Photo by: Altamish Khan

We, like many other members of South African civil society with a single-issue focus, have been ambivalent in meaningfully responding to the current massacre of Palestinian people by the Israeli occupation. In the past 3 weeks, Israel has killed more than 8300 people, damaged 183,000 homes and 221 educational facilities, killed more than 35 journalists, displaced 1.4 million people, destroyed a major hospital and ceased the functioning of 34% of hospitals in Gaza. Its war crimes include the cutting off of Gaza’s communication lines, dropping white phosphorous bombs on civilians, which burns human skin down to the bone, and using starvation as a weapon 

The Israeli occupation’s brutalisation of Palestinians has been routine for more than 75 years. Palestinians have been subjected to an illegal military occupation, settler colonialism, humiliating checkpoints, daily military raids, regular home demolitions, systematic displacement, regular massacres, and numerous other illegal apartheid practices.  

We can no longer entertain debates about whether Israel is guilty of the crime against humanity of apartheid or not. That was settled by the South African Human Sciences Research Council in 2009, the United Nations in 2017, Human Rights Watch in 2021, Amnesty International in 2022, and many Palestinian and Israeli NGOs and South African anti-apartheid activists.  

Israel is an apartheid state. 

Gaza has been under an Israeli-imposed land, sea, and air blockade since 2006. It is an open-air prison that has plunged 2.3 million people (mostly refugees) into a never-ending humanitarian crisis.  

Israel’s current massacre has been aggressively supported by powerful western states that have a reputation for undermining other democracies and even propping up the South African apartheid state during the most brutal years of our struggle.  

The Palestinian struggle for self-determination and its resistance against settler colonialism is far too familiar. Our responses should not be difficult. 

And it never was. The Palestinian armed resistance resonated with many anti-apartheid activists in the 1970s, with exiled South African liberation movements cooperating with the Palestine Liberation Organisation. In the mid-80s, activists within the Black Consciousness movement and smaller left groups shaped the Israeli-apartheid analysis. That analysis, now, refers to the International Convention for the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, and the Rome Statute. 

During the Israeli occupation’s 2014 onslaught on Gaza, 2,233 people were killed. In response, a broad range of South African civil society groups led almost 200,000 people in protest on the streets of Cape Town – the largest march in our country’s history.  

After a business consortium led by an Israeli company with links to the Israeli military, Milco, took control of Clover in 2019, thousands of workers represented by unions GIWUSA and FAWU embarked on a prolonged strike. Workers recognised the links between mass job losses here and the struggle of Palestinian people for self-determination there. They called for a boycott of Clover and demanded that our government severs ties between Clover and Israel. 

Our history shows that our struggles for human rights, livelihoods, land and housing, equal education and for health will be compromised if we regard our suffering as being isolated from that of other colonial sufferings around the world – especially the Palestinian people. Our Constitution places the duty of internationalism, for the realisation of human rights and justice, on all our shoulders. 

The Palestinian struggle for self-determination is a struggle against the last vestige of settler colonialism. The Palestinian struggle is our struggle. 

While the Israeli occupation intensifies its project of ethnic cleansing, we must support the campaign to force our government to shut down the Israeli embassy in Pretoria and prosecute South Africans who serve in the Israeli occupation forces. We must demand that it remains resolute in its call to the UN for an immediate ceasefire, the opening of humanitarian corridors to Gaza, and the creation of a rapid protection force to protect Palestinian civilians. We must build a sustainable solidarity movement towards full Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel. 

Palestine will be free. 

For more information on Palestine solidarity campaigns in South Africa contact the SA BDS Coalition. 



Audited Financial Statements 

We are committed to transparency in financing. We disclose all our donations and prepare annual financial statements in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards. View our Audited Financial Statements for Mar-Feb 2023 here. 

Austerity is an underfunding of democracy 

The Minister of Finance will present the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement on 1 November. We join civil society organisations calling on the Minister and President to halt budget cuts. This includes cuts to the Electoral Commission (IEC), which will see an underfunding of democracy. 

The IEC’s Commissioner process attracted little public scrutiny 

This month we congratulated Ms Janet Love on her reappointment as IEC Commissioner. However, the process that led to her appointment did not attract sufficient public scrutiny. Read our statement here. 

Using civic-tech for your right to vote 

Our Political Party Funding Researcher, Robyn Pasensie delivered two presentations at the Civic Tech Africa conference in Joburg. She spoke on using civic tech for the right to vote and presented our Whose Vote Counts? tool. Use the tool here. 

Research report: A critical review of party funding 

This month we launched a comprehensive research report analysing the first two years of the Political Party Funding Act (PPFA). You can view the report here. 

Compiled by: 
Minhaj Jeenah
Executive Director