Wednesday 29 November 2017 will be the 40th anniversary of the declaration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people. It will be the 70th anniversary of Resolution 181-2 and the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War. As we commemorate these anniversaries, we must ask ourselves as a people who suffered oppression and as an international community, whether what we are paying to the people of Palestine is mere lip service.
Resolution 181-2. This is one of the many resolutions adopted by the United Nations but violated by the State of Israel. In sum, the resolution adopted a plan for the partitioning of the land of Palestine into the Jewish State of Israel and the Arab State of Palestine. The plan also suggested a special recognition of the city of Jerusalem which would serve as a capital for both the Israeli and Palestinian states.
The resolution was adopted in 1947. Thirty years later, in 1977, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people on the day that Resolution 181-2 was adopted, 29 November. The Assembly did so because it recognised that 30 years later, Palestinians were nowhere close to having a state of their own. In fact, 10 years after the Six-Day War of 1967, the lot of Palestinians was worse and Israel continued to violate international law.
Wednesday 29 November 2017 will be the 40th anniversary of the declaration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people. It will be the 70th anniversary of Resolution 181-2 and the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War. The Six-Day War itself had direct devastating effects as, among others, Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank while over 300,000 Palestinians fled the West Bank. Israel continues to occupy the territories, again, in violation of international law.
As we commemorate these anniversaries, we must ask ourselves, as a people who suffered oppression, and as an international community, whether what we are paying to the people of Palestine is mere lip service. We must use this day of solidarity to make bold once again the assertion by Tata Madiba that South Africa will not be free until Palestine is free.
In his address at the state banquet hosting President Yasser Arafat, the late former President Nelson Mandela noted the supporting role played by Palestinians towards the liberation of the people of South Africa despite not possessing freedom themselves. This recognition was important, alluded Madiba, as it showed the immense sacrifices that Palestinians made, even placing the liberation of others above their own.
In that same tribute to President Arafat, Tata Madiba went on to state that: “… South Africa is proud to be part of the international consensus affirming the right of Palestine to self-determination and statehood…” Yet despite these long years and anniversaries, Palestinians are nowhere near to attaining justice and the right to self-determination.
Instead, Israel has continued to violate international law, occupation continues and the brutality of the Israeli system of oppression has, rightly, been likened to apartheid. Today, there should be no doubt that Israel is an apartheid state and in the words of former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, it is fast turning into a tyrannical, fascist one.
Despite the resolve of the Israelis and the friends in the West and, sadly, East to ensure that the quest of Palestinians is drowned out by smokescreens such as the threat Iran poses, as South Africans we must use our international muscle and clout to guarantee that we will keep Palestine firmly on the international agenda.
While the Obama administration abandoned the peace process and while the Trump administration kowtows to the whims of the Netanyahu regime, we must position ourselves in order to ensure the correction of this historical injustice despite the time that has elapsed. Now more than ever, we must ensure that the Palestinian people receive support and encouragement during this time of marginalisation.
The National Policy Conference of the ANC in July this year, in preparation for the National Conference in December, was emphatic about the support that the ANC continues towards Palestine. The ANC reaffirmed its “unwavering steadfast commitment” towards Palestinians but expressed its disappointment in Israel’s lack of commitment towards peace.
After debating the possibility of downgrading our embassy in Israel, the National Policy Conference recommended two options of proposals which the 54th National Conference must consider and decide upon. First, we downgrade our embassy in Israel based on the continuous violation of international law and UN resolutions by the Israelis and the ongoing building of settlements in the Occupied Territories. The second option is to shut down our embassy completely, taking or not taking into account the associated risks.
As the ANC therefore prepares for its National Conference, South Africa’s future relations with Israel hangs in the balance and rightly so. For over two decades, South Africa has pleaded with Israelis and worked with them, together with local groups, to ensure that injustices do not continue. Yet these have gone on unabated and Palestinians are continually denied the right to return and to declare a state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
At the same time, the ANC has also noted the importance of ensuring that Palestinian unity remains a priority as the fight for liberation and justice is intensified. The ANC’s historical relationship with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and, in particular, Fatah, must not be compromised through its engagement with Hamas. In fact, evidence already suggests that Palestinians recognise the urgent need, given the current cooling down on the international front of issues pertaining to their plight, to unite. The ANC certainly would support any initiative that unites Hamas, Fatah and the larger PLO formation.
The Policy Conference went on to propose that the National Conference adopt a resolution whereby a Global Solidarity Conference on Palestine, consisting of the liberation movements of Palestine and all other progressive international organisations who support the liberation of the Palestinian people, are invited. It is in this respect that the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian peoples becomes pertinent.
This particular sentiment was expressed by the former president of the ANC, Comrade OR Tambo, and it is fitting, as we close the year in which we celebrated his centenary, to be reminded of his words, when, sharing the stage with Yasser Arafat, he said:
“… the unconditional upholding of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination must be an essential condition for a comprehensive settlement of the Middle East conflict, including Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab territories and the security of all states in the region, including the state of Israel.”
There will be no peace in the Middle East, no secure and prosperous Israel, without a secure and prosperous Palestine. No justice, no peace. DM
Jessie Duarte is Deputy Secretary-General of the ANC
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