For the past 50 years, the occupation of Palestine, and Israeli control of Palestinian lives in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem has, terrifyingly, become an accepted part of our international political landscape. So too, is the humiliating permit regime that controls every aspect of Palestinian life from cradle to grave; detention without trial; torture; home demolitions and the ongoing theft of Palestinian land. Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Palestine has become ever-more entrenched, because the world refuses to take effective action.
One cannot deny the unwavering solidarity for Palestine from South Africa, and other formerly occupied and colonised nations of the Global South. There have also been some important victories. In 2011, Palestine joined the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as a full member. The following year, its UN status was upgraded to non-member observer “state” rather than “entity”. In April 2015, Palestine formally became a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Almost three-quarters of UN members, representing 80 percent of the world’s population, recognise Palestine.
These triumphs, while important, have not won Palestinians their rights or freedom. Israel will not cease being an oppressor simply by waking up one day and realizing the brutality of its policies. We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor.
For 50 years, Israel has been able to proceed with its violent occupation of Palestine, without having to suffer any repercussions to its economy or global standing.
There are many countries around the world that face retribution by the international community for breaching international norms – but Israel is not one of them. In fact, Israel experiences the opposite. It has been found guilty of war crimes in Gaza, and violates the rights of millions of Palestinians on a daily basis. In return it is rewarded with trade agreements, diplomatic immunity at the UN, and over $3 billion dollars of aid from the United States.
Israel enjoys international legitimacy by offering the world empty rhetoric on negotiations and diplomacy. In fact, Israel has effectively used 25 years of “peace” talks as an excuse to colonise more Palestinian land.
During those peace talks, Israel has had the power to decide when will be the right time to end its illegal occupation. In 25 years, Israel has never found the right time, and has asked the world to wait. “Wait”, however, has come to mean “never”.
In February, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Information plainly stated: “I think all the members of the cabinet oppose a Palestinian state, and the prime minister first among them.” Israeli leaders currently in office, from Netanyahu down, are skipping the lip-service to “dialogue”, “talks” and “negotiations” and openly admitting that Palestinians will never have their freedom. Yet, the Israeli government has still not suffered any consequences for denying Palestinians their right to self-determination.
In December, South Africa’s ruling party and the continent’s oldest liberation movement, the African National Congress (ANC) will be holding its national elective conference. While the ANC has long pledged its solidarity with the liberation struggle of the Palestinian people, it must decide on more clear and actionable resolutions at this elective conference. The ANC of the Western Cape province joins the collective of provinces of the ANC in supporting the immediate downgrade of diplomatic relations with Israel, as a meaningful step toward holding Israel to account.
Delegates have more than just power: they have a moral responsibility – and a real opportunity – to send Israel this clear message: “Fifty years of ‘temporary’ occupation is too long. The rights of Palestinians must be realized, the occupation must end.”
Words that are not backed up by action simply indicate to Israel that it may continue with its occupation, colonialism and apartheid. If we are to have meaningful solidarity with Palestine, then we must move beyond our previous symbolic pledges and turn our words into action. After fifty of years of occupation, that is what the Palestinian people require.
This articel from Anc Western Cape
Faiez Jacobs is the provincial secretary of the ANC Western Cape.