Welcome to the next installation of the PSA newsletter. The month of February may have been the shortest month of the year but there is no respite from occupation and Apartheid for the Palestinians. As a solidarity organisation, our goal has been to ensure continued solidarity and visibility of the Palestinian cause. We saw the world celebrate the World Day of Social Justice on the 20th of February. A seemingly great sentiment but empty of actual action when it comes to being socially just for Palestine.
We have been witness to the delay in action of global communities with regards to raising their voices and demanding justice for marginalised communities world-wide. Palestine, the Uyghurs, the Rohingyas, Ukraine, Yemen, and Syria are prime examples of the failures of international diplomacy, peacemaking and advocacy. We live in a world which aims for social justice but continually falls short of it. While this may sound as if it is all gloom and doom, we continue to be optimistic and hope for justice for all marginalised communities.
We are witnessing a gradual change in global perceptions of Israel. The release of the Amnesty International report titled ‘Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians’ is an illustration of the global community stirring into action to recognise and proclaim Israel for what it is: an Aparthied state and an illegal occupying entity with racist laws, policies, and legislation aimed to violate human rights and cripple the Palestinian spirit. This shift in perception comes at a crucial time, one where criticism of Israel is equated to anti-semiticism and when Israel is continuing to attempt to extend its global presence by gaining observer status in the African Union, issues we have explored further in our articles regarding Bongani Masuku and the AU in this newsletter. We have also investigated the situation in Ukraine and its links to the local issues such as the Clover strike and the austerity measures being placed on the workers.
As a solidarity organisation, we recognise that events such as the release of the Amnesty International report are just the first steps in the fight for the liberation of Palestine. We have to consolidate our efforts and keep up continuous pressure on our government and other interested parties to stand on the right side of history and introduce mass scale boycotts, disinvestments, and sanctions of Israel.
Aluta Continua 🏽
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Western Hypocrisy, and Food Security
Protesters during a rally against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Seoul, South Korea (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
The Russian invasion of Ukraine will have devastating impacts across the globe. Like the wars going on against Somalia, Yemen, and of course Palestine - this brazen display of violence will only serve the interests of a select group of elites. The downtrodden masses will suffer tragic consequences from imperialist’s greed. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for oil and geopolitical ‘security’ is hauntingly similar to the imperialist rhetoric used to justify Israel’s occupation of Palestine. What is different, however, is the West’s response to the crisis.
Where sanctions are imposed on invading Russia, Israel is rewarded with military assistance and billions of foreign aid. Where Ukrainians are lauded for bravely taking up arms against the Russians, Palestinians are branded terrorists. Where refugees and their pets are being welcomed with open arms into Poland and Hungary, Palestinian refugees are treated with the utmost contempt. These racist responses become instructive to understanding why Palestine has yet to see freedom after so many years of Israel’s illegal occupation.
The crisis in Ukraine is likely to make things more difficult for Palestinians, as global food and oil prices are set to soar. Besides being large fuel exporters, Ukraine and Russia are also among the world’s largest food suppliers. Russia’s sunflower oil exports constitute 40% of the global total, with Ukraine accounting for 18%. They are also both mass-exporters of wheat, maize, and other staple goods. In 2021, Africa imported a combined US$6.9 billion worth of food products from these countries.
It is in this context where the urgency for the South African government to intervene against the Milco consortium becomes more urgent. International instability threatens to exacerbate South Africa’s crises of hunger, unemployment, and food insecurity. Investing into the production, manufacturing, and distribution of food staples is especially important in this context. Nationalising Clover offers the state an opportunity to ensure food security in its land, and reduce its dependence on imperialist powers.
Unite Against Apartheid Israel! Unite Against Imperialism!
