Justice and compassion for Palestine

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The right of all Palestinians to return to their homeland, the establishment of an independent state with the internationally recognized pre-1967-war borders and with East Jerusalem as the capital of this state of Palestine.

The Deputy-Secretary General of the ANC says it is the quest for justice and compassion that drives the ANC and South Africans fight for a free Palestine.

Being arguably true to his vocation as an academic, the late prolific Palestinian writer, Edward Said, once wrote a column in Al-Hayat titled: “A Vision to Lift the Spirit.”

Coming in the days after the September 11th attacks and with war on the horizon in Afghanistan and Iraq, Said’s words could not have been more appropriate.

The Palestinian peace process was as stuck in those days as it is today.

Yet Said, in November 2001, proposed this vision which was to lift the spirit of Palestinians and those who struggle for the liberation of the Palestinian people across the globe.

In that column he wrote: “…important symbolic gestures of recognition and responsibility, undertaken perhaps under the auspices of a Mandela panel of impeccably credentialed peacemakers, should try to establish justice and compassion as crucial elements in (any) proceedings…”

The sad reality of course is that hitherto, in the over seven decades of peace initiatives by the international community, the elements of justice and compassion have simply been ignored.

Justice and compassion, especially towards the Palestinian people, have simply been disregarded. Little wonder these initiatives have been unsuccessful.

Instead, any solution to the Palestinian question must be addressed through dealing with those issues which will bring about justice.

And these are simply: the right of all Palestinians to return to their homeland, the establishment of an independent state with the internationally recognized pre-1967-war borders and with East Jerusalem as the capital of this state of Palestine.

Recognition of each of these will be just and compassionate.

Yet if one chooses not to recognize these then the best next thing to do is to try and ignore the Palestinians altogether.

As with the apartheid regime in South Africa, the rationale is that if we keep them, the Blacks, in the Bantustans and in the townships then we will not have to deal with them.

The apartheid regime could have cared less about being just and compassionate to the Black majority in South Africa and therefore what they then did was to try and erase Black people from South Africa’s face.

Of course, they, like the current Israeli government, failed terribly.

The more the apartheid state of South Africa tried to smother the liberation movements and those fighting for freedom, the more young people stood up and the more the International community rallied around our cause.

This is exactly what we must do.

The more the apartheid state of Israel attempts to extinguish the fight for freedom of the Palestinian people, the more we in the international community must shout out: free Palestine free!

The more the apartheid state of Israel seeks to normalize relations with its neighbours and create boogey-men in its opponents, the more we must rally our governments and peoples across the globe to reject this apartheid and colonial state.

But it is justice and compassion that drives and guides our fight for freedom!

And given that it is these virtues that motivate us, we will not falter.

On 29 November, the international community will once again stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine.

The ANC and our people will not falter because like Madiba, whom Said acknowledged, we are driven for the quest for justice and compassion.

The former archbishop of Jerusalem, Archbishop Hilarion Capucci, once said:

“[The Palestinian people – my people] have been oppressed, they have suffered a great injustice, their rights have been denied, their dignity trampled upon, their daily companion is nothing but suffering.”

As South Africans in our quest for justice and compassion for the people of Palestine we will not relent.

By Jessie Duarte. Jessie Duarte is the Deputy-Secretary General of the ANC