidarity movement and the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle in general”.

The statement added that the Fifth Global Convention of Solidarity with Palestine was jointly organised by the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine and the Royal House of Mandela and would commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Global Campaign’s launch and the death of Nelson Mandela.

“The conference theme is, ‘Nelson Mandela and Palestine: Confronting Racism till Liberation’.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Israel-Palestine War

Obed Bapela, deputy chair of the ANC national executive committee’s subcommittee on international relations, told Daily Maverick the sub-committee had decided in principle to meet the Hamas leaders.

“It is an advantage for us to meet with parties and organisations.”

The discussions would also revolve around sanctions on Israel.

“We have long said… that we need to talk to the leaders of the PLO and leaders of Hamas and any organisation that is a voice for the Palestinian question, so we can get their understanding.”

The ultimate aim would be to find a solution to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

“We want to see whether the two-state solution is still something that everyone has a buy-in on and we are not backtracking from it,” he said.

Hamas’ answer to that question is already well known – it has made it abundantly clear that it does not support a two-state solution.

Hamas’ 1988 founding charter calls for the destruction of Israel. In a political document in 2018, the group said it would accept the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, although it still did not recognise Israel as a state or accept the two-state solution proposed in the Oslo Accords.

On the other hand, Hamas’ rival, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) which runs the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, supports separate states of Israel and Palestine.

While explaining that her government had no plans to meet the Hamas representatives, Ntshavheni also said there was no evidence anyone from Hamas was even in SA. She also slammed the notion that Hamas was a terrorist organisation – which Israel, the US and many other Western countries deem it to be.

“I do not recall the UN classification of Hamas as terrorists, and we don’t know of a Hamas office in South Africa. So I can’t say that there is or there isn’t any Hamas in South Africa. We don’t have that type of evidence.

“We are not in the business of tracking anyone. I don’t know how the government must account for people who are coming to attend private conferences in the country. If they meet with the government, we will announce, but we have no schedule of meeting with them.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Pretoria ponders implementing ANC vote to cut ties with Israel

Meanwhile, the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) said it was “disgusted by the presence of Hamas on our soil”.

“Rape is not resistance. Nor is taking hostages an act of social justice.  Hamas is not a freedom-fighting organisation,” SAJBD national chairperson Karen Milner said in a statement.

“Rather, it is one dedicated to the violent destruction of Israel and which portrays Jews as being an intrinsically evil people who must be hunted down and killed wherever they might be. It says so in its Charter, and its heinous attack on Israeli civilians on 7 October bears this out.

“Hamas proudly affirms its intention of perpetrating more massacres against the Jewish state. One of its political bureau members, Ghazi Hamad, confirmed that in a television interview on 24 October, when he declared that Hamas would carry out further such attacks ‘again and again’ until Israel was completely destroyed.”

Milner said one of the visiting delegation, Khaled Qaddoumi, had “lied on SABC TV when he denied that Hamas was holding children hostage”.

“Currently, 161 Israelis and other nationalities’ civilians, including children, are still being held as hostages in Gaza,” Milner said.

Several hostages have been released over the past week, in exchange for Israel releasing Palestinian prisoners and detainees.

“The SAJBD is saddened by all loss of innocent lives in this conflict,” Milner said.

“We call on our government to demand from Hamas the unconditional release of all the hostages.” DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Denise Smit says:

    “We have no business in tracking people down.?” No state security? So Isis members can be present in the country, and Islamic Jihad? That is why the June 21 destruction happened. No state security

  • John P says:

    If we are hosting a Palestinian solidarity convention in SA at all surely this should include the PLO and not just Hamas to be in any way meaningful?

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      During our desparate times countries hosted and some sheltered our millitary groups,Hamas was never designated a terrorist group by the majority of Europe and African states, disturbingly on the october 7 attack they violated international law???
      the international law that doesnt bite as Israel violated international law for decades with no consenquences not even sanctions, post october 7 they violated and are still violating international law in front of the democratic world, rich superpowers veto all actions against those they deem as allies and there is nothing Africa can do about it but here in our shores we can dictate that either you abide by human right laws or you dont, we dont have evil and a lesser evil, IF YOU KILL MY RELATIVES AND MY FAMILY SHOULD I ADMIRE YOUR FAMILY AND YOUR CHILDREN? if the answer is yes pack your bags and go to Israel, if no lets welcome Hamas and understand the issues not what the west and Israel tell us, i am happy about your approach JP its the right way to end this disgusting thing the Israel and Palestine civillians have to endure

  • hennie31 says:

    I sometimes wonder if ministers how stupid there answers are.
    “Ntshavheni also said there was no evidence anyone from Hamas was even in SA.”
    “and we don’t know of a Hamas office in South Africa. So I can’t say that there is or there isn’t any Hamas in South Africa. We don’t have that type of evidence.

