JOINT PYA STATEMENT: South African Youth and Student Groups Slam Israeli Propaganda Holiday Trips
11 June 2015

A meeting was convened earlier today by the leadership of the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) which is composed of the African National Congress Youth League (ANC Youth League) the youth wing of South Africa’s ruling ANC party, the South African Students Congress (SASCO) representing university students at institutions of higher learning, the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) representing school learners across the country and the Young Communist League of South Africa (YCLSA) the youth wing of the SACP.

The Israeli lobby in South Africa is increasingly turning to  old Apartheid-Day tricks to entice young South Africans and distract us from our solidarity with the Palestinian people and their progressive Israeli comrades. The Israeli lobby is throwing free holiday propaganda trips and other gifts at young South Africans trying to undermine solidarity with the Palestinian people. One such holiday propaganda trip is planned for July 2015.

We view these holiday propaganda trips to Israel organised by pro-Israeli lobby groups such as the SA Israel Forum, the SA Friends of Israel and the racist SA Zionist Federation as nothing more than “sanctions-busting propaganda trips” similar to the 1980s junkets to Apartheid South Africa organised then, for example, by the  South Africa Foundation (that operated in the USA) and the Strategy Network International (that operated in the UK).

We would in particular like to single out the SA Israel Forum, one of the organisers of the holiday propaganda trips to Israel. The SA Israel Forum is an organisation that was exposed a few years back by the media, for being funded by the notorious  Cape Gate company (which supplies fencing for the construction of Israel’s Apartheid Wall).  The SA Israel Forum was previously stopped from taking local mayors and municipal members on holiday propaganda trips to Israel in 2012. They now seem to be targeting students after having failed at a government level.

South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation came out very clearly in 2012 saying that:  Because of the treatment and policies of Israel towards the Palestinian people, we strongly discourage South Africans from going there”. In addition, Minister Miate Nkoana-Mashabane said in 2013 that: The Palestinians had asked us in formal meetings to not engage with the [Israeli] regime…Ministers of South Africa do not visit Israel currently…our ministers are not going to Israel…We have agreed to slow down and curtail senior  leadership  contact  with  that  regime  until  things  begin  to  look better…the struggle of the people of Palestine is our struggle.”

In November 2014, one of the highest decision making bodies of the ANC (the leader of our Mass Democratic Movement to which we as organizations all belong) took a decision to:  “join the call for a cultural, academic and education boycott of Israel including travel bans for members and leaders of the ANC, the Alliance, Members of Cabinet, Members of Parliament and Government Officials.”

Participation in these holiday propaganda trips to Israel is a violation of the policies and positions of our organisations, but in addition is a violation of the the  Palestinian  civil  society  call  (supported  by  a  growing  number  of progressive Israelis) for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Participation in these holiday propaganda trips to Israel, like participation in holiday propaganda trips to Apartheid South Africa, will be viewed as the crossing of a picket line, and will be met with disciplinary action.

We are of the opinion that the these holiday propaganda trips to Israel are a direct  response  to  the  long-standing  support  of  South  African  students, school-learners and young people to the Palestinian struggle as well as our active participation and endorsement of the non-violent boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel campaign. It is no secret that our campuses and schools are heavily biased towards supporting progressive international struggles, like the just struggle of the Palestinians people. In fact, SASCO, the oldest and largest student movement on the African Continent, was one of the first national student organisations to have backed the BDS campaign. Subsequently the SA Union of Students, representing all SRCs in the country also supported the BDS campaign.  In addition, 7 SRCs including those of the University of Cape Town (UCT), University of the Western Cape (UWC), University of the Witwatersrand (WITS), Cape Peninsula University of Technology   (CPUT),  the   University   of   South   Africa   (UNISA),  Durban University of Technology (DUT) and Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT). The holiday propaganda trips to Israel are an attempt to reverse the gains of of young people on this issue.

We would like to stress that we are against all forms of racism including anti- semitism. In fact, in preparation for today’s meeting and press conference, we reached out to our Israeli comrades (from Boycott From Within) who provided us with much guidance and information. They made it clear, that as peace and justice loving Israelis they do not agree with these white-washing holiday propaganda trips and are discouraging young South Africans from going. They instead urged us to continue supporting the BDS movement and campaign, which they too are bravely supporting (in the face of Israeli victimisation). [Click  here  or  see  attachment  for  letter  received  from Israeli comrades belonging to “Boycott From Within”]

The organisers of the holiday propaganda trips to Israel try to suggest, like Apartheid South Africa apologists used to claim in the 1980s, that the issue of Palestine-Israel is complicated. We maintain that the issue is simple: Israel must end its violations of international law and oppression of the Palestinian

people. During the struggle against Apartheid we didn’t ask as South Africans for members  of the international community to travel to South Africa (as guests of pro-Apartheid organisations) instead we were very clear: support, from your countries, the boycott and isolation of Apartheid South Africa. The millions of people that supported our boycott did not have to come here to see first,  then  act.  They  trusted  our  guidance,  likewise  today,  we  trust  the guidance of the Palestinian people. The almost entirety of Palestinian civil and political society have called for BDS and we must heed this call.

Our Israeli comrades have also alerted us that the keynote speakers are far from “fair and biased” as advertised by the organisers of the holiday propaganda trips to Israel. As students and young people we should take it upon ourselves to look for un-biased opinions in order to avoid being misled by organisations geared towards spreading Israeli propaganda. [Click here or see attachment for letter received from Israeli comrades belonging to “Boycott From Within”]

We hereby:

– Are warning all students, school learners, young entrpreneurs and young people that there will be invites, bursaries and and other “gifts” from the Israeli lobby that will target students and  young people. Just say “no” to these or risk being complicit in the bloodshed of our Palestinian counterparts!
– Declare that while we understand that some may be misled by the Israeli lobby, we condemn any leader or member that participates in these Israeli holiday propaganda trips.
– Declare that we will be taking serious disciplinary action against any member or leader that participates in any of these Israeli holiday propaganda trips.
– Remind all members of our organizations that any contravention of an organisation’s policies and positions, for example, it’s support for BDS and travel ban to Israel, is to be guilty of ill-  discipline.
– Undertake to ensure that the position of not going on Israeli propaganda holidays trips be re-inforced at upcoming conferences and congresses of our various organisations including the      upcoming ANC NGC.
– Undertake that we will be in our on-going interaction at our campuses, schools,  structures  and  communities  make  all  members  aware  of  our positions on these reactionary Israeli  propaganda holiday trips. We will be starting, in fact, tomorrow in Soweto at Naledi High School at a COSAS organised programme titled “Commemorating Youth Month, Celebrating  Learner Internationalism”.

We painfully know that the number of Palestinian children killed by Israel in 2014 was the third-highest number of children killed in a country. We know that approximately 1000 Palestinian children have been left permanently disabled by Israel in 2014 alone. We know that more than 260 schools were damaged by Israeli airstrikes last year, including three public schools that were destroyed entirely and 23 that were “severely damaged.” We also know that  274  Palestinian  kindergartens  were  damaged  by  Israel  in  2014.  We painfully recall last year’s horrific Israeli killing on a Gaza beach of four young Palestinian boys who were playing soccer.

As we are in Youth Month and are going to be commemorating Youth Day, we wish to extend our revolutionary solidarity to all Palestinian youth, students, young people and school learners. You will overcome, just as how we did. The time for Israeli Apartheid is soon coming to an end. Young people of the world unite!

JOINTLY ISSUED BY LEADERSHIP OF ANC YOUTH LEAGUE ANC YL), SOUTH AFRICAN STUDENTS CONGRESS (SASCO), YOUNG COMMUNIST LEAGUE OF SOUTH AFRICA (YCL SA) AND CONGRESS OF SOUTH AFRICAN STUDENTS (COSAS)

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Ntuthuko  Makhombothi,  President  of  the   South  African  Students Congress
0718752209 \  www.sasco.org.za

Khulekani Skosana, Secretary General of the Congress of South African Students
082 346 7959 \  www.cosas.co.za

Mluleki Dlelanga, National Secretary of Young Communist League of South Africa
0786429004 \  www.ycl.org.za

Matome  Chiloane,  Gauteng  Provincial  Chairperson  of  ANC  Youth League
0827963517 \  www.ancyl.org.za

Muhammad Khalid Sayed, Western Cape Provincial Chairperson of ANC Youth League
0762748062 \ www.ancyl.org.za