Peaceful protests in Pretoria, Cape Town over government’s Israel labelling plans

Pro-Israel protesters in Pretoria on their way to the Department of Trade and Industry.

Political, church and pro-Israeli groups joined in peaceful protest marches in Pretoria on Thursday (June 28) and Cape Town on Friday (June 29) to oppose the proposal by Trade and Industry Minister, Dr Rob Davies, to label goods originating from Israel as made in “Occupied Palestinian Territories”.

In Pretoria several hundred protesters — mainly members of the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) and the Inkatha Freedom Party, but also including representatives of Impact for Christ Ministries, the Shembe Church of Gauteng,  the Institute for Christian Leadership Development, Hebraic Roots Training Institute, Bridges for Peace, Congo for Peace,  Biafran National Congress and ChristianView Network — marched to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) where ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe and  IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi handed over a memorandum to Macdonald Netshitenzhe, director of the DTI’s consumer and corporate regulation division.

According to a report in Pretoria News a handful of anti-Israeli protesters were present to voice their support for the notice which Davies has previously said was aimed at ensuring that products from Occupied Palestinian Territory were correctly labeled so that South African consumers could decide for themselves as to whether they wanted to purchase them.

More than 100 protesters, from the ACDP, together with individuals, churches and Christian and Jewish groups, participated in a demonstration outside Parliament in Cape Town on Friday.

According to an ACDP press release, ACDP Member of Parliament, Steve Swart, accepted a jointly-issued memorandum from the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (SA), Bridges for Peace South Africa, Transformation Africa and various other organisations, which was handed respectively to the ACDP and a representative of the Department of Trade and Industry.

In accepting the memorandum, Swart said: “Parliament exercises oversight over all actions by the executive and we parliamentarians will definitely be monitoring the process regarding the proposed issue of this notice 379 of 2012 by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Davies, very closely.

“In this regard I also undertake also to ensure that a copy of this memorandum is forwarded to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry.

“I wish to briefly state what ACDP leader Dr Kenneth Meshoe has said on this issue.  ‘As friends and supporters of Israel, we believe that this request by Open Shehuda Street represents the views of only a tiny segment of South African society. We question the disproportionate influence on the Minister, of lobby groups whose stated aims are to enforce a regime of boycotts and sanctions against Israel. Notice 379 of 2012 has no intent to promote peace and unfairly targets Israel. Today we gather here to call on Minister Rob Davies to withdraw the notice.’

In a press release Swart says that IFP president, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi has also stated that the IFP opposes the proposed notice by saying: “There is no legal basis in our law or in international law to support this requirement… Imposing this labelling requirement is detrimental to our national interests, to our trade relations, our economic growth and employment generation.”

The ACDP press release records Swart’s message to protesters outside parliament yesterday. He said: “Just as much as we in parliament can hold Minister Davies accountable for the actions of the executive, you as voters can hold parliamentarians accountable for their actions on this important issue.  I would urge you to do so.

“We join all organisations in praying and working for a peaceful resolution to the challenges in the Middle East. South Africa, with its history and example of peaceful resolution can play a meaningful role in assisting in bringing peace to the Middle East. We have diplomatic ties with Israel and recognise its sovereignty. Yet our government makes no effort to conceal the fact that it supports the Palestinian cause. One seldom hears an unbiased statement in Parliament. We would urge the government to desist from taking sides if it truly wishes to assist in resolving issues in the Middle East.

 

“This notice exemplifies again that the government is unnecessarily taking sides.  Why single Israel out for special attention. What about other disputed territories, such as goods from the Western Sahara which is occupied by Morocco – what about Indonesian goods made in West Papua New Guinea – what about the Kashmir disputed territory between India and Pakistan and lastly what about Chinese goods made in Tibet?

“The EU in defining ways in which anti-semitism manifests itself states that one such manifestation is “applying double standards by requiring of Israel behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”  Is this proposed notice not a classic example of such double standards?

“The ACDP believes unambiguously that those who bless Israel will be blessed and those that curse Israel will be cursed.

“Thank you again for being here today and God bless.”

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