South Africa’s ruling party condemned Israel as a nation founded on the basis of apartheid, and branded the establishment of the state a crime against humanity.
The allegation was made in a statement issued over the weekend, as South Africa’s anti-Israel lobby planned to protest a conference Sunday held by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) in Johannesburg.
“As the Alliance we are now heightening our campaign aimed at boycotting and isolating Israel as a state founded on the basis of apartheid, which according to international law and several UN conventions is a crime against humanity,” read the statement, which was co-signed by African National Congress secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.
The members of the Alliance — the ANC, the Communist Party, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African National Civics Organization — pledged “ongoing solidarity with the people of Palestine” and endorsed the movement calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
Finally, the group called on transport sector workers at South African docks and airports to refuse to handle products bound for Israel, and on retail-sector workers to reject any jobs involving goods manufactured in, or originating from, Israel.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the statement “shocking and unacceptable.”
“The state of Israel is the fulfillment of the millenary dreams and aspirations of the Jewish people and is the only safe haven for a persecuted nation,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said in a written statement. “In Israel all citizens enjoy equal rights, regardless of their creed and religion. The ANC statement is a shameful surrender to Israel hatred, promoted by anti-Semites and by haters.”
On Sunday, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies was set to hold a conference under the motto “Celebrating 20 years of South Africa’s Freedom,” highlighting the Jewish community’s role in the struggle against apartheid. A senior ANC official, David Makhura, was scheduled to speak at the event, but reportedly canceled his appearance.
Several anti-Israel groups praised the cancellation by Makhura, the premier of the Gauteng province. “This non-participation by Comrade Makhura is welcomed as we see no reason why any leader of the ANC should be on a platform hosted by the SAJBD,” Muhammed Desai, a South African leader of the BDS movement, stated in a press release.
“The SAJBD are proving to be a bunch of hypocrites; we hereby inform them to spare their celebratory comments and rhetoric about freedom whilst on the other hand they support the Israel-led genocide against Palestine,” the ANC’s local youth league said in a statement.
“The ANCYL [ANC Youth League] in Gauteng will embark on a protest action against the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) Conference taking place today on Sunday the 14th September 2014 in Sandton, under the theme ‘Celebrating 20 years of South Africa’s Freedom,’” it added.
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies said on its website: “The focus of the conference will be to celebrate the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s democracy, reflect on the journey thus far and also engage in a topical discussion about pertinent issues in the development of South Africa and its citizenry.”
It noted as well: “During the Apartheid years, although constituting a small minority of the population, the Jewish community played a disproportionate role in the struggle for democracy.”
Relations between Jerusalem and Pretoria have been frosty for years and further deteriorated after this summer’s Operation Protective Edge, when the ANC issued a statement comparing Israel’s actions to those of Nazi Germany and accusing Jerusalem of turning the Palestinian territories into “permanent death camps.”