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Hundreds of people in Johannesburg joined millions around the world to protest in solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine. In a march starting at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown to the Mandela Bridge in Braamfontein, the protesters said that not enough was being done to end genocide. They were led by organisations ranging from civil society, political parties and the trade union movements.

Ever since the attacks that started out on the 7th of October which to date has seen over 15,000 Palestinians killed and close to two million displaced in a brutal bombardment of Gaza by the Israeli military, there has been an international outcry against Israel to leave its occupation of Palestine and allow them historical self-determination. The protesters were unanimous that although there has been a temporary pause to the war to allow both camps to exchange captives, and although the South African parliament voted to sever diplomatic ties with the Israeli government until a permanent ceasefire is agreed, an end of occupation is what is needed.

Picket in Blikkiesdorp in Delft, Cape Town, earlier today. Photo by Mzi Velapi

Bongani Masuku, the Congress of South African Trade Unions’ (Cosatu) international secretary, said the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador should be permanent until a free Palestine is achieved. He said even the truce or the pause on genocide is not enough as all the humanitarian food aid and medicine has been depleted. Although Masuku doubts that a two-state solution is still possible, he also reminded South Africa to do more as they can relate to what happened to them during the struggle for liberation. “We are here in solidarity with the people of Palestine because Africans were the victims of racism, colonialism and apartheid. What Israel is doing to Palestine is about racism and supremacy, the same as apartheid South Africa,” he says.

Allan Horwitz from South African Jews for a Free Palestine said Israel must be completely isolated like South Africa was isolated during apartheid. “Israel must understand that apartheid is not going to be accepted. We must cut off the financial flow. We mustn’t allow Zionists here to send money to Israel. Cut off trade with Israel and cut off the contacts with universities and other institutions. We must put pressure on the United States to do the same. Eventually South Africa must have a clear and a consistent foreign policy to deal with this matter,” he says, also emphasising that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. A distinction he wants to make clear is that Jews as a people are not automatically Zionists who support apartheid Israel. 

“I think the import of the truce is only in creating the breathing space for the Palestinian people who have lost so much in this period, but it is not the answer. It doesn’t solve the long-standing national sovereignty of Palestine. We call for the freedom of Palestine as a whole, not based on culture or religion but based on land,” said Lybon Mabasa, once president of the Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo) and later of the Socialist Party of Azania (Sopa), and now a member of the Black Consciousness Movement-United.

Vigil outside St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town on Wednesday. Photo by Mzi Velapi

While they support the South African government’s decision to sever diplomatic ties with Israel, Roshan Dadoo from BDS South Africa (Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment) said truce is pathetic. “How can you have a pause in genocide? We are demanding a complete ceasefire and an end to genocide, not only in Gaza but in the West Bank and throughout Palestine.”

Thami Hukwe from Sopa called for a one-state solution as the ultimate end to this conflict. “There has to be one state where all Palestinians and Jewish people will live together peacefully under one government. I think that is what is needed with regard to Palestine and the Israeli settler government.”

Taking to the podium and addressing the protesters, the general secretary of the ANC, Fikile Mbalula urged his comrades in government to implement their resolution to expel the Israeli ambassador to South Africa without any delay or else the call for this will be intensified.