ADDRESS BY NOMVULA MOKONYANE, MEMBER OF THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE ANC AND MINISTER OF WATER AND SANITATION AT SEMINAR OF THE 13th ISRAELI APARTEHID WEEK HELD AT THE STELLENBOSCH UNIVERSITY CAMPUS.

8 MARCH 2017 | Click here for the original PDF.

THEME: “CONFLICT, OCCUPATION AND PATRIARCHY”

Co-Programme Directors, Cdes Bradley Frolick and Lulama Mabude; 
The First Secretary of the Embassy of the State of Palestine;
Representatives of the Rectors Management Team;
The leadership of Boycott, Disinvest and Sanctions (BDS);
The leadership of SASCO;
The leadership of MSA;
Members of the SRC;
The broader structures of the MDM;
Members of the media;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

INTRODUCTION

The African National Congress has declared 2017 as the “Year of O.R. Tambo – Deepening Unity”. The name of O.R. Tambo has become synonymous to international solidarity. He is a central figure of the South African struggle as is Yasser Arafat is to the Palestinian struggle.

It was Luli Callinicos, in the biographic depiction of O.R. Tambo titled “Beyond the Engeni Mountains” that she states that “It was Oliver Tambo who held the ever-more inclusive liberation movement together during its 30 years of exile, helping it to interpret its vision and values for the world, and nurturing its collective culture among its far-flung membership.”

It was O.R. Tambo, during his tenure as the President of The ANC, who increasingly ensured that at every international forum he advocated the liberation struggle of other nations. He more than any other leader, highlighted the plight and struggles of nations that were still under the yoke of colonial domination and oppression.

The struggle of the Palestinian people was not an exception to that notion of international solidarity. And here we are reminded by what he said in 1979: “The PLO in Palestine …and the ANC in South Africa represent a future that is not anti-colonial merely but anti-imperialist as well. These liberation movements are the midwives of the future which will be characterised by the transfer of power to the people.”

Fast-forward years later; South Africa has seen the dawn of democracy, yet the Palestinian struggle rages on, even more fierce than ever before. The viciousness and inhumanity with which the Israeli regime handles the resistance of the Palestinian to oppression has not abated, it now seem to be on steroids.

UNSWERVING SUPPORT OF THE PALESTINIANS BY THE ANC

The ANC has been very steadfast and consistent in its support for the Palestinian cause.

At various times and forums, the voice of the ANC in its support of and solidarity with the Palestinian people never got muted:

There is no single President of the ANC in recent times who has not commented about the struggle of the Palestinian people:

Nelson Mandela commented in 1990 when he said: “If one has to refer to any of the parties as a terrorist state, one might refer to the Israeli government, because they are the people who are slaughtering defenceless and innocent arabs in the occupied (Palestinian) territories, and we don’t regard that as acceptable.”

In 2002 Thabo Mbeki states that; “The rulers of Israel are repeating the costly mistakes made by the captains of apartheid in our country.”

It was Jacob Zuma who as recently as 2012 stated that; “We stand with the people of Palestine as they strive to turn a new leaf in their struggle for their right to self–determination…the expansion of Israeli settlements into Palestinian territories is a serious stumbling block to the resolution of the conflict.”

Both the 52nd Polokwane and 53rd Mangaung National Conferences of the ANC proffered clear resolutions of the Palestinian Question:

The Polokwane National Conference Resolution stated in part that:

The 60th anniversary of the Palestinian catastrophe known as the Nakba, which resulted in the dispossession of Palestinian lands and their birthright through a systematic policy of colonial expansion, ethnic cleansing and military occupation off the most brutal kind, which as South African we readily recognise from our own experience of apartheid.

That given our own experience in our liberation struggle, we as South Africans know the force of an international solidarity campaign in bringing to bear on an oppressive regime to force it into real negotiations and a just solution.

 The Mangaung National Conference Resolution, reiterated same matter as follows:

The ANC re-affirms the resolution of its 52nd National Conference in Polokwane on the Palestinian question.

The ANC is unequivocal in its support for the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination and unapologetic in its view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel.

The ANC calls on all South African to support the programmes and campaigns of the Palestinian civil society which seeks to put pressure on Israel to engage with the Palestinian people to reach a just solution.

The ANC 4th National General Council in 2015 stated in its recommendation that:

The ANC pursue peace and democracy in the Middle East, including the liberation of the people of Palestine. In this regard, we must continually review South Africa’s relations with the state of Israel …(and) encourage disengagement on programmes and activities that may impact on our solidarity with the people of Palestine

WATER AS AN AGENT OF CHANGE OR A WEAPON OF WAR

There are two faces to the Israeli water story. The first is widely and extensively marketed. This is that technologically and in practice, Israel is a leading water innovations country with an excellent track record in water research, inventions, practices and products that are exported worldwide.

At the same time Israel has been using water and the control of water access as a tool to control the Palestinian state. This is validated by various pieces of research, many of these reports developed and overseen by the United Nations.

In fact the former Deputy Secretary General of the UN talked at the World Water Week 2016 in Stockholm of Israel using water and water access as a weapon of war.

Israel has become leading producer of water solutions. Israeli has accomplished much in this arena, becoming one of the world’s leading nations both in water practice and in developing water solutions.

