SA condemns violence in Israel
SOUTH African organisations have joined the voices of condemnation against the Israeli army’s attack on Palestinian worshippers praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on Friday.
They have also voiced concern over the Israeli government’s planned evictions of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of the city.
Hundreds of worshippers had gathered at the mosque for prayer during the final week of Ramadaan when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.
The fast is expected to conclude on Thursday or Friday with the celebration of Eid.
The Afro-Palestine Newswire Service reported that after the prayer some worshippers began chanting in support of residents from Sheikh Jarrah.
It reported that Israeli police responded by using sound grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets to violently disperse crowds, which included women and children. When people retreated to the mosque, it is alleged that Israeli police entered and attempted to clear the area.
The Afro-Palestine Newswire Service said videos showed grenades being thrown at worshippers while they prayed. It further reported several areas within the mosque were tear-gassed while people were trapped inside.
“Many hid inside the mosque, where they remained trapped for hours as Israeli police cut electricity lines to force them to evacuate.”
BBC News reported at least 163 Palestinians and six Israeli police officers were hurt during the clashes.
Dr Faisal Suleman, from the South African Muslim Network (Samnet), said the attack was part of a regular process of undermining Palestinians and evicting them from their homes.
“It is part of the ethnic cleansing that Israel is carrying out in Palestine so that it can use up the entire Jerusalem. The main aim here is to break the spirit of the Palestinians so that they eventually all leave.
“Israel has made it clear that it wishes to make the whole area a Zionist state. It is more so horrific because it is an attack on worshippers who are fasting and praying during the holy month of Ramadaan.”
Suleman said now that Israel had fostered good relationships with other Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, it was more emboldened.
Moulana Yusuf Patel, the secretary-general for the United Ulama Council of South Africa (UUCSA), said attacking people with rubber bullets and sound grenades inside the precincts of the Al-Aqsa mosque, while they were praying, was clearly an act of terror and indicative of a depraved mindset.
“The defilement of the mosque, the indiscriminate attack on women and children has become characteristic of occupier and settler mentality. The eviction of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah district is both inhumane and tyrannical which flies in the face of the UN resolutions and international law.”
Patel said the illegal expansion of settlements, confiscation of land, and the demolishing of homes was a grim reminder of how the apartheid apparatus tried to crush the indomitable spirit of the oppressed masses.
“Israel will do well to learn from the disastrous apartheid policies that led to the eventual collapse of the South African apartheid regime. History has shown that oppression cannot continue unabated.”
William Shoki, a member of the SA Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Coalition, a pro-Palestinian group, said the “barbaric” actions taking place in Jerusalem was an escalation of the ethnic cleansing and destruction of homes and villages that Palestinians had suffered since 1948.
“How many more atrocities must the Palestinian people suffer before South Africa raises its voice loudly against Israeli apartheid brutality, expels the Israeli ambassador, breaks off diplomatic ties with Israel, and imposes sanctions on the apartheid state? The South African government must act now.”
The Department of International Relations said, in a statement, the South African government condemned the attacks and the planned evictions.
“We would like to reiterate that Israel’s actions are in stark violation of international law, also a disregard of international humanitarian law and UN Security Council Resolutions, including Resolutions 446 (1979) and 2334 (2016).”
Tisetso Magama, from Africa4Palestine, said South African political parties and civil organisations would be uniting in a Palestine protest march to take place this week in Cape Town.
Meanwhile, in a joint statement Wendy Kahn, from the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, and Rowan Polovin from the SA Zionist Federation, said for the past week rockets fired from Gaza had rained down on Israeli towns in the south of Israel.
“Yesterday, it was Jerusalem’s turn to be targeted. Rockets are indiscriminate. They imperil the lives of all who live in the Holy City, whether Jew, Christian or Muslim. Despite this, the South African government has chosen to single out Israel for exclusive condemnation, disregarding completely the over three hundred deadly rockets fired thus far against Israeli civilians.”
They said: “Whereas countries throughout the world sent condolences to Israel following the tragic loss of 45 lives in Meron, South Africa has yet to follow suit, even two weeks later. However, within 24 hours it was able to issue a statement condemning Israel.”
The statement further said that in their determination to condemn Israel, the government had reversed cause and effect. “The reality – and not for the first time – is that the initial clashes were deliberately orchestrated by the Palestinian leadership and have now culminated in a lethal barrage of missile fire on Jerusalem and other heavily populated cities.
“If government, and indeed all political parties, wish to be part of ending this latest tragic outburst of violence, they must show genuine even-handedness. Those who unquestioningly endorse the claims and actions of one side, while completely ignoring those of the other, do nothing to resolve the conflict. In fact, they only make a bad situation worse.”