Joint Statement by South African Palestine Solidarity Movement and COSATU

We salute the gallant and heroic actions of over 1,400 people from around the world – especially the South African delegation – who went to Cairo to embark on the historic Gaza Freedom March (GFM). The South African delegation truly represented the revolutionary and humanitarian character of our country even when faced with the harassment and intimidation of the Egyptian police and military. They have helped us recognise that standing firm against the Apartheid state of Israel and its Egyptian collaborators enhances our common purpose of building a more just world.

From 27 December 2008 until 18 January 2009 Israel launched a massive offensive against Gaza, resulting in the massacre of more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians. These attacks came after almost a year of a strangling siege of Gaza which continues for more than two years. This blockade denies the people of Gaza access to basic necessities, commodities, medicines, medical equipment, and reconstruction material. Additionally, the movement of people into and out of Gaza is seriously curtailed. This is a flagrant violation of international law, and an attack on basic human rights.

The Gaza Freedom March, set to take place in December 2009 to commemorate the Gaza offensive and to march with the people of Gaza to break the inhuman siege. Given that more than 1,400 civilians were killed in Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, 1,400 peace activists from 43 countries, including 16 South Africans, converged to call for the end of the siege.

The delegation was made up of activists from the range of Palestine solidarity groups in South Africa, trade union officials from COSATU and its affiliates, journalists, and was led by Judge Siraj Desai.

On the eve of the Gaza Freedom March the police state of Egypt, with the aid of United States Military Engineers, would construct a steel wall to close the tunnels which remain the only way to bypass the siege and get basic necessities into Gaza. Egypt also declared that the Rafah Border Crossing would be closed for an indefinite period and that marchers would not be allowed to even get to the border town of Al-Arish. In this divisive context we applaud our delegation for keeping the 1,400 delegates focused and united and for rejecting the “concession” by Egypt to allow  only 100 delegates to enter Gaza. The “All or None” stand by the marchers is reminiscent of our own experiences in the liberation struggle. Furthermore, we commend our delegation for standing firm in the call to end the siege on Gaza, despite the constant harassment and police intimidation that followed them throughout Cairo.

The experience of our delegation confirms that Egypt is an undemocratic, military state. We strongly condemn the totalitarian manner in which the Egyptian state operates. We condemn the inhumanity displayed by imprisoning the Palestinian population of Gaza and then refusing vital aid from entering this enclave. We strongly condemn the delaying of and the subsequent police assault on the volunteers of the Viva Palestina Convoy. In light of this repression we call on civil society to consider isolating Egypt which is nothing less than an oppressive surrogate state of the United States and a partner of Israel.

Israel continues to expand its colonisation project in Palestine with new settlement construction, despite international calls for this to be halted. South African Zionists continue calling on Jews to emigrate to Israel and the settlements (all of which are illegal under international law). More than this is the clear evidence presented in the Gaza Docket drafted by the South African solidarity movement that South Africans are serving in the Israeli Defence Forces which continue their genocidal assault on the Palestinian people. We call on the National Directorate of Public Prosecution to seriously investigate these complaints and to use the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act to prosecute South Africans who serve Apartheid Israel and to charge those in the Israeli government and military for the War Crimes and crimes against humanity which they continue to commit with impunity as evidenced in the Goldstone Report.

We endorse the Cairo Declaration as signed by our delegates on Friday, 1 January 2010, whose first signatory is Hedy Epstein, an 86-year old Holocaust survivor. We note that the Cairo Declaration has inspired us to further strengthen and sustain the International Anti-Apartheid Movement against Israel, which was launched at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban in 2001, and which we actively support. Included in this is the call for the boycott of Israeli products, divestment from Israel and comprehensive sanctions to be imposed on this rogue state.

We commit ourselves to intensifying the struggle against Apartheid Israel by embarking on a series of activities to implement the call in the Cairo Declaration, especially by:

* ensuring that we mobilise global public opinion to recognise Israel as an Apartheid state;
* isolating Apartheid Israel as Apartheid South Africa was isolated;
* strengthening the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign in South Africa as called for by Palestinian civil society;
* joining with comrades around the world in a concerted effort to end the blockade of Gaza and the occupation of Palestine;
* working tirelessly and using the full might of our law to bring to book those South Africans who join the Israeli Defence Forces and those Israelis who have committed war crimes; and
* engaging the full spectrum of South African civil society to support these actions.

Media contact persons

Bongani Masuku:   079 499 6419

Haroon Wadee:      083 453 8745

Savera Kalideen:    071 227 0939

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