/ 16 January 2009

Cosatu: Govt must close Israeli embassy

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) wants the South African government to cease all relations with Israel and close down the Israeli embassy in Pretoria.

The moves are among several agreed to at a meeting on Wednesday concerning developments in the Middle East, Cosatu said in a statement on Friday.

”Many South African parastatals and companies have serious business deals with Israeli companies and workers must reject them, with Telkom being an example,” Cosatu international relations officer Bongani Masuku said in the statement.

”In their refusal to handle Israeli goods, workers will be protecting their own jobs in the true spirit of the Proudly South Africa Campaign …,” he said, accusing supermarket chains of selling Israeli products at the expense of local produce.

”We should call for the expulsion of Israeli security agencies and Mossad at our airports,” Masuku continued.

”The security of South Africa is compromised by allowing these Israeli security agencies to operate at our airports and harass people going to Israel …,” he said, citing a case involving members of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union and Cosatu.

The relationship between South Africa’s national carrier South African Airways and its Israeli counterpart El-Al should also be terminated, he said.

Wednesday’s meeting was attended by Cosatu’s alliance partners, the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party, union affiliates, international solidarity organisations, NGOs, social movements and academic activists.

”The meeting noted that massive and varied solidarity activities are under way by many organisations and people all over the world, which is an encouraging sign of human cooperation,” said Masuku.

”It further noted the need for maximum impact through deeper synergies around a clear and concrete programme of action to raise the plight of the Palestinian people and intensify pressure against the occupying power, Israel, to withdraw from the whole of Palestine in the interests of freedom and democracy for the Palestinian people, and broader peace and justice in the whole Middle East region.

”Finally, the meeting agreed on [a] … bold programme and activities to guide our collective response to the dire situation, and on the need for more coherence and impact by the progressive people of the world,” he said.

These activities included arranging a high-profile Cosatu delegation to the Middle East to assess the situation and raise international awareness on the urgency of the need for solidarity.

Cosatu had also established a solidarity coordinating forum to coordinate the various activities and to set national days of action. – Sapa