The historic launch of the Coalition for a Free Palestine (CfP) which took place Friday 28th September was a resounding success. Political parties, trade unions, faith based organisations, student movements and human rights groups spoke passionately about the freedom of Palestine; the CfP adopted a founding document, program of action and deceleration. Please see the declaration below:
28 September 2012
Johannesburg, South Africa
“The temptation in our situation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine to a state of their own. We can easily be enticed to read reconciliation and fairness as meaning parity between justice and injustice. Having achieved our own freedom, we can fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others face. Yet we would be less than human if we did so. It behoves all South Africans, themselves erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice. “
Nelson Mandela, 4 December 1997
We, South Africans comprising of various organisations and institutions have over the years acted in solidarity with the Palestinians who are living under Israeli Apartheid and have been dispossessed in various waves of ethnic cleansing;
Gathered at Cosatu House, the headquarters of our country’s largest federation of trade unions, in Johannesburg on 28th September 2012;
Deeply conscious of the limitations of our society’s transformations and the long walk that our country still has to undertake towards a more just life for all, free from poverty, economic exploitation, sexism, racism and xenophobia;
Fully aware of the interconnectedness of all human suffering and the debt of solidarity that we owe each other and firmly believing that an injury to one, is an injury to all;
Rejecting the patent untruths of imperialism that this is a dispute by religious groups and those that attempt to set themselves up as honest brokers;
Expressing grave concern at the contravention of the UN resolutions and breach of international humanitarian law;
1. Apartheid Israel’s ongoing collective punishment of Palestinians through the occupation and siege of Gaza;
2. The occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the continued construction of the illegal Apartheid Wall and e.g. the equally illegal and repugnant resettlement policies, eviction of families and communities, the demolition of homes and villages and land grab;
3. The contempt for the will of the Palestinian people displayed by Israel, the US, Canada, the EU and others after the free and open Palestinian elections of 2006;
4. The war crimes committed by apartheid Israel during the invasion of Gaza in 2009, and the 2010 massacre;
5. The continuing discrimination and repression faced by Palestinians within apartheid Israel;
6. The continued exile of millions of Palestinian refugees;
7. The knowledge that many governments have given and continue to provide apartheid Israel direct economic, financial, military and diplomatic support and allow it to behave with impunity;
8. The role of various institutions of global governance in obstructing diplomatic efforts by Palestinians towards their liberation;
9. The role of governments and multi-national corporations, in cooperation with apartheid Israel, in the plundering of Palestinian land and natural resources as well as entrenching apartheid, masquerading these as assistance to the Palestinian people.
Reaffirm our commitment to:
1. Palestinian self-determination
2. Ending the occupation
3. Oblige apartheid Israel to end complete disregard of UN and regional resolutions
4. Equal rights for all within historic Palestine
5. The full right of return for Palestinian refugees
6. The United Palestinian call of July 2005 for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel
7. Ending imperialism and support the prosecution of perpetrators of violations of Palestinian rights
Deeply aware of how our own suffering under apartheid and colonialism was reduced by those opposed to our freedom to a dispute between Black and White people;
Asserting that even-handedness between oppressed and oppressor is escapism, acquiescence, cowardice at the very least and, at worst, complicity;
Immensely indebted to the international community – particularly those from the Frontline Countries in Southern Africa, the Non-Aligned movement and the numerous solidarity formations in Europe, North America and elsewhere who threw their lot in with the oppressed South African people despite their governments’ overwhelming support for the apartheid regime;
Respectful of the observations that the veterans and leaders of our own liberation struggle who have spoken of the daily persecution and humiliation of Palestinians in the shadow of Apartheid Israel; some of these observations include:
Israel’s policy towards her neighbouring Arab states clearly unmasks the true nature and character of the regime in Tel Aviv. It is this blatant arrogance, this open aggressiveness towards her neighbours and the ruthless oppression and exploitation of the Arab people of Palestine which compares Israel more and more to apartheid South Africa. The essence is that under the influence of exclusive nationalist ideologies both Afrikaner nationalists and Israeli Zionists, think and act towards the indigenous majorities in their countries and towards their neighbouring states with the callous inhumanity of all who consider others to be of “inferior races” and less human. (Alfred Nzo, Post-Apartheid SA’s first Foreign Minister)
I never tire of speaking about the very deep distress in my visits to the Holy Land; they remind me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa.I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like we did when young white police officers prevented us from moving about. My heart aches. (Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Winner)
