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America’s abandonment of Palestine is a challenge to South Africa

Cyril Ramaphosa (C) celebrates after he was elected as ANC's new party leader in Johannesburg, South Africa on 18 December 2017 [Ihsaan Haffejee/Anadolu Agency]
Cyril Ramaphosa (C) celebrates after he was elected as ANC's new party leader in Johannesburg, South Africa on 18 December 2017 [Ihsaan Haffejee/Anadolu Agency]

Is South Africa among those countries which are standing aside as the world is confronted with illegal moves by the Trump administration to facilitate Israel’s complete annihilation of Palestine? Notwithstanding the fact that the ANC-led government of President Cyril Ramaphosa has stuck by its decision to downgrade the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv, not much more is evident in defence of Palestinian rights.

It is disconcerting to see South Africa apparently looking on in abject silence while reports of Palestinian homes being demolished by Israel reveal that illegal land-grabs are continuing at a frightening rate. Such silence is surely not an option at a time when UN investigator Michael Lynk has warned that Israel is moving rapidly to annex yet more of the occupied West Bank as it intensifies illegal settlement-building on Palestinian land.

Speaking to Mondoweiss during a week-long fact-finding visit to the region, Lynk claimed that Israel’s settlement-building is at its “highest level” in recent years. “It’s moving much more rapidly and on the horizon is something much more dramatic,” said the UN’s special rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory. “The public statements made by senior American diplomats in favour of the long-expressed wish by senior Israeli political leaders, including virtually every member of the Israeli cabinet, in favour of annexation of some parts of the West Bank has only gotten louder. There is a greater normalisation of the concept of annexation.”

As on previous visits, the Canadian law professor was denied entry to Palestine by Israeli officials. He criticised this decision as being “contrary to Israel’s obligations as a UN member to cooperate fully with experts” from the world body.

In sharp contrast to Pretoria’s weak-kneed inaction, the Trump administration is backing Israel to the hilt. In clear defiance of UN Resolutions which prohibit Israel’s settlement-activities, David Friedman, Washington’s Ambassador to Israel, said that the state is entitled to annex at least “some” of the Palestinian West Bank.

It is important to note that Friedman was a bankruptcy lawyer at the head of the Trump business empire before landing his current position. There is no surprise, therefore, that as an ardent and extreme right-wing Zionist he has been involved in supporting and financing Israeli settlements.

A tweet by US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, dates July 9, 2019

A tweet by US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, dates July 9, 2019

Since coming to power, US President Donald Trump has surrounded himself with unashamed white supremacists. In addition to their bigoted views, they are known as hawks willing to do Israel’s bidding at any cost, even if that is at the expense of American interests. In contrast to Trump’s avowed “America First” policies, rogue elements within his inner circle have pursued an agenda which clearly put Israel first. These neocons hold key positions, as is evident by the portfolios held by John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, Jason Greenblatt, Mike Pence, Friedman and Jared Kushner, to name but a few.

For Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, having a team of unabashed Zionists embedded within the Trump administration provides an opportunity to eliminate any prospect of Palestinian statehood. He isn’t wasting any time. In defiance of UN Resolutions he, in cahoots with Israel’s “White House dream team”, rushed to ensure that new facts on the ground will “legalise” his apartheid regime’s current and future status. Thus, we saw Trump recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv, cutting funds to the Palestinians and recognising Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. According to Lynk, Israel has “already crossed the bright red line into illegality.”

In tandem with the expansion of Israel’s massive settlement blocs in the occupied Palestinian territories, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner then set up the first phase of what has been described as a sell-out of Palestine’s freedom struggle. Hosted by Bahrain and co-sponsored by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the Kushner plot seeks to fulfil Zionist ambitions of a self-styled Jewish state unfettered by the legitimate demands of the indigenous Palestinian population, whose land it has occupied and ethnically cleansed.

Though the US-led conference in Bahrain was presented as providing huge economic advantages for stateless Palestinians, it was actually designed to bluff both them and the world into believing that peace can be bought. In other words, that keeping the prisoners locked up but swopping iron chains for golden handcuffs will buy the prisoners’ silence and compliance.

The politics of the so-called economic deal is to enslave the Palestinian people to a lifetime of misery, disenfranchised and ghettoised in Bantustans. Though Kushner is feted in the Arab capitals of America’s client states as an ally of their despotic rulers, as far as the Palestinians are concerned he is an ardent Zionist who backs and finances Israel’s illegal colony-settlements.

Netanyahu may be gloating that he has successfully manipulated Trump and his team into rubber-stamping Zionist goals and has Arab dictators in his pocket, but the concerns expressed by Palestinians centre on the silence of their friends, especially South Africa. Treachery by Arab dictators is to be expected, but not the silence of a country which gave the world legendary human rights icons such as Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Yusuf Dadoo, Joe Slovo, Chris Hani, Robert Sobukwe, Steve Biko and many more.

In abandoning Palestine and its people, America has presented a huge challenge to South Africa. The question now is whether or not President Ramaphosa and his government will step up to the mark and tackle it head on.

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

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AfricaArticleAsia & AmericasIsraelMiddle EastOpinionPalestineSouth AfricaUS
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