Advances in irrigation technology have enabled the development of desert environments into highly profitable farms that are able to export fruit and vegetables worldwide, including to South Africa. • The country is also a leading nation in the treatment of wastewater for reuse and recycling using physical, chemical and biological techniques. In addition the country has developed a vibrant water industry and sells its products and solutions to the world.

In 2013 this was for Israel a $2.2 billion export industry and has been growing even more since. The country has advanced in domain of Water Science Technology and Innovation (STI); and this is the side that the Israeli government want us to see and focus on.

However, at the same time, Israel is the world’s leading practitioner in Water Apartheid. In this regard, Israel has, despite the re-declaration of the Palestinian State, retained complete control of all water access and water use in Palestine through the mechanism of the Joint Management Commission (JMC) that although constituted with representation from both Israel and Palestine, Israel retains a de facto veto power.

The decisions to date show a 100% of Israeli projects approved and only 56% of projects in Palestine. So much so that Palestine has withdrawn since 2010.

This has resulted in skewed distribution. For an example, Palestinians in the West Bank have access to 73 litres per person per day while the World Health Organisation (WHO) standard is 100 l/p/d and the Israel access is 240-300 l/p/d.

In addition, in the occupied territories there are hundreds of Palestinian communities that are not connected to water supplies. Importantly, there is also the matter of frequent and strategic water shutdowns by Mekorot – the Israeli national water company to the Palestinians.

Last year’s Ramadaan cut off to the West Bank made international news. The net result is daily hardship combined with very high water insecurity which hampers any reasonable development. This can, unmistakably, only help to draw our memory to the brutality of Apartheid Suid Afrika and the Bantu Homelands.

The second thrust is the parallel with South Africa and the Apartheid State. Apartheid South Africa was also a leading player in the world with respect to water. Like in Israel, desert areas in South Africa were converted to some of the most productive agricultural land in the world through irrigation techniques that were cutting edge for its time.

In the 70s, at the height of Apartheid, South Africa was lauded as the leading ‘Inter-basin Plumbers’ of the world with its extensive dam building and transfer schemes.

We now know, beyond the shadow of doubt that this was for whites and the white economy only. There is no better example of this phenomenon than the Jozini dam which was built as a single purpose dam. The locals in the area would only watch with envy while water passes by without any access to it.

The present ANC-led government is doing it utmost best to address the incredible service backlogs that were socially engineered by the apartheid regime. In addition, it has to be noted that in South Africa today, water is enshrined as a basic human right in our Constitution. However, the same cannot be said about the Palestinian situation under Israeli occupation.

The water sector is critical for government’s transformation and development objectives. Water is life and has a catalytic cross-cutting impact on socio-economic development as well as peace and stability. And the question that begs an answer is why is it that the Israeli government does not use water as an agent for change, but more as a weapon of war.

PALESTINIAN WOMEN PARTICIPATION IN STRUGGLE

The struggle of the women in Palestine is part and parcel of the struggle for national liberation against the occupying force of the Israeli regime. The struggle itself has produced some of the great women who were borne of struggle to break away from the shackles of the occupying force of Israel.

We dip our revolutionary banner to women like Leila Khaled and Hanan Ashrawi who became part and parcel of the struggle despite all patriarchal impediments.

The ANC hosted Leila Khaled when he came to South Africa in 2015, and her stature as a revolutionary has hardly diminished with the passage of time.

Israeli occupation has undermined the Palestinian right to self-determination and had thus impeded the development of a Palestinian constitution. As a result the Palestinian women have been unable to use the legal realm as means of gaining rights.

The liberal paradigm wants to delink the issues of patriarchy from the national liberation discourse. This problem is particularly acute within international women’s organizations. International women’s NGOs give funding to further Palestinian women’s rights and gender equality issues without recognizing the link between Palestinian patriarchy and Israeli occupation.

Dependence by the Palestinians on the international donors has brought with it unintended consequences of allowing a de-linking between the feminist struggles and national struggles of Palestinian women.

CLOSING REMARKS

Concern has to be raised that the United States continues to support the hegemonic narrative of Israel masquerading as the victims of the conflict.

With the support of the United States, the Israeli regime has continued with its abhorrent policy of collective punishment which has seen numerous innocent civilians being victimised through association. Israel must stop this policy!

In the last few years we have witnessed the overwhelming disproportionate use of force by the Israelis. This stance by the military has even attracted a debate on the matter within the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. This was exemplified by the debate on the Report on the attacks on Gaza where civilians were killed in numbers.

The sabre-rattling and bellicose narrative by the Israeli leadership has not been helpful in creating conducive conditions for peace and stability in the region.

The shooting of a Palestinian protestor who was lying on the ground, helpless and writhing in pain, carried out with impunity in the glare of the media was a demonstration of the culture and character of the Israeli army as a killer machine. It is not surprising that later on bigots protested when the soldier got sentenced to jail for the offence.

We take this opportunity to call upon the Israeli regime to adhere to the precept of the Road-map to peace. The cessation of all land-grab expansionist programmes should serve as a prerequisite for peace and stability in the region.

We call on all structures of the Mass Democratic Movement to support efforts by BDS to put pressure to bear on Israel to recognise the rights of the Palestinian to self-determination.

Dankie. Ngiyabonga.