PRESS STATEMENT: North West Premier a "no show" at Israeli Embassy water event

06 June 2016

Contrary to allegations by the Israeli Embassy, the North West Premier and ANC Provincial Chairperson Cde. Supra Mahumapelo did not attend, speak at or participate in today’s SA Israel Water Week event.

Last week Israeli Ambassador Arthur Lenk sent out invites with Premier Mahumapelo as one of the Israeli Embassy’s main speakers (click here or see attached). Following the publication of the invite, BDS SA had written to and raised its concerns with the leadership of the ANC. Mahumapelo participation would have been at odds with the ruling party's position of discouraging travel and relations with Israel due to its treatment of Palestinians.

One senior South African Government official said to BDS SA that the Premier’s “office has either dispatched a letter to those organizers or will still dispatch it, to the effect that he is not attending and they should never have put his name on their program.”

BDS SA commends the North West Premier and are glad that no senior South African government official gave legitimacy to today's Israel Water Week event - which is essentially a propaganda exercise. During the 1980s Apartheid South Africa also held seminars and conferences on South Africa’s so called agricultural, health and other expertise. Peace loving peoples of the world and progressive governments rejected these attempts by Apartheid SA back then and so too are people rejecting Israeli attempts to whitewash its occupation, apartheid and violations of Palestinian human rights.

To make matters worse, today’s Israeli Embassy Water Week event showcased various Israeli companies, several of which have operations in the occupied Palestinian territories in violation of international law, for example, Netafilm. In 2014 the ANC NEC specifically highlighted companies doing business in the settlements and occupied territories to be boycotted.

Israeli water technology marketing may be good. However, firstly, such technology is easily available from other countries. South Africa, for example,  recently signed an agreement with Iran on collaboration regarding water technology and desalination. Secondly, as several water experts have explained, drought or water issues are not due to lack of technology. Often more focus is needed on social and governance innovation rather than technocratic or technological water issues.

Lorenzo Fioramonti, a South African water expert recently explained: "There is enough evidence to show how Israel’s policies have taken water away from Palestinian communities. Hiding this through a pseudo-technical debate about water technology would be unacceptable ... [W]e cannot ignore that, regardless of the specific technology the Israeli government has embraced, it is based on an unequal and often oppressive policy ... Israel’s alleged success in water management is a ‘constructed fantasy’.”

Earlier this year, a Mail & Guardian Newspaper water conference was cancelled following complaints regarding the inclusion of the Israeli Ambassador Arthur Lenk as a panellist.

A 2009 Amnesty International report, entitled “Troubled Waters—Thirsting for Justice” details Israel’s discriminatory water policies against Palestinians. In 2010, the UN Human Rights Committee found Israel guilty of directly violating Palestinian human rights to water and sanitation. It is ironic that Israel tries to sell its water technology in South Africa, yet at the same time it denies Palestinians access to their own water.


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