Score for freedom

People from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign demonstrate outside St Georges Cathedral. Picture: Armand Hough/ANA

IN THE year that we are celebrating the centenary of President Nelson Mandela, it is only appropriate that I start with a quote by Tata Madiba from a speech he delivered in 1997 at the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

Mandela said: “The temptation in our situation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine to a state of their own.

Having achieved our own freedom, we can fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others face. Yet we would be less than responsible if we did so. It behoves all South Africans, themselves erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support, to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice.”

Indeed, we have a responsibility to give our support to all oppressed peoples of the world because it is critical that the struggle against oppression is driven by a united force. This is particularly critical that as the once beneficiaries of international solidarity, South Africa should join this force.

Ordinary people across the world in universities, cities, towns and communities like this, assisted and actively partook in our liberation back in the 1980s during apartheid. It is this spirit that today sustains the Palestinian solidarity movement and underlies campaigns like the #IsraeliApartheidWeek initiative.

The ANC statement endorsing #IsraeliApartheidWeek in 2014 read: “The ANC recognises that the international anti-Apartheid movement and sanctions campaign was shouldered, taken on and defended by thousands of ordinary citizens from numerous countries around the world. These ordinary citizens, made our struggle, their life. We are forever indebted to them.

Today, we humbly continue the internationalism of our movement in lending our solidarity to the people of Cuba, Western Sahara, Swaziland, Palestine and other struggling people.” But beyond internationalism we also have a duty to the Palestinian people in particular because, while Israel supplied the Apartheid government with arms that were used to kill our people, we recall that it was the Palestinians who assisted us during the darkest days of Apartheid.

Our support for the Palestinian cause is thus not a favour but a duty. President, Cyril Ramaphosa, addressing an event late last year put it well, when he said: “As long as that struggle persists we will be on the side of the Palestinians … we will always be on the right side because we know what is happening there, its gross apartheid taking place there and we cannot but countenance a situation which is duplicate or replica of what we went through, that we are not going to apologise for.”

The 2018 #IsraeliApartheidWeek campaign in South Africa is organised under the theme “Afro Palestinian solidarity”. The theme is aimed at highlighting Israel’s discriminatory and racist policies against Africans. As the South African government and the ANC, we are concerned by this. One shocking example of Israel’s racism against Africans was the revelation in 2013 that Israel was forcibly sterilizing African women without their consent.

How do we contribute to ending Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people and its racism against our African brothers and sisters? It is events like the “Score for Freedom” #IsraeliApartheidWeek Palestine soccer tournament, solidarity campaigns, the BDS movement and other such actions that can contribute to Palestinian freedom. At a political level the ANC resolved last year at its 54th National Conference or the immediate and unconditional downgrade of the South African Embassy in Israel.

However, while this may be happening at a political or government level, ultimately the power is in your hands, the people. The “Score for Freedom” #IsraeliApartheidWeek Palestine soccer tournament is itself a huge contribution to Palestine solidarity and also a contribution to the development of sports among our communities. We encourage the organisers to have similar tournaments in other communities, towns and cities.

It is on a sad note that we mark the 3rd “Score for Freedom” Palestine soccer tournament, since this tournament is held in memory of the 4 little Palestinian boys who were killed by Israel while playing soccer on a beach in 2014. However, this sort of event also contains a lot of joy as we are developing our young people and contributing to the freedoms of others.

Tokozile Xasa is the South African Minister of Sport and Recreation