South Africans demand government cut ties with Israel

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Calls for the South African government to cut ties with Israel were repeated when thousands of protesters gathered in front of Parliament yesterday.

The annual Quds Day protest, organsied locally by the local Islamic Unity Convention (IUC), attracted 10,000 people, according to police monitoring the event.

IUC chairman Achmad Cassiem handed a memorandum to the department of international relations and cooperation. It demanded that Israeli ambassador Arthur Lenk be expelled from South Africa, and the South African ambassador to Israel, Sisa Ngomane, be recalled.

The department’s parliamentary liason officer, Seraki Matsebe, signed and received the memorandum.

It read: “There can be no normal relations and cooperation with a racist entity. Racism is terrorism.”

Cassiem told the gathering: “Zionism is racism and therefore a crime against humanity. It is worse than apartheid.”

Protesters comprised a range of voices: refugees, school learners, Muslims, Christians and even a few Germans.

Suber Noor from Somalia, who has lived in Cape Town for 15 years, walked alongside his compatriots. He wanted the Israeli military to “realise they are killing humans, who are like them”.

“They are killing innocent children. But Israel won’t be killing our brothers and sisters forever. One day Palestine will be free,” said Noor.

He added: “Palestinians are our Muslim brothers and sisters. When someone kills a Muslim, we all feel the pain.”

Learners from Trafalgar High School, located on Roeland Street near Parliament, also participated in the protest.

Murphy Ngaga, 16, said they “wanted to show our school is against the killing of Palestinian children”.

“I watched the news at home and it was heartbreaking to see children killed. I’m marching to stop what’s going on,” said Ngaga.

His classmate Ru-eeza Hendricks, 16, added: “What Israel is doing is wrong”.

“It’s really sad and it affects us all. We want all the violence, bombings and killings to stop.”

Zainulabideen van der Schyff, a member of the Economic Freedom Fighters party, said they had been to “every single (Gaza related) protest over the last two weeks” in the city.

“I’m here for justice. We are compelled to support the oppressed.. Our party’s policy towards Israel is that it does have the legitimacy to exist,” he said.

Protesters carried placards calling for boycotts against Pick n Pay and Coca-Cola, companies they allegedly support Israel financially. They chanted: “Death to America”. One T-shirt read: “It’s not about religion. It’s about humanity.”

The protest started in Kaizergracht Street in District Six, went down Darling, on to Adderley, Bureau, Plein and finally stopped in front of Parliament buildings.

Quds Day is a global event started 35 years ago. It is held on the last Friday of Ramadaan, the Islamic month of fasting, and gathers protesters in support of Palestinians.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

One response to “South Africans demand government cut ties with Israel”

  1. boy says :

    An open letter to Pick n Pay in response to their “response to allegations around the killing of innocent women & children”

    Dear Pick n Pay

    I have always been a regular customer at your stores. I am not part of the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) community; I have heard the calls to boycott stores and companies supporting Israel before, but always found excuses to continue buying those products. I, like you, justified my actions by saying I am taking a non-political stance; I was just living my life. I claimed it is nobody’s business whose products I buy; after all, how much of my money was really being used to fund these warcrimes? And were we even sure they are warcrimes? Surely Israel also has a right to defend itself …

    Then I started following the current round of this conflict closely; I watched and read both sides of the conflict, listened to people on both sides of the fence. I also read the “Pick n Pay response to allegations around the killing of innocent women & children” on your website. And I realised that, whether out of ignorance or by deliberate design, you are misinforming the public on this issue. It is for this reason that I write this letter; to inform you and the public of the consequences of your actions.

    This Palestine issue is far, far beyond a political one. It is not simply about who will rule or how much land one country will have. This is evidenced by the fact that Israeli professors, journalists and even former Israeli Defense Force soldiers are speaking out against numerous Israeli actions which violate international law and human rights, such as the indiscriminate killings in Gaza, the growing settlements which are illegal under international law, the racist treatment of Arabs in Israel, the occupation beyond the 1967 borders, and the inhuman blockade of Gaza.

    I emphasise that these are people who support Israel, who live in Israel and have been involved with Israeli actions in the past, yet they speak out against these human rights abuses. They even refuse to buy products made in the illegal settlements. When we have so many of these people speaking out and campaigning against Israel’s actions, then your store saying you take a strictly “non-political” stance simply is not enough.

    The Palestine issue is also far beyond a Muslim issue. Just like being against Apartheid wasn’t only a stance for black people around the world, people of all religions and ethnicities are speaking out against Israeli actions. Christians in Gaza are being oppressed just as much as Muslims are. Some of the biggest demonstrations were in places like the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, England, Ireland, Italy, Belgium and Sweden. In Berlin, Jewish people joined the pro-Palestinian marches. Even a cursory search on social media or the internet will reveal that Christians, Hindus, Jews and Athiests are also appalled at the Israeli defiance of human rights.

    The issue of Palestinians is a fundamentally human issue. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which was present long before the current round of airstrikes, is appalling. Numerous Israeli actions are against international law and against international human rights. Even before this round of fighting, Israel had become the first country in history to boycott a UN Human Rights Council Review. During the current fighting the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has said that there is a “strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated in a manner that could amount to war crimes.”

    The deliberate attacks on UN shelters; on schools and hospitals; on a crowded market area and on critical infrastructure like Gaza’s only power plant and water delivery trucks cannot go ignored. Even the US, Israel’s strongest ally, has for the first time strongly criticised Israel for the unforgiveably high death toll. The numbers speak for themselves: as of writing this letter, over 1300 Gazans have been killed, of which an estimated 950 are civilians. Only 3 Israeli civilians have been killed. It is plain to see that this is not a war between equals; it is a massacre by an occupying power upon an occupied populace. We, as part of the human race, cannot let this genocide continue.

    Perhaps now you realise why Pick n Pay’s response to the “allegations” was grossly underwhelming and even misleading. It is simply not enough for Pick n Pay to say that it takes a “non-political stance”; this is not a political issue. Telling us how many Muslims you employ or how many Muslim charities you donate to means nothing, because this is not a Muslim issue. Continuing to support this regime is a blatantly anti-humanitarian stance, one which we will not stand for.

    You claim that a miniscule percentage of your products are from Israel, and that you don’t fund or support the Israeli regime. If that is the case, why do you repeatedly refuse to stop buying that “miniscule percentage” of products from Israel? Why too is Pick n Pay listed on the Israeli Chamber of Commerce?

    Your continuing trade with Israel is a tacit nod of approval to them. Furthermore, your founder Raymond Ackerman has publicly stated that he supports the Israeli regime. How do we know that your store’s profits are not funding the killing of innocents? It seems very likely that it is.

    It is for these reasons that we, the South African community, call for a spread of the boycott of Pick n Pay. Regardless of our political stance, religion or race, we know what Apartheid is like and we cannot financially or ideologically support it in other countries. Apartheid here ended only when the world united in their boycott and sanctions of Apartheid South Africa, and we have a moral responsibility to ensure that countries like Israel who practice many of the same policies do not benefit from our money. In the words of our hero Nelson Mandela, “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

    Your chain of stores has had numerous chances to stand for justice by boycotting the supposedly few Israeli-made products you stock, and our patience with your indirect approval of Israeli actions and direct funding of the Israeli state has run out. I have always been a regular customer at your stores, but no more. My conscience just will not let me enter your stores again, knowing what greater impact that support of your store will have on innocents, including children, on the other side of the world.

    A concerned member of the South African Community
    #FreeGaza #BoycottIsrael #ICC4Israel

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