Palestinian civil society welcomes South African government advice against travel to Israel
Occupied Palestine, August 16 - The Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions National Committee (BNC), the broadest coalition of Palestinian trade unions, NGOs and mass organisations, salutes and warmly congratulates the South African government for adopting a principled policy to dissuade South African citizens and especially official organisations from travelling to Israel due to its “continued occupation of Palestinian land”.
This welcome show of support for Palestinian rights and for a just peace based on international law is precisely the kind of concrete action that the overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society urged the international community to take when it called for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel in 2005. Only through pressure of the type that this policy brings to bear will Israel be forced to abide by international law.
Israel's continued occupation of Palestinian land, the accelerated colonisation and systematic ethnic cleansing of Area C, the on-going siege of and attacks on Gaza, the intensification of discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel and the continued plight of Palestinian refugees, combined with effective action from Palestinians and their international supporters, have led to a growing understanding of the apartheid nature of Israel's system and a rapid change in public and government perceptions of Israel. As one poll recently showed, Israel is now one of the most negatively viewed countries in the world.
As many South African academics, public figures and civil society organisations have themselves noted, Israel implements a regime of apartheid over the Palestinian people that is not only reminiscent of South African apartheid but matches the legal definition of the crime of apartheid as set out in international law.
Fully aware of how its continued impunity is being received, Israel is committing more and more resources to its public relations effort, with official delegations to Israel and tourism constituting a core part of these efforts. All expenses paid tours to Israel, and Israeli tourism in general, play an increasingly important role in Israeli attempts to whitewash its violations of international law and to attract more investments into Israel’s economy based on war and exploitation of occupied people and resources. Delegations hosted by Israel or its well-funded supporters often include meetings with Israeli military officials that have participated in war crimes against the Palestinians and visits to illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory and are designed to demonise Palestinians and our struggle for our basic rights.
South Africans know even better than Palestinians the power of effective and concrete solidarity with the struggle of an oppressed people against apartheid and our own struggle is greatly inspired by yours. Palestinians everywhere are inspired by the actions that have already been taken in support of our struggle by South African government and civil society organisations and are hopeful that further effective action will be taken in the near future.
Palestinians hope that recent statements by leading South African officials and public figures will usher in more effective pressure on Israel to bring an end to its occupation, colonization and apartheid and to thus enable the Palestinian people to exercise our inalienable right to self determination.