Below is an interview Political Analysis South Africa’s Stephanie Naidoo had with Ambassador Hashem Dajani, the Palestinian Ambassador to South Africa, on the proposal made by the African National Congress (ANC) to downgrade or shutdown the South African Embassy in Israel, which will be presented for adoption at the 54th ANC National Conference in December 2017.
Interviewer: The ANC, at its recent Policy Conference, recommended downgrading the South African Embassy in Israel to a Liaison Office, or severing diplomatic ties with Israel. What is your response to this? Are you in support of either of these recommendations?
The Palestinian leadership and people welcome the recommendation of the National Policy Conference of the ANC on downgrading South Africa’s representation in Israel. We are looking forward to its adoption at the general conference of the ANC in December, 2017. We believe such a step would place pressure on Israel to put an end to its illegal violations of Palestinian human rights, including settlement expansion, and to provide a positive atmosphere for launching a political process that will lead to the end of the Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent State of Palestine.
Are you of the opinion that this move (a downgrade, or severing of ties) will improve the Palestinian position in attaining peace and full statehood? What do think, will, in fact, be the outcome?
The call from the policy conference is indeed an important initiative from South Africa to put more pressure on the Israeli government to end its occupation, as I have previously mentioned. Such pressure is urgently required from the international community and we encourage other states that support human rights and the freedom of nations and respect international law and humanitarian law to follow the same step. Without serious and real international pressure there will never be peace in our region.
As part of understanding views on this issue, we have been interviewing local individuals, community representatives, religious groups, organisations, companies and business associations, who argue that such a move would be calamitous for some of them. Do you share their concerns? Or what would you say to them?
When the international community played a significant role in supporting the South African people’s just struggle for freedom and equality from the apartheid regime, they practiced all kinds of measures including cutting diplomatic ties without looking at the consequences and calculating what is at stake. They adopted such position due to their respect of the values and principles of human rights, human dignity and peace. Rather than focusing on political and diplomatic consequences, I believe that South Africa is focusing on their respected values and principles of peace, dignity and the freedom of the people.
Realistically, what ought to be the role of the ANC and indeed South Africa, with respect to peace-building and brokering between you, as Palestinians, and your Israeli counterparts?
We, as Palestinians, believe that South Africa is a peace loving country that believes in freedom and equality. The people of South Africa passed through a very difficult and challenging time in their path to freedom, and they paid a high price of sacrifice during that time of darkness. Our shared history of struggle and similar experiences against the former apartheid regime and the current Israeli occupation respectively, has ensured the full-hearted support and active involvement from South Africa towards the Palestinian plight. South Africa also has an important political influence in international relations regionally and internationally and it plays a constructive role in extending diplomatic offices in building peace and stability in the Middle East, particularly, in our region.
In conclusion, is there anything that you would like to add on behalf of the State of Palestine, the Palestinian people or the Embassy?
In conclusion Stephanie, allow me, on behalf of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership, to reiterate to the South African government and people, our sincerest appreciation and gratitude, over the principled role that South Africa plays in advancing the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including its efforts exerted to mobilise support at the regional and international levels.