Palestinian Rally in Ramallah Attacks South African Government Over Continued Diplomatic Relations With Israel
In a rarely-seen display of anger toward one of their closest international allies, Palestinian demonstrators in the West Bank city of Ramallah this week turned on South Africa as they demanded an end to Pretoria’s diplomatic ties with Israel.
Protestors outside the South African representative office in Ramallah on Monday carried English-language placards accusing the South African government of betraying the Palestinian cause. One sign read, “We stood firmly with your liberation struggle, too much to expect your support for ours?”, while another declared, “South Africa can’t support our struggle for self determination? Do no harm at least!”
Palestinian propaganda continually emphasizes a special relationship between the Palestinian cause and the South African struggle against the former white minority regime, asserting that South Africans therefore have an extra obligation to support the Palestinians unconditionally. The claim is rooted in the belief that like blacks in South Africa, both Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the Israeli-controlled West Bank are governed by a doctrine of apartheid — although key aspects of the racial segregation suffered by South African blacks, such as the denial of voting rights and basic education, and an outright ban on interracial relationships, are absent.
The demonstration was organized by the Palestinian Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, a local NGO that advocates BDS and promotes “community resistance” and “direct actions” against Israel. According to the Israeli watchdog group NGO Monitor, the committee has received funding and assistance from a range of international sources, including the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), several European Union sources, and a German federal ministry.
The demonstrators handed a letter signed by the “BDS National Committee” to South African diplomats accusing certain government officials in Pretoria “of undermining of our struggle and of its own principles of supporting human rights worldwide.” Specifically, the letter highlighted a meeting between South African government minister Edna Molewa and Israel’s regional affairs minister, Tzachi Hanegbi, earlier this month, denouncing the encounter on the grounds that Hanegbi was allegedly “an ardent advocate of war crimes against Palestinians.”
The letter ended, “We appeal to you, sisters and brothers, to pressure your government to immediately downgrade the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv to a liaison office and to start an investigation into its shutting down until Israel abides by international law.”
The call for South Africa to essentially sever diplomatic relations with Israel has also been voiced in South Africa itself. In July, the ruling ANC’s branch in the Western Cape introduced a proposal to close down South Africa’s embassy in Tel Aviv. That proposal will be voted on in December at a national ANC conference.
Some South African analysts are already examining the costs of such a rupture. Writing in Business Daily, analyst Peter Draper noted that while trade between South Africa and Israel is relatively small, the $300 million from annual South African exports to Israel “provide much-needed foreign currency.”
Draper also remarked on the potential for self-inflicted damage to South Africa’s economic and technological prowess. “SA’s Eurasian Brics partners — Russia, India and China — maintain close strategic co-operation with Israel,” he wrote. “Many European states, including four of the G7, do the same. In all cases, access to advanced Israeli technological capabilities is a key ingredient.”