It is the Israeli Apartheid Week in South Africa. The children of celebrated liberation heroes have come out to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel, denouncing the Jewish state’s brutal colonial occupation of Palestine. The campaign is supported by 85 South African organizations and institutions.
GATHERING HERE TODAY
As children, grandchildren and relatives of Anti-Apartheid stalwarts, veterans of our country’s freedom struggle, we have a responsibility to carry forward the spirit of those who came before us. As children who live in a free South Africa we carry a responsibility to those in the international community who contributed towards our liberation. As children of a larger human family we have a responsibility to ensure that children can live in a world where it is safe and okay to simply be a child. Regardless if they are black or white, regardless of their religion, race or nationality and regardless if they are an Israeli or Palestinian child.
There is a dangerous tendency in South Africa to romanticise the past. Yes, we have a lot to be proud of but romanticism must not lead to paralysis. We gather here today to remember our forefathers and mothers - not just in name, but in action. Standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people is one form of actively remembering our forebears and liberation heroes.
Described as once being the “nerve centre" of the liberation movement, Liliesleaf Farm was chosen for the launch of Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) to remind people that our freedom was fought for, not handed over to us. Today, we salute the Palestinian people and their Israeli allies for their resistance to and struggle against Israeli Apartheid.
When we use the word Apartheid to describe Israel we say it with a hard heart, sadness, anger and impatience. But we don’t say it maliciously, irresponsibly or carelessly. We use the word “Apartheid” because several of our mothers, fathers and elders amongst us have been to Palestine-Israel and have reported that the situation is one of Apartheid. But also because very many reports, opinions and legal analyses indicate the sad situation that another people, the Palestinians, are currently going through what we South Africans experienced – indeed, as our former President has said, even worse. Most recently in March 2014 the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Professor Richard Falk, found in his UN Human Rights Council Report that Israel’s policies bore “unacceptable characteristics of apartheid”. We also recall that in 2009 a Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) commissioned by the South African Government found Israel guilty of the crime of Apartheid.
FINDING MANDELA, KATHRADA, DADOO, SISULU, CHIKANE, LUTHULI, NAUDE, TAMBO
The Palestinians, their progressive Israeli allies and we, their supporters, are finding Nelson Mandela when we protest against Israeli Apartheid. The Palestinians, their progressive Israeli allies and we, their supporters, are finding Walter Sisulu when we defy Israel’s checkpoints, house demolitions and racist laws. The Palestinians, their progressive Israeli allies and we, their supporters, are finding Ahmed Kathrada in Israeli jails as Palestinians stand trial for simply being, Palestinian. The Palestinians, their progressive Israeli allies and, we, their supporters, are finding Oliver Tambo as we advance the international, non-violent boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign.
The BDS call, it is important to note, like the boycott against Apartheid was, is not being imposed on the Palestinians but is being called for by the oppressed, by the Palestinians, just as how, even though we knew it may in the short-term harm us, we ourselves as South Africans called for a boycott during the 1980s.
As we gather on Liliesleaf Farm we take a moment to salute those brave White compatriots who stood up and stood out from their communities to oppose South African Apartheid. Likewise today, we salute those brave Jews and Israelis who are standing up and standing out to oppose Israeli policies of Apartheid. Those brave Jews and Israelis who refuse to tow the line of the pro-Israeli lobby organisations who support the Apartheid Israeli government are indeed finding Joe Slovo, Denis Goldberg, Ruth First and others as they choose to challenge the orthodoxies in their communities.
MOVING FORWARD FROM LILIES FARM
The 1963 raid on Liliesleaf farm, the subsequent Rivonia Trial and eventual imprisonment of our leaders, was a blow for our struggle. However, they also led to worldwide condemnation, mobilization, solidarity and outpouring of love and support. Last year we watched in horror as Israel bombed the Palestinian Gaza Strip that Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls the world’s largest open-air prison. We watched in horror as Israel killed over 2000 Palestinians in the space of six weeks, including more than 500 children. Yes. Children.
But we cannot be immobilized by Israel’s brutality. In the aftermath of the Rivonia Trial, the International Olympic Committee, FIFA, and other international sports bodies began terminating South Africa’s membership to these organisations. By the end of the 1970s, South Africa was largely isolated from participating in world sport. Cultural bodies around the world also terminated South Africa’s membership. And a similar trend is currently taking place with regard to Israel.
There is a growing momentum and tide within the world of culture for example, amongst well known sports people, celebrities, musicians, actors and comedians. From Selena Gomez to Mark Rufallo, Penelope Cruz, John Cusack, John Legend and other high profile celebrities all come out during Israel’s attacks on Gaza, using social media and other platforms, on the issue of Palestine. Some have tweeted #FreePalestine while others have gone further in slamming the Israeli attacks on Gaza as a “genocide”. And the number that have joined the boycott of Israel is growing on a daily basis.
The groundswell of support for the Palestinian struggle and BDS campaign, coming from all quarters of the academic and cultural community and even major corporations, in many ways is a result of the practical, strategic and goal-orientated boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of Israel movement that is capturing the world by storm. BDS offers a non-violent route and path for us to channel our energies. The boycott of Apartheid proved successful in mobilizing artists, sports people, musicians and ordinary people in the million across the world in successfully isolating South Africa and leading to the democracy that we now have. BDS is proving to do the same. Let’s support the non-violent BDS campaign in an attempt to create the necessary conditions for a just peace to be negotiated for Palestinians and Israelis. A better future for all, indigenous Palestinians and Israelis, is not only an option but inevitable. Tomorrow marks the start of the 11th international Israeli Apartheid Week here in South Africa, and the call in the over 150 events and actions that will take place across South Africa will be the same: isolate Israel until Palestine is free.
READ AT ISRAELI APARHEID WEEK 2015 (IAW) LAUNCH PRESS CONFENCE (SUNDAY, 01 MARCH 2015):
(Grandson of Nelson Mandela - personal message provided)
(Grandson of Walter and Albertina Sisulu)
(Daughter of Dr Yusuf Dadoo)
(Niece of Ahmed Kathrada)
(Son of Reverand Frank Chikane)
(Son of Dr Reverend Beyers Naude
SOUTH AFRICAN ORGANIZATIONS ENDORSING IAW (85):
Action Forum Palestine (AFP)
African National Congress (ANC)
African National Congress Women's League (ANC WL)
African National Congress Youth League (ANC YL)
Ahlul Bayt Youth Movement of South Africa (ABYMOSA)
Ahmed Kathrada Foundation
Botswana National Front (BNF)
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel in South Africa (BDS South Africa)
Caring Women's Forum (CWF)
Centre for Civil Society (CCS)
Chemical Energy Paper Printing Wood and Allied Workers Union (CEPPWAWU)
Communication Workers Union (CWU)
Congress of South African Students (COSAS)
Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)
Conveyors of Hope
Creative Workers Union of South Africa
Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA)
Durban University of Technology (DUT SRC)
Embassy of Palestine in South Africa
Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU)
Freedom For Palestine PE (FFP-PE)
Friends of Cuba (FOCUS)
Jamiatul Ulama of South Africa
Kairos Southern Africa
Kenya Palestine Solidarity Commitee
Kenya Palestine Solidarity Committee
Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organization
Mangosuthu University of Technology Student Representative Council (MUT SRC)
Media Review Network (MRN)
Mkhonto WeSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA)
Muslim Judicial Council (MJC)
Muslim Lawyers Association (MLA)
Muslim Professional Network (MPN)
Muslim Youth Movement (MYM)
National Black Contractors and Allied Trades - Western Cape (NBCAT)
National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU)
National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA)
National Union of Mineworkers (NUM)
Palestine Solidarity Alliance (Benoni)
Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA Gauteng)
Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA PE)
Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA Port Shepstone)
Palestine Solidarity Campaign Cape Town (PSC CT)
People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP)
Pietermaritzburg For Palestine (PMB4PALESTINE)
Police and Prison Civil Right Union (POPCRU)
Rhodes University Palestine Solidarity Forum (Rhodes PSF)
Runners For The Freedom of Palestine
Rustenburg Palestine Solidarity Forum (Rustenburg PSF)
South African Artists Against Apartheid (SAAAA)
South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU)
South African Communist Party (SACP)
South African Council of Churches (SACC)
South African Council of Churches Youth Forum (SACCYF)
South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU)
South African Informal Traders Alliance.
South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU)
South African National Defence Union (SANDU)
South African National Women's Muslim Forum (SANWMF)
South African Students Congress (SASCO)
South African Union of Students (SAUS)
Stellenbosch University Palestine Solidarity Society (SU PSS)
Steve Biko Foundation
Stop The JNF
Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN)
UKZN Theology & Development Programme [UKZN-T&D]
Union of Muslim Students Association (MSA)
University of Cape Town Palestine Solidarity (UCT PSF)
University of Johannesburg Palestine Solidarity Forum (UJ PSF)
University of Pretoria PSC
University of South Africa SRC (UNISA SRC)
University of Western Cape Palestine Solidarity Association (UWC PSA)
University of Western Cape SRC (UWC SRC)
Vaal Muslim Womens Forum (MWF)
Wits University Palestine Solidarity Committee (Wits PSC)
Workers World Media Productions (WWMP)
World Federation of Trade Union (WFTU)
Young Communist League of South Africa (YCL)
Zaytoun South Africa