    “We are not in the business of tracking anyone. I don’t know how the government must account for people who are coming to attend private conferences in the country”
    Does this mean we do not have any border control?
    Does this also mean our intelligence service don’t assess risks for certain visitors?
    She is actualy saying we don’t know if anybody comes to this country and if a high risk person intends to visit us, we don’t care.
    Or is she simply lying?

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      Hennie she means there is no confirmation yet that they are in the country, they are not engaging with government because Palestine is not a state it lost that status to Israel occupation but they are not undesirable citizens in South africa as long as they stamp their passports, there is no terrorist in an undemocratic state because that is a terror state, there is no shred of evidence that Hamas is a threat to our country, the Jews in this country are protected by our democracy, the threat to this country is any one who treat other people based on ethnical origins which is the state of Israel, we fought that here if you can remember before 1994 elections there was a referendum from white south africans who by majority said it is wrong to treat someone different because of race, colour and ethnic origin and that centre still holds

      • Pieter van de Venter says:

        No Kenneth, she is saying that she, the SSA and other departments tracking people have no idea what is happening. They are all just cost centers with nothing to show for it.

        I bet if a member of the Israeli Knesset books a ticket, the SSA wil warn Chihauhau.

        • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

          She is waiting for someone to confirm then the chorus will start, these are cadre deployees she knows which way the wind is blowing, she will turn around and say intelligence reports are confidential we have heard it before, bottom line is Hamas representatives are welcome here in this country same as Jews only Israel state representatives will get some tension but they have not been blocked yet, only I don’t see them being invited in the state level at the moment, but if Israel can implement the UN resolutions they stand a chance of a long term gain in the world

          • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

            “Hamas representatives are welcome here in this country same as Jews”???

            Whoa. 5 generations my family has been here. I’m not looking for your permission. I’m as South African as you. Racist comment.

            You meant to say Israelis. Shows you how anti-Zionism = antisemitism

          • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

            In the 5 generations you have been here you still have a lot to learn, here we embrace diversity we have indians,coloureds, afrikaaners, greeks, africans of different origins[black if you like] the list goes on, we even have forms every where still asking defination of your race, we are what we are, but it makes sense to worry about being a Jew the state of Israel is not displaying them as pleasant people but dont worry you are safe here we have a solid constitution and a specific court to up hold the constitution

  • Glyn M says:

    “We call on our government to demand from Hamas the unconditional release of all the hostages.”
    Calling on our Govt to do the right thing? Since when do the ANC government of the day ever do the right and decent thing for the country and its citizens? It’s like asking a shark to do the right thing by not hunting and eating baby seals. Their promises are as empty and vapid as their heads.

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      We are all upset with the ANC unfortunately south Africa is a party dominated democracy and the opposition is not showing up enough in the poor societies who rely on grants to live, that is where the ANC crunches it’s numbers, the second problem as much as the DA which has all the skills to govern the country tries they fail to read the mood of black African voters, they are loud in condemnation of Hamas and they don’t show the same effort on the terror unleashed by Israel on the Palestinians and those are low hanging fruits you achieve without standing up from your chair, and there is no serious democratic repercussions for an opposing party not in government, any party that is serious about winning elections will have to find alternative incentives better than these mere grants to beat the ANC sympathy in the poor populations, find tax relief initiatives for the middle class, stay clear of supporting Israel in its current form, visit Gaza like we saw with Ukraine, then and only then they will stand a chance. right now I see parties playing opposition to a point where they oppose themselves and they are not getting help on these platforms like DM because people comment based on the side they identify and ignore the genocide in modern times unfolding in the west bank and Gaza, the murder of civilians by Hamas is a no no but let’s present all the murders taking place there

  • Cornay Bester says:

    Are we cancelling Christmas too?

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      Zhulfab this story will always be one sided for or one sided against because you can not put the occupier and the occupied in one picture, you cannot even combine the terror of Israel and the terror of Hamas in one picture the numbers dont match Israel has done all a million times its only the innocent victims on both sides that you can put in one sentence and one picture and by doing so it will not only be fair but it will show the world who is the main culprits here, if you ask me it is Israel and the west, Blinken has said he asked Israel to minimise the casualities of civillians in Gaza and westbank, simply put yes you can kill them but not too much, i would have expected him to say avoid civillian casualities but no he doesnt want that because for Israel to do that in cramped Gaza is to stop bombing which does not serve the American foreign interest

  • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

    “Absolutely not. No meetings with Hamas… at least not with Dirco.”
    Maybe with another department, maybe we’ll have a bit of lunch, shmooze a bit, maybe we did phone you, maybe we didn’t, who knows?

