Hamas no barbaric enemy

Chris ‘Che’ Matlhako says the Palestinian movement holds certain progressive views that the alliance welcomes

HAMAS from Palestine concludes its visit to South Africa

Over the last few days the African National Congress (ANC) hosted a senior delegation of HAMAS (Islamic Resistance Movement) of Palestine, led by Khalid Mish’al - head of the political bureau of Hamas.

Working quietly for several months, the ANC was able to pull through the best kept secret with arrival of HAMAS in South Africa. To the obvious annoyance of certain fringe and reactionary elements, once the presence of the delegation was announced media and other platforms went into supercharge of all sorts. Allegations and abuse were hurled at our movement for hosting the delegation.

Hamas are falsely accused of many things including terrorism, religious fundamentalism and supporting extremist groups like ISIS. All of these accusations to paint HAMAS as a barbaric enemy proved to be false. For example, on the extremist ISIS group, Khaled Mi’shal said during his trip: "This [Islamic State] is so brutal that even in nightmares you don’t see it. Of course, we consider them terrorists. They are destroying our societies, destroying human beings from the inside."

Hamas, we learnt during their trip in South Africa, holds certain progressive views that we welcome. For example, their commitment to a non-sectarian future for Palestine-Israel incorporating all peoples of that land including indigenous Palestinian Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Jews and others.

Principally, we believe hosting the delegation of HAMAS led by Mish’al was an important move on the part of a national liberation movement that has had long historic ties with the Palestinian peoples’ liberation struggles.

The ANC was attempting to get a better understanding of the broad spectrum of the Palestinian political landscape. It is publicly known that historically the ANC has fraternal relations with Fateh and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) of Yasser Arafat.

The PLO’s Yasser Arafat and Nelson Mandela were iconic leaders of these resistance movements and had many similarities. South Africans more than any people, know to well the pain the Palestinians are going through. We understand the oppression in Palestine more than others - segregation, racial discrimination and brutalising exploitation. Was it not for the incredible mobilisation, both internally and internationally – international solidarity and boycotts – the evil system of apartheid wouldn't have been defeated.

Today, Apartheid Israel continues to brutalise Palestinians almost six decades into its existence. Gaza today is in ruins because of the relentless bombing and wanton destruction waged by Israel in an effort towards collective punishment for choosing HAMAS in the 2006 democratic elections.

Mandela once remarked; “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”. Just 16 days after his release from prison, Mandela met Yasser Arafat in Lusaka, Zambia. Mandela embraced Arafat and reiterated his – and that of the ANC – support for the Palestinian struggle, telling the press; “[I] believe that there are many similarities between our struggle and that of the people of Palestine”.

During a visit to Australia in October 1990, Mandela reiterated the support of the ANC for the Palestinian struggle, saying; “We identify with them (the Palestinians) because we do not believe it is right for the Israeli government to suppress basic human rights in conquered territories. We agree with the United Nations that international disputes should be settled by peaceful means. The belligerent attitude which is adopted by the Israeli government is to us unacceptable”.

In the last few weeks the situation in Palestine has escalated to a possible intifada (uprising). The belligerent attitude of the Netanyahu government continues with impunity to commit crimes against humanity against a defenceless and unarmed people in West Bank and the occupied territories.

Palestinian civilians are being subjected to a brutal military assault. The death toll keeps rising with each passing day and many victims are children. It is indeed time for Apartheid Israel to realise that a military solution cannot solve the problem of invasion and land theft.

The solution lies in the involvement of all the political forces in Palestine which include HAMAS. A ceasefire agreement that does not include HAMAS and to some extent Egypt - a country that was hell-bent of liquidating HAMAS at some point, complicates things.

It is in this context that the visit of HAMAS to South Africa is important, if democratic South Africa is to play in any role whatsoever trying to resolve the conflict.

Hosting HAMAS was the ANC’s endeavours at further entrenching and invoking of the historic ties that exist between these peoples, even in a post-apartheid democratic SA and ongoing crisis situation that engulfs Palestine today. 

Fresh from its National General Council, which resolved to ‘encourage disengagement with Israel’ and enhancing efforts towards ‘promoting solidarity and resolving the conflict’, the visit of HAMAS was welcomed as further movement towards practicalising effective solidarity measures with the peoples’ of Palestine and their struggle for self-determination.

The Alliance managed to get an audience with the delegation and was able to exchange honestly with the delegation and came to a set of agreements which should translate into tangible programmes in the near future. The SACP further committed to increase its efforts to mobilise for deeper and far-reaching measures and sanctions, divestment and boycott of Israel; and to deepen its work with fraternal solidarity formations such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). This is something that now both Hamas and Fateh/PLO have called on us to advance.

Cde Chris ‘Che’ Matlhako is SACP Central Committee and Politburo Member and Secretary for International Affairs.

This article first appeared in the SACP’s online journal Umsebenzi Online.