MIDDLE EAST CRISIS
Hamas leaders’ presence in SA for a Palestine solidarity convention stirs controversy
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.
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