IAW: Hands off Jessie Duarte! - BDS SA

Muhammed Desai condemns libellous attacks on human rights activists by pro-Israel organisations like the SAJBD

"Hands off Jessie Duarte & all Human Rights Activists"

09 March 2016

The human rights and Palestine solidarity organization BDS South Africa has observed the continuous libelous attacks, vilification and victimization of human rights activists from across the spectrum by pro-Israeli organisations such as the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and their Israeli allies. We state categorically that an attack on individuals that are in solidarity with the Palestinian people is an attack on all us peace and justice loving people.

Human rights activists who express criticism of Israel's illegal occupation and apartheid policies are subject to abuse characterised by insults, defamation, vilification and demonization.  This extends to aggressive or insulting press statements by SAJBD, usually followed by threatening and defamatory social media posters.

The latest attack has been on Comrade Jessie Duarte, the Deputy Secretary General of South Africa's governing party, the ANC. Comrade Jessie has in the past come under fire for championing the positions of the governing party, the ANC - on Palestine but also on other issues as well. The SAJBD conveniently and deliberately does not challenge the positions of the ANC as an organisation or positions of other organisations in the solidarity movement but instead identifies and targets individuals, and particularly from within the ruling party, the ANC.

The list of activists and government officials targeted by the SAJBD, for their support of Palestine, grows day by day. In the past the following have been attacked: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Reverend Edwin Arrison, Doron Isaacs, Zackie Achmat, Professor Farid Esack, Professor Steven Friedman and others.

In recent times it appears that the SAJBD has decided to focus it efforts on certain members of the governing party including ANC spokesperson Zizi Zodwa; National Chairperson and National Speaker of Parliament, Baleka Mbete; Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane; Deputy Minister of Traditional Affairs and Cooperation, Obed Bapela; ANC Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe; Former Deputy Minister, Ebrahim Ebrahim; SACP General Secretary, Blade Nzimande; Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba; COSATU President Sdumo Dlamini, Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies, Deputy Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, Deputy Minister Buti Manamela and many others. Comrade Jessie, and all others who have been attacked, have only been articulating organisational positions, resolutions and policies.

The Palestine solidarity movement both at civil society and government level has gained serious momentum and has registered successes much to the disdain of the pro-Israeli lobby in the country, especially the SAJBD and Israeli lobby. 

BDS South Africa celebrates that the governing party of our country and MDM alliance is bold in its support of the Palestinian struggle notwithstanding the enormous pressures put on it by pro-Israeli groups and governments.

Indeed, the ANC is correct in its #IsraeliApartheidWeek statement, that “the vast array of participating organisations is an indication of our vibrant democracy and an opportunity for our people to break religious as well as racial lines and unite behind the ideal of a free Palestine.” We invite pro-Israeli organisations to join us this #IsraeliApartheid in dialogue, learning, exposure to different perspective and, ultimately, in an attempt to let go of their support for Israeli violence and occupation. The liberation of Palestinians will liberate Israelis (and their supporters) as well.

On a positive note, we join the ANC and other organizations in welcoming the involvement of members from the South African Jewish community who will be participating in this year's #IsraeliApartheidWeek.

Statement issued by Muhammed Desai on behalf of BDS South Africa, 9 March 2016