COSATU condemns South African Zionist Federation's abuse of blacks under religious guise to legitimise apartheid in Israel
The Congress of South African Trade Unions has today written the following letter to the Reverend Inkosi, Phakama Shembe, spiritual leader of the Shembe Church
"Blessed is he who binds the wounds of those who have been injured, for injuries do not happen to one alone under the sun but to all." - Isaiah Shembe
In the trade union movement we have a similar saying: ‘An injury to one is an injury to all'. It is in this spirit of humanity and human solidarity that I write to you.
COSATU wants to first convey greetings to fellow workers and all those who associate with or who are members of the Shembe fellowship in South Africa and beyond, particularly its leadership. We are members of the same family. We share a common history of suffering from apartheid and colonialism. We share the same values of striving for freedom for ourselves and for others all over the world. We hate and abhor all forms of racism and discrimination, worst still in the name of God, and more than anything else, we believe in our African saying that Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu (you are because we are, or your humanity finds its full and meaningful expression in the dignity of everyone else, everywhere).
COSATU has recently learnt that the Israeli lobby in South Africa is courting certain groups to join its protests against our Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies. Israel's tiny support base in this country has been consistently on the decline for a number of years and they are increasingly becoming desperate for supporters. For example, at the planned protest outside the Department of Trade and Industry, they have offered to handout free "T-shirts and refreshments" to anyone who will attend.
In the light of these developments we particularly wish to address ourselves to you, fellow country persons and honourable members of this important institution in our society, the Shembe fellowship. We must always be on the alert for wolves in sheepskins! The South African Zionist Federation and their associates want to use you to further their racist supremacist ideology of Zionism.
For years this has been the basis for the brutal killings of fellow Palestinians, the forceful eviction of Palestinians and more recently through the racist and xenophobic violence against mainly African migrants and refugees inside Israel. Their occupation and the theft of the land and natural resources of the indigenous people is nothing but a legalisation of Jewish supremacy to further dehumanise everyone outside their scope of Zionist purity.
This kind of manipulation and cooption is not new. We blacks who suffered under, and struggled against, apartheid know that the white government also used black people to further its agenda. As trade unionists we were opposed to it then, and as COSATU we are still opposed to it now. Black people or other suffering groups should not agree to be used by any group, least of all the Israeli lobby, against our Palestinian brothers and sisters.
Those who choose to are either genuinely misinformed, opportunistic or are deliberately sacrificing principle on the altar of cheap politicking, as is being consistently demonstrated by the leader of the ACDP, Reverend Meshoe, and the IFP. These ‘leaders' have now become the most vocal spokespersons in support of apartheid and the continued occupation of Palestine, most disconcertingly, in the name of God.
As black South Africans we are reminded of our own personal and collective experiences when we hear how a Palestinian father is beaten and humiliated in front of his children by young Israeli soldiers; how a mother is prevented from giving birth because of Israel's infamous permit system which is reminiscent of the ‘pass laws' of apartheid South Africa; how a family's home is demolished because they are on the wrong side of the city; and how you are thrown into prison, without evidence or trial and held indefinitely simply because you oppose an unjust regime.
Further, we are shocked at the depravity of the Israeli regime. In the 1980s we never had a massacre of 1400 people in the span of three weeks such as the Israeli massacre in Gaza. The Pretoria regime never went to the extent of using chemical weapons such as white phosphorous against our people.
As with all other aspects of South African life, the life of a worker (and the working class) in apartheid South Africa was determined by that worker's ‘race'. Workers were privileged or disadvantaged depending on the racial classification they were given by the state. Similarly, in Israel, privilege flows from one's ethnicity. Various credible international and research bodies have confirmed that Israel's behaviour fits perfectly well within the definition of apartheid under international law. Most recently a tribunal on Palestine, help in our country, at which I had the honour of testifying, confirmed that Israel is indeed an apartheid state.
We should not associate ourselves with a regime and those that support such a state. And in this vein, the notice issued by the Minister of Trade and Industry will give us, the people of South Africa, the choice not to associate or collaborate, wittingly or unwittingly in the dirty work of enforcing the suffering of others to affirm the supremacy of some.
Products from the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal under international law. However, Israel has tried exporting them in recent years under the false pretence of having been "Made in Israel". Mislabelling such products is also a contravention of our Consumer Protection Act. The Minister of Trade and Industry, by issuing the notice that will make it mandatory for products from Israel to be correctly labelled, is simply carrying out his duty as provided for in our own constitution and related laws. In fact we call on him to go further, to ensure that there is a ban on all products from Israel!
For supporters of Israel to undermine our democratic processes is an affront to our very sovereignty and an insult to our ability to make our own choices. We should not be pressured by a fringe lobby that places the interests of Israel before the interests of our people and international law. We should not be pressured to undermine our own South African legislation that was won through years of hard struggles to defend our dignity.
In South Africa, the term Zionist may refer to the Mount of Zion or the Church of Zion. However, in Israel, or rather the current modern State of Israel, Zionism refers to those that believe in a state exclusively for the ruling supremacists at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian people because they view themselves as ordained by God to do all it takes to defend their privileged position. This is unequivocally racist.
Neither COSATU, nor I, would ever interfere with the Church of Zion - a respectable religious grouping in our country. Religion and religious expression is the right of all as enshrined in our constitution. However, I personally, and COSATU as a trade union federation, is opposed to the political ideology of Zionism - the idea that Jews are superior to Palestinians. This is where the delicacy of political manipulation must be vigilantly understood and exposed.
The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) falls into the latter camp. The SAZF has been increasingly isolated in South Africa for being staunch supporters of this racist ideology in Israel. South Africans, having experienced racism in our lifetime, simply cannot allow racism to flourish elsewhere, but have a duty to crush it with all the might at their disposal.
In their desperation, the SAZF has now turned to the IFP, ACDP, Shembe church and others amongst the black communities who suffered and still suffer the legacy of the ugly ideology of apartheid. It is time for these groups to take a principled stand and dissociate themselves from such groupings as the SAZF or refuse to be instruments of a group that is well resourced, but whose hands are dripping with the blood of our sisters and brothers in Palestine.
Ironically, the very state of Israel was among the last to support apartheid South Africa, even at a time when unlikely allies had already begun to implement sanctions against South Africa.
Israel will use any group when and if it needs to. Initially, Africans were allowed to emigrate to Israel. In fact, Israel used Africans to claim that it was not an exclusive, racist state. However, in the last year this has changed. There have been major xenophobic and race riots, encouraged by the state, against African migrants and refugees. Thousands of Africans from Eritrea, Sudan and elsewhere are being forcefully deported. For the crime of being African? Like Palestinians, they are not Jewish.
It is for these and related reasons that we wish to make a special appeal to you as fellow Africans and soldiers of justice for all, to feel the pain of our people in Palestine and heed their call to end all and any form of collaboration with those who oppress and persecute them.
Finally, it must be noted that the Prophet Isaiah Shembe named the Shembe church, as the Church of Nazareth. The significance of this cannot be undermined. Nazareth is the childhood home of Jesus, today a centre of Christian pilgrimage. It a town that is part of historic Palestine. Today the majority of its inhabitants are Palestinians, descendants from the very people who lived there during the time Jesus did. Yet in its continued occupation these descendents of Jesus are being harassed by Israeli measures. There is now a Jewish settlement on the lands of this town called Nazeret Elit and it is rumoured that this settlement is now passing laws to prohibit non-Jews from living there.
Can we, as South African Christians, who suffered cruelly under apartheid, stand back and accept all of this? Surely not!
Statement issued by Patrick Craven, COSATU national spokesperson, June 27 2012
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