A leading Palestinian peace activist has called for South Africa to back off the Middle East.
While South Africans marked the beginning of Israeli Apartheid Week through various activities, Palestinian peace activist Bassem Eid on Monday urged the South African government and its people not to get involved in the Israeli-Palestine conflict.
Eid, a founder of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, was critical of South Africans, saying there was little doubt they were “pro-Palestine”.
Solving the conflict between Hamas and Fatah, the two rival groups in Palestine, was “probably much easier to achieve than the Israeli-Palestine conflict”.
South African pro-Palestinian group the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement boycotted Woolworths late last year over the retailer’s trade agreements with Israeli suppliers.
This, Eid said, was an act he would never support. “That would mean I am calling for the starving of my own people … Israel is still feeding us in the West Bank and Gaza.”
He said he did not think BDS had any idea what Palestinians were going through. “I don’t think they have any kind of information how the Palestinians are living in the West Bank … I think these people (BDS) are causing damage to the Palestinian society.”
Student movements at the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Pretoria, trade union federation Cosatu, the ANC Youth League and families of South
African anti-apartheid icons – including Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada and Beyers Naude – recognised Israeli Apartheid Week through a show of support for the Palestinians.
Eid was speaking at a media conference in Parktown, Johannesburg. BDS South Africa spokesperson Muhammed Desai has described Eid as a “sell-out”, saying he is no different from poli-ticians such as Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Lucas Mangope during the apartheid era. He said a majority of Palestinians supported their action as it was a “short-term harm for a long-term benefit”.
Israeli Apartheid Week started yesterday and will run until March 8.