NEWS & ANALYSIS

ANC govt has taken sides against Israel - Mangosuthu Buthelezi

IFP leader says DTI labelling rules a provocation aimed at promoting a consumer boycott

PROTEST MARCH AGAINST THE DTI: STATEMENT BY PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP AGAINST NEW PRODUCT LABELLING REQUIREMENTS TO BE IMPOSED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY ON PRODUCTS IMPORTED FROM ISRAEL, Pretoria, June 28 2012

The Inkatha Freedom Party joins this march with a clear and unambiguous message. We oppose our Government taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly in an atmosphere of escalating tension that threatens to boil over into violence.

The IFP supports the two-state solution. We believe that both Israel and Palestine have a right to exist as sovereign states. We advocate a negotiated settlement and are vehemently opposed to violence, regardless of its origin.

We therefore view as gravely serious the public statement by the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces on 20 May 2012, that the cause of his nation is, and I quote, "the full annihilation of Israel". We also reject the inciting statement of the Supreme Leader of Islamic Revolution, that, and I quote, "The Zionist regime is a real cancerous tumour that should be cut and will be cut."

The IFP is cognisant of the heated nature of the debate even within our own country, where opposition to Israel is gathering pace and exposure.

We note that the University of KwaZulu Natal bowed to pressure to retract an invitation to the Ambassador of Israel to address students. We note Archbishop Desmond Tutu's public call for a boycott against Israel. We note that when Members of Parliament were invited to the second Inter-Parliamentary Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism, not one responded. We also note that Government was barely represented at the Israeli Embassy's celebration of the 64th anniversary of Israeli independence.

South Africa has official diplomatic ties with Israel and recognizes its sovereignty. Yet our Government has maintained an unstated position with regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and has made no effort to conceal the fact that it supports the Palestinian cause. One seldom hears an unbiased statement in Parliament. Our Government has taken sides.

Against this background, the IFP opposes the move by the Department of Trade and Industry to require traders in South Africa to label products from the West Bank or Gaza as products from "Occupied Palestinian Territory". There are no legal bases in our law or in international law to support this requirement.

The IFP believes this is a provocation aimed at promoting a consumer boycott.

This action on the part of the Department of Trade and Industry is not in the interests of South Africans. It reflects the political interest of the ANC which continues to utilise the State to pay off its political debts, confusing the national interests of South Africa with the private interests of the ANC.

Imposing this labelling requirement is detrimental to our national interests, to our trade relations, our economic growth and employment generation.

We remind our Government that consumer boycotts were the precursor to the persecution of Jews in Germany, which ended in the holocaust. Indeed, soon after Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor in 1933, Nazi storm-troopers began posting signs on storefronts warning, "Kauft nicht bei Juden!", "Don't buy from Jews!"

Let us therefore remain vigilant against the escalation of tensions. The South African Government has a moral responsibility to support peace, non-discrimination and nonviolent negotiation wherever these are threatened.

The IFP recognizes that there is pain on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is tragedy on both sides and a story to be told from many different perspectives. Suffering is never something we can turn a blind eye to. We must support a peaceful outcome to this historic conflict to ensure that neither side sustains a loss of dignity or basic humanity.

We seek to stem the flow of blood and promote a different path forward that embraces compromise as well as the importance of accommodating different views. We seek to create peace.

By virtue of our long struggle for freedom, South Africa should relate to the heart's cry of Israel. We sought peace and freedom for our own country. How can we seek anything different for Israel?

We cannot accept the portrayal of the Israeli situation as an apartheid situation. I have been a victim of that kind of propaganda and know the damage it can cause. Indeed, in 1985, Prime Minister Shimon Peres told me, "We are brothers in suffering".

Let me make the IFP's message clear: We believe in the two state solution. By engaging this march, we are not taking sides, but are telling South Africa's Government in no uncertain terms that taking a stand against Israel is irresponsible, damaging and contrary to our country's stated principles.

We call on the Minister of Trade and Industry to desist from imposing the new labelling requirements, as this is neither in South Africa's national interests nor in the interests of Israel.

Statement issued by the IFP, June 28 2012

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