Group wants Israeli ambassador expelled in 10 days
If the International Relations and Cooperation Department does not expel the Israeli ambassador within 10 days from now, they would stage a protest march at the Israeli embassy, a grouping of tripartite alliance members, civil society groups, student and youth organisations, and certain academics said on Monday.
The group said in a joint statement Israel’s decision not to grant Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande and three other officials visas to visit Palestine was not only an affront to Nzimande, but also a diplomatic insult to the South African government and it’s people.
“Let us be very clear, Minister Blade Nzimande’s support for the Palestinian struggle and boycott of Israel is not a personal position but representative of the resolutions of the various organisations that he is a leader of - mainly the SACP and ANC.
“It is wrong for the Israeli government to try and suggest that Dr Nzimande is acting on his personal whims when supporting the freedom of the Palestinian people.”
The statement was issued by representatives of organisations including the SA Communist Party, the Congress of SA Trade Unions, BDS South Africa, the Young Communist League of SA, the SA National Civic Organisation, the ANC Youth League, the SA Union of Students, and the Palestine Solidarity Alliance, among others.
The grouping said the Israeli lobby were trying to isolate supporters of Palestine from within the ruling ANC-alliance, not realising that leaders who were vocal in support of Palestine were “simply articulating the ANC-led alliance and South African government’s long standing positions”.
“Vocal South African activists for the Palestinian struggle have for a long time now been denied entry to Palestine. Enough is enough,” they said.
Nzimande was invited to visit Palestine by Palestinian Higher Education Minster Khawla Shaksheer between April 25 and April 29, following a state visit to South Africa in November 2014 by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“The purpose of the visit was for the two ministers to discuss an implementation plan signed during the state visit on behalf of the people of Palestine and South Africa by President Abbas and President Jacob Zuma respectively,” the grouping said.
The grouping said it would now roll out a programme of action, which included:
- Calling for the ANC national executive committee’s decision, which banned travel to Israel, to be implemented at all levels of government;
- Meeting with the Home Affairs department to demand that automatic visas for Israelis be suspended and requirements, such as declaring their involvement with the Israeli Defence Force, be introduced for Israelis wanting to travel to South Africa;
- Meeting with the agriculture, forestry and fisheries ministry to call for the immediate end to Israeli agricultural interests in South Africa;
- Engaging with the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions to prosecute South Africans serving in Israeli defence forces, in violation of South African law.
On Thursday, Nzimande’s spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyana told News24 that Nzimande being denied a visa had created a “serious diplomatic problem”. The reason Israel gave for the refusal was that Nzimande was “one of the most vocal anti-Israeli government ministers”. “We must just boycott Israel,” Nkwanyana said.
Nzimande is a vocal critic of the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians and has called for South Africa to boycott Israeli imports.
Speaking at the University of Johannesburg in August last year, he said Israel was waging a “vicious campaign” against Palestinians.