World cannot ignore the plight of the Palestinian people
By African National Congress, Volume 1, No. 31    24 - 30 August 2001
No international conference against racism can avoid discussing the racist practises of the Israeli state against the Palestinian people. As the two previous world conferences mobilised global condemnation of apartheid, delegates to the UN World Conference against Racism - which starts in Durban next week - should condemn the ongoing oppression of the Palestinians.

The struggle of the Palestinian people, led by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), for national emancipation is a struggle against racial oppression. It is a struggle for the realisation of their inalienable rights, including the establishment of an independent state of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital.

The ANC recommits itself to ongoing solidarity with the Palestinian people and calls on the Israeli government to immediately and unconditionally end:

Until its defeat, South Africa's apartheid regime found much in common with their Israeli counterparts. Both Afrikaner nationalism, as manifest in the apartheid state, and Zionism, as manifest in the Israeli state, propagated the ideology of an exclusive 'chosen people'. In Israel today, the government classifies its citizens as either Jew or non-Jew. These classifications are stamped into official identity documents. Political, social and economic rights and goods are allocated on the basis of this classification. Such an approach is familiar to black South Africans. It is racist.

The 1948 and 1967 wars led to the displacement of thousands of Palestinians to neighbouring countries and the creation of a Palestinian diaspora. The Palestinians insist the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes should be recognised in principle. Israel adamantly refuses to recognise this principle on the basis that it would dilute that Jewish character of the Israeli state. During the past few years more than one million Jewish settlers, from mainly east European countries, have been encouraged to settle in Israel. Any Jew, anywhere in the world, has an automatic right to Israeli citizenship, whereas Palestinians who were born within Israel's borders are treated like foreigners and criminals. These policies are racist.

The Durban conference cannot avoid discussion of these issues, particularly when there is an intensification of the brutality against the Palestinians by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's regime in its efforts to quell an 11 month-old uprising.

With increasingly violent images being beamed into television screens world-wide, it would be difficult to pardon the international community from its responsibility to act swiftly and effectively to help bring about peace to the region. The international movement needs, and has a responsibility, to help re-open the door to a just and lasting settlement, beyond racism. Significant international positions include the resolution of the recent meeting convened in South Africa of the Non-aligned Movement's Committee on Palestine and the the G-8 foreign ministers declaration calling on Israel and Palestine to accept international observers.

The draft declaration of the World Conference against Racism NGO Forum in Durban says: "We call for the employment of all effective measures available to participants, relevant United Nations organs and member States to ensure that Israel complies with its obligations under human rights, humanitarian law and United Nations resolutions with the view to end its colonial policies and apartheid system."

The struggle against apartheid was part of the international struggle against the ideas that found their most direct expression in the advent of Nazism and the holocaust. South Africans, having defeated apartheid, have a direct stake in the eradication of apartheid practices on a global scale, and in the plight of the Palestinian people in particular. Our task is to labour and struggle humanely to confront military occupation, discriminatory actions and gross violations of human rights. The world must work together to find the keys for a just and democratic settlement between Palestinians and Israelis.

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