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Palestinian politician and physician, Dr Mustafa Barghouti has called on South Africans to lead the isolation of Israel by supporting the consumer boycott of Israeli goods and services and the expulsion of Israel from the international football federation, and by expelling the its ambassador.

Barghouti, who is a former Minister of Information in the Palestinian Unity Government and currently the secretary general of the Palestine National Initiative, was speaking to the media earlier today about the latest developments in Palestine. He is visiting the country and has had meetings with government officials and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Naledi Pandor, and with the deputy speaker of parliament. He expressed appreciation of the solidarity that Palestinians have been getting from the South African government, South Africans and from around the world but called for an organised, united voice and strategy.

South Africa, he argued, is key to the struggle for a free Palestine since it went through the same fight against apartheid. “We are so encouraged and so appreciative of the world reaction to when we see demonstrations all over the world demanding the end of terrible aggression to Palestinians but also demanding justice for Palestinians. And I say that this anger that we see in the world would not be effective if it does not get organised and that is why we believe that the best thing that can be done now is to combine Palestinian resistance and struggle with Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign worldwide (BDS) like you did in South Africa,” he said.

“We ask South Africa and thank South Africa for all that they have done and for proceeding to ICJ again demanding cessation of all military activities in Gaza, but we also ask South Africa for three other things. The first thing is immediate economic boycott of Israel including boycotting of all commercial relations with Israel. South Africa can become an avant garde country. Secondly, we are asking for civil society to campaign in a strong way to kick out Israel from FIFA as it was done to the rugby team here during apartheid. Finally, we call on the expulsion of Israeli ambassador and to cut the relationship with them as long as they continue with the system of apartheid and discrimination against Palestinian people,” he said.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign has called for Israel to be kicked out of FIFA. Photo by Sharon McKinnon

Kicking Israel out of Fifa

The sports boycott of apartheid South Africa was instrumental to isolating the apartheid regime and a precedent that the international football governing body, FIFA (the Federation Internationale de Football Association) has already followed – in the case of Russia, a hypocrisy the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has called out. “The actrocities inflicted on the Palestinians by Israel far exceeds the human cost of the war between Russia and Ukraine. Yet UEFA and FIFA suspended Russia in 2022 from all football competitions while Israel still participates in football matches,” the PSC said, then accused FIFA of condoning Israeli racism while claiming to fight racism in football. Unlike other countries in the region, Israel is part of UEFA (Union of European Football Associations), instead of the Asian Football Confederation like other Middle Eastern and Asian countries, including Palestine.

In November last year, 44 days after October 7, the Israel government recalled its ambassador in South Africa “for consultations”. The recall followed a motion that was passed in parliament recommending the Israeli embassy’s closure until there is a ceasefire and a commitment to negotiations.

Health crisis in Palestine

Barghouti, who is also the president of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, painted a picture of the catastrophic state of healthcare in Palestine. The destruction of infrastructure has led to the outbreak of diseases that cannot be treated for lack of medication, shortage of medical personnel and attacks on hospitals.

Dr Mustafa Barghouti talking about the health crisis in Palestine. Video edited by Sindile Gulwa