Palestinian BNC Mourns Loss of Anti-Apartheid Icon Ahmed Kathrada

March 28, 2017, Occupied Palestine —The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) has heard with great sadness the news of Comrade Ahmed Kathrada’s passing. Mr. Kathrada, born to an Indian Muslim family, was the most prominent Asian South African in the movement to end apartheid, the system of racial discrimination, segregation and white dominance that existed in South Africa until it was defeated in 1994.

Comrade Kathrada was also an active and consistent supporter of the Palestinian struggle for freedom. He visited Palestine, and saw the apartheid system we endure for himself. He said when in Palestine: "In our short stay here we have seen and heard enough to conclude that Apartheid has been reborn here. In its reborn form it is however worse than its predecessor. Even during the worst days of Apartheid we did not have walls to divide and control people, we also did not have separate roads for separate races, and we did not have the system of checkpoints that exist here."

The Foundation which bears his name engages in activities in support of Israeli Apartheid Week, which aims to raise awareness of Israel's apartheid policies towards Palestinians. It also supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, believing that this is the way to bring an end to Israel's apartheid policies and violations of international law. 

Kathrada’s own long imprisonment — 26 years and 3 months — alongside the anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela and his lifelong struggle against apartheid and injustice are an example to all Palestinians that integrity and perseverance will lead to justice and freedom.

The BDS movement is working to increase international civil society and government support for the Palestinian struggle for justice. We were honored to count Comrade Kathrada as a supporter of our struggle and remain inspired by his life.

We send out our condolences to his family, friends, comrades and all South Africans during these difficult days.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. It leads and supports the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. 

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Theresa May is showing contempt for Palestinian rights as she rolls out the red carpet for Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu

February 6, 2017
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Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, right, meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Downing Street, London, Feb. 6, 2017. (Peter Nicholls/Pool Photo via AP)
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, right, meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Downing Street, London, Feb. 6, 2017. (Peter Nicholls/Pool Photo via AP)

In 2016, the United Nations reported that Israel demolished or seized some 1,089 Palestinian-owned structures throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, displacing 1,593 Palestinians and affecting the livelihoods of another 7,101, the highest number since 2009.

Theresa May welcomes Benjamin Netanyahu to Downing Street today, just days after the Israeli Prime Minister announced plans for thousands of new illegal settlement units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The UK Government’s contempt for the rights of Palestinians is clear.

The meeting raises serious questions about the UK Government’s commitment to its obligations under international law, and its willingness to promote and enforce even its own policies regarding Israel and the Palestinians. If May followed the rules of her own government, she would slap an arms embargo on Israel, not roll out the red carpet for its leader. 

The expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has now become the topic of an Israeli government announcement every few months. It was the intensification of settlement expansion that led the UN Security Council, including the UK, to vote for a resolution condemning settlements in December 2016.

Settlement expansion, considered a war crime under international law, is not only about building houses for Israelis. It is accompanied by land seizures and demolition of Palestinian homes, making way for settlement and “security” infrastructure. In 2016, the United Nations reported that Israel demolished or seized some 1,089 Palestinian-owned structures throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, displacing 1,593 Palestinians and affecting the livelihoods of another 7,101, the highest number since 2009.

Land seizures and demolitions affect Palestinian citizens of Israel also. Just a few weeks ago, Israeli authorities demolished homes in the Palestinian Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, in southern Israel, to make way for a new Jewish village. When Palestinian residents protested the bulldozers pummeling through their homes, a local teacher was shot dead by Israeli police, who then branded him a terrorist amidst disputed claims he had deliberately driven his car at officers, killing one.

The cycle is clear. Palestinians’ homes and livelihoods are destroyed to make way for settlements. When Palestinians protest, they are met with violence at the hands of the state.

And what about those around the world who are standing up for Palestinian human rights? Boycotts and divestment campaigns are vital to ending government and corporate material support for these crimes, yet because of the growing strength of the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), it has been singled out as “enemy number one” by the Israeli government.

The Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs has set up a special “task force” to combat BDS activities around the world, its emissary caught on camera calling for a “take down” of UK MPs critical of Israel. And right now a new anti-BDS bill pending approval in the Israeli parliament will mean anyone associated with the movement can be banned from the country.

Will these be the topics of discussion between May and Netanyahu? We don’t know. What we do know is that while the UK Government has expressed concern about Israel’s violations of human rights, it continues to approve millions of pounds worth of arms and weapons technology exports to Israel each year. Government rhetoric once again masks a more sinister reality. 

The UK’s own procedure for determining the legality of exports has identified Israel as a country of concern, with it violating numerous points on the criteria for receiving arms exports. Yet still, over £100m arms exports were approved in 2016 alone. The armed drones, military aircrafts, assault rifles, grenade launchers and more continue to leave British ports destined for use in the repression and killing of Palestinians, whether citizens of Israel or occupied subjects.

Rather than deepening the UK's relationship with Israel’s human rights abusing government, it’s time Theresa May reminded herself of the UK’s obligations under international law, which if enforced, would block her Government from approving arms exports and other trade that lends material support to Israeli violations.

February 6, 2017
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