African National Congress stands with Palestinians and South African bishops call for ceasefire

by MMC
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The African National Congress, in power in South Africa asserted his position on the conflict in the Middle East on October 14. At a high-level meeting of the party’s national executive committee, members of the ANC leadership, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, wore black with Palestinian scarves draped around their necks as they addressed to the media.

Mr Ramphosa said the ANC remained committed to advocating for peace between Israel and Palestine. He said the ANC stood with Palestine and its citizens, who have been oppressed for more than 70 years. “As the ANC, we have always affirmed our solidarity and have always insisted that the only solution, particularly for Palestinian issues, is a two-state solution,” the president said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa: “As the ANC, we have always affirmed our solidarity and have always insisted that the only solution is a two-state solution. »

“We are here because we are deeply concerned about the atrocities being committed in the Middle East, and we have offered our condolences to the Israeli people just as we extend our condolences to the Palestinian people,” Mr Ramaphosa said.

Mr Ramaphosa harshly critical But Israel. He said many have come to view Israel as an apartheid state that continues to oppress the Palestinian people. He told media that the ANC was pledging “solidarity with the Palestinian people”.

He said the ANC had found similarities between South Africa’s history of apartheid and the experiences of Palestinians. The president said Palestinians are fighting for justice, adding: “Their human rights are being violated.”

Mr Ramaphosa said South Africa was willing to play a mediating role in the conflict, drawing on its own experience in conflict resolution. He also called for the revocation of the order issued by the Israeli Defense Forces to evacuate northern Gaza, for a ceasefire and for the opening of humanitarian corridors so that the people of Gaza can obtain relief. help she urgently needs.

A day after Mr Ramaphosa pledged his support for Palestine, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies wrote a public letter condemning the president’s position. He accused the president of “hypocrisy and double standards.”

The letter states that there was no condemnation from the president’s office and that instead, “we have had to endure members of your administration and party who dared to suggest that one way or another, these murders were just dessert for the victims and were justified.”

Mr Ramaphosa said many have come to view Israel as an apartheid state that continues to oppress the Palestinian people.

The letter said the government’s silence on the Hamas attack and “the hostility of your party is astounding… amounts to complicity.” The board told Mr Ramaphosa that when South Africa’s Jewish community needed it most, “you ignored us”.

Board members said the president had “no idea of ​​the depth of pain and trauma” South Africa’s Jews were feeling, nor their “palpable sense of betrayal.” The letter ends by saying that despite South Africa’s famous constitution which guarantees the rights of all, “we feel like second-class citizens.”

On October 17, the president of Conference of Catholic Bishops of Southern AfricaMgr Sithembele Sipuka, issued a statement calling for “a ceasefire and a humane way to manage the current situation”. He called for an “immediate restoration of the supply of food, electricity and health care to the Palestinian people in Gaza, which constitute the basic necessities of life.”

Bishop Sipuka affirmed in the statement Israel’s obligation to protect its citizens. He said the southern African bishops stressed that the bombing of Gaza “has caused suffering and death to a very large number of Palestinian civilians with no connection to Hamas.”

Bishop Sipuka said: “Hamas’ killings of ordinary Israeli citizens cannot be justified, even by the cause Hamas claims to be fighting for. He continued: “The pain, anger and sense of obligation of the Israeli government to avenge the actions of Hamas and prevent it from causing further harm do not justify the means it applies to this end, because it results in the suffering and death of innocent Palestinians. Two wrongs don’t make a right; The innocent lives of Israelis and Palestinians are precious and must be protected.

Asked about the South African government’s claim that Israel is an apartheid state, Bishop Sipuka said: “The bishops have not discussed the government’s position on Israel. »

The president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Sithembele Sipuka, called for “a ceasefire and a humane way of handling the current situation.”

Many in the West find it difficult to understand why some African states support the Palestinians. But since the dawn of its own democracy in 1994, the South African government has consistently supported the Palestinian struggle for statehood. South Africa has also been one of the most prominent voices criticizing Israeli policies globally, particularly in Africa.

In post-apartheid South Africa, the country’s first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, declared said that the freedom of South Africa was incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians. He drew parallel between the struggle of black South Africans against white domination and that of Palestinians against Israeli occupation.

In July 2022, the South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, asked the United Nations to classify Israel as an “apartheid state” because, she said, “the Palestinian narrative evokes experiences from South Africa’s history of racial segregation and oppression.”

Ms Pandor said: “As oppressed South Africans, we have experienced first-hand the effects of racial inequality, discrimination and denial, and we cannot stand idly by while another generation of Palestinians is left behind. »

In March 2023, the South African Parliament vote downgrade diplomatic relations with Israel from an embassy to a liaison office. South Africa’s history with Israel is long and complicated.

The ANC and its main ally in the fight against apartheid, the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) considered Israel an ally. From 1940 to 1960, they expressed support for the State of Israel. The PAC received financial assistance from Israel until the 1970s.

Cardinal Stephen Brislin: “With Pope Francis, we call for the release of the hostages. We also pray for those in Gaza who have been under siege for so many years in what is effectively the largest open-air prison in the world.

Relations began to change in the 1970s and 1980s. The ANC opposed Israel’s support and collaboration with white minority rule, especially after Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime. This, combined with the emerging perception that Palestinians suffered apartheid-like oppression, shaped South Africa’s relations with Israel.

The ANC also had close ties with the Palestine Liberation Organization since the 1960s. In the 1980s, this relationship developed into a strategic and operational alliance. When the PLO weakened, the ANC was accused of shifting its support towards Hamas.

The Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 was, for the South African government, the consequence of decades of Israeli occupation. While some might attempt to make the current conflict dependent on these attacks alone, South African leaders see them as the result of the ongoing occupation.

The director general of South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Zane Dangor, told local news channel ENCA that “the fact that an attack took place is not that surprising given the events of the last year, the cruelty, the inhumanity, the violence against civilians, the repression, all that that accompanies an illegal occupation that has lasted for nearly five decades or more, has led many to believe that given the lack of accountability and the absence of a Palestinian voice, some sort of counterattack may be imminent. »

In a letter At the Archdiocese of Cape Town, newly minted Cardinal Stephen Brislin said: “While some seek easy interpretations of the conflict, there is no single narrative that captures the full context of what is currently happening in Holy Land. »

Cardinal Brislin said: “Together with Pope Francis, we call for the release of the hostages. We also pray for those in Gaza who have been under siege for so many years in what is effectively the largest open-air prison in the world. Our prayers must accompany all those who find themselves hostages.

In 2024, South Africa will hold general elections, and the ruling ANC knows that the Israeli-Palestinian issue is close to the hearts of many South Africans. Some members of Congress feel pressure to cut ties with Israel.

Muhammed Desai, director of the South African defense group Africa4Palestinesaid Al YesZeera News that “as civil society, we plead for our government to do more: all relations and trade with Israel must be boycotted, both publicly and privately.”

Although South Africa – alongside Sudan, Algeria and Tunisia – supports the Palestinian cause, not all African nations agree. The leaders of Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo pledged their support for Israel. Other African countries, such as Nigeria and Uganda, have adopted a neutral stance since the start of the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas. Other African countries have chosen not to comment on the conflict at all.

Perhaps the continent’s clearest statement came from the president William Ruto of Kenya: “Kenya joins the rest of the world in solidarity with the State of Israel and unequivocally condemns terrorism and attacks against innocent civilians in the country. »

He added: “There is no justification for terrorism, which poses a serious threat to international peace and security. » He called for the perpetrators of the attack to be brought to justice, calling the events of October 7 “criminal acts of terrorism.”

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