A group of over 100 people protested at Parliament on Friday against a proposal by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies to label goods originating from Israel as made in “occupied Palestinian territories”.
The protesters held aloft posters urging, among other things, “Justice for Israel”.
According to an information brochure handed out during the protest, the trade and industry department planned to require products produced in areas under Israeli control - but envisaged as part of the 1947 UN partition plan to be part of a future Arab state - to be labelled “Produced in the occupied Palestinian territories”.
“Aside from a number of technical flaws in promulgating and applying such a regulation, the decision to cast a spotlight on this particular case relating to Israel, in the absence of similar initiatives relating to a multitude of other disputed territories, indicates political pressure and exploitation,” it said.
Labelling products “made in the occupied Palestinian territories” would also transform the status of the land from “disputed” to “occupied” and further undermine the importance of arriving at a negotiated settlement by the parties involved.
The protesters handed a jointly-issued memorandum from the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (SA), Bridges for Peace South Africa, Transformation Africa, and various other organisations, to African Christian Democratic Party MP Steve Swart and a representative of the trade and industry department.
The ACDP had joined in the peaceful demonstration together with individuals, churches, and Christian and Jewish groups.
Swart said Parliament exercised oversight over all actions by the executive and “we parliamentarians will definitely be monitoring the process” regarding the proposed regulation very closely.
He also undertook to ensure that a copy of the memorandum was forwarded to the chair of the portfolio committee on trade and industry.
“We join all organisations in praying and working for a peaceful resolution to the challenges in the Middle East,” he said.
South Africa, with its history and example of peaceful resolution, could play a meaningful role in assisting in bringing peace to the Middle East.
“We have diplomatic ties with Israel and recognise its sovereignty. Yet our government makes no effort to conceal the fact that it supports the Palestinian cause.
“One seldom hears an unbiased statement in Parliament. We would urge the government to desist from taking sides if it truly wishes to assist in resolving issues in the Middle East,” Swart said. - Sapa