Call to boycott Israel spreading. In additional to the boycott of Israel declared by British academics and public workers in Canada last month, now a large workers’ union in South Africa is shunning the Jewish state in protest of its policies towards the Palestinians.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions, representing 1.2 million workers in the African country, published a letter expressing enthusiastic support for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) boycott of
Israel. In CUPE’s boycott declaration, the organization calls Israel’s separation fence an “apartheid wall” and condemns its continued construction as in violation of international law. They further called for divestment from Israel and demanded the imposition of sanctions.
In his letter, COSAFU president Willie Madisha hailed the Canadian group’s initiative: “With great pride, I congratulate CUPE Ontario for their historic resolution on May 27th in support of the Palestinian people - those living under occupation and those millions of Palestinian refugees living in the Diaspora. We fully support your resolution.
“As someone who lived in apartheid South Africa and who has visited Palestine I say with confidence that Israel is an apartheid state. In fact, I believe that some of the atrocities committed against the Palestinians pale in comparison to those committed by the erstwhile apartheid regime in South Africa,” Madisha wrote.
‘Israel criticism silenced as anti-Semitic’
According to the letter, “The latest outrage by the apartheid Israeli regime-the construction of the hideous Apartheid Wall-condemned by the International Court of Justice- extends the occupation of Palestinian lands, disrupts the already precarious economic, social, health and education well being of an entire people.”
Medisha further accuses world powers are turning a blind eye from such injustices because they “are seduced by apartheid Israel's justification of brutality through the pretext of 'security'.” He claims that the West silences any criticism of Israel citing anti-Semitism. “It is time for the global workers movement to stand firm and principled against hypocrisy and double standards. We cannot remain silent any longer. There will be no peace in this region and in the world, without justice,” the letter proclaims.
‘Boycott is peaceful option’
He recalls how workers around the world support the struggle against South African apartheid through boycotts, divestments and sanctions which “hastened our
march to democracy.”
“In the face of an intransigent, arrogant, racist and brutal Israeli state, this strategy of isolation should be applied to Israel as well. It is a peaceful option,” the letter asserts.
In the letter, Madisha recalls Israel’s support for the South African apartheid regime, noting that his organization calls on Israel to respect international law, the right of return for refugees, and the elected Palestinian government.
He lauds the “courage and vision” of CUPE Ontario. “Your unwavering resolve inspires us, we who lived through decades of apartheid oppression, as it will undoubtedly inspire and endear you to millions of Palestinian and other freedom loving people throughout the world,” he says.
COSATU spokesman defends boycott
COSATU spokesperson Patrick Craven confirmed to Ynet that the letter was in fact sent from the organization to its Canadian counterpart. He said the union’s policy is to support the Palestinian struggle for freedom because his own people in South Africa were also forced to fight a war of independence using similar tactics against harsh oppression. In response to Ynet’s query where they had to deal with suicide attacks against innocents, Craven said the apartheid regime’s military wing exercised terrorist tactics against South Africa’s black population.
It is impossible to claim here that both sides are violent, Craven said. One can’t compare the violence from the oppressors to the actions of the oppressed, he said, but hastened to note that he does not support every step taken by the Palestinians. Craven clarified that his organization has condemned Israel and its “colonialist” actions in the past, but could not answer whether they had condemned Palestinian violence in parallel.
When asked the hypothetical question, would his organization condemn a Palestinian terror attack were one to happen today, Craven answered that they would have to consider it.