The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has hailed the decision of South Africa's African National Congress (ANC) Parliamentary Caucus to sign an agreement with Hamas.
In a press release, BDS' South Africa division wrote that it "commends the Office of the ANC Chief Whip and our governing party for their consistent support of the Palestinian struggle and BDS movement".
The MoU was signed on Monday during a week-long visit by a delegation from Hamas' Change and Reform Bloc to South Africa. The agreement was signed by Hamas' Foreign Minister Mahmoud Al-Zahar and the ANC's Chief Whip in Parliament Jackson Mthembu.
The MoU seeks to "introduce practical steps in mobilizing the international community to pressure Israel to end its occupation of Palestine, including working towards the full boycott of all Israeli products," AfroPal Forum reported.
According to the MoU, the ANC Parliamentary Caucus "will use the oversight powers of South Africa's parliament to ensure that the ANC's 2017 resolution to downgrade the South African embassy in Tel Aviv to a liaison office is implemented by the South African government". BDS South Africa welcomed this affirmation.
South Africa has been discussing the downgrading of its embassy in Israel since May in response to Israel's killing of protesters during the Great March of Return in the besieged Gaza Strip. That month South Africa's National Freedom Party leader, Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam, tabled a draft resolution calling for the unconditional downgrade of the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv, saying: "Countries, including South Africa, have been far too patient while people are killed and international law is ignored."
The calls to downgrade the embassy came just days after South Africa withdrew its ambassador from Israel. South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation said in a statement that: "Given the indiscriminate [nature] and gravity of the latest Israeli attack, the South African government has taken a decision to recall Ambassador Sisa Ngombane with immediate effect until further notice."
In September, South Africa quietly returned Ngombane to his post. Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Emmanuel Nahshon, told Israeli media that his country had been informed of the decision in a letter from the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv.
South Africa has a long history of support for the Palestinian cause and has been a vocal advocate of the BDS movement. Numerous South African churches and universities have backed a cultural and economic boycott of Israeli organisations. Last month, BDS activists pressured South Africa's University of Stellenbosch to withdraw invitations for Israeli academics to attend a major conference. Seven academics from three Israeli universities – the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University – were supposed to attend the conference, but received phone calls saying they were no longer welcome to participate due to "certain difficulties".