On Palestine

South African minister: ‘The
Palestinian struggle is our struggle’
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane says
ministerial visits stopped, Pretoria
‘curtailing contact’ with Jerusalem
‘regime,’ and ‘losing sleep’ over
settlements
BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF November
2, 2013.
South African International Relations
Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

“The struggle of the people of
Palestine is our struggle” and South
Africa has decided to “slow down”
and “curtail senior leadership
contact” with the Israeli “regime,”
South Africa’s International Relations
Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane
said on Friday. Already, she said,
South Africa’s government ministers
do not visit Israel.
“Our Palestinian friends have never
asked us to disengage with Israel
[through cutting diplomatic
relations]. They had asked us in
formal meetings to not engage with
the regime,” Nkoana-Mashabane was
quoted by South African website
News24 as telling a Congress of
South African Trade Unions
international relations committee
meeting on Friday. The Congress of
South African Trade Unions supports
a boycott of Israeli products and has
in the past accused Israel of
practicing apartheid.
“Ministers of South Africa do not
visit Israel currently. Even the
Jewish Board of Deputies that we
engage with here, they know why our
ministers are not going to Israel,”
she added.
Nkoana-Mashabane further said that
South Africa has ”agreed to slow
down and curtail senior leadership
contact with that regime until things
begin to look better.”
“The struggle of the people of
Palestine is our struggle,” she
declared.
South Africa on Friday criticized
Israel’s plans, announced on
Tuesday, to build at least 5,000 new
settlement units
including some beyond the security
barrier, according to reports.
“That arrangement there in Palestine
keeps us awake,” Nkoana-Mashabane
said.
“The last time I looked at the map of
Palestine, I could not go to sleep. It
is just dots, smaller than those of
the homelands, and that broke my
heart,”" she said, referring to the
bantustans that existed in South
Africa during the apartheid era.
The meeting was also addressed by a
group campaigning for the release of
all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli
jails. According to AFP, the campaign
began on “October 25 at Robben
Island, the former prison where anti-
apartheid hero Nelson Mandela
served 18 of his 27 years in jail.”
South African Archbishop Desmond
Tutu threw his support behind the
campaign, calling for the “release of
imprisoned Palestinian leader
Marwan Barghouthi and other
Palestinian political prisoners,”
according to News24. ”I am proud to
associate myself with the global
campaign for the freedom of Marwan
Barghouthi and other Palestinian
political prisoners,” Tutu said in a
statement quoted by the website.
Barghouti is serving five life terms in
Israel for involvement in five second
intifada-era murders.
South Africa has been a harsh critic
of Israel, with prominent figures
often drawing parallels between
between the country’s apartheid era
and Israel today, slamming Israel
over its treatment of the
Palestinians, and voicing support for
cultural, economic and educational
boycotts of Israel.
In June, the former South African
ambassador to Israel accused the
Jewish state of practicing apartheid
and indicated that it is built on
“stolen” land.
“I have supported the struggle
against Apartheid South Africa and
now I cannot be a proponent of
what I have witnessed in Israel, and
that is, a replication of Apartheid!”
Ismail Coovadia proclaimed in a
letter to a group of pro-Palestinian
filmmakers.
That statement drew a harsh
reaction from Foreign Ministry
officials in Jerusalem, who said
Coovadia was not acting like a
diplomat and castigated his
“uncouth” rhetoric. He served as
ambassador until December 2012.
In 2010, after the Mavi Marmara
affair — when Israeli forces raided a
Turkish boat seeking to break the
Israeli blockade of Gaza, leading to
the deaths of nine Turkish citizens
— South Africa temporarily recalled
its ambassador and summoned the
Israeli ambassador to protest the
incident.