As violence escalates with devastating impacts on the people of Gaza, concerned citizens all over the world are involving themselves in responding to the intensifying crisis. Small actions such as sharing articles on Facebook are adding weight to those taking to the streets in protest, joining BDS movements and heightening the pressure on the Israeli government and its defense force. In many places civil society is working alongside governments who are putting pressure on Israeli diplomats and sending high level envoys seeking to influence an end, or at least a reduction, to the violence.
With pro-Israel as well as pro-Palestine supporters striving to make their voices heard, often in significant numbers, the conflict is being brought home to countries all over the world, threatening outbreaks of violence rooted in tensions hundreds or thousands of miles away, and demanding that everybody play a part in ending the violence. With the legacy of apartheid imprinted on South African history, and the growing calls to act against Apartheid Israel, South Africa should be well positioned to build bridges for dialogue across the Israel/Palestinian divide.
A delegation of high-level South African envoys have been sent to the Middle East to share lessons from our own history, while back at home in Johannesburg, Cape Town and across the country, marches and protests have been held. The small but active Jewish community in South Africa is also getting caught up in the debates, with many mistakenly interpreting the protests against Israeli aggression as being opposed to the state of Israel or against Jewish people in general. There is an enormous need to separate out Zionism from Judaism and for us to find ways of building an inter-faith coalition opposed to violence in all its forms, unified in its call for an end to the occupation and the violations of international humanitarian law and forward looking in its efforts to steer people away from the notion that violence is justified or effective under the current circumstances.
The ASC is supporting the activities organised by the Palestinian Solidarity Movement, including support for the BDS campaign, while at the same time discussing other innovative ways of preventing the further polarization of South African society whilst encouraging dialogue, awareness raising and bridge-building amongst progressive voices intent on finding solutions to the unacceptable erosion of our common humanity.
We also share with you a call for justice from the Palestinian Civil Society, and implore you to join in taking non-violent action to end the oppression and violence in Gaza:
Call from Palestine: Free Gaza, Hold Israel Accountable
To those who understand the interconnectedness of our many human struggles for justice and dignity, we in the Palestinian Civil Society implore you to act in solidarity as Gaza burns and bleeds, gathers and buries the lifeless bodies of her children, and contends with carnage and loss for which there is no language. The Gaza Strip is 139 square miles packed with 1.8 million people (1.2 million of whom are refugees ethnically cleansed by Israel between 1947-1950). This open-air prison has been suffocating under a deadly siege imposed by Israel for years and accommodated by the Egyptian government under pressure from the USA. A UN report before the latest assault said the Strip will be unlivable by 2020 but these attacks may bring that date sooner. Further, Gaza has been subjected to repeated massacres as Israel uses the small strip as testing grounds for its latest weaponry (funded by US taxpayers). According to the ministry of health, in its latest assault on the people of Gaza, Israeli occupation forces murdered 1283 and injured 7170 human beings (80% of them civilians, >200 children). Entire families are wiped out almost every day by Israel’s relentless bombing of civilian areas. Even before this latest assault, Israel has declared 20% of Gaza off-limits to human habitation and has demolished homes and agricultural fields in those areas. Now Israel has doubled this scorched earth area to be 40% of Gaza (182,000 displaced). We watch in horror as Israeli occupation forces destroyed mosques, schools, hospitals, agricultural areas, industries, and even the only power station in Gaza. We ask people of conscience to contact media and politicians to ensure that Israel is not immune from compliance with International Humanitarian Law. We also ask for expansion of campaigns of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). Hundreds of thousands around the world demonstrated for Gaza and we are grateful. But more actions at this stage are needed to prevent large-scale genocide and human catastrophe in Gaza. As Gaza is forced into darkness and devastation, we must speak on her behalf. Our friends and family members in Gaza call on you to demand the lifting of the siege on Gaza, the immediate provision of medical and humanitarian aid, and holding Israel accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Facebook links below contain information about activities in support of Gaza being organised in Cape Town, South Africa, by Jewish Voices for a Just Peace. It is interesting and inspiring to see activists from the Jewish community take a stand for Gaza, and we encourage those of you in and around Cape Town to join these activities. For those of you in other parts of the world, we encourage you to join local efforts in your area to support the people of Gaza.
We also recommend this newsletter for information and updates: http://lists.qumsiyeh.org/listinfo/humanrights