The Republic of South Africa will support the Palestinians in their liberation struggle until the occupation of their land is ended and they have an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. That was the clear message given by South Africa’s Deputy Minister for International Relations at a press conference held at the end of his visit to the Gaza Strip. Mr. Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim said that he wanted to confirm his country’s sympathy and support for the people of Palestine.
Having visited the West Bank, Mr. Ebrahim said that his trip would not be complete without seeing for himself the difficult humanitarian situation created by the Israeli blockade of Gaza. “It was painful to see Palestinian children killed during the Israeli war against Gaza last year,” he said. “This illegal and inhuman blockade should be lifted immediately.”
South Africa’s post-apartheid governments have a strong track record of support for the Palestinians in their struggle for freedom, he added. Expressing regret for the ongoing divisions in Palestinian society, Mr. Ebrahim said that he hopes reconciliation and unity will prevail.
During his visit, the South African Deputy Minister met with the Prime Minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, and one of the founders of Hamas, Mahmoud Zahar, who described the visit as “symbolic and important”. He also toured the besieged strip to get an idea of the destruction caused by Israel’s aggression, visiting the Semouni family, which lost 48 members in one day during Israel’s invasion in January, 2009.
According to Mr. Ebrahim, a number of issues were discussed with Mr. Haniyeh, including the split with Fatah, reconciliation and the political status quo. He said that his country will continue to press Egyptian officials to open the Rafah crossing so that essential goods can be imported into the beleaguered territory.
The Deputy Minister said that his country will use its seat at the United Nations to campaign for oppressed people all over the world, especially the Palestinians. “We in South Africa refuse to accept that violations of human rights can be overlooked,” he said, “and it is our policy to highlight such issues.”
Referring to the West’s attempts to curb Iran’s nuclear programme, Mr. Ebrahim said it was “hypocrisy” to push the issue while remaining silent about Israel’s nuclear capabilities.
Speaking on behalf of the Palestinian government in Gaza, the Under-Secretary at the Foreign Ministry, Ahmed Youssef, expressed appreciation of the visit by the South African delegation. South Africa was, he said, one of the first countries to break ranks with many members of the international community by maintaining contact with his government formed after the 2006 election won by Hamas. He presented Mr. Ebrahim with a letter from Hamas addressed to the South African President, Jacob Zuma.
MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad