The Palestine solidarity meeting in Chatsworth on Friday was met with applause when African National Congress KZN provincial chairperson, Sihle Zikalala said that South Africa is permanently withdrawing its ambassador to Israel and is at the same time downgrading its embassy to a liaison office.
Zikala was speaking at the Nelson Mandela Community Youth Centre, as he was joined on the platform by Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) director, Muhammad Desai and leading Palestinian activist and diplomat, Lema Nazeeh who hails from the West Bank town of Ramallah. The meeting, called by the ANC, commemorated the 15 th International Israel Apartheid Week. Nazeeh had been arrested and assaulted several times by Israeli military forces.
She spoke about the injustices which Palestinians were being subjected to by Israeli forces who are illegitimately occupying the Palestinian territories.
While welcoming people to the event, KZN Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) member and convenor of the Provincial International Relations Committee, Peggy Nkonyeni pointed out that the meeting was part of activities of the week. The BDS’ Desai emphasised that Christians and Jews alike should join in the fight against the oppression of people from the Palestinian territories, saying that “modern day” Israeli’s were not the Israelites whom are mentioned in religious texts.
Maggie Govender, one of the event organisers, said: “The ANC has historically supported the Palestinian freedom struggle. There are many parallels between our struggle against apartheid and the Palestinian struggle.
We know, as President Mandela once declared, that South Africa cannot claim to be truly free if the people of Palestine are not free.
The struggle of the Palestinian people is a struggle for the right to govern themselves in their own land, for the right to be independent and free of Israeli rule and occupation of the land of their birth.”
“It is a just struggle and having achieved our freedom as South Africans, we must support the people of Palestine in their struggle to achieve theirs.”
Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is an annual series of lectures and rallies that are held every year to bring attention to injustices that the people living in the Palestinian territories are subjected to while also building support for the BDS movement. Events that take place during IAW include seminars, lectures, film screenings and cultural performances. Since IAW began in Toronto, Canada, in 2005, it has spread to more than 250 cities, communities and campuses throughout the world. According to BDS, IAW is endorsed in South Africa by more than 85 organisations which include trade unions and political parties.