The ANC has declared 2017 as the Year of OR Tambo.
The name of Tambo has become synonymous with international solidarity. He is a central figure of the South African struggle as is Yasser Arafat to the Palestinian struggle.
It was Tambo, during his tenure as the president of the ANC, who increasingly ensured that in every international forum he advocated the liberation struggle of other nations.
He, more than any other leader, highlighted the plight and struggles of nations that were still under the yoke of colonial domination and oppression.
The struggle of the Palestinian people was not an exception to that notion of international solidarity.
And here we are reminded by what he said in 1979: “The PLO in Palestine and the ANC in South Africa represent a future that is not anti-colonial but anti-imperialist as well. These liberation movements are the midwives of the future which will be characterised by the transfer of power to the people.”
Fast forward years later and South Africa has seen the dawn of democracy, yet the Palestinian struggle rages on, even more fierce than ever before.
The viciousness and inhumanity with which the Israeli regime handles the resistance of the Palestinian to oppression has not abated – it now seem to be on steroids.
The ANC has been very steadfast and consistent in its support for the Palestinian cause. At various times and in various forums, the voice of the ANC in its support of and solidarity with the Palestinian people never got muted.
There is no single president of the ANC in recent times who has not commented about the struggle of the Palestinian people.
Nelson Mandela said in 1990: “If one has to refer to any of the parties as a terrorist state, one might refer to the Israeli government, because they are the people who are slaughtering defenceless and innocent Arabs in the occupied (Palestinian) territories and we don’t regard that as acceptable.”
In 2002 Thabo Mbeki said: “The rulers of Israel are repeating the costly mistakes made by the captains of apartheid in our country.”
It was Jacob Zuma who as recently as 2012 said: “We stand with the people of Palestine as they strive to turn a new leaf in their struggle for their right to self-determination. The expansion of Israeli settlements into Palestinian territories is a serious stumbling block to the resolution of the conflict.”
Both the 52nd Polokwane and 53rd Mangaung national conferences of the ANC proffered clear resolutions of the Palestinian Question.
The Polokwane national conference stated in part: “The 60th anniversary of the Palestinian catastrophe known as the Nakba, which resulted in the dispossession of Palestinian lands and their birthright through a systematic policy of colonial expansion, ethnic cleansing and military occupation off the most brutal kind, which as South Africans we readily recognise from our own experience of apartheid.”
And “that given our own experience in our liberation struggle, we as South Africans know the force of an international solidarity campaign in bringing to bear on an oppressive regime to force it into real negotiations and a just solution”.
The Mangaung national conference reiterated the same matter as follows: “The ANC is unequivocal in its support for the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination and unapologetic in its view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel.”
And that “the ANC calls on all South African to support the programmes and campaigns of the Palestinian civil society which seeks to put pressure on Israel to engage with the Palestinian people to reach a just solution”.
The ANC fourth national general council in 2015 stated in its recommendation that: “The ANC pursues peace and democracy in the Middle East, including the liberation of the people of Palestine.
“In this regard, we must continually review South Africa’s relations with the state of Israel and encourage disengagement on programmes and activities that may impact on our solidarity with the people of Palestine.”
The struggle of the women in Palestine is part and parcel of the struggle for national liberation against the occupying force of the Israeli regime.
The struggle itself has produced some great women who were born of struggle to break away from the shackles of the occupying force of the Israelis. We dip our revolutionary banner to women like Leila Khaled and Hanan Ashrawi who became part and parcel of the struggle despite all patriarchal impediments. The ANC hosted Leila Khaled when she came to South Africa in 2015 and her stature as a revolutionary has hardly diminished with the passage of time.
Israeli occupation has undermined the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and has thus impeded the development of a Palestinian constitution. As a result the Palestinian women have been unable to use the legal realm as means of gaining rights.
The liberal paradigm wants to delink the issues of patriarchy from the national liberation discourse. This problem is particularly acute within international women’s organisations. International women’s NGOs give funding to further Palestinian women’s rights and gender equality issues without recognising the link between Palestinian patriarchy and Israeli occupation.
Dependence by the Palestinians on international donors has brought with it unintended consequences of allowing a de-linking between the feminist struggles and national struggles of Palestinian women.
Concern has to be raised that the US continues to support the hegemonic narrative of Israel masquerading as the victims of the conflict.
With the support of the US, the Israeli regime has continued with its abhorrent policy of collective punishment which has seen numerous innocent civilians being victimised through association. Israel must stop this policy.
We call on all structures of the Mass Democratic Movement to support efforts by BDS to put pressure to bear on Israel to recognise the rights of the Palestinian to self-determination.
This is an edited and shortened version of a speech delivered at Stellenbosch University as part of the annual #IsraeliAparthedWeek by Nomvula Mokonyane, ANC national executive committee member and South Africa’s Minister of Water and Sanitation