The statement had a specific focus on the escalating violence in the conflict between Israel and Palestine, with emphasis on the conflict in Gaza.
In the statement, Minister Mshabane said the South African Government is gravely concerned at the escalating conflict between Israel and Gaza. “We strongly condemn the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli government, which has resulted in a significant number of deaths and injuries on both sides, particularly among Palestinian civilians, including children.”
“The South African Government calls on both sides to immediately halt all cross border attacks and agree to a ceasefire. Israeli air and naval forces must cease their airstrikes and shelling into the Gaza enclave, which has already caused considerable material destruction in one of the most densely inhabited places on earth. We also call upon Palestinian militants in Gaza to immediately suspend the firing of rockets into Israeli territory,” added the minister.
In recent days, the Israeli government has indicated that a scale ground assault by the Israeli army into Gaza is being seriously contemplated. The call-up of 75 000 military reservists to active service has prompted the South African Government to appeal to Israel to refrain from such a fatal step, which will not only result in the inevitable loss of a large number of both Palestinian and Israelis lives - but also further inflame sentiments in an already volatile region.
The Minster also brought to the fore Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestinian land, especially the continuing blockade of Gaza. She said, “The South African Government therefore urges the Israeli Government to halt these policies as they are an obstacle to negotiations for peace and contrary to international law.”
The South African Government has also called on the international community to put pressure on both Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza to halt this escalation of violence. However this might not prove fruitful. In a recent interview on Radio Islam Professor Abu Alaa from Al-Quds University in Gaza said Palestinians have learnt from South Africa to ignore the international community. “In the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s you gave up on the international community.
“And when I say International community, I mean governments, the White house, the government of the United Kingdom, etc., etc. because they blamed the victim. And we have learnt this lesson from you,” said Alaa.
Maybe the South African Government should address civil society instead of governments. Alaa said, “That is why we address civil society. We address more churches, synagogues, the glocks, etc. We want the international community represented by its civil society to boycott Apartheid Israel until it stops its war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
The Minister said, “Given that Israel and Palestine are close neighbours, they have no choice but to accept each other’s permanent presence and eventually reach agreement on peaceful co-existence through a process of negotiations, rather than through continuous conflict.”