Hundreds of South Africans protested in solidarity with Palestine on Saturday to mark Nakba Day, or Catastrophe Day — 73 years of Palestinian occupation – and demanded the government cut ties with Israel.
“The South African government has a distinct moral and legal responsibility to take urgent steps to shut down apartheid Israel’s Embassy; prevent El Al Air from operating at OR Tambo International Airport,” Iqbal Jassat, an executive at the Media Review Network advocacy group, told Anadolu Agency.
Jassat said South Africa should urge the African Union to immediately convene and resolve to take measures to abandon all “normalization” measures with Israel on the continent.
Motorcades filled with supporters drove through Johannesburg to a rallying point with chants of “Free, free Palestine,” while some waved signs and Palestinian flags. There were also protests in the capital, Pretoria, and the eastern town of Port Elizabeth.
South African author Suraya Dadoo appealed to the government and the international community to take tough action against Israel.
“As long as Israel only sees words of condemnation and no actions to back up these words then it’s going to continue with its violence against Palestinians with its apartheid practices,” she said in an interview.
Dadoo said for far too long, the world has seen UN resolutions, appeals, letters of condemnation but the international community is not acting.
“It’s about time that Israel faces real tangible consequences for its actions. As long as there are no consequences, boycotts, sanctions, divestments, then that is a green light for Israel to continue with policies and it will be business as usual,” she said.
Human rights organization, #Africa4Palestine, which lends solidarity and support to Palestinians, said in a statement emailed to Anadolu Agency that it joined the South African government in condemning the barbaric attacks on Palestine.
“Our message to the Palestinian people is that your pain is our pain, and that we are with you,” wrote Director Muhammed Desai.
He said Palestinians should know that there are nationwide protests and actions taking place in South Africa on Nakba Day.
“Just as we received our freedom, likewise the Palestinian people, we are confident, will also be liberated,” he said.
South Africa strongly condemned the “barbaric” Israeli attacks on Palestinians earlier this week in a statement.
“Israel’s actions are in stark violation of international law, and a total disregard of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions, (UNSC) including Resolutions 446 (1979) and 2334 (2016) which explicitly call for an end to Israeli occupation and the fulfillment of the rights of the Palestinian people, including to self-determination and independence,” the government said Friday.
It denounced attacks on Palestinian protesters at Al-Aqsa Mosque and the unlawful evictions of Palestinians from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem to make way for Israeli settlements.
The statement demanded that Israel “stop the barbaric attacks on Palestinians and commit itself to international efforts aimed at reviving a political process, leading to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.”
Observed annually on May 15, Nakba Day marks the 1948 forced expulsion of nearly 800,000 Palestinians from their homes in historical Palestine to neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.