Cape Town - The National Freedom Party (NFP) leader in Parliament, Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam, said he hopes to see other countries follow suit, after Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favour of downgrading its embassy in Israel.
The motion was passed by Parliament on Tuesday with 208 votes in favour and 94 votes against, which the NFP referred to as a historic resolution and moment.
The ANC, UDM, EFF, African Independent Congress, PAC, and Al Jama ah had supported the resolution, with opposing votes by the DA, African Christian Democratic Party, Freedom Font Plus and IFP.
Shaik Emam, who introduced the resolution, said: “The South African embassy now in Israel needs to be downgraded into a liaison office and that is solely for the purpose of people travelling to and from the country.
“We’re hoping that this is going to be the first step in putting pressure on Israel to comply with human rights, recognise the rights of the Palestinian people, their right to exist, and also go back to the negotiating table.”
Shaik Emam said the next issue to be dealt with is the matter of dual citizenship and South Africans joining or training in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF).
Palestine Solidarity Campaign spokesperson Professor Usuf Chikte welcomed the move and further called for the intensification of the boycott, divestment, sanctions against Israel, and the severing of diplomatic, cultural and trade ties.
“In terms of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations we also demand that the Israeli ambassador here is declared persona non grata.”
Chikte said there were already submissions to the National Prosecuting Authority to take up cases of South African citizens joining the IDF.
South African Friends of Israel (Safi) spokesperson Pamela Ngubane criticised the ANC and NFP, referring to the resolution as an attack on Christian religious rights and freedoms in South Africa.
“Tens of thousands of Christians travel to Israel yearly to visit the holiest sites of their faith, and have a right to access South African consular support and services during their pilgrimage,” Ngubane said.