A meeting of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations took place in Parliament this week to discuss and ratify the anti-Israel “Cape Town Declaration”. The committee hosted The Parliamentary Solidarity Conference in support of the peoples of Palestine, Western Sahara and Cuba on February 6. But many pundits have speculated that there was an ulterior political motive behind what portfolio chairman Tisetso Magama described as “the first of its kind in Parliament”.
Its approval last month by the Democratic Alliance (DA) caused much consternation with journalists Gareth van Onselen of Business Day asking “ “Has the DA abandoned its position on Israel?” and Ant Katz of the Jewish Report asking “ Is the ACDP Israel’s only SA political ally?” Both were pertinent questions given the anti-Semitic nature of the declaration and the DA not registering so much as a “whisper of opposition” endorsing the final, entirely pro-Palestinian declaration. This siding with Palestine, without qualification, van Onselen wrote, suggests the DA has now officially abandoned any onus it placed on Palestine to act with responsibility for its actions. The DA has since denied this.
The atmosphere in the meeting was described by Vivienne Myburgh, a Christian Zionist who attended the Conference, as very tense. She and others posed some very relevant questions from the public gallery during a short period they were given for comment.
Myburgh, who is anti-BDS, (boycott, disinvestment and sanctions) pointed out that Lebanon, Israel’s northern neighbour, legally bans Palestinians from owning property and working in most professions; that in Jordan, which she says is composed of 88 percent of Palestinians refugees, they do not enjoy the rights of citizens and that Kuwait expelled a quarter of a million Palestinians about which Yasser Arafat acknowledged that “what Kuwait did to us in 2005 is worse than what has been done by Israel” yet these states are not brought to censure.
ACDP MP Cheryllyn Dudley said yesterday (March 6) that the ACDP did not support the Committee Recommendations on the Solidarity Conference – yet the Recommendations adopted were a vast improvement on those made by the conference itself. “The adopted recommendations do not in fact add in any way to resolutions already adopted by Parliament – they do not make the situation better but they do not make it worse!”
The ACDP did however propose amendments to the Recommendations proposed by the ANC, one of which was accepted, the others rejected. The proposal – with the one amendment describing the participation at the conference – was then opposed by the ACDP and the DA with the IFP abstaining. The proposal then went to a vote with sevenANC members voting for the proposal, three opposition members voting against and the IFP abstaining.
Dudley makes the note that Section (a) of the adopted recommendations refers to previous resolutions passed in the committee in Nov 2013 when the DA supported the resolutions along with the ANC and all others except the ACDP who objected.
It is important to note that it was these resolutions – supported by all parties except the ACDP – that provided the authority for the committee to hold a solidarity conference and effectively prevented members from challenging such an event.
It is also worth noting that unlike the resolutions and suggestions made by the Solidarity Conference and expressed in the Cape Town Declaration – these recommendations are in line with previous resolutions and do not take the issue further or add anything new.
These are the recommendations on Palestine that were adopted and will be tabled in Parliament next week along with a Report on the Solidarity Conference.
(a) Recall and reaffirm House Resolutions …………… and …………..
(b) Reaffirm our commitment to the creation of a sovereign independent and viable Palestinian State, existing side by side and in peace with the State of Israel, within internally recognised borders based on those existing on 4 June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its Capital.
(c) Commend the UN General assembly for proclaiming 2014 as the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and support the decision to request the committee on the Exercise of Inalienable Rights to organise solidarity activities in cooperation with their UN governments, Parliaments, intergovernmental organisation and civil Society organisations throughout the world.
(d) Reiterate our support for a negotiated solution and express our hope and support for the current round of negotiations to deliver on the aspirations of the Palestine People.
(e) Continue to mobilise all sectors of the South African population behind the Palestinian cause.
(f) Support government’s decision to actively support Palestinian reconciliation and unity efforts.
(g) Continue to intensify solidarity efforts with the view of strengthening the Palestinian struggle against the illegal and brutal occupation.
The (rejected) ACDP proposal was:
(a) Reaffirm our commitment to the creation of a sovereign independent and viable Palestinian State, existing side by side and in peace with the State of Israel, within internally recognised borders based on those existing on 4 June 1967;
(b) Notes the UN General assembly proclaimed 2014 the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People;
(c) Reiterate our support for a negotiated solution and express our hope and support for the current round of negotiations to deliver on the aspirations of the Palestinian People;
(d) Support government’s decision to actively support Palestinian reconciliation and unity efforts;
(e) Notes recommendations made during the Solidarity Conference;
(f) Notes that DIRCO is drafting a document on the role SA will play in the Reconstruction and Development of Palestine;
(g) Commits to broad and inclusive Hearings on this document when submitted to Parliament.
It should be noted that the Department of International Relations (DIRCO) had informed the conference that a draft document on the role South Africa will play in the reconstruction of Palestine will be released for public comment in the near future.
The Report on the Solidarity Conference in support of Palestine, Western Sahara and Cuba held at parliament on Thursday, 6 February 2014 and the Committee Recommendations will be tabled in Parliament next week. While a debate is unlikely to be scheduled, Dudley says the ACDP will call for a declaration of vote which will ensure that Parties – that want to say something – will get the opportunity to speak to the Report and Recommendations at that time.
This is a sensitive issue for Christians, given that their Lord is King of the Jews and that Biblical curses are promised for those people and nations that curse the people of Abraham, Isaac and Israel.
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies says it is in the process of following up the matter with government and the various political parties involved. They conveyed outrage over what they regarded as a flagrant abuse of the Parliamentary process; “We will be seeking clarity as to how it was allowed to come about and what implications, if any, it has for South Africa’s policy regarding the Middle East question and its relations with the State of Israel”.