A protester and member of South Africa's ultra-left Economic Freedom Fighters party (EFF), carries a placard outside the Israeli embassy in Pretoria, South Africa.
(photo credit: SIPHIWE SIBEKO/REUTERS)
Over 26,000 South Africans have signed a petition in a bid to stop their government from its efforts to sever ties with Israel.
Signers of the petition, which was started by the South African Friends of Israel, “demand that the SA Government cease in its efforts to cut ties with the State of Israel, and further call to reinstate the SA Ambassador to Israel,” who was withdrawn from the country in the aftermath of the Gaza “March of Return” violence in which over 50 Hamas operatives were killed.
The petition was also initiated following concerns that the country’s ruling party, the African National Congress, would officially downgrade the South African Embassy in Israel – fulfilling a resolution it adopted at its party conference in December
“We, the undersigned, as representatives and members of civil society, political parties, religious institutions, schools and student groups from all corners of South Africa, hereby declare our support for continued relations between Israel and South Africa, and urge all South Africans to demand that the South African Government cease in its efforts to sever ties with the State of Israel and to reinstate the SA Ambassador to Israel,” the petition reads.
The petition explained that there are various interest groups including Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, the Arab League and organizations supporting BDS, that have aggressively lobbied the SA government to adopt the position of severing ties, while not offering virtually any credible solution other than a call for the annihilation of the State of Israel.
“The actions adopted by the SA government are patently flawed for many reasons and do not serve the interests of the South African population,” it said. “Such a move will be contrary to South African foreign policy which has always called for engagement with all parties to a conflict. This has been the consistent stance of the South African government in all conflicts in Africa and beyond, for the last 24 years.”
SA Friends of Israel further noted that efforts to downgrade the South African Embassy in Israel will have a deeply negative impact on the South African Christian community – around 44 million Christians – who make up the vast majority of the county’s pilgrims to the Holy Land. Such a move will likely precipitate a souring of relations and a corresponding response from Israel.
“A direct consequence of such a change in diplomatic relations with Israel will in addition violate South Africans’ constitutional rights with regards to freedom of movement, free choice and matters of faith,” the petition continued.
It added that other implications of the severing of ties include the economic impact on jobs, travel and tourism, and trade and investments, all of which will have a direct effect on South Africa and its people.
“We believe that South Africa has a moral obligation to support a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to distance itself from a radicalized position on Israel, which simply undermines any hope of a negotiated process and peaceful outcome,” it said.
Several signatories called the SA government “blinded by BDS” and “irrational.”
“Our Government is only thinking of themselves and there is no consideration of the people of SA,” wrote Gary Le Toit. “What we are currently experiencing will get... worse if we do this to this nation [Israel].”
“I am calling for a better relationship between South Africa and [the] Israeli Nation,” said Onodugo Ugochukwu.
Jessica Goldfinch commented that “Israel is many things, both good and bad. ‘Apartheid’ isn’t one of them, as is claimed by the BDS group. Please be a critical friend, not a separated one.”
Another signatory, Neville Prinsloo, called Israel the only “democracy in the dark Middle East. Without Israel, the world would be a much worse-off global community.”
“There are hundreds of Israeli’s doing very important work in South Africa,” he added.