May 15 marked the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (Catastrophe) where over 700 000 Palestinian people were expelled from their land. It is the day when the state of Israel was formed in 1948. However, this year the day was also marked by the moving of the United States of America’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on 14 May. Over 60 people were killed in protests with thousands injured. Many around the world took to the streets in condemnation of the violence. The Daily Vox attended a Johannesburg picket of around 100 people outside the US Consulate in Sandton.
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) South Africa, the National Union of Mineworkers South Africa Numsa), and other Palestinian solidarity groups gathered outside the consulate to express anger at the US’ decision to reverse decades of foreign policy which caused Monday’s violence as Israeli security officials opened fire on Palestinian protesters. Representatives from Numsa and SA Palestinian Solidarity handed over a memorandum to the US consulate with their demands which included a reversal of the decision to move the embassy, and for the US to impose sanctions on Israel. The memorandum was received by the US embassy but the consulate declined to sign it, saying they needed to go through the document first.
Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola told The Daily Vox: “We are here as Numsa to demonstrate our disgust at Apartheid Israel for its attack on innocent civilians yesterday who were demonstrating against the United States’ decision to move their embassy to Jerusalem. We stand with the people of Palestine. We call for sanctions against Israel. While we acknowledge what our government has done (by removing its ambassador), we as a country need to do much more. Perhaps if South Africa makes the first step, the rest of the world will follow.”
Iman Moosa, a member of the Palestinian Solidarity group at the University of Witwatersrand, said to The Daily Vox: “We all know yesterday what happened. It was such an atrocity especially happening now with the 70th commemoration of the Nakba. We are here now because enough is enough. It’s been going on for 70 years. For how long does Israel and the US expect Palestinians to live in occupation? That’s why the protests were planned for here and Cape Town, and around the world. People are standing up and they are realising that there is no justice living under occupation. And if we see an atrocity happening, you should stand up and fight, and use your voice in anyway.”
“I think it’s important for Jewish South Africans to show our support for protesting against the Israeli state and the American state, and to say it’s wrong for people to be massacred whether it’s in Marikana or anywhere else in the world. And the fact that the Americans can open an embassy while people are being killed and then celebrate it afterward is something that we should be embarrassed about as Jewish people,” said Tim Fish Hodgson on why he was there as a Jewish person to support the Palestinian people.
Jonathan Whittall, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) director of analysis told The Daily Vox that the MSF teams have seen more trauma patients in the last month than during the entirety of the 2014 war where Israel launched a massive bombing campaign on Gaza.
Whittall said while there are immediate actions that can be taken by the South African government like pressuring Israel to stop the shooting protesters in Gaza and calling on them to allow essential supplies to enter into Gaza, the real issues needs to be addressed.
“However, the endless cycles of violence, the ongoing siege, and the military occupation of Palestine are the real issues that need to be addressed by governments around the world. These are the ills that cannot be treated by medicine,” said Whittall.
Whittall continued: “As concerned citizens we cannot accept the normalisation of this kind of violence. This requires a constant outcry as we have seen over the past weeks and days in response to the use of violent force against protestors. The patients that we see in Gaza need our solidarity. They need to know that their suffering is not being normalised.”
A representative from SA Jews For Palestine addressed the crowd saying: “And for people to protect Israel by saying criticism against Israel is anti-Semitism is false and it is not right. No longer can anyone accept the murder of children, the ongoing occupation and the ongoing Nakba, the lack of dignity and equality in occupied Palestine. So we say enough and not in our name.”
Additional reporting by Shaazia Ebrahim.