South Africa’s ruling party supports motion to close Israeli embassy

South Africa's ruling party supports motion to close Israeli embassy South Africa's ruling party supports motion to close Israeli embassy
Suppoters of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) and various political parties including civil society groups gather in solidarity with the Palestinian people outside the Israeli embassy in Pretoria, south Africa, October 20, 2023. REUTERS/Siphiwe sibeko/File Photo

South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, has announced its support for a parliamentary motion to close the Israeli embassy in South Africa.

This decision comes in response to the ongoing conflict in Palestine and is accompanied by a call for the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for war crimes.

South Africa's ruling party supports motion to close Israeli embassy
Demonstrators protested in Cape Town in support of Palestinians, amid Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza, on November 1, 2023 [File: Nic Bothma/Reuters]
In a statement released on Thursday, the ANC expressed its concern over the “unfolding atrocities in occupied Palestine” and pledged to back the parliamentary motion calling for the closure of the Israeli embassy. The party also urged the government to suspend all diplomatic relations with Israel until a ceasefire is agreed upon.

Later in the day, the opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, proposed a similar motion calling for the suspension of all diplomatic relations with Israel in solidarity with the Palestinian people, who have been disproportionately affected by Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. The motion is expected to be voted on at a later date.

It is important to note that while the EFF’s motion is largely symbolic and non-binding, the ANC’s support for it carries significant weight. As South Africa’s ruling party, the ANC has the power to influence government decisions. ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa and senior foreign ministry officials have already been vocal in their condemnation of Israel’s leadership, particularly regarding its military actions in Gaza.

The ANC’s call for the closure of the Israeli embassy and the suspension of diplomatic relations reflects growing international outrage over the humanitarian crisis in Palestine. Many countries and organizations have condemned Israel’s military campaign and called for an immediate ceasefire. The ANC’s stance aligns South Africa with other nations that have taken a strong position against Israel’s actions.

South Africa has a long history of supporting the Palestinian cause. During the apartheid era, the ANC received support from the governments of Arab countries, and Nelson Mandela himself referred to the Israeli government as an apartheid regime. Mandela’s views on Palestine have shaped South Africa’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The ANC’s decision also reflects the broader sentiment within South African society. There is significant support for the Palestinian cause among the general public, with many South Africans drawing parallels between the struggle against apartheid and the struggle for Palestinian rights. Pro-Palestinian protests have been held across the country, calling for an end to Israel’s occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

South Africa's ruling party supports motion to close Israeli embassy
Suppoters of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) and various political parties including civil society groups gather in solidarity with the Palestinian people outside the Israeli embassy in Pretoria, south Africa, October 20, 2023. REUTERS/Siphiwe sibeko/File Photo

Pretoria’s strong support for Palestine dates back decades to the fight against apartheid in South Africa, which the ANC was at the forefront of. The country likens the plight of Palestinians to that of Black South Africans under white minority rule, with former President Nelson Mandela saying in 1997: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

“As South Africa, we have accordingly, together with many other countries across the world, referred this whole Israeli government action to the International Criminal Court,” Ramaphosa said on Wednesday during a state visit to Qatar.

“We have put through a referral because we believe that war crimes are being committed there. And of course, we do not condone the actions that were taken by Hamas earlier, but similarly, we condemn the actions that are currently underway and believe that they warrant an investigation by the ICC,” he added.

Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas that governs Gaza have been at war for more than a month. Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people. Israel’s air and ground offensive has killed more than 11,300 Palestinians in Gaza.

South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor told Who Owns Africa that Israel must put a stop to “this real crime against humanity” in Gaza.

“We are appalled at how this horror and tragedy that is unfolding continues to get worse and worse. I think the world has seen enough, and it is time for the most powerful in the world to put a stop to this horror that Israel is unfolding against the people of Palestine,” she said on Wednesday.

Israel’s occupation has “very, very clear similarities” to some of the practices that defined apartheid South Africa, she added.

Earlier this month, South Africa recalled its diplomats from Israel, but it has not had an ambassador to Israel since 2018.

In recent years, South Africa has taken steps to show its solidarity with Palestine. In 2019, the South African government downgraded its embassy in Israel to a liaison office and withdrew its ambassador.

The ANC’s latest decision to support the motion to close the Israeli embassy and suspend diplomatic relations further demonstrates its commitment to the Palestinian cause.

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