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27th December 2008
A number of prominent South Africans have condemned the brutal attacks currently being perpetrated by the Israeli army in Gaza. Among those who have voiced their condemnation are Eddie Makue, General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches; former government Minister Ronnie Kasrils; Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven; and University of Johannesburg academic Professor Steven Friedman.
This morning witnessed a massive escalation of the brutal Israeli campaign of bombardment and starvation against the population of Occupied Gaza, resulting in a massacre in the most densely populated area in the world. Thus far, more than 200 Palestinians — many of them civilians — have been murdered as a result of missiles fired by Israeli F16 fighter jets, and hundreds more have been injured. Television footage has shown scores of dead and injured schoolchildren.
The attacks constitute violations of international law, with Israel imposing collective punishment on a civilian population and violating numerous rights of a people living under occupation.
This campaign comes at the end of 18 months of a severe siege of Gaza imposed by Israel, in terms of which even medication and food was not allowed to enter Gaza. People were not allowed to leave the territory — even if they sought medical treatment.
Prof Steven Friedman said the actions of the Israeli army cannot be called ‘war crimes’. ‘There is no war,’ he said, but a brutal massacre. These are crimes against humanity being perpetrated by the fourth largest army in the world.’
Ronnie Kasrils said he stood by his statement that Israeli security forces were ‘babykillers’. Today’s attacks and the siege against Gaza, he said, were proof of Israel’s ‘genocidal intentions’. He further condemned the ‘complicity and silence of the west’ throughout the period of the ‘slow murder of the people of Gaza’.
Cosatu spokesperson, Patrick Craven, said Israel’s campaign was ‘criminal’. Civilians, he said, were ‘bearing the brunt of the shootings and bombings’.
The past six months has seen a truce between Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza. In that period, Israel repeatedly violated the truce. Now that the truce has ended, Israel has seen its way clear to turn Gaza, which has been an open-air prison, into a wasteland.
The South African Council of Churches General Secretary, Eddie Makue, called on the South African government to take a strong stand against Israel. The same sentiment was expressed by Craven who called on the government to sever all diplomatic ties with Israel and institute sanctions against it.
We call on all our people to oppose the perpetration of these war crimes by Israel. Furthermore, we call on the South African government immediately to withdraw our ambassador from Israel, to end all diplomatic relations with Israel, and to impose sanctions on Israel. Our government cannot pretend that this is a war between equal sides. There is no balance in this situation. There can be no moral equivalence between the fourth most powerful army in the world (whose armaments include nuclear weapons) and an occupied people fighting for their survival to prevent a complete genocide against them.
Israel seems intent to mark the end of its 60th year of existence the same way it has established itself — perpetrating massacres against the Palestinian people. The barbarism of these attacks, and the impunity with which Israel continues to violate international law should also be placed on the agenda. Just as Apartheid South Africa was kicked out of the UN for its gross violations of human rights and for its perpetration of a system which was a crime against humanity, so too should Israel be excluded from the UN for its repeated refusal to adhere to international law and UN resolutions and for its perpetration of a system of apartheid.
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