Open Letter to the ANC and DIRCO regarding the South African Embassy in Israel
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A Brief Summary of our Petition
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This petition was originally directed to the African National Congress (ANC) ahead of its 54th National Conference which took place from 16-20 December 2017 in Johannesburg.
Part of the draft resolutions tabled at this conference included proposals from the ANC International Relations Commission which made two recommendations: #1 To downgrade South Africa's Embassy in Israel and #2 To completely shut down South Africa's Embassy in Israel. To our utter dismay, the ANC adopted resolution #1 which called for the unconditional downgrade of the South African Embassy in Israel and thus escalating the decision to adopt and implement this resolution to the ANC led South African government, in particular, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in early 2018.
We are aware that various interest groups including but not limited to Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, the Arab League and organisations such as Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) have aggressively lobbied the ANC to adopt this resolution even though, practically all of them, cannot table any credible peaceful solution other than to call for the complete annihilation of the State of Israel.
It is instructive that the ANC allowed itself to be persuaded by foreign entities and failed to consider the views and wishes of the South African population that it should represent.
It is further distressing to note that the adoption of this resolution seems to be, in part, a retaliatory response to US President Donald Trump's decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of the State of Israel and proposed relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The resolution adopted by the ANC is patently flawed for many reasons and does not serve the interests of the South African population.
Principal amongst those reasons is that such a move would be contrary to South African and ANC foreign policy which calls for engagement with all parties to a conflict. This has been the consistent stance of both the ANC and South African government in all conflicts in Africa and beyond. All we expected the ANC to do, was to treat the Arab-Israel conflict in a manner that is consistent with its foreign policy principles rather than cave-in to external pressure from organisation which do not seek an enduring peaceful solution.
We are mindful that our democracy in South Africa was heralded by negotiations between the then South African government and liberation organisations such as the ANC as highlighted by the historic CODESA sessions.
We note that the South African government will resume full diplomatic relations with Morocco despite the ongoing conflict with Western Sahara as diplomatic missions afford countries means to communicate and resolve matters.
We note further that this resolution to downgrade the South African Embassy in Israel will only have a negative impact on the South African Christian community (around 44 million Christians) and who make up the No 1 pilgrims to the Holy Land. Such a move could precipitate a souring of relations with a corresponding response from Israel. The consequence of such a change in diplomatic relations with Israel may necessitate that South Africans travel to the nearest Embassy of Israel in Kenya which would cause severe financial hardship to prospective pilgrims who wish to exercise their constitutional rights with regards to freedom of movement and matters of faith.
This petition does not address the specific issues of conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians as such discussions must ultimately take place between the affected parties but rather our focus is on the ANC and South African government dealing with and treating the State of Israel in a manner that is consistent with all other nations.
We thus urge you to sign this petition and forward to friends, family and collegaues so that we can all stand in agreement.
Please find the complete Open Letter here below:
OPEN LETTER TO THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS
- The President of the ANC, Jacob Zuma;
- The Deputy President of the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa;
- The National Chairperson of the ANC, Baleka Mbete;
- The Secretary-General of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe;
- The National Executive Committee of the ANC;
- The NEC Subcommittee on International Relations;
- The ANC International Relations Commission and
- ANC Voting Delegates representing the provinces.
Dear fellow Africans
Peace and greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. We also greet you as children of the African soil and it is in our capacity as concerned Christian leaders from various countries in the African continent that we address you just days ahead of the ANC’s 54th National Conference.
Firstly, allow us to wish you a peaceful and productive national conference as you wrestle with matters that affect the ANC, South Africa, the African continent and beyond. May God grant you courage, wisdom and unity in your deliberations.
This ANC conference takes place at an important time in the history of South Africa and the African continent where we all seek to find lasting solutions to the crippling challenges that face our great continent that range from poverty, unemployment, health, water, energy and conflict.
Aside from these weighty issues, there are two grave matters that weigh heavily on our collective mind and we write to implore you to give further consideration to them both.
