Our govt is not accountable to the apartheid state of Israel - COSATU

Federation dismisses Avigdor Liberman's allegations of anti-Semitism

COSATU defends South Africa's democratic foreign policy on Israel and condemns attacks against DIRCO Minister

COSATU, South Africa's largest trade union federation with over 2 million members would like to make three points regarding recent statements by South Africa's Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, Comrade Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

It must be made clear to everyone, particularly the Israeli Ambassador in South Africa, the South African Zionist Federation, and the South African Board of Jewish Deputies that South Africa's Foreign Policy is not accountable to them or even worse the apartheid state of Israel. It is accountable to the people of South Africa who gave an overwhelming majority to the ANC as a movement that defeated apartheid to rightfully support all other struggles against occupation, colonialism apartheid and all forms of injustice wherever they happen.

At our recently held International Relations Committee (IRC) meeting of COSATU, Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabne communicated South African government's foreign policy on south-south cooperation and international solidarity, when she also touched on the issue of the Middle East and solidarity with the people of Palestine.

Firstly, COSATU has always encouraged and supported a stronger position with regard to curtailing relations with Israel. It is for that reason that we fully lend our unwavering support to the principled position that the South African Government, through the Minister, articulates, despite coming under extreme pressure from the Israeli lobby and its supporters.

We further call on government to now decisively and completely sever ties with Israel as the next logical step to the intensification of the struggle for solidarity. It is our firm belief that having ties, any ties, with a country in violation of international law and abuse of human rights is unacceptable.

Furthermore, that the Palestinians themselves in 2005 issued a call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) which makes it our responsibility to join others who have terminated relations with Israel. Heeding the Palestinian call is part of our progressive workers' internationalism and the debt that we owe to the Palestinians who stood by us during our struggle against Apartheid. Israel on the other hand, were supporters of the Apartheid government.

Secondly, COSATU condemns the ways in which Israeli supporters and Israeli government officials including, Avigdor Liberman (Chairman of Israel's Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs) is making our criticism of Israel, our boycotts of that regime and our solidarity with the Palestinians as an anti-Jewish policy. To be against the policies of the Israeli government is not to be anti-Jewish. To be in solidarity with the Palestinians is not to be anti-Jewish (see here). In fact, COSATU condemns all forms of racism including anti-Semitism, xenophobia and apartheid. 

Finally, claims that support for boycott of Israel is held only by a small minority of South Africans is laughable. Boycott of Israel resolutions have been adopted by some of the largest student, religious, political, and civil society groupings in this country. For example, COSATU, with its over 2 million members has for a long time now supported and advocated for the boycott of Apartheid Israel. The ANC, our ruling party that represents the majority of South Africans, adopted a resolution at its 2012 ISC conference in support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel campaign.

Curtailing relations with Israel by progressive and democratic post apartheid South African Government is long overdue. A mandate, to be in solidarity with the Palestinians that was so well articulated by Comrade President Nelson Mandela back in 1997 when he said: "our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians." To support the boycott of Israel and be in solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinians is to be on the right side of history, with the majority of South Africans, indeed, with the majority of peace-loving peoples of the world.

We know from our own history that boycotts and divestment's from Apartheid South Africa created the necessary conditions for an end to apartheid to be negotiated. The same is possible for Palestinians and Israelis, isolation of Apartheid Israel will force Israel to end its violations of international law and negotiate a just peace with the Palestinians. 

Statement issued by Bongani Masuku, COSATU International Relations Secretary, November 5 2013

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter