PARTY

Russell Tribunal painful reminder of our own suffering - COSATU

Federation welcomes finding that Israel operating apartheid system

COSATU Welcomes the Findings Russell Tribunal on Palestine

The Congress of South African Trade Unions notes and welcomes the findings of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. The Tribunal found that Israel's rule over the Palestinian people living in Israel and the occupied territories of Palestine amounts to a single integrated regime of apartheid.

The Tribunal found that "since 1948 the Israeli authorities have pursued concerted policies of colonisation and appropriation of Palestinian land. Israel has through its laws and practices divided the Israeli Jewish and Palestinian populations and allocated them different physical spaces, with varying levels of access and quality of infrastructure, services and access to resources. The end result is wholesale territorial fragmentation and a series of separate reserves and enclaves, with two groups largely segregated. The Tribunal heard evidence to the effect that such a policy is formally described as hafrada, Hebrew for ‘separation'."

The most manifest application of this apartheid system is evident from the testimony by legal experts at the Tribunal which showed how Israelis are governed by civilian law and Palestinians by military law. Palestinians are subjected to arbitrary arrests and detention for long periods without charge and due process.

Witnesses at the Tribunal provided horrific accounts of collective torture, persecution and punishment through the demolition of Palestinian homes, and villages as well as acts of humiliation experienced daily by Palestinians at checkpoints by the apartheid regime. Palestinians are denied a range of socio-economic rights by Israel's discriminatory policies in the spheres of education, health and housing.

The Tribunal was a painful reminder of the collective suffering that black South Africans experienced under apartheid. Our own experience under apartheid and how it enforced its rule through measures such as the racist labour market, the colour bar, land dispossessions and evictions, forced removals and passport denials is currently being replicated by the apartheid state of Israel on the Palestinian people at an amplified rate.

The federation is now more than ever convinced that Israel is an apartheid state whose prosperity is founded on the oppression of the Palestinian people and their right to self determination.

COSATU finds it bizarre that Zionist groups pledging allegiance to the apartheid Israeli regime are now dismissing the Tribunal as a one sided affair when in fact Israel was provided the opportunity to make representations at the Tribunal.

This claim is even more peculiar given how Israel constantly disregards international law, including more than 150 UN Resolutions with impunity, backed by the US most EU states.

The Russell Tribunal is a "court of conscience" and people's justice where the justice of the global ruling class has blatantly failed the Palestinian people and humanity as a whole. Israeli apartheid apologists must prove to the world, in the face of international law, the overwhelming evidence and everyday experience of the Palestinian people that Israel is not an apartheid state.

The federation calls on the South African government to implement the Tribunal's recommendations, including severing all diplomatic ties with Israel.

We call on progressive civil society to join hands with the Palestinian people in calling for an end to the occupation and colonisation of Palestinian lands, the dismantling of the Apartheid Wall, recognition of the fundamental rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; the right of return for Palestinian refugees, an end to Israel's illegal settlements as well as its discriminatory and racist policies.

COSATU is not only enraged but inspired to double its efforts to intensify the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as well strengthen its capacity for solidarity work in support of the Palestinian people and their quest for self determination, freedom and equality. 

We equally challenge the international trade union movement to take decisive steps towards the isolation of apartheid Israel through economic and political boycott, including isolating those who associate themselves with the system of apartheid in all its various forms.

Statement issued by Phindile Kunene, COSATU Shopsteward Magazine Editor, November 8 2011

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