‘Deal with the devil’ Does South Africa export to Israel?

Is it hypocritical for SA to call out Israel while it could still be trading with the state? Picture: Leon Lestrade / Independent Newspapers.

Is it hypocritical for SA to call out Israel while it could still be trading with the state? Picture: Leon Lestrade / Independent Newspapers.

Published Jun 30, 2024


South Africa, in a move that took the world by surprise was the first nation to take Israel to the Hague, accusing it of having genocidal intent in its bombardment of Gaza from October 7, 2023.

In January the International Court of Justice concluded that SA has standing to pursue its case against Israel, and that a high risk of genocide against the Palestinian population necessitates the Court issuing a preliminary judgment prohibiting Israel from engaging in specific acts.

Long before this, numerous organisations, activist groups have called on the boycott of Israel. One of the most prominent groups is BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions).

“The Palestinian led international BDS campaign is a practical, non-violent, goal-orientated and strategic campaign to hold the State of Israel accountable to international law and human rights,” said the organisation.

“The BDS campaign is also increasingly supported by (progressive) Israelis. The international isolation of Israel it is hoped will lead to the necessary conditions for a just peace to be negotiated - similar to what occurred in South Africa and brought about a democratic country for all our people.”

With South Africa’s vocal support of this movement and criticising the state in one of the world’s biggest stages, the International Court of Justice one would expect SA to have no trade relations with Israel.

However, according to the Global Energy Embargo for Palestine (GEEP), SA still supplies the Middle Eastern state with 9% of its coal.

In early June, the GEEP welcomed Colombia’s decision to stop shipping coal to the country and called on SA to do the same.

“Today’s decision by Colombia to end coal exports to Israel is a clear sign to Israel’s genocidal government that their actions will have consequences, as we witness the Israeli colonial regime perpetrates yet another massacre against our people in Nuseirat camp, resulting in the killing of more than 210 and injuries of more than 800,” said Colombian energy coalitions.

“Colombia’s decision is a tangible way to hold Israel accountable for annihilating the Palestinian people and put a stop to the ongoing genocide.”

According to the GEEP, this decision is an example of the strength of international solidarity.

“We urgently call on South Africa, which provides 9% of Israel’s coal, to follow Colombia’s lead and commit to immediately ceasing its coal exports to Israel, as well as all other countries with significant energy exports to immediately consider a ban,” said the organisation.

However, coal might not be the only product exported to Israel by the rainbow nation.

SA’s exports to Israel totalled US$212.65 million (around R3,865,998,842) in 2023, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international commerce.

Trading Economics shared data of SA’s reported trade will Israel.
Mineral fuels, oils, distillation products$78.90m
Pearls, precious stones, metals, coins$55.37m
Edible fruits, nuts, peel of citrus fruit, melons$14.88m
Vegetable, fruit, nut food preparations$14.02m
Vehicles other than railway, tramway$5.53m
Cocoa and cocoa preparations$5.05m
Miscellaneous chemical products$4.02m
Machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers$3.63m
Oil seed, oleagic fruits, grain, seed, fruits$3.06m

The Times of Israel reported that a boycott maybe coming.

According to the news outlet, South Africa has recently become one of Israel’s most vehement detractors, branding the Jewish nation an ‘apartheid state’ and late last year submitting a case of ‘genocide’ at the International Court of Justice over Israel’s assault against the Hamas terror group in Gaza.

In April, then International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor said in a lecturer in Rio de Janeiro: “South Africa cannot be a party to Israel's actions that would see the promise of Palestinian Statehood reduced to balkanised entities, devoid of true sovereignty, without territorial contiguity and with no economic viability.”

What do you think? Is it hypocritical for SA to call out Israel while it could still be trading with the state?

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