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South Africa has a moral duty to clip the wings of Israeli settlement growth

A group of student stage a protest against Israel's policies at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa on 8 March 2017. ( Ihsaan Haffejee - Anadolu Agency )

The approval of thousands more housing units in Israel's illegal colony-settlements across the occupied West Bank is the latest undertaking by the country's extreme right-wing regime led by war-criminal Benjamin Netanyahu. This daring move, despite being in direct contravention of UN resolutions and international law, doesn't end there. The new homes are earmarked for one of the West Bank's largest Jewish settlement blocs, Ma'ale Adumim. Annexation will undoubtedly follow. "This place will be part of the state of Israel," thundered Netanyahu last week.

The term "settlements" conjures up an image of a few makeshift tents and a handful of caravans; this is highly misleading. The truth is that these are large towns and cities. Ma'ale Adumim is a fully-fledged residential area of roughly 140,000 people just east of Jerusalem. It has an industrial zone which, in addition to the thousands of new houses, Netanyahu has also promised will be expanded. What he has been silent on is the fact that it lies in the centre of the occupied West Bank — way beyond the Green ("Armistice") Line — on stolen Palestinian land.


Though Trump's Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt has been in the region, neither he nor his boss has uttered a word of condemnation. In fact, it would be naïve to expect any expression of dismay from the Trump administration, whose Jared Kushner and Ambassador to Israel David Friedman have longstanding ties to Israel's racist settlement movement.

The blatantly defiant arrogance of Israel over this project flies in the face of last December's UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which reaffirmed that settlements are a flagrant violation of international law. Instead of complying with the demand to halt all settlement activity, Israel remains determined to steal every inch of Palestine.

Once the annexation process is complete, the entire population of illegal settlers from all corners of the globe will become residents of Jerusalem, the city from which 100,000 Palestinian native Jerusalemites have been expelled; thousands more face the same fate.

In addition to such outlandish state-thuggery, pressure is mounting on Trump to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Although the promise to move the embassy featured prominently during his election campaign, he has now hitched it to his non-existent peace plan.

While the jury is out on whether Trump will fulfil his promise, it is clear that such a decision will place the US at odds with the UN. Israel knows that the Trump administration is arguably the closest to it in terms of right-wing ideology and such an opportunity to finalise the Judaisation of Jerusalem may not come again. Hence the haste to create new "facts" on the ground.

Trump's absurdity has made him the target of ridicule, but the reality is that he is the commander-in-chief of the US Armed Forces. As long as he remains in the White House, Israel will exploit his weaknesses.

In South Africa, meanwhile, the nation is witnessing intense factional struggles within the ruling African National Congress. Neither President Jacob Zuma nor his Foreign Ministry are likely to view Israel's transgressions as a priority. Recent revelations about a senior civil servant within the Department of International Relations flouting his ministry's stance on Israel, coupled with the shenanigans of South Africa's envoy in Tel Aviv, and the fact that no action has been taken against them, is an indication of the current lethargy affecting the government in Pretoria.

The Arab world is also in disarray, and lacks a coherent policy on Palestine. That the so-called "front line states" — a term borrowed from South Africa's anti-Apartheid freedom struggle — have either caved in to Israeli pressure or are reduced to rubble, and are thus of no consequence to Palestine's own long walk to freedom, contributes to Israel's belligerence.

Read: Who wins and who loses in the Palestinian unity negotiations?

The betrayal of Palestine's liberation by "front line states" such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Jordan is treasonous. In the language currently dominating South Africa's socio-political and economic discourse, one can safely say that these despotic Arab regimes have been "captured" by Israel.

As the plunder and theft of their land continues to rob Palestinians of their heritage and future, do not expect any of Israel's Arab allies to utter a word. Supine and impotent, they are obstacles to Palestinian freedom.

The colonisation of Palestine by Jewish Zionists, which commenced more than a hundred years ago, is ongoing. Settlements, annexation and occupation are a manifestation of this fact. What's more, the ideology underpinning the state of Israel is informed by racism, exclusivity and expansionism, all of which amount to nothing less than the crime against humanity known as apartheid.

Unless the current trajectory of forceful land-grab is halted and reversed, Israel will continue to behave as a rogue regime. Given the apartheid nature of the Zionist state, we South Africans have the moral authority and responsibility to clip the wings of Israel's illegal settlement growth, and ensure that justice for Palestine and Palestinians prevails.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

AfricaArticleIsraelMiddle EastOpinionPalestineSouth Africa
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