ANC supports the oppressed in Palestine
THE CONTINUED mischaracterisation in the public space of last week’s interaction between the ANC and a visiting Israeli politician is unfortunate. Regrettably the truth has become the first casualty as some seek to infer that the ANC’s support for the Palestinian cause is wavering.
It has become necessary to clarify the circumstances surrounding the above-mentioned engagement to correct misinformation being disseminated by certain sectors of society who seek to incorrectly ascribe some kind of extraordinary status to what was an unplanned, unscheduled chance encounter. Matters have not been helped by the Israeli embassy in South Africa which mischievously described the engagement as “inter-ministerial”.
The office of the Israeli Minister of Regional Co-operation Tzachi Hanegbi also called it “the first ministerial meetings between Israel and the South African government in five years”.
Both characterisations are regrettable. Last week, a delegation from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies visited the ANC’s Joburg head offices for a matter unknown. They were accompanied by Mr Hanegbi as well as the new Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Lior Keinan.
A drafting team comprising members of the ANC’s international relations sub-commitee happened to be meeting in the building at the same time – to prepare for the ANC’s national conference in December. In line with the organisation’s normal operational imperatives, a task team had been set up to conduct an analysis of recommendations made at the recently held national policy conference . Among other things, the task team was considering recommendations made in relation to the possible downgrade/ shutdown and the status quo of the South African embassy in Israel.
A last-minute request to meet with the team was accommodated.
Members of the task team began the meeting by reiterating the ANC’s position – namely its commitment to see a free Palestine and for an end to the occupation. This is not a position that is articulated behind closed doors; it is well-known and well-documented, and is both principled and consistent.
As it would have been expected, the visiting delegation expressed its concerns (obviously not for the first time) around the recommendation by the NPC regarding the South African embassy in Israel – and a robust engagement took place.
It was put to the delegation that only the ANC’s national conference in December would take a final resolution on the matter. The visiting delegation was further advised that if they so wished, they could submit written inputs to the task team on this issue as well as on other matters towards the ANC national conference.
Former ANC president Nelson Mandela rightly called the Palestinian struggle “the greatest moral issue of our time” – and the organisation has throughout its history affirmed its support for Palestinian aspirations for an independent state along the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
As the 53rd National Conference of the ANC noted: “The ANC is unequivocal in its support for the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination, and unapologetic in its view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel.”
The ANC policy on Palestine, which is being operationalised by the South African government, is in support of the twostate solution. The organisation has throughout its history remained steadfast in its opposition to the illegal occupation of Palestinian land; to land seizures; to detentions without trial and extra-judicial killings; and to the expansion of settlements, especially in the occupied West Bank.
The ANC has consistently and will continue to speak out against what the 2007 Polokwane conference resolution called “a systematic policy of colonial expansion, ethnic cleansing and military occupation of the most brutal kind, which as South Africans we readily recognise from our own experience of apartheid”.
The ANC remains committed to playing a constructive role in the Middle East peace process, and as such reaffirms the need to engage: directly where need be, with actors across the political spectrum in both Israel and Palestine – mainly through the government.
Our government, through the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, has consistently called for a just and lasting solution to the Israel/ Palestine question – and has engaged the parties through the president’s special envoys.
Our government furthermore continues to emphasise its commitment to multilateralism in order to ensure lasting peace and security in the region.
We have since 1994 played a role in supporting peace efforts by among other things “sharing our negotiating experience, supporting capacity building and strengthening institutions in Palestine itself, providing humanitarian assistance through support to UN Relief and Works Agency, and facilitating inter-Palestinian dialogue”.
In the words of Inkosi Albert Luthuli at the opening of the 42nd Conference of the ANC in 1953: “Our interest in freedom is not confined to ourselves only.
“We are interested in the liberation of all oppressed people in the whole of Africa and in the world as a whole… our active interest in the extension of freedom to all people denied it, makes us ally ourselves with freedom forces in the world.”
That we should engage with political actors across the divide cannot be taken to mean that our support for the Palestinians is any less.
ANC policy is in support of the two-state solution
Molewa is chairperson of the ANC’s international relations subcommittee