1. Arab Slave Trade of Africans
Many of us are acutely aware of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade to the Americas which took place between the 16th and 19th Century and saw between 10 to 12 million of our ancestors sold to slavery. Less is said however, about the devastating effects of slave trade on Africa. “The depopulation and a continuing fear of captivity made economic and agricultural development almost impossible whilst a large percentage of the people taken captive were women in their childbearing years and young men who normally would have been starting families.”
Even less is reported about Arab slave trade of Africans which predates European slave trade by about 700 years and took place through the Trans-Sahara or Indian Ocean routes. This slave trade occurred mostly between A.D 650 and 1900 and historians place the number of Africans enslaved by Arab slave traders at over 20 million and this often involved eunuchs where boys between the age of 8 and 12 were sold as castrated male slaves.
What is particularly troubling to note is that this barbaric practise of treating Africans as sub-human still continues in parts of North Africa. We are aware of news from credible international reports and documentaries about Africans being ransomed, enslaved and having their organs harvested for sale on the black market in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula from around 2011. The most recent reports relate to slave auctions of Africans in Libya that were reported by the American media outlet, CNN.
It is not enough to register disgust and voice objection to this horror and we therefore entreat you to demand complete cessation of this cruelty and accountability by the culpable countries and members of the Arab League through diplomatic channels and the African Union. We cannot stand idly by whilst our people are traded as commodities in the 21st Century by those who pretend to be our brothers.
2. Downgrade/Closure of the South African Embassy in Israel
We have noted the Report of the ANC’s 5th National Policy Conference held earlier this year and in particular the recommendations from the International Relations Commission with regards to the various areas of conflict within the African continent and beyond.
We are acutely aware and appreciative of the fact that the ANC remains seized with Continental and International Solidarity and note further the following:
- That since 1994, the ANC-led South African government has played a crucial role in mediation efforts across the African continent and most notably in peace efforts in Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, South Sudan and Sudan, Zimbabwe;
- That the South African government and ANC have always called for all-inclusive negotiation processes in areas conflict, based on the assumption “that every group has genuine grievances and has the interests of the country at heart”;
- That the ANC states that “a reflection on the legacy of Comrade OR Tambo is therefore instructive in that he was able to engage both the East and West during the Cold War. Our engagement in the continent and the world must seek to emulate this example.”
- Noting further, that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) has been working through a Foreign Policy White Paper entitled “Diplomacy of Ubuntu” which describes South Africa’s unique approach to global issues. This White Paper states that “this philosophy translates into an approach to international relations that respects all nations, peoples, and cultures. We therefore champion collaboration, cooperation and building partnerships over conflict.”
It is therefore clearly evident that the Foreign Policy of both the South African government and the ANC in the above regard is clear, consistent and transparent. A central feature of both foreign policies is one of open and sincere engagement with all parties to each conflict as a durable peaceful resolution cannot be reached through the exclusion of any one party to a conflict.
Consistent with this foreign policy approach it is evident that all areas of conflict noted in the Report of the 5th National Policy Conference, namely Swaziland, Western Sahara and the struggle of the Kurdish people are treated in accordance with the principles of this policy – that being to keep open methods of communication and dialogue with all parties. We are thus understandably troubled and taken aback by the International Relations Commission recommendations as they pertain to the Israel-Palestine conflict because they mark a serious departure that is wholly inconsistent with both the spirit and letter of the prevailing ANC and South African government’s International Relations policy.
The proposal to downgrade or completely close diplomatic relations with Israel is clearly punitive to one party to the conflict and directly contradicts the central tenants of the ANC’s International Relations policy. Whilst we are equally pained by the elusive peace solution and grieve for all human life lost in this conflict, we must register our strong protest at the two options tabled before the 54th National Conference.
To further highlight how extraordinarily inconsistent these two options are with ANC and South African government policy, it is worth noting that whilst the ANC and South African government have openly supported Western Sahara’s quest for independence from its occupation by Morocco, President Zuma announced on December 3, 2017 that South Africa and Morocco would resume full diplomatic relations. The president further stated that “Morocco is an African nation and we need to have relations with them … we never had problems with them anyway.” He further added “They felt that even if we differ on the Western Sahara issues, the two countries should have a relationship.”
