Durban - The ANC should “lead the way” by taking drastic action against Israel, including imposing sanctions as punishment for the country’s continued attacks on Palestine, former minister Ronnie Kasrils said in Durban on Sunday.
Kasrils was addressing a large gathering of pro-Palestine activists at the Durban City Hall. Representatives of the Jewish community and the Methodist Church of South Africa also attended the rally, organised by the KwaZulu-Natal Palestine Solidarity Forum.
Kasrils, who was minister of intelligence in then president Nelson Mandela’s cabinet, said religion was being used and abused to dispossess Palestinians of their land and birthright. He said Palestine had a right to resist, but called for peace.
He said he noted the “hypocrisy” of the West - the EU and the US - saying they were quick to sanction Russia for the attack on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 but did not do the same against Israel.
“We call on our ANC government to lead the way and cut off trade and apply sanctions against Israel,” he said. “Assist the people of Palestine in their noble cause.”
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) SA, a local pro-Palestine support group, called for a day of protest against Woolworths for selling Israel-made products despite mounting pressure from various quarters.
It also wants the government to cut all ties with Israel and expel its ambassador.
Speaking at the rally, Tebogo Thotela, a BDS member and deputy president of the South African Union of Students, said it was important for ordinary South Africans to show that “we are not a group of powerless people”.
“This great nation has the responsibility as it enjoys the fruits of freedom because of international pressure against apartheid, to ensure that those seeds are planted to support Palestine,” he said.
“The people of Palestine are asking for solidarity - join them in the call for a free Palestine, boycott Woolworths.”
A statement on Woolworths’ website said the company had no political affiliations.
It said it stocked less than 0.1 percent of foods from Israel and was in compliance with government guidelines on products from Israel.
Shaka Sisulu, a member of the ANC Youth League’s national task team, said it was a myth that Israel had attacked Palestine in self-defence.
“Israel has an iron-dome system and no casualties. In Palestine, 3 000 buildings have been destroyed by rockets, but no one will say ‘let’s compare these’,” he said.
Judy Favish, a spokeswoman for Jewish Voices for Just Peace, condemned the attacks on Palestinians and said Jewish people of conscience were outraged by them. She called for negotiations for a democratic and free society.
Bishop Mike Vorster, of the Methodist Church, said the only winner in war was “corporate USA”, which supplied arms to conflict areas.
“This is not an Islamic/Jewish struggle, as there are Christians being bombed as well. Human beings are being killed because there is this myth that the land is God-given to some,” he said.
Vorster said his church was in solidarity with Palestine.