SA Government: "We strongly discourage South Africans from going to Israel" 

13 August 2012
South Africa's Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ebrahim Ebrahim, said over the weekend: "Because of the treatment and policies of Israel towards the Palestinian people, we strongly discourage South Africans from going there [to Israel]...[and] any South African company from having anything to do with strengthening the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories." (Mail&Guardian Newspaper, 10 August 2012)
The Deputy Minister was responding to news of a South African province, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), that cancelled a scheduled trip to Israel. The trip was to be facilitated by the SA-Israel Forum, a covert arm of the Israeli lobby operating in South Africa that has connections to and backing from CapeGate - an SA company that supplies material to, and profits from, the construction of Israel's notorious, "Apartheid Wall". The provincial trip would have included local mayors and municipal managers.
Ebrahim later reiterated South Africa's position when he told the City Press Newspaper on Sunday that: “Israel is an occupier country which is oppressing Palestine, so it is not proper for South Africans to associate with Israel…we discourage people from going there except if it has to do with the peace process.”
Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, a board member of the Palestinian solidarity organization, BDS South Africa, has welcomed SA's position: "South Africa's position is commendable; having relations and dealings with Israel --other than to pursue peace-- normalizes an abnormal regime and tacitly endorses Israel's illegal occupation and apartheid policies toward the Palestinian people."

Last week, the SA-Israel Forum was intending to take a delegation from the South African province of KZN to Israel, however, an urgent joint letter from the ANC Youth League; SA's largest trade union federation, COSATU; the SA Students Congress, SASCO; the SA Council of Churches and others was sent to the Premier of the KZN province, Dr Zweli Mkhize (download here). The letter called on the KZN province to respect the boycott of Israel and cancel the trip, part of the joint letter read:
"The SA-Israel Forum, by taking a KZN delegation to Israel, will use KZN to create a false impression that Israel is a state like any other, rather than one that practices occupation, colonisation and apartheid over the indigenous Palestinian population....Palestinians have called on the international community to impose boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. We owe it to the Palestinians due to our history but also due to our appreciation of “justice, freedom and equality” to heed their [BDS] call."
Subsequently, the weekly South African newspaper, the Mail&Guardian, reported on Friday (10 August 2012), that the KZN province (in line with SA government policy) cancelled the SA-Israel Forum trip to Israel, read all about it here:
Zanele Matebula, Deputy International Secretary of COSATU: 
"COSATU welcomes news that KZN has taken the principled decision not to go on this trip organized by the Israeli lobby. It is about time that the SA-Israel Forum and their boycott-busting trips to Israel has been exposed. The decision by KZN to turn down this Israeli lobby invite is in line with the SA government's position of advising officials not to visit Israel unless for absolute necessity and for purposes of peace."
Steve Faulkner, International officer of SA Municipal Workers Union:
"The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) is delighted to report that after raising the issue of the intended municipality visits to Israel, with the Premier in KZN, there was a clear understanding that visits of this sort must not take place, and that in fact measures were underway to ensure this was understood by all concerned. The SAMWU Provincial Leadership, who first raised this issue with alliance partners and other trade unions, are delighted to hear this, and share with all progressive forces, support for all measures that serve to isolate Apartheid Israel including making all municipalities 'Israeli Apartheid Free Zones'."
Ronnie Kasrils, Former SA Government Minister : 
“During the days of Apartheid we had similar attempts by the [Pretoria] regime to undermine the isolation of South Africa. It is not surprising that the Israeli lobby is also attempting to ensnare the unwary into boycott-busting trips. The KZN provincial administration’s rejection of this opportunistic invite is commendable and an example to all South Africans believing in justice and solidarity for the dispossessed Palestinians." 
Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, BDS South Africa
"This is the first Israeli lobby trip that we have campaigned against in South Africa and were pleasantly surprised at the way people received our request for them not to cross the boycott-against-Israel picket line. All other South African provinces, municipalities and other structures should now follow the lead of KwaZulu-Natal. A precedent has been set."
The SA-Israel Forum has attempted in recent years to circumvent the boycott against Israel by facilitating trips of South African students, journalists, sports people, CEOs, government officials, mayors and others to Israel. The Palestinian solidarity movement term these trips, "boycott-busting" trips.
Mbuyiseni Ndlozi of BDS South Africa says: "The SA-Israel Forum is nothing more than an Israeli propaganda initiative equivalent to the PR initiatives of Apartheid South Africa. During 1980s we had similar groups that worked to build relations and buy influence abroad for an isolated Apartheid regime. The SA-Israel Forum is doing the same for an increasingly isolated Israel, but like in the case of Apartheid in South Africa, its not a new image, nor new relations, that will bring about change. Apartheid South Africa was forced to dump its racist policies; Israel too, needs to dismantle its racist and oppressive policies."
South Africa's relations with Israel have become tense in recent time. In 2009 SA dockworkers refused to offload Israeli cargo in protest against Israeli aggression toward the Palestinian people; last year the University of Johannesburg imposed an academic boycott of Israel by terminating its institutional relationship with Israel's Ben-Gurion University; and, early this year, South Africa announced that it would pass legislation to prevent the false labelling of Israeli goods from Israel's illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.


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