A GOLIATH SHOWDOWN
well to remain on the side of social justice, perhaps because so many countries stood by us during our dark days.
And indeed South Africans have not forgotten that the father of our nation said: “South Africa will not be free until the Palestinians are free.”
We have not forgotten that ANC leaders were in Palestine in 1982 when then Israeli Defence Minister Ariel Sharon gave the instruction to bomb Sabra and Shatila, resulting in the death of thousands of civilians, mainly children.
Had we not defeated apartheid, this year would have marked 69 years of oppression in the country. But, with incredible mobilisation and international solidarity, the evil system of racial capitalism was toppled and in 1994 we had our first democratic election.
But, as we celebrate democracy, Israel, a country that continues to brutalise Palestinians, marks 69 years of its existence.
This year’s observance is likely to be marked by increased state security violence against demonstrators. In recent years people have been killed and scores wounded in the Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, Maroun al-ras in Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied West Bank as Palestinians marked the Nakba.
Many still remember the Nakba. Palestinian Ali Hamoudi was eight years old in 1948 and painfully recalls the day: “I had to hide with my family in a cave near my house for nine days. There were seven of us in the cave and there was not much room to move around. We could hear the Israelis passing, but they could not see us because the cave was well hidden.”
There was large-scale intimidation and siege, setting fire to Palestinian homes, planting of mines, destroying of 500 villages and other terrorist activities.
Nearly 800000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes and into refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and elsewhere. They have never returned.
Most Palestinians have a personal narrative of loss – a relative killed or a branch of the family that fled north while the others fled east, never to be reunited, or homes, offices, orchards and other property seized.
That eloquent defender of the Palestinians, the intellectual Edward Said, recalled how in 1948 his entire family was turned into a scattering of refugees.
“None of the older members of my family ever recovered from the trauma,” he wrote in one of his famous works, The Politics of Dispossession.
In South Africa we know and can understand, perhaps more so than others, the plight of the Palestinians. While Israel will be celebrating its 69th anniversary this year, Palestinians have nothing to celebrate.
Just as pass laws restricted the movement of black South Africans, the movement of Palestinians, especially in the West Bank, continues to be restricted by checkpoints, roadblocks and a concrete wall. The apartheid wall means that a journey of 20 minutes takes seven hours.
It cuts farmers off from their land, children from their schools, mothers from medical services for their babies, and grandparents from their grandchildren – even apartheid South Africa’s bantustans were not surrounded by gates.
In a UN report, Professor John Dugard said Israel was unwilling to learn from South Africa and the human rights situation in the occupied territories continued to deteriorate.
Dugard made shocking parallels between Palestine and South Africa, saying that the “large-scale destruction of Palestinian homes, levelling of agricultural land, military incursions and targeted assassinations of Palestinians far exceed any similar practices in apartheid South Africa”.
Who can forget the attack on Gaza a few years ago? The area remains devastated and is often in darkness because Israel shut it off. Just as the world remembered us in our dark days, so too should we remember the oppressed people of the world – especially on a day like the Nakba when so many were forcefully removed.
South Africans who can do so should join the fast tomorrow in solidarity with Palestinians. Their tears are surely ours.
• Buccus is a senior research associate at the Aliwal Social Research Institute, research fellow in the UKZN School of Social Sciences and academic director of a university study abroad programme on political transformation. He promotes #Reading Revolution via Books@antique at Antique Cafe in Morningside.