South Africa moves to downgrade ties with Israel

March 15, 2023
Israeli forces detain Palestinians in occupied territories
Israeli forces detaining Palestinians in the occupied territories. Photo:

South Africa’s parliament voted on March 7 to downgrade the status of Israel’s embassy in the country to “liaison office”, due to Israel's continued violation of Palestinian human rights. The draft resolution passed with 208 votes in favour and 94 against.

Following the vote, MP Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam — who introduced the draft resolution — said: “This is a moment Madiba [Nelson Mandela] would be proud of.”

Shaik Emam denounced Israel’s colonial occupation and ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights. “The state of Israel was built through the displacement, murder and maiming of Palestinians,” he said. “And to maintain their grip on power, they have instituted apartheid to control and manage Palestinians.”

Israel’s apartheid system contravenes international law and violates the human rights of Palestinians, he said.

“As South Africans, we refuse to stand by while apartheid is being perpetrated again.”

This comes after the Israeli delegation was expelled from the African Union summit — a meeting of leaders and diplomats from across the continent — last month due to pressure from Algeria and South Africa.

A draft declaration circulated at the end of the summit condemned Israel’s continued occupation and expressed “full support” for the Palestinian struggle. The declaration also urged all member states to “end all direct and indirect trade, scientific and cultural exchanges” with Israel.

A week before, Barcelona suspended official ties with Israel over its violation of Palestinian human rights.

Israeli forces have killed at least 69 Palestinians since the start of the year, further emboldened by the new far-right Benjamin Netanyahu government.

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