Nearly two thousand people marched to Parliament in Cape Town calling on the South African government to downgrade its Israeli embassy to a liaison office.
Across the globe, thousands of people marched to commemorate the Nakba, the expulsion of Palestinian people from their land in the Sinai region 70 years ago, and the establishment of the state of Israel that followed. The protests are meant to highlight the human rights violations faced by Palestinians and the Israeli laws governing the Palestinians, which mimic apartheid.
The annual Nakba march, as it is known, was addressed by senior ANC leaders.
These included Mvezo chief and ANC MP Mandla Mandela, ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu and the leaders of the party in the province. The march was also addressed by the coordinators of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, as well as the National Coalition for Palestine.
BDS convenor Muhammed Desai told protesters that the movement wants the government to downgrade the embassy within one week.
“Because we don’t want to come here [to make the same demand] again. We want to come here to celebrate a free Palestine,” Desai said.
The march followed the withdrawal of South Africa’s ambassador to Israel on Tuesday in response to the massacre of more than 50 people who marched towards the Israeli border from Gaza on Monday.
ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte told the march that the ruling party would not apologise for its position towards the Israeli government.
“We cannot be friendly towards people who kill children shamelessly and call it self-defence. We cannot be friendly with cowards who are armed with nuclear weapons who threaten unarmed people. More especially we cannot be friendly with people who starve [other people] to death,” Duarte said.
Duarte also lashed out at the Israeli government and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD).
“I don’t care if the SAJBD calls us terrorists,” Duarte said.
The SAJBD described the government’s decision to withdraw its ambassador as “outrageous” and a display of “gross double standards”.
“By withdrawing its ambassador, South Africa is essentially walking away from playing any meaningful role in finding a sorely needed resolution to the conflict,” the SAJBD spokesperson Charisse Zeifert said.