Govt says relations with Israel can't be normal, Malema demands ties be cut
While the ANC has not made a definitive call for the closure of the Israeli embassy in South Africa, international relations deputy minister Candith Mashego-Dlamini says the government is in discussions with various stakeholders over the matter.
Mashego-Dlamini participated in the EFF-sponsored parliamentary debate that called for SA to close the Israeli embassy in Pretoria and cut all diplomatic ties with that country.
“Our government is in discussions on the matter of closing the Israel embassy in Pretoria and will need to take into consideration that it may affect our diplomatic presence in Palestine,” she said. “The demand from South Africans for the closure of the Israel embassy has merit and the government is engaging all relevant stakeholders given the war crimes and genocide we are witnessing in Gaza.”
Mashego-Dlamini said South Africa cannot have normal relations with Israel for as long as Israel was committing war crimes and genocide against Palestinians, was intent on removing Palestinians from their land and was unwilling to negotiate a viable peace plan without preconditions.
The debate was sponsored by EFF leader Julius Malema who called on all “progressive” forces to support the call not only to close the Israeli embassy but to cut all diplomatic ties with Israel.
Malema said the EFF’s call was based on the “brutal and inhumane violence that the apartheid state of Israel has unleashed on the people of Gaza over the past several weeks”.
“This violence has seen more than 11,000 Palestinians massacred in an unprecedented military bombardment of unarmed, innocent and helpless civilians.
“In this inhumane bombardment, the Israeli Defence Force has murdered 4,650 children, 3,145 women, 198 medics, 22 civil defence personnel and 51 journalists.”
He cited reports saying 29,200 Palestinians had left their homes in Gaza and at least 3,600 remained unaccounted for.
Malema slammed Israel’s “targeting of hospitals and other healthcare centres, and ambulances”.
“This should tell us that indeed Israel has declared war against children, hospitals, ambulances, journalists and [has embarked on] a general campaign to wipe Palestinians off the face of the earth,” he said. “Many will try to defend the defenceless situation in that country, but we all know this is not defensible.”
Malema sought to outline the history of the conflict as a story of more than 70-odd years of inhumanity that started with a colonial military occupation and an ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Zionist forces that established the state of Israel in 1948 as an apartheid state and the capture of 78% of historic Palestinian land.
“Since then even the [remaining] 22% was never allowed any form of self-determination but Palestinians have lived under Israeli’s military occupation without basic human rights such as the right to life, the right to equality, the right to a fair trial, the right to protest, the freedom of speech, freedom of movement, assembly or media freedom.
“This has been going on, not since October 2023, but since 1948. And that is 75 years of hell, mass murder, ethnic cleansing and brutal humiliation,” he said.
On the alleged Israeli crimes against children, he sought to draw parallels with South Africa’s apartheid regime which oversaw the killing of Hector Peterson and Tsietsi Mashinini, among others.
“We must remember that more than 12,000 Palestinian children have been detained since the year 2000 alone. Of this, over 700 children are unaccounted for in Israel.
“In addition, Israel has more than 7,000 political prisoners, 200 of whom are children. It is reported by Israel itself that on average 204 Palestinian children have been held in custody every month since 2010. The world is aware of all these facts.”
Malema listed a number of attacks by the Israeli regime over the years, saying the ongoing attacks were part of a more than half a century project to wipe Palestine and Palestinians off the face of the earth.
“It is a systematic and gradual genocide led by the state that has established itself as an ethnic-exclusive state of Jews at the expense of indigenous Palestinians.
“We must therefore reject the idea that because Israel calls itself a Jewish state, opposing its brutal apartheid system is anti-Semitic. There is nothing anti-Semitic about opposing injustice, particularly apartheid.”
In the name of SA’s own constitutional values, the government should end relations with Israel until the human rights of Palestinians are respected, promoted and protected, said Malema.
“Israel must comply with international law and until then, any relations with them must be regarded as offensive on our constitution.”
In her speech, Mashego-Dlamini reiterated a number of points made by Malema about the “root cause” of the Israel-Palestine situation.
She said it was due to Israel’s systematic oppression of Palestine for the past 75 years, the ever-expanding illegal occupation of Palestine’s land, illegal settlement deep into Palestinian territory and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians which preceded the October 7 attacks on Israeli civilians by Hamas.
Mashego-Dlamini accused Israel of undermining a number of international and humanitarian laws and accords and getting away with it.
She spoke strongly against the targeting of civilians, hospitals and homes.
“The actions that we are witnessing daily by Israel are a violation of international law, including the UN Charter and the Geneva Convention and its protocol.”
Hamas had also violated international law in its attack on civilians and taking of hostages, she said.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) needs to expedite its investigation of Israel for committing war crimes including genocide by bombarding and besieging Gaza, said Mashego-Dlamini.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday that Pretoria has decided to refer Israel to the ICC for a war crimes investigation.
MPs will vote on the EFF motion on Tuesday in a full sitting of the house.
The National Freedom Party, AIC and Al Jama-ah supported the motion while the DA, IFP, FF Plus and ACDP opposed it.
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