The National Assembly on Thursday held a debate on a motion proposed by the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Mr. Julius Malema, titled “Closure of the Israeli Embassy in South Africa and suspension of all diplomatic relations with Israel.
Mr Malema said South Africa must suspend relations with Israel and close the embassy until the human rights of Palestinians are respected, promoted and protected.
“We call on the ANC Ramaphosa government to close the Israeli embassy in Pretoria and end all diplomatic relations with this brutal Israeli apartheid regime. We call on the entire world to isolate Israel through boycott, divestment and sanctions until it ends its military occupation and grants Palestinian refugees in neighboring countries like Lebanon and Syria the right of return.” , declared Mr. Malema.
He also accused Israel of failing to respect international law and “declaring war on children, hospitals, ambulances, journalists and a general campaign to erase Palestinians from the face of the earth.” “We cannot share territory with murderers. We say no to the Israeli embassy in South Africa. This has to go and it has to go now.
Mr Malema also rejected claims that opposing Israel and condemning its actions against Palestine was anti-Semitic because Israel identifies as a Jewish state. “There is nothing anti-Semitic about opposing injustice, particularly apartheid. Zionism is not synonymous with Jewishness or Judaism. No one should manipulate the scriptures of the Bible or Torah to promote ethnic cleansing, racism and the slaughter of people. »
Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Candith Mashego-Dlamini, told the National Assembly that the government was still in discussions on the issue of closing the Israeli embassy in Pretoria and that it should take into consideration that this could affect South Africa’s diplomatic presence in Palestine. .
“South Africans’ demands for the closure of the Israeli embassy in Pretoria are well-founded. The government is engaging all relevant stakeholders regarding our diplomatic relations with Israel, given the war crimes and genocide we are witnessing in Gaza.
“South Africa cannot have normal relations with Israel as long as Israel commits war crimes and genocide against the Palestinians, intends to drive the Palestinians from their lands and is unwilling to negotiate a viable peace plan without preconditions,” the deputy minister said.
She also echoed the EFF’s views that Israel, with its attacks on civilians, was violating international law, including the United Nations Charter, the Geneva Convention and its protocols.
The deputy minister said that by taking hostage and killing Israeli civilians, Hamas had also violated international law.
Ms Mashego-Dlamini said international law prohibits attacks on civilians and property such as schools and hospitals during armed conflict. She said Israel’s instructions to the people of Gaza to immediately leave their homes, coupled with the denial of food and the bombing of apartments, schools and hospitals, constituted serious violations of international humanitarian law.
South Africa has since referred Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The deputy minister called on the ICC to accelerate its investigation into Israel for committing war crimes, including genocide by bombing and besieging Gaza. She also called for Hamas leaders to be investigated for violating international law over the kidnapping and killing of Israeli civilians.
Some opposition parties, including the NFP, ATM and Al Jamah-ah, supported the EFF motion, while others opposed it and called for caution.
Rejected, calling for caution
Democratic Alliance MP Ms Emma Powell, however, rejected the EFF motion, calling it political opportunism. She said it was important that South Africa retained diplomatic channels with Israel and Palestine.
“Any decision to close the Israeli embassy in Pretoria and recall our ambassador to Tel Aviv will diminish our country’s ability to demand accountability in this region (Middle East) and influence a rapid and peaceful resolution to this war. »
The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) also rejected the motion, saying cutting ties with any of the parties involved in the conflict would harm South Africa’s efforts to influence any peace process.
IFP MP Mr Mkhuleko Hlengwa has argued that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be stopped by silencing one side. “We do not believe that severing diplomatic relations with Israel is the best cause of action in the context of the current conflict in Israel and Palestine. Isolation in wartime is not a solution. This amounts to a leak,” he said.
“On the international stage, South Africa has presented itself as a country that believes in equality, democracy and negotiations. Therefore, all voices must be given an equal opportunity to make their case to resolve this conflict,” Mr Hlengwa said.
Dr. Corne Mulder, of Freedom Front Plus, warned that suspending relations and closing the Israeli embassy in Pretoria would be short-sighted.
“If you expel the Israeli ambassador or cut off all diplomatic relations with Israel, South Africa will in no way be able to play any role in mediation or will have the chance to play a constructive and positive role in bringing end to this conflict. South Africa should think very carefully before adopting this kind of approach,” Dr Mulder said.
The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) also rejected the call to close the Israeli embassy in Pretoria and called it a “dangerous motion full of lies, inaccuracies and deception.”
“The EFF and ANC must stop being hypocritical and accept the fact that South Africa has many needs – and that Israel has the expertise to meet them in areas such as health, innovation, technology, agriculture and economic growth. Without Israel, we risk diplomatic tensions that could hamper communication channels to resolve regional issues and end business collaborations that would reduce economic opportunities, trade, investment and job creation,” said ACDP leader Reverend Kenneth Meshoe.
MPs are expected to vote on the motion next week.
By Sakhile Mokoena
November 17, 2023