South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), voted to make boycotts, divestment and sanctions of Israel part of its official policy. The ANC adopted a series of anti-Israel resolutions at its 53rd National Conference that was held recently. ANC urged South Africans to support any Palestinian campaigns that put pressure on Israel. One ANC resolution even asserted, “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 conference ignored a call for impartiality by several prominent religious leaders in South Africa’s largest newspaper, the Sunday Times. The letter asserted, “When South Africa’s ruling party chooses sides in this bitter conflict, our country loses the credibility to be a voice for peace between the parties, and only the agenda of conflict is served. Such actions impede a peaceful solution that would enable Jews to live in their ancient Biblical land in peace side by side with their Muslim neighbors.” The South African Jewish Board of Deputies issued a similar call and requested that a letter on the matter be read at the conference; the request was ignored.
These resolutions were only the latest of many anti-Israel actions taken by the South African government. Last August, ANC approved a plan to require that products sold in South Africa that are produced by Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria be specially labeled so that they don’t read “made in Israel.” Despite the fact that the South African Jewish community protested this measure, the South African government approved it because they claimed that South Africa only recognizes the 1948 borders of Israel.
South African officials have also been increasingly hostile towards Israel recently. The deputy minister of international relations, Ebrahim Ebrahim, has called on South Africans not to visit Israel, and South African Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies encouraged a ban on goods from Jewish Judea and Samaria. Deputy President and current ANC Chairwoman Baleka Mbete also articulated support for the BDS movement at a recent international conference in South Africa. In addition, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote an open letter to the United Methodist Church arguing in favor of boycotting Israel, claiming that Palestinians “are being oppressed more than the apartheid ideologues could ever dream about.”
In the past, these anti-Israel proclamations’ from ANC officials have even descended into anti-Semitism. For example, according to the Commentary Magazine, in 2009, Bongani Masuku, a mid-level ANC operative, was found guilty by South Africa’s Human Rights Commission of utilizing “hate speech” after he announced that any South African Jew who did not support the Palestinian cause “must not just be encouraged but forced to leave.” In another instance, the ANC’s deputy foreign minister alleged, “The control of America, just like the control of most Western countries, is in the hands of Jewish money.”
Evidently, South Africa’s ruling party has always been supportive of the Palestinian side of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as exemplified by the fact that ANC officials supported the Russell Tribunal for Palestine that accused Israel of being an apartheid state. Indeed, a number of South Africans believe that the Palestinian cause is identical to that of South Africa’s black population against white apartheid rule. However, under Nelson Mandella, South Africa’s government had at least tried to appear as neutral and supported a two-state solution. This is no longer the case!
JOIN US IN TELLING SOUTH AFRICA TO STOP THE BOYCOTT
Contact: President Jacob Zuma
Dear President Zuma,
As someone who cares deeply about peace in the Middle East, I am outraged to learn that ANC has passed a series of resolutions that will do any thing but promote peace and mutual understanding in the Middle East. Economic exchanges and people-to-people interactions between Israelis and Palestinians are absolutely pivotal towards developing mutual understandings that will lead eventually to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) is specifically designed to limit those crucial human relationships that are of utmost importance to any one who cares deeply about peace. Furthermore, if South Africa wants to have a constructive role in helping Israelis and Palestinians to work past their differences, impartiality is critical. Thus, I insist that you work to change the position of ANC. Thank you.
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