It is instructive to note that there are currently more than 50 international territorial disputes around the world including: Kashmir region between India and Pakistan; Crimean region between Russia and Ukraine and that between China and Taiwan to mention a few, yet South Africa maintains full diplomatic relations with both parties to these conflicts. This, again, begs the question: why should the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians be treated differently?
It is not inconceivable nor would it be unreasonable if Israel responded to a downgrade or closure by taking the same drastic measures concerning the Embassy of Israel in South Africa. Additional to these policy considerations, stated above, we wish to also point out the real harm that would be suffered by South African citizens and those of the broader Southern African Development Community (SADC). The Embassy of Israel in South Africa provides consular services beyond South Africa and includes the countries of Lesotho, Mauritius and Swaziland who are not represented or participants to the ANC conferences but would, nonetheless, be potentially adversely affected by the adoption of the proposed recommendations.
For South African citizens this has the real possibility of leading to a loss of a visa free status in travel to Israel which currently exists. Such an unfortunate decision would then necessitate that South African citizens travel to the nearest Israeli Embassy in Kenya to apply for a visa to enter Israel. It is worth considering that around 44 million South Africans profess to be Christian and South African pilgrims account for the highest number of inbound visitors to Israel from the African continent. Thus, irrespective of their views on the Israel-Palestine conflict, South African Christians will suffer real economic hardships additional to any other inconvenience.
It is important to note that Christian pilgrimages to Israel have a strong focus on cities and towns such as Bethlehem, Cana, Nazareth and Jericho which are either majority Arab in population and or lie within the Palestinian controlled Territories and thus our visits bring much needed tourist income.
Fellow Africans and compatriots, we plead with you to resist the calls for a downgrade or closure of the South African Embassy in Israel for the numerous reasons stated above and there are several other avenues within which to express ANC solidarity and contribute to a peaceful resolution to this conflict.
We speak on behalf of countless voices and ministries within our great continent and are willing to constructively engage with you further on this matter.
Please be assured of our sincere prayers for you to have a successful conference and we look forward to hearing of a positive report at its conclusion.
Blessings to you all
Signed by the following African Ministries and Organisations:
Abounding Grace Ministries: South Africa
Africa Bless Israel: South Africa
Africa for Israel Christian Coalition: South Africa
Africa Israel Chamber of Commerce: South Africa
Cape to Cairo Israel Mission: South Africa
Cape to Jerusalem House of Prayer for All Nations: South Africa
Church’s Ministry to the Jewish People: South Africa
Concerned Clergy: South Africa
DEISI International: South Africa
Dorvek Trading (Pty) Ltd: South Africa
Friends from Abroad: South Africa
Institute for Christian Leadership Development: South Africa
Kingdom Life Empowerment Ministries: South Africa
Kings Bible Church: South Africa
Kingdom Heirs Assembly: South Africa
Liberty Christian Fellowship Ministries: South Africa
Powerhouse Ministries: South Africa
Pure Business Ministry Hermanus: South Africa
South Africa United: South Africa
The Do It Group: South Africa
Transformation Africa: South Africa
Three Cord Family Development Services: South Africa
Vuka Africa Foundation: South Africa
Christ Vineyard: Botswana
European Coalition for Israel: Belgium
Missionary New Earth, the Mt of Olives Churches Int: Gabon
Endtime Miracle & Power Ministries International: Ghana
Cape to Cairo Israel Mission: Kenya
Beth-El, Associação Cristã Amigos de Israel: Mozambique
Value Adding Christian Centre: Nigeria
Association of Christian Human Rights: Nigeria
Jerusalem House of Prayer - Zambia: Zambia
House of Worship International Church: Zimbabwe
Awake Grace Ministries International: Zimbabwe
Christians Ministers Council of Southern Africa: Southern Africa
Impact Africa Network College of Bishops: South Africa, Nigeria, UK and USA
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