The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas welcomes the South African Government’s moves to downgrade relations with Israel, including the permanent withdrawal of its ambassador to Tel Aviv and the downgrading of its embassy to a liaison office with no diplomatic status.
We are heartened by the announcement by South Africa’s Foreign Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, that the withdrawal of the ambassador is the ‘first stage’ in the downgrading of diplomatic ties. He was recalled in March 2018 in protest against the murderous Israeli actions against Palestinians who participated in the Great March of Return. We salute her firm announcement that once the embassy has been downgraded to a liaison office, it will have “no political mandate, no trade mandate and no development cooperation mandate. It will not be responsible for trade and commercial activities.”
It is not coincidendal that Minister Sisulu made her announcement during the annual #IsraeliApartheidWeek, when students in particular, and the international solidarity movement in general, make a strong and concerted call for the apartheid state of Israel to be isolated by the world community, just as apartheid South Africa had been isolated in the past. Minister Sisulu’s announcement is not just a response to the IAW call, it is also an expression of hope given to Palestinians, that South Africa and its people stand with the justice-seeking and peace-loving people of Palestine.
Since the dawn of democracy in South Africa, the South African government and the ruling party, the African National Congress, have demonstrated that they will stand with the Palestinian people against the forces of colonialism, occupation and apartheid. In doing so, and in resolving to downgrade its relations with Israel, South Africa is placing itself on the right side of history, and giving concrete expression to the decades of solidarity between Palestinians and South Africans, from the days when both our peoples fought together against colonialism.
From Palestinians, the call to the ANC to downgrade South Africa’s embassy in Israel was made unanimously by all Palestinian political parties and organisations. We were confident in a positive response from comrades, a confidence which has been vindicated by Minister Sisulu’s assurances.
We know that Zionists will say that this firm position by South Africa implies that South Africa can play no role in the Palestinian issue. We want to assure the ANC and the South African people that South Africa’s new role is only just beginning, a role that will help rally support across the world for our decades-long struggle for justice and that will help rebuild the Palestinian national movement and Palestinian resistance. We hope that South Africa will use its term on the UN Security Council to give effect to these intentions.