Parliament needs to adopt a more radical strategy to secure peace and an independent state for the people of Palestine. This position was supported by both the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Lechesa Tsenoli, and the Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Ms Sylvia Lucas.

Addressing the virtual Nelson Mandela Lecture themed “Each one, Teach One - the Power to Transform the World: Mandela in Conversation with Palestine”, Mr Tsenoli and Ms Lucas agreed that South African needs a more aggressive agenda to deal with and hopefully resolve the issue of a free Palestine.

The Nelson Mandela lecture was addressed by Associate Professor Ran Greenstein from the Department of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand, and Mr Na’eem Jeenah, the Executive Director of the Afro-Middle East Centre.

Prof Greenstein likened the current situation in Palestine to that of ethnic cleansing. He said the rise of apartheid in Israel and South Africa had its roots in 1948 when Israel was forcefully created and apartheid formalised in South Africa.

He called for the adoption of a strategy of solidarity to unite all those opposed to Israel. This strategy must focus on people within Israel sympathetic to the cause of establishing an independent Palestinian state. This could be achieved, Prof Greenstein believes, by transforming existing South African policy and attitudes towards Israel. “Parliament” he said, “must consider a ban of all products coming from settlements in occupied Palestine” while working with the United Nations and all other structures to end “all security cooperation, training and arms purchases” as these only benefitted the “oppressive Israeli regime”.

Mr Jeenah added that it was important that South Africa spearheaded an international campaign to isolate Israel and free Palestine.

Prof Greenstein, Mr Jeenah and other participants called on South Africa to formally cut diplomatic ties with Israel. Mr Jeenah added that South Africa should use its membership of the United Nations (UN) Security Council and its position as chairperson of the African Union “to give concreteness to the struggle to free Palestine”.

“It is critical that parliament sign the UN Convention on apartheid” and drive a campaign to put the apartheid practices of Israel back on the UN agenda, he said.

 Prof Greenstein further called on government and Parliament “to act positively to enhance its capacity to work with all groups to resolve the current crisis in the Middle East. You must use your own experience of reconciliation to give substance to Mandela’s saying that South Africa cannot be free as long as Palestinians are being oppressed.”

Member of Parliament and former ambassador Mr Mohammed Dangor cautioned that any strategy would first have to “bring about maximum unity amongst Palestinians” themselves. He agreed that the two-state option was no longer the solution.

Participants agreed that South Africa had to do a thorough assessment of all Israeli products being sold in South Africa. They called on the Department of Trade and Industry to properly scan products coming from Israel and to ban those produced and packaged by Israelis on occupied territory.

Participants also agreed that the current international silence on plans by Israel to annex more Palestinian territory had to be broken and called on South Africa to take the lead in this campaign. The starting point must be robust interaction with both the Israelis and Palestinians.