In the News

Address by Eddie Makue, General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches

December 1, 2007

Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (South Africa): I am delighted to address you on behalf of the End the Occupation Campaign Steering Committee, on the occasion of the United Nations International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

The topic for this address is:
“Global civil society working to realise the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people”

Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (South Africa): I am delighted to address you on behalf of the End the Occupation Campaign Steering Committee, on the occasion of the United Nations International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

The topic for this address is:
“Global civil society working to realise the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people”

Two years ago, in July 2005, close to 200 Palestinians mainly civil society activists and a few political organisations issued a call to “international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era. We appeal to you,” the declaration said, “to pressure your respective states to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel. We also invite conscientious Israelis to support this Call, for the sake of justice and genuine peace.”

For many international solidarity activists, the call was hugely inspirational and marked a turning point in international solidarity. With that call and the consistent actions around the world falling that call, Palestinians and global civil society took the front row in the struggle for peace, justice and the realisation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

Before making its call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS), the declaration noted that its signatories were: “Inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid and the spirit of international solidarity, moral consistency and resistance to injustice and oppression.” If Palestinians were inspired enough by our struggle that they called for global support for their struggle, we South Africans had to take up the weapons of struggle and march at their side. If the struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa was an example of how “people of conscience in the international community have historically shouldered the moral responsibility to fight injustice… through diverse forms of boycott, divestment and sanctions”, then we have no choice but to help shoulder the responsibility to abolish the apartheid that seeks to oppress and destroy the Palestinian people.

Our South African ability to crush apartheid owed a great deal to international solidarity and the global campaign to isolate the apartheid South African state. We recognized the familiar ideas in the 2005 call and immediately realized how significant this Call was for the Palestinian cause.

There are a number of lessons from the South African example for international solidarity. One is that building such a campaign does not happen overnight; it takes years, a generation even. That the Palestinian boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) call has been responded to as positively as it has by various trade unions, academic bodies and consumers across the world is extremely heartening. But, we will all need patience, determination, courage and hard work. Without these we will not have a campaign worth speaking about; with these we can become an unstoppable movement.

Further, an international isolation campaign alone will not result in the changes we would all like to see. From 1985 until the late 1980s, when much of the disinvestment from apartheid South Africa took place, it happened alongside some of the most sustained, organised and widespread resistance in the country (along with some of the most brutal repression). In our case, the isolation campaign could not have been successful without a sustained, rolling intifada. The task of solidarity activists around the world, then, should be not only to support an international campaign to isolate Israel but also to support the various forms of resistance of the Palestinian people themselves.

Our campaign of solidarity in support of the Palestinian people must be one that is global, strategic and coordinated. These elements will provide the means to ensure that it is a sustained campaign. In 2002, when millions of people around the world marched, on the 15th February, in opposition to the impending war against Iraq, many commentators began referring to “the other global superpower”. We civil society activists, we the citizens of the world, even without any government behind us, we are a superpower that can make a difference. The time is now for us to play that role in support of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

As South Africans we are committed to the idea of an international movement against Israel’s Apartheid, to coordinate our united actions around the world. In South Africa, we have come a long way in terms of solidarity with Palestine.

The ninth annual congress of Cosatu last year called on the South African government to impose sanctions against Israel and to end diplomatic relations with Israel. It also called on Cosatu members to boycott Israeli goods. Congress demanded that the international community holds Israel legally accountable for crimes committed against civilian populations and called on the UN to implement the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Apartheid Wall. The South African Council of Churches last year joined the call for BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) and its ecumenical accompaniers to Palestine always have many stories to share with congregations when they return. Earlier this year, at the UN Africa meeting held in this city, we heard some of the most forthright criticism of Israeli apartheid from our government. Around the world, Palestinians (and Israeli apologists) still refer to the 2001 UN Durban conference on racism and how it had become a safe and free space for Palestinians. And in June this year, the End the Occupation Campaign mobilised tens of thousands of people – including MPs and cabinet ministers - in towns and cities around the country to say NO to Israeli occupation. These are some of our small successes as a solidarity movement.