Gaining amnesty: a look into Palestinians living under occupation
Palestinian man holding a placard 'Israel Is an Apartheid State' (photo iqna.ir)
The World Day of Social Justice is celebrated globally in order to advocate for social justice by tackling issues such as poverty, exclusion, gender inequality, unemployment, and human rights violations. Civil society and human rights organisations worldwide have been working towards tackling social justice issues for decades but the issue of the occupation of Palestine was one which was not touched on by many. We are now seeing a gradual shift in this stance with an increasing number of individuals and organisations raising their voices against Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian land and its harsh military regime.
Amnesty International (AI) is one of the world's leading human rights organisations, speaking out against human rights violations since its inception. While AI has been vocal about the plight of the Palestinians, we have only recently seen them release a report which describes Israel's occupation and regime as Apartheid, a term all South Africans are very familiar with. Apartheid was introduced as a term in 1948, when the National Party came to power, the first all-Afrikaner cabinet in the country since 1910. What followed for the black majority in the country was decades of segregation and oppression based on race. The policies, laws, and legislations introduced under Apartheid were meant to ensure the continued dispossession and oppression of the non-white majority in the country, a practice we have seen repeated in Palestine.
After the release of the Amnesty International report, the Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa region, Saleh Hijazi, who has been involved in the research and writing of the report since 2017, visited South Africa. PSA, along with Amnesty International South Africa, hosted Saleh for a public community meeting at Baitun Noor Hall in Lenasia. The report finds that Israel is committing apartheid against Palestinians. It states that Apartheid is two things i.e., a system of oppression and domination and a crime against humanity, looked at in the context of international human rights law.
The system aims to oppress and limit the Palestinians in four ways. These include the fragmentation of the Palestinians into different geographical areas such as those living in Gaza, those who are citizens of Israel, and those who live in the west bank. This fragmentation is intentional and is the foundational part of the Apartheid system, meant to divide and conquer the Palestinians and break their spirit. The system also includes segregation and control by keeping and limiting the Palestinians to the equivalent of Bantustans. It includes dispossession of land and property and discrimination on who can access and buy land with Palestinians not being granted permits to build houses. Those who do build houses on their lands then have to watch these houses be torn down by the Israeli regime. The system also prevents the social and economic rights of the Palestinians from being fulfilled. It is designed and used to maintain Jewish hegemony and to ensure that maximum land is controlled by Israel.
According to the AI report, in order to maintain the system Israel commits crimes which include humane and inhumane acts such as the forcible transfer and displacement of Palestinians from areas they are living in; arbitrary detention and torture; mass arrests and incarceration; use of lethal force; persecution and pervasion of basic rights including civil, economic, and social rights. These are all atrocities we have been witnessing being committed in the news for decades but which have now been investigated, researched, and reported on by multiple human rights organizations. Besides Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem have also released reports which call Israel an Apartheid state and document its crime.
Viewing all of this in the context of the World Day of Social Justice, the atrocities being committed against the Palestinians under Israel’s system of Apartheid have been documented for decades but we are only seeing civil society and human rights organisations proclaiming Israel as an Apartheid state now. Has the world failed to provide social justice for Palestinians? It is our duty as socially conscious individuals to ensure that Palestinian rights are upheld and fought for. Our quest for justice has to be all-encompassing and cannot be selective, particularly if we want a socially just world. We have to ensure that our activism is intersectional and includes advocacy for all marginalised groups.
Constitutional Court: Anti-Zionism is NOT the same as antisemitism;
Zionist lobby unsuccessfully SLAPP-ing Masuku
Former COSATU international relations spokesperson Bongani Masuku (Photo FreespeechonIsrael.org.uk)
By finding Bongani Masuku not guilty on three counts of hate speech, the Constitutional Court provided reprieve against a Zionist-lobby SLAPP suit which aimed to intimidate and silence criticism of Israel.
In the West, the Zionist lobby has been tremendously influential in its efforts to equate criticism of the Israeli state with antisemitism. This false equivocation, which actually brands anti-racism as racism, stifles free speech, limits critical thinking, and silences pro-Palestine voices. Former COSATU leader, Bongani Masuku, appeared before the Constitutional Court last month to defend himself against this false equivocation. The Court dismissed the allegations against him on three out of four counts, and the judgement emphasised the point that criticism against the Israeli state does not constitute antisemitic speech.
