A recent protest action by Palestinians outside the South African mission in Ramallah, conveyed a forthright and damning message: “Why have you dumped us? We stood alongside you in fighting apartheid!”.
It was an unprecedented move to declare their frustration and anger at the gates of South Africa’s embassy in Occupied Palestine.
The protesting crowd was made up of a broad range of civil society organizations. From the Palestinian Popular Struggle Coordination Committee to Stop The Wall and included high profile activists inculding Bassem al-Tamimi from Nabi Saleh, Munther Amira and Salah Khawaja.
The memorandum submitted to South African diplomats listed four recent incidents which the protesting Palestinians view as “betrayal”:
“We are protesting today…against recent acts of betrayal of this struggle by some South African government officials. We are confident that many of you, the people of South Africa, will agree with us that Palestinians deserve better from your current government. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, was among the strongest and most reliable supporters of your own liberation struggle during the darkest era of apartheid, while Israel was the apartheid regime’s best friend.In addition their demand is to “immediately downgrade the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv to a liaison office” until Israel abides by international law. The downgrade, the Palestinians explain in their letter, “is a most basic gesture of ending complicity in Israel’s decades-old violations of [Palestinian] human, civic and national rights.”
Will their message reach the Zuma presidency and if it does, will it be filtered? Will it be dismissed as not reflective of popular opinion? Or will the relevant ministry and the entire department at DIRCO, finally look in the mirror and introspect?
If they do, is it far-fetched to conclude that their policy positions on Palestine will be found to be wholly tilted towards Israel? If so is it likely that they will call for a complete overhaul of policies which have disadvantaged Palestine’s freedom struggle ever since the post-apartheid era?
Knocking on South Africa’s Ramallah mission coincides with dramatic changes occurring in the wider Middle East region. And none of the changes favor Palestine.
Top of the list is the Saudi betrayal. It represents the most dangerous challenge to confront Palestine’s long walk to freedom. Clearly at odds with the Arab street, the inexperienced power-hungry crown prince Mohamed bin Salman, has cast his lot with Israel.
By doing so, he has reconfigured priorities for Saudi Arabia and hopes to get a buy-in from the rest of the deeply fractured Arab League. It only requires a cursory glance at the policies pursued by MbS, to understand that Palestine is merely an irritant for him.
Turning his focus away from the devastation resulting from the Naqba, and frog-marching the rest of the Arab League to follow him, is evidence of the single-minded determination by MbS to ally with Israel at the expense of Palestine.
Between the treasonous conduct of Saudi Arabia and the duplicitous role played by South Africa, actors such as Sisi’s coup regime Egypt and the UAE are all complicit in allowing Israel a free hand.
The free passage to colonize, expand settlements, tighten occupation, torture, detain and kill at will is a bonanza for apartheid Israel.
The protest against South Africa’s misguided policies are a timely yet crucial reminder that unless drastic changes are adopted and appropriate action taken, Israel’s free passage to treat Palestinians with contempt will continue.