These are positive developments. And there are many even more impressive developments in other parts of the world. Nevertheless, we must remember that the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) is probably worse now than it ever was. The oxygen of the Palestinian struggle is being sucked out; Palestinians are being – with the daily difficulties of living under occupation – forced into exhaustion by the Israeli military machinery. The daily lives of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are being made increasingly intolerable. Eleven thousand Palestinian political prisoners languish in Israeli jails. The tiny 22 percent of Palestine is being squeezed and carved up into small fragments so that Palestinians can never have a real state. They are even being deprived of basic life requirements like water, in Gaza, for example.

We have a long way to go.

As civil society globally we have many responsibilities. The sham of a meeting in Annapolis this week showed that we cannot expect the US or Israel to deliver anything resembling peace and justice for the Palestinian people or for Jews.

We expect and urge the United Nations to play its role to protect the weak and oppressed and to support global security and peace by ensuring that all the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people are guaranteed and realised. We expect and offer to cooperate with the UN and the world community to force the apartheid state to fall in line with international law and human rights. We cannot tolerate a nation with 400 nuclear warheads that refuses to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. We cannot tolerate a state that pretends to be democratic which practices racial discrimination and torture and collective punishment and flouts international law with impunity.

In South Africa, we have a definite responsibility to build the relationship that is already developing within the End the Occupation Campaign between a disparate group of solidarity groups, trade unions, faith-based organisations, sports groups, political parties, MPs and other prominent individuals.

As South Africans we have a responsibility to say to the world that we recognise apartheid when we see it. And what we see Israel doing is apartheid – and worse. We recognise Bantustans when we see them and what Israel wants for the Palestinians is a Bantustan solution. And, since the world has already declared apartheid a crime against humanity and punishable by the international community, we recognise Israel as a criminal state that deserves the world’s condemnation and punishment. We need to work much more carefully in developing our BDS campaign in South Africa and in being part of that global campaign so that Israeli apartheid finds no safe haven anywhere in the world.

We South Africans who live in townships and squatter camps know what it’s like to live without electricity and without water. What we don’t know, however, is what it is like to live with hundreds of checkpoints, with roads that are racialised, with helicopter gunships and fighter planes flying overhead in our residential areas. We don’t know what it is like to live in an open-air prison like Gaza.

The need for international solidarity has become even more crucial and urgent. We must remind the world that there are certain basic, non- negotiable demands, without which the Palestinian people’s very existence will be called into question. We must remind the world that we desire to see the implementation of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on the Apartheid Wall and to witness its destruction; that we desire to see the dismantling of all the Zionist settlements all over Palestine, all of which are illegal under international law; that we desire to see the establishment of a single, united sovereign Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem; that we desire to see the return of all Palestinian refugees to their homes. Nothing short of this will suffice.

The time to resist is now! The time for a sustained, global boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign is now! Today marks 60 years after that fateful Resolution 181. Today also marks the beginning of the 13- month global campaign of Keys, to remind the world that next year is the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Palestinian nakba. To remind the world that millions of Palestinian refugees, with the keys to their homes still in their possession, have the right under international law and under UN Resolution 194, to return to their homes.

Allow me to conclude by quoting a great leader a Comrade and Hero.
“Solidarity,” said Samora Machel, “is not an act of charity, but mutual aid between people fighting for the same objectives.”

I end by calling on the Almighty to, as with South Africa, stand on the side of the oppressed people of Palestine, to strengthen their resolve and to strengthen all our hearts and efforts in the struggle for peace and justice.


[the event was held at the University of South Africa- Pretoria on 29th November 2007 and was
organised by:
The Department of Foreign Affairs
The United Nations Information Centre
The Embassy of the State of Palestine
In conjunction with the University of South Africa-Pretoria]

December 1, 2007


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