It has become necessary to clarify the circumstances surrounding last week’s interaction between the ANC and a visiting Israeli politician.
Misinformation continues to be circulated on social and traditional media platforms that ascribe some sort of special status to what was, in fact, an unplanned, unscheduled chance encounter.
Regrettably, the Israeli embassy in South Africa has described the meeting as “interministerial” in its media releases and on its social media. This was not the case.
Last week a delegation from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies visited the ANC’s Johannesburg head offices. They were accompanied by the Israeli minister for regional co-operation, Tzachi Hanegbi, as well as the new Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Lior Keinan.
A task team established in line with the organisation’s normal operational imperatives happened to be meeting in the building at the same time to prepare for the ANC’s national conference in December.
These included recommendations made in relation to the possible downgrading or shutdown of the South African embassy in Israel or, alternatively, the preservation of the status quo.
A last-minute request was made by the visiting delegation to meet the international relations task team.
The ANC reiterated its support for a free Palestine and for an end to the illegal and unjust occupation of all Palestinian land. This is not an ANC position that is articulated behind closed doors — it is well known and is both principled and consistent.
It was put to the delegation that only the ANC’s national conference in December could take a final resolution on the matter. The delegation was advised that they could submit written inputs to the task team for the ANC national conference on this issue as well as on other matters.
It is mischievous to infer that this engagement implies that the ANC’s support for the Palestinian cause is wavering.
Former ANC president Nelson Mandela rightly called the Palestinian struggle “the greatest moral issue of our time” and the organisation has throughout its history affirmed its support for Palestinian aspirations for an independent state along the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
At the 53rd national conference of the ANC, the party noted: “The ANC is unequivocal in its support for the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination, and unapologetic in its view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel.”
The ANC policy on Palestine, which is being operationalised by the South African government, is in support of the two-state solution and is steadfast in its opposition to the illegal occupation of Palestinian land, land seizures, detentions without trial and extrajudicial killings, and to the expansion of settlements, especially in the occupied West Bank.
The ANC has consistently spoken out and will continue to speak out against what the 2007 Polokwane conference resolution called “a systematic policy of colonial expansion, ethnic cleansing and military occupation of the most brutal kind, which as South Africans we readily recognise from our own experience of apartheid”.
The ANC remains committed to playing a constructive role in the Middle East peace process and, as such, reaffirms the need to engage, directly if need be, with actors across the political spectrum in both Israel and Palestine — mainly through government.
Our government, through the department of international relations and co-operation, has consistently called for a just and lasting solution to the Israel-Palestine question and has engaged the parties through the president’s special envoys.
Our government furthermore continues to emphasise its commitment to multilateralism to ensure lasting peace and security in the region.
We have, since 1994, played a role in supporting peace efforts by, among other things, “sharing our negotiating experience, supporting capacity building and institutions-strengthening in Palestine itself, providing humanitarian assistance through support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and facilitating inter-Palestinian dialogue” .
In the words of Albert Luthuli at the opening of the 42nd conference of the ANC in 1953: “Our interest in freedom is not confined to ourselves only. We are interested in the liberation of all oppressed people in the whole of Africa and in the world as a whole … our active interest in the extension of freedom to all people denied it makes us ally ourselves with freedom forces in the world.”
The ANC will continue to intensify our solidarity efforts in line with our principled position on Palestine.
It is in the best interests of both peoples that an urgent and lasting solution be found to end a protracted conflict that has endured for far too long.
That we should engage with political actors across the divide cannot be taken to mean that our support for the Palestinians is any less.
Edna Molewa is chairperson of the ANC’S international relations subcommittee