  • Angus Baker says:

    VIVA HAMAS VIVA, Long live the spirit of Hamas.
    During the visit of the Hamas Representatives to South Africa and during their interaction with political parties, One hopes that the local political parties will convince DIRCO to have official meetings with them that might lead to at least a Palestinian consul if not an ambassador to South Africa. I don’t know what the JBOD have done for South Africa except for helping the National Party and the Progressive Federal Party in their efforts in Fund raising. The JBOD were quick to invite and be seen in the company of Nelson Mandela after his release and he was he man of the moment. However I can’t recall that they have ever acknowledge the South African Freedom Fighters who were Jews. Not a word from the JBOD for Ruth First, a Jewish martyr for the cause of freedom, or Jacqueline Arenstein, Lionel Bernstein, Joe Slovo, Leon Levi and Ronnie Kasrills and others. They were all true heroes and understood the evil of Apartheid, the same Apartheid now Practised by Israel against the Palestinians. Some of them during the struggle, were even helped, hidden and assisted by the Palestinian people and the PLO. The same PLO that was labelled with the ANC as terrorist organisation. When South Africa, in the person of President Nelson Mandela, ensure the Palestinian people, of South Africa’s continued friendship and support. I feel proud that our Government’s word is good, even after seven administrations.

  • David van der Want says:

    It is not legitimate to host these violent terrorists while simultaneously voting to expel the Israeli diplomat. If our claim is that we are attempting to find some inclusive path to peace then we must include all parties. Our condemnation of Israel’s assault on Gaza puts us on the right side of history, hosting Hamas leadership puts us back on the wrong side.

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      Unfortunately Dave we cannot wish Hamas away, if you know the exact things Israel has been doing there its not only not different from what Hamas did on october 7 its worse, one nation is subjected a law where they are sentenced without trial based on their race sometimes for life which is 99 years sometimes because they look like someone who threw a rock at the security forces, although i must admit they do throw those stone like bullets but it cannot be fair, a lot of commentors here only see the october 7 unacceptable brutal killings but believe me if you see what Israel is doing there which might end with 75000 or more innocent Palestinians killed in Gaza[ believe we are witnessing it] add that to what has been happening before over 300000 40% is women and children, you will be forgiven like all of us in sympathising with the Palestine cause, the PLO has been powerless although they had the political mandate without any serious millitary force against a stubborn and well supported occupier, then Hamas stepped in with tunnel tactics which has not deterred the occupier but it has successfully brought the topic to the table which is why we are talking about it now, Israel knows they will never finish Hamas but it gives them comfort to bomb the poor Palestinians not to submission because only people who are alive will submit but to near extinction so they have less land to give back, its very important to put a forecast on what is the game plan here and put out our voices that we see what is the plan which the west knows too well, south africa has been blessed but if we support what we fought against we run the risk of being seen as condoners and this is Gods world who say it cannot visit us in one form or another, the unequality in this country can easily tip the scales lets be very careful and honest about Israel,Hamas and the Palestinians and the Genocide unfolding there and always remember that God is watching us, the west in the form of Britain,some Europe nations and America will never know peace because of the blood their weapons are spilling in the state of Palestine they are forcing us to recognise as the state of Israel, having said that the Hamas attack was unfair to the innocent Jews[not in racist terms] caught in this madness

  • Martin Engelbrecht says:

    The main point is Hamas doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist. Strangely the son of Hamas is vehement opposed to Hamas and has absolutely nothing good to say about the organization.

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      Do you mean the son of the leader of Hamas who is being used by Israel in their propaganda, why do they oppress all the Palestinians and give him platforms he says what they want him to say, do you think the 15000 dead now we’re crazy civillians

  • Nas Hodja says:

    We have to keep in mind that Israel is the bigger practitioner of terror between these two parties. This is for their on-going brutal and violent subjugation of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories. Daily. Gratuitous violence against the Palestinian people in order to subjugate them is the official policy.

    Read the confessions by IDF soldiers if you do not believe this. Search for ‘IDF Breaking the Silence’.

    Both the IRA and the ANC were deemed terrorist organisations, but in the end it was necessary to sit down and talk to them.