Equating anti-Zionism with antisemitism has become a common tactic employed by Zionists to bully their opponents into silence. The hate speech accusations against Masuku, based on utterances made over a decade ago, clearly employed this tactic. By delineating between the acts which counted as hate speech against Jewish people, and those which counted as political speech against Israel, the Constitutional Court upheld the crucial right to freedom of expression and ruled against this abusive tactic of intimidatory bullying.
This case, where a frivolous claim of hate speech was used to silence someone speaking against injustice, is an example of another lawfare tactic employed by the Israeli lobby. Strategic Litigation against Public Participation (SLAPP) forms a branch of lawsuits which are used to silence criticism or opposition by employing the threat of legal action and target journalists, activists, whistleblowers, researchers, and civil society organisations. SLAPPs are used with the intention to intimidate, threaten or silence critics, with the threat of litigaion until the individual drops or abandons their criticism and are a form of legal harassment. Certain SLAPP suits do not necessarily take on the usual character of a SLAPP suit but are beyond the use of litigation and defamation and include interdicts. They also do not need to come from a corporation intending to suppress criticism but can also come from the state which wants to suppress information and whistleblowers.
This form of censorship has been employed considerably in order to silence and censor criticism of Zionism and Israel, with critics being branded anti-semitic. The Constitutional Court judgement and emphasis that criticism of the illegal state of Israel does not equate to antisemitism is therefore a major victory for pro-Palestinian activists as it ensures that pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist and anti-Israel voices are not silenced.
Israeli settler-colonialism = genocide!
Graffiti near the Gaza wall 'The Separation Wall Will Fall'. (photo verso)
This January, in Jerusalem alone, Israel demolished thirty structures, leaving seventy-eight people without a home. This is just a microcosm of the routine destruction, dispossession, and ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Israel continues to oppress Palestinians from the river to the sea – destroying their food supply, depriving them of water, preventing them from receiving medical attention, and incarcerating them en-masse. This month, several Palestinians, including minors, have been murdered in cold blood by Israeli armed forces. These murders occur against a backdrop of ongoing settler violence that is aided and abetted by the military regime. Palestinians’ freedom of movement is being increasingly restricted, while settler violence continues with impunity. Attacks in and around the Al-Aqsa precinct are escalating together with mass displacement in the Naqab. These attacks are firmly ingrained in the fabric of Zionism – whose mandate is to establish an ethnonationalist state at the expense of the indigenous people’s existence. It is abundantly clear that the violence we are witnessing in the Naqab, the West Bank, and Jerusalem constitute acts of genocide against the Palestinian people.
Israel’s genocidal intent was made explicitly clear by its founding father, David Ben Gurion, when he wrote to his son in 1937: “We must expel Arabs and take their place.” Recently leaked meeting minutes from 1948 also detail how Ben Gurion asserted, in reference to Palestinian villages, that “we must wipe them out.” This is indeed what happened in the Nakba when 530 villages were destroyed and over 750,000 people were expelled from their homes.
As history and current events have proven, the Nakba never ended. Palestinians – young and old – are regularly massacred, tortured, maimed, imprisoned, and expelled. In Gaza and the West Bank, the Israeli regime controls every aspect of day-to-day life – from the medical resources they receive to amount of electricity, food and water they can consume. Genocide is deeply entrenched within the ethos and practice of the state of Israel today.
Israel’s ongoing genocide against Palestinians is profoundly visible in al-Naqab. Palestinians living in the region are deliberately denied access to electricity, water, sanitation and other basic services. Their farmlands are regularly razed and their homes are habitually demolished.
In the immediate aftermath of Israel’s establishment as a state, 11 000 Bedouins remained in al-Naqab – less than ten percent of the original population. Generations later, the ethnic cleansing of Bedouins in al-Naqab continues. In 2021, over 3000 homes were demolished. Israel treats the Palestinians of al-Naqab, not as legitimate citizens of the state, but rather as unwanted ‘squatters’ to be displaced and expelled.