The left and progressive forces need to intensive struggles against racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of xenophobia as critical components of the struggle against the depredations of capitalism and imperialism. Most critically we call upon all left forces globally to intensive solidarity activities with the Palestinian people and their just struggle, and to pressure particularly European governments and the US to facilitate a just solution to the Palestinian and other Middle East problems. (Blade Nzimande, Secretary General of the South African Communist Party and Minister of Higher Education)
Many aspects of Israel’s occupation surpass those of the apartheid regime. Israel’s large-scale destruction of Palestinian homes, levelling of agricultural lands, military incursions and targeted assassinations of Palestinians far exceed any similar practices in apartheid South Africa. No wall was ever built to separate blacks and whites. (Professor John Dugard. Special Rapporteur on Palestine to the United Nations Human Rights Council)
It is perhaps the most pressing moral and ethical challenge of our time, in this the opening years of the 21st Century, that all of us in this world who are fortunate enough to be free should express our total support and solidarity with the Palestinian people in this hour of perhaps their greatest suffering and need but at the same time a period where their infinite and unconquerable courage and determination shines through. They will achieve their right to self-determination and join the liberated and independent nations of this world. They will survive and win and be able to contribute their great talents and energy in helping us all build a more prosperous and just world for this and future generations. I place myself unreservedly in the camp of all those who believe that justice for Palestine means peace, security and justice for all in the Holy Land be they Christians, Jews, Muslims or non-believers, be they Israelis or Palestinians. This is a just cause which should be supported by the entire international community, by all governments and people of whatever origin, with the same passion that enabled the anti-apartheid movement to see the birth of a non-racist, non-sexist, inclusive democratic South Africa. (Ronnie Kasrills, Former Leader of our country’s Liberation Army, Mkhonto we Sizwe and former Minister of Water Affairs and Intelligence)
I support a similar call for sanctions against the state of Israel as we had against Apartheid South Africa – Absolutely! Pressure, pressure, pressure from every side and in as many ways as possible: trade sanctions, economic sanctions, financial sanctions, banking sanctions, sports sanctions, cultural sanctions; I’m talking from our own experience. In the beginning we had very broad sanctions and only late in the 1980s did we learn to have targeted sanctions. So you must look to see where the Israelis are most vulnerable; where is the strongest link to the outside community? And you must have strong international solidarity; that’s the only way it will work. You have to remember that for years and years and years when we built up the sanctions campaign it was not with governments in the West. They came on board very, very late. (Professor Allan Boesak, Former Patron of the United Democratic Front)
Our role as activists in the face of what President Nelson Mandela called the greatest moral issue of our time is to raise our voices and mobilise others to stand united in solidarity with the oppressed masses of Palestine and others in the world. For to echo Che Guevara ‘as long as there is a single human being in the world suffering under the yoke of oppression, our struggle cannot be over. (Marius Fransman, Deputy Minister, Department of International Relations and Cooperation)
The occupation wall that the Israeli army has built and continues to build cuts through Palestinian land, separating farmers from their farms. Palestinian farmers experience the daily torture of trying to get to their farms. They have to go through checkpoints that are opened and closed at unpredictable times to tend their olive trees. Many times they are not allowed to and they watch through the barbed wire as their olive trees die – as they and their families get reduced to poverty. (Pregs Govender, SA Human Rights Commissioner)
Clearly, apartheid was a well-planned and oiled machine of racial segregation, designed from the very beginning to oppress, exploit and dehumanise Black South Africans, especially Black workers and the Black working class. While there are a number of differences between the situation of Black South African workers and Palestinian workers, the oppression and exploitation faced by the Black South African working class and the Palestinian working class resemble each other in many respects, while the Israeli Jewish working class resembles the White labour aristocracy in South Africa. (Zwelinzima Vavi, General Secretary of Congress of South African Trade Unions)
Renew our commitment to act in solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians inside the occupied territories, in the diaspora and within the Zionist state of Israel;
1. The founding principles, organisational structure, and coordination for an effective Coalition for a Free Palestine (CFP)
2. Implement a sustained programme of action and solidarity activities in support of Palestine. We particularly pledge our support to the following practical programmes/campaign actions:
2.1. Build mass education, research, and monitoring capacity for strengthening our campaign actions in support of the cause of the Palestinian people.