  • Know Best says:

    For the UK, US, EU etc. Hamas are a proscribed terrorist organisation, and rightly so. South African nationals in Israel were murdered on October 7 and taken hostage by Hamas. I am in complete agreement with the SAJBD. The presence of a Hamas delegation on South African soil is a disgrace.

  • Jeff Robinson says:

    While I detest Hamas for what happened in October, I agree with them that a two-state solution is unacceptable. The old apartheid regime wanted the world to accept an eleven state solution for South Africa and, rightly so, the world scoffed at this, acknowledging that it was just a ploy to keep power in the hands of whites. Religion, like race, should not – indeed MUST not – be a basis for statehood (true for the various Islamic republics as it is for Israel). Whites in South Africa had to accept minority status and just get on with it. Such must be the case for Jews in a new unified Palestine. And as with South Africa, the USA and other democracies, there must be no state religion. Indeed, how wonderful if people could finally get hip to the absurdity of embracing the beliefs of bronze age nomads, yet here we have children of Abraham killing children of Abraham. Christopher Hitchens was right, “Religion poisons everything”. One cannot prove the non-existence of God (or anything for that matter), but we can be sure of the non-existence of Abraham’s god, who the Old Testament reveals as a genocidal, mysoginistic, megalomanical, and racist god of war.

    • Peter Dexter says:

      Unfortunately we all know that is an unworkable solution as well. As far as I am aware none of the Islamic states accept Jews as equal citizens. As soon as the “One Palestine” is created all Jews would become stateless.

      • Jeff Robinson says:

        I don’t recall that white South Africans became stateless following the fall of apartheid. What is required is a constitutional separation of state and religion. Religious belief can be respected (though I find this difficult in this day and age), but it cannot be allowed to dictate policies around who gets what.

    • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

      Jeff the G-d you don’t believe in, I don’t believe in either. You’d be hard-pressed to find any of the world’s 16 million Jews who do.

      As for a non-religious, secular, kumbaya solution. There are around 8 billion human beings in the world today, of which there are approximately 2.4 billion adherents to Christianity (31.6%), 1.8 billion Muslims (24.1%) and around 16 million Jews (0.2%). There are 103 Christian nations, 56 Muslim ones and only one Jewish state, Israel, which constitutes 0.025% of the land mass of the Middle East, and is the only one (religious, secular or otherwise) who’s right to exist is constantly challenged.

  • Harold Uberstein says:

    Why dont south africa concentrate on its own people and problems. Instead we befriend all terrorist movements and countries that really are not even spoken about. By hamas being invited to south africa is disgusting and will just cause more trouble. Should this happen, we will be sanctioned by countries.

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      If other countries looked at their own problems and didn’t help us we wouldn’t have our freedom today no nation succeeds in isolation

  • bucs bucs says:

    As a newbie to the Palestinian issue; does Hamas represent the Palestinians?

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      I believe that did win some elections and they were not recognised by Israel and the west, they recognise the PA who they treat as some puppet government but they do give them some budget at some point Hamas was also receiving money, not sure for what bottom line the Palestinians are under occupation there can not be any meaningful representation, you can also have your own group there and claim something against anything as long as you don’t bother the occupier

    • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

      Bucs, with due respect to Kenneth, he is a prolific anti-Israel commentator on DM with an entrenched opinion, no more than that. Therefore, aside from his prejudices, he is far from the “Wikipedia” of this subject, and his answer to your question needs your own verification. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 completely to allow Palestinians self-determination, and Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006. As of last week, Gallup polls indicated that over 75% of Palestinian civilians in both Gaza, and the West Bank, supported Hamas’ actions of 7 Oct and, indeed, broadly support Hamas. Whether this is out of conviction, or fear – you’d need to ask them (and maybe Kenneth).

  • Bill Gild says:

    Hamas is a terrorist organization. Period. It has been designated as such by the US, Canada, the EU, New Zealand, Australia, and the UK.

    The ANC would do well to be aware of its bedfellows, especially when the begging bowls come out.

  • Mark Wade says:

    It’s interesting to note that Hamas only has official representation in four ‘countries’; Gaza, where they wrenched control from the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, where their administrators live, Iran, who are their sponsors, and South Africa. Other countries may sympathise with Hamas, but don’t offer them any form of consular representation. The ANC is clearly on the wrong side of international political affiliations.

  • Kevin Schaafsma says:

    Quite astonishing how our government is prepared to let Hamas leadership into the country after the October 7 attacks it perpetrated on a fellow United Nations member State. And yet wouldn’t let the Dalai Lama into South Africa for Desmond Tutu’s birthday party.

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