PRESS RELEASE: South Africa's International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane: "South Africa to "slow down" relations with Israel"
South Africa's Minister for International Relations, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, has enraged Israeli government officials by communicating South Africa's official policy of "slowing down" relations with Israel. At a meeting on Friday hosted by South Africa's trade union confederation, COSATU, Nkoana-Mashabane said
“[Government] Ministers of South Africa do not visit Israel currently...our Palestinian friends have asked us in formal meetings to not engage with the [Israeli] regime. We have agreed to slow down and curtail senior leadership contact with that regime until things begin to look better.”
The South African foreign minister further criticized the Israeli regime’s occupation of Palestinian lands: “That arrangement there in Palestine keeps us awake...the last time I looked at the map of Palestine, I could not go to sleep. Its "dots", smaller than those of the homelands". Referring to the former South African homelands, which were also known as Bantustans: small cantons set up for the indigenous black South African population, away and seperated from the white population. Nkoana-Mashabane also expressed her solidarity with the Palestinian people, stating that: “The struggle of the people of Palestine is our struggle.”
Israeli parliamentarian and Chairman of Israel's Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs & Defense, Avigdor Liberman, responded attacking the South African government:
“The government of South Africa is creating an atmosphere of anti-Israeli sentiment and anti-Semitism that will make a pogrom against Jews in the country just a matter of time....", he called on all Jews who live in South Africa “to immigrate to Israel immediately, without delay, before it’s too late.” (www.timesofisrael.com/liberman-warns-south-african-jews-of-coming-pogrom/
Meanwhile, Itani Rasalanavho of BDS South Africa, welcomed the Minister's statements adding that: "Minister Nkoana-Mashabane's statements are welcomed by the Palestine solidarity movement and all other progressive formations. It is only reactionary organizations like the South African Zionist Federation and members of the Israeli government that will take offence. The deliberate conflation by Israeli supporters between Judaism and support for Israel is wrong. One can be anti-Israeli and that does not mean that one is anti-Jewish. To have criticized Apartheid South Africa during the 1980s did not make one anti-white. We are tired of pro-Israeli supporters using the accusation of "anti-Semitism" to deflect attention away from criticism of Israel."
Rasalanavho also explained that it was not Nkoana-Mashabane's personal views being expressed but government policy: "I'm not surprised by the Minister’s statements. One must understand that the Minister was simply expressing ANC policy and long-standing South African government positions. In fact, it was Nelson Mandela himself, way back in 1997 who famously said: "We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians...".
While Israel was a long-time ally of White South Africa during Apartheid in the 1980s, the relationship between Israel and South Africa has become tense since the end of Apartheid in 1994. Last year, at its international solidarity conference, South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), adopted a resolution
in support of the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign. Two months later, at its 53rd National Elective Conference in Mangaung, the ANC adopted another hard-hitting resolution
in support of the Palestinians, the resolution read: "The ANC is unequivocal in its support for the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination, and unapologetic in its view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel."
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