2.2. Build an international anti-apartheid movement against Israel with a specific focus on our region and the African continent;
2.3. Establish networked links and specific campaign actions with Palestinian organisations in the Occcupied Territories, inside apartheid Israel and the Palestinian diaspora particularly those in refugee camps;
2.4. Mainstream Israel as an apartheid state and expose Israel’s apartheid policies and practices;
2.5. Take stock of, raise the profile of, and build support for the Palestinian cause in all national, regional, continental and international fora;
2.6. Actively respond to and support the call from virtually all of Palestinian civil society for a Boycott of Israel in the broadest possible manner, Disinvestment from companies which deal with Israel and advancing sanctions against the Israeli regime (BDS);
2.7. Challenge the increasing use of the Israeli lobby and others (albeit in ignorance) in using the Bible, the Christian faith and religiosity in the service of apartheid; and support the prophetic (Palestinian) religious leadership – Christian, Muslim and Jewish – who, in the words of the Kairos Palestine Document poignantly remind us that “The injustice against the Palestinian people which is the Israeli occupation, is an evil that must be resisted.”
2.8. Launch a media offensive that highlights the plight of the Palestinian people under occupation and apartheid and exposes the media for their unbalanced coverage of the Palestinian question and the deliberate distortion of information relating to the struggle of the Palestinian people.
3. Continue to build the relationship between the various formations comprising the CFP and to welcome new organisations wishing to join the CFP.
4. Create public awareness around the CFP and its solidarity Program of Action
5. Build links with and support the work and programmes of other solidarity movements in order to give meaning to our belief that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere
Call upon our government to immediately end the trade with companies complicit in the Israeli Occupation and Settlements, to terminate diplomatic relations with the State of Israel until it abides by international law and to continue its support for Palestinian self-determination.
In fulfilling our objectives we undertake to adhere to the following guiding principles:
1. We derive our legitimacy from the people in whose name we are waging or supporting this struggle, the Palestinians themselves;
2. Subscribe to the principle of consultation, transparency, accountability and honesty in carrying out support work, raising resources, and advancing progressive views on the issues around Palestine’
3. Recognise the independence of individual organisations making up the Coalition, respecting our differences yet being a common voice built around the needs and aspirations of the Palestinian people;
4. Respect for each other’s organisations and structures and the leadership of the Palestinian people’s organisations engaged in the liberation struggle.
5. Open and frank, yet comradely, critical engagement on issues of principle and views relating to activities to advance the Palestinian struggle;
6. Prioritise the needs of the people and organisations directly involved in the liberation struggle of Palestine;
7. Recognise and affirm the right of the Palestinian people to resist their oppression and fight for their freedom and respect their means of doing so.
8. While rejecting with contempt the attempts to equate criticisms of Israel as anti-Semitism, or all Jewish people with Zionists, we oppose all forms of discrimination – including anti-Semitism and xenophobia – which sully our vision of a world wherein the dignity of all human beings are respected.
10. Play our role in mobilising and participating in a coordinated international anti-apartheid movement such as the movement that assisted us in our liberation from apartheid with a special focus on Southern Africa and the rest of the continent.
Issued by Dr Stiaan van der Merwe, CfP National Working Committee Member and Tahir Sema, CfP National Working Committee Member and Convenor, October 1 2012