Fri, 22 Jan 2021

One of the first South African expressions that I was introduced to when I arrived in South Africa in January was " A person is a person through other people. I am, because you are. This isiZulu saying has become one of my most often-used phrases because it aptly describes the Palestinian struggle for liberation which is rooted in the notion of common humanity.

Israel's "temporary" military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip is now in its 53rd year.

For over half a century, the Israeli government has denied Palestinians their own state, choices and rights. Israeli leaders cannot possibly imagine why we would desire a fully independent, sovereign state. There is a colonial arrogance to this belief. At its core is the belief that millions of Palestinians do not deserve the same rights as Israelis. It is the very antithesis of the shared humanity of "

On 29 November, much of the world observed United Nations Day of International Solidarity with the Palestinian People - a UN-designated commemoration which reminds the world that the Palestinian people have still to attain their own state.

29 November was chosen because it was on that date in 1947 that the newly-created United Nations - made up almost entirely of Western nations and weaker states dependent on Western aid - imposed on Palestinians an unjust Partition Plan that allocated over 56% of our land along with our key agricultural lands, cities and seaports to a minority population of newly-arrived Zionist settlers.

Concerns from the majority indigenous Palestinian population about the disproportionate allocation of land were simply ignored and the Israeli state was violently born. Over 750 000 Palestinians were forced to flee their homes. Seventy-three years later, Palestinians remain without a state and millions of Palestinian refugees are scattered throughout the world.

Deeply-rooted bonds

This year, I spent the Day of International Solidarity with the Palestinian People with African and Arab ambassadors serving in South Africa. It was most appropriate since there are deeply-rooted bonds between Africa's liberation and anti-colonial struggles and that of the Palestinian people.

The struggle of Africans against European colonialism and domination - whether it was the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO); the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa; the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU now ZANU-PF); the South West African Peoples' Organization (SWAPO) or the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU and later CCM) in Tanzania - is also the struggle of the Palestinian people against the Israeli colonisation of Palestine. Ours is a shared struggle, and there is a deep-seated historic solidarity between the peoples of Africa and Palestine.

In fact, it was an icon of African decolonisation and freedom, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who was among the first African leaders to recognise the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) under Yasser Arafat and, in 1973, Dar es Salaam became home to the first PLO embassy in Africa.

By 1988, some 33 African countries officially recognised Palestine, after Yasser Arafat proclaimed our independence. African countries did not wait for us to launch a statehood bid at the UN in 2011. They had already recognised and honoured our inalienable right to self-determination decades earlier.

It was also through the efforts of African countries and other nations from the Global South that the UN General Assembly established the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) in 1975. Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Tunisia currently serve on the committee. Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, and the African Union are observers.

African countries have continued this legacy of supporting Palestine at the UN. At the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, the African Group - who represent almost a third of all UN members - have consistently reminded the UNHRC of its obligation to act immediately to ensure that the Palestinian people are able to realise their right to self-determination, justice and freedom.

READ | Opinion: There needs to be more unity among South Africans fighting for a free Palestine

Year after year, when speaking at the general debate on Item 7 of the UNHRC agenda (the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories), Africa has loudly and unequivocally called on the world to act urgently to end Israel's military occupation of Palestine.

During their annual addresses to the UN General Assembly, African leaders have unfailingly reminded the international community of the Palestinian right to statehood and freedom and the world's responsibility to end the Israeli occupation.

Just last month at a UN General Assembly vote, not a single African nation endorsed Israeli annexation of Jerusalem and the West Bank. In doing so, they resolved not to treat the illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a part of Israel, and called on Israel to recognise Palestinian sovereign rights to the natural resources of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and not to exploit the natural resources of these areas.

African nations continue to stand with Palestine and condemn Israel's occupation of Palestine - despite the intensive efforts of the Israeli government to use aid and technology to negate their long-standing positions on Palestine at the UN that are in line with international law.

Stand in solidarity

Despite attempts to separate Africa's own decolonisation and liberation history from the anti-colonial struggle and resistance of the Palestinian people, African nations continue to stand in solidarity with Palestine at international forums. Our African comrades have not allowed the anti-colonial nature of the Palestinian cause and liberation struggle to be erased and replaced with divisive religious discourse.

Djibouti's president, Ismail Omar Guelleh, is an example of this. "We neither have a problem with the Jews as a people nor the Israelis as a nation. But Djibouti does have a problem with Israel denying Palestinians their inalienable rights. All we ask is that the [Israeli] government make one gesture of peace, and we will make 10 in return," Guelleh replied to Israel's recent attempt at normalising relations while the Palestinian people remain occupied.

We Palestinians are inspired by Africa's liberation struggle and its former leaders. Israel's violent occupation has not defeated us even though Israeli settlements on Palestinian land continue to expand, political resistance is brutally crushed, and attacks on Palestinian communities continue unchecked.

We are yet to attain our inalienable rights to self-determination and still to achieve our liberation. Our decolonisation journey has not yet begun. Despite decades of disappointment and setbacks on the global political stage, we remain committed to a multilateral order that ensures respect for international law.

Fifty-three years after the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza, and 13 years since Israel inhumanely blockaded the Gaza Strip, we Palestinians are still here, determined as ever to achieve our freedom, just as African nations did.

Africa's solidarity - along with the rest of the Global South - is a vital pillar in our struggle against Israeli colonisation and occupation. African nations must not veer from their legacies of fighting for justice, and continue supporting the occupied and colonised Palestinian people.

Source: News24

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