Don’t go to Israel - ANC

Johannesburg - The ANC’s National General Council recommended on Sunday that travel to Israel be discouraged unless it promotes solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.

There was strong consensus on this issue within the ruling party, and this is a position articulated by previous cabinet ministers met in the past with a barrage of calls from Zionist organisations for their resignation.

ANC national chairwoman and Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete. File photo: Siyabulela Duda. Credit: GCIS

The positions taken by the ANC on international relations inform South Africa’s foreign policy, and are supposed to guide foreign policy formulation.

South Africa’s ministers of international relations are key participants in the NGC’s International Relations Commission, whose aim it is “to conscientise South Africa’s young people, leaders and public representatives not to travel to Israel”.

Senior ANC leaders have criticised Members of Parliament and business figures for travelling to Israel recently, deeming it opportunistic given the fact that many struggle stalwarts see Israel’s apartheid state as worse than that experienced in South Africa.

“Apartheid in South Africa was a picnic compared to what we have seen in the occupied territories,” Parliamentary Speaker Baleka Mbete said following a visit to Palestine.

The recent visit by opposition leaders like Mosiuoa Lekota sponsored by the Friends of Israel has received criticism from the ruling party and its alliance partners. According to Ronnie Kasrils, the Israeli government uses such visits to legitimise its occupation.

The NGC also took strong positions on Western Sahara and Cuba, calling for the solidarity campaign with the people of Sahrawi to be reignited.

In comment from the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, president Zev Krengel said: “Placing a ban on travelling to Israel is wholly inconsistent with the way South Africa engages with other countries. ANC representatives regularly travel to all parts of the world, including to countries with very poor human rights records; it’s therefore grossly discriminatory to single out Israel alone for a travel boycott."

This undemocratic and dictatorial approach is reminiscent not of the Freedom Charter’s assertion that ‘All shall be free to travel without restriction’, but of how, during the apartheid years, South Africans were prohibited from travelling to Lusaka to meet with the exiled ANC leadership.”