Without respect for ancient Bedouin land rites and rituals, Israel routinely confiscates land to increase Jewish settlement and plant alien forests over the area. The trees planted – cypress and pine – have been shown to actively increase desertification of the surrounding area. The Zionist praxis is to destroy the Bedouin way of life in al-Naqab – to keep them in poverty and desecration, make the area unliveable, and erase the population from the land. The story of al-Naqab is the story of Palestine as a whole. It is a story of violent dispossession, erasure, and genocide.
The brazen racism of Zionism is abundantly manifest in the actions of the Israeli regime. Palestinians, whether in the ’48 areas, Occupied Territories or elsewhere, are subjected to the cruellest treatment. From Sheikh Jarrah to al-Naqab to Gaza, the Zionist message stays the same. The Nakba never ended. The genocide against Palestinians continues. The Apartheid State of Israel has made it clear that it will continue to subject Palestinian men, women, and children to the most inhumane living conditions, and grant them no reprieve from this violent onslaught. Moreover, Zionist forces have shown, time and time again, that any and all forms of revolution will be repressed. This, however, does not dampen the zeal and spirit of the Palestinian resistance. From the river to the sea, and beyond Palestinians have remained ardent and steadfast in their calls for liberation and justice. We have a moral obligation to support this call and bring an end to the genocidal Israeli regime.
Our month in pictures
The SA BDS Coalition and Amnesty International South Africa public meeting held at The Forge in Braamfontein on 19-02-22.
PSA Activists' Meeting held at Nana Memorial Hall on 20-02-22.
PSA and Amnesty International South Africa public meeting held at Baitun Noor Hall in Lenasia 23-02-22.
Amnesty International South Africa, Afro-Middle East Centre, Centre for Mediation in Africa and DIRCO launch of the Amnesty International Report in South Africa held at the University of Pretoria on 24-02-22.
The Bench-Marks Foundation workshop on SLAPP suits held at Constitutional Hill on 16-02-22.
We are sad to say goodbye to Nasirah Kathrada who has been an important part of the PSA for many years. Her work has a poet and human rights activist and advocate is an inspiration to us all. We wish her the best of luck for her new journey in Turkey!
What comes next?
The month of March brings with it important events for Palestine. In March we will be mobilising with Palestine solidarity organisations globally for Israeli Apartheid Week from the 21st of March until the 4th of April. In order to stay up to date with IAW, keep an eye on our website for the events we are planning for the week.
A delegate from the PSA will also be attending the first Pan-African Palestine Solidarity Network conference set to be held in Senegal.
Apartheid Free Zones
One of the ways in which we can help further Palestinian liberation is to ensure that we do not put more money into the pockets of Israeli-owned businesses. Doing so will help you make your home an Apartheid Free Zone. As the people of a post-Apartheid country, it is important that we do not give Apartheid space in our homes. Your money has power. Being conscious about who owns specific products and what we buy helps us aid calls for boycotts. This month, we highlight Coca-Cola as a direct beneficiary of Apartheid.
Coca-Cola uses its business model to evade allegations of complicity in Israeli occupation. The reality, however, is that it is deeply intertwined in the ongoing occupation and violence against Palestinians. The Israeli-owned Central Bottling Company (CBC) is the exclusive distributor of Coca-Cola products in Israel. This relationship, from which both parties benefit, is hugely detrimental to the people of Palestine. CBC operates on illegally occupied land, in the Atarot settlement of East Jerusalem. They abuse their monopoly power and Israeli documentation to capture Palestinian markets and prevent competitors from trading on an equal footing. CBC has also been known to donate to far-right Israeli organisations who lobby for increased settlement and directly fund the IDF.
Make your home an Apartheid Free Zone by boycotting Coca-Cola and all products that benefit from the Zionist occupation of Palestinian land.