With over 60 Palestinians killed and more than 2800 seriously injured from live ammunition fired by Israeli troops on unarmed demonstrators in two days of violence, South Africans are saying enough is enough.
Sizeable demonstrations across the race and political spectrum against the carnage perpetrated by Israeli forces took place yesterday in Joburg, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
Hours before Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Lindiwe Sisulu delivered her budget speech, thousands of South Africans marched to Parliament in support of the Palestinians.
The EFF has called for the Israeli embassy in South Africa to be closed and public sector union Numsa has called for the Israeli ambassador to be expelled and trade ties severed between the two countries. Independent Media made numerous attempts to get comment from the Israeli ambassador, to no avail.
“The two-state solution is dead; what is needed now is one state that is non-racist, non-sexist and democratic,” Mohammed Dangor, a former adviser on the Middle East, said.
“What we are seeing is quite clearly a ‘Salt March moment’ in Israel/Palestine,” Dangor said, in reference to the Salt March in India against British colonial occupation. “The Salt March ended the legitimacy that Britain had in India with wave after wave of non-violent demonstrations, which is what the Palestinians are hoping for.”
The Department of International Relations responded to the Gaza massacre within hours, recalling ambassador Sisa Ngombane.
“We welcome the South African decision to recall its ambassador to Israel in protest against the racist Israeli aggression, particularly in the Gaza Strip,” a senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said from Ramallah yesterday.
The adviser maintains that Israel has a total disregard for any form of accountability or international law and asserts that the Americans and Israelis have destroyed any chance for a peace process, and the US must be excluded as honest brokers from any future negotiations.
“We appreciate South Africa withdrawing its ambassador following the December call of the ANC to downgrade diplomatic relations with the Israelis,” the adviser said.
Independent Media also spoke to Ramallah-based analyst and a former adviser to Abbas, Diana Buttu, in Jerusalem, who said: “South Africa’s withdrawal of its ambassador is an important step towards sending Israel the message that its massacres will not be accepted. It should be followed by sanctions, for without sanctions, Israel will repeat the same actions after the cameras turn away.”
The chairperson of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, Shaun Zagnoev, responded to the government’s decision, saying: “South Africa’s decision to withdraw its ambassador to Israel is a self-defeating knee-jerk reaction, one that precludes this country playing any kind of constructive role in resolving the latest tragic outbreak of violence, while also playing into the hands of those who wish to perpetuate an endless cycle of conflict.”
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have condemned the shooting of Palestinians as “unacceptable and inhuman”, saying they have been performing countless operations in Gaza on two or three patients in the same operating theatre, and even in the corridors.
MSF representative in Palestine Marie-Elisabeth Ingres called what is happening in Gaza a bloodbath.
“This bloodbath is a continuation of the Israeli army’s policy during the last seven weeks: shooting with live ammunition at demonstrators,” she said.
In a recent press release, MSF said it was unbearable to witness such a massive number of unarmed people being shot in such a short time.
South Africans are being asked to assist with medical supplies to hospitals in Gaza, according to South Africa’s ambassador to Qatar, Faizel Moosa.
“The hospitals in Gaza are running dangerously low due to the number of Palestinians injured,” Moosa said.
Just 75km away from Gaza, American and Israeli officials inaugurated the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem on Monday, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying: “Friends, what a glorious day, remember this day. This is history.”