Durban - eThekwini mayor James Nxumalo has defended his support of Palestine, describing it as his moral obligation as a leader and a matter of principle as a democrat.
His comments come amid mixed reaction over his decision to lead a march through the city’s streets recently, in protest at Israel’s use of force against the Palestinians, which has claimed more than 1 400 lives in the past three weeks.
“I want to place on record that I am a member of the African National Congress and a provincial chairperson of the South African Communist Party, of which both organisations have resolutions of maintaining our relations with parties that assisted us during our years in exile.
“We relate with the struggles of the people of Palestine to have their own independent state without any occupation of their territory by any neighbouring state including Israel.
“Some sections of our society have an unfortunate tendency of trying to distance elected government office bearers from their political parties,” Nxumalo said.
He added that Israel’s attack on the Palestinians had also re-ignited memories of attacks on anti-apartheid veterans by the previous government.
However, the KwaZulu-Natal Zionist Council has slammed Nxumalo’s comments, saying Nxumalo’s support of the Palestinians was not a support for democracy.
“Mayor Nxumalo has a right to a political stance but we differ with his reasons. Hamas, which controls Gaza, is not a democratic party and they build tunnels solely with the goal of killing Jews, that is murder - so how can murder be supported?” said council chairperson Antony Arkin.
Meanwhile, trade union federation Cosatu, a strong supporter of the Palestinian struggle for independence, said it would intensify its campaign to isolate Israel.
“We are disappointed that President Jacob Zuma has said he would not expel Israel’s ambassador from this country. We will continue to apply pressure and step up our campaign to isolate Israel, including naming and shaming local companies which trade with it and are busy compiling a national list of those companies,” said national spokesman Patrick Craven.
South Africa’s trade with Israel stands at more than $500 million (R5.3 billion) - compared to more than $10bn in military trade between 1974 and 1993.
Israel was a major arms supplier to South Africa in the apartheid era and the countries had close ties.