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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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  |  COSATU Speeches

Zwelinzima Vavi’s address to the Rally in Solidarity with Gaza

21 November 2012, Lenasia

Comrade Chairperson of the session,
Fraternal organisations, solidarity friends and allies
Members of the media,
Comrades and compatriots,

On behalf of the working class of South Africa, receive esteemed greetings. We are gathered here today amidst a dark cloud of the most inhumane atrocities of occupation against a people. Wars of colonial expansion and racist domination are being waged in the name of fighting terrorism.

This represents a vicious attack on the dignity not only of the Palestinian people, but all humanity, particularly all of us who suffered under colonialism and apartheid in the most recent past.

We take this opportunity to condemn in the strongest terms the Israeli government’s five airstrikes on Gaza on the morning of the 17th November 2012, including one on the offices of Prime Minister, Ismail Haniya.

The Israeli military admits that it had struck more than 200 Palestinian targets overnight. As well as Ismail Haniya’s headquarters, which was reduced to a huge pile of rubble, Israeli rockets struck the Hamas police and homeland security headquarters, and the house of a Hamas commander, Ahmed Randor.

Many innocent people have been killed in this round of separate attacks by Israeli drones, one in Rafah, and three in the Al Magazi refugee camp in the middle of the Gaza Strip and other places. This brings the number of Palestinians killed so far in the last four days rose to at least 105, according to reports.

COSATU is even more concerned at a quote from the Israeli military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, at a briefing to brief regular forces and reservists, that “We are here tonight on the eve of a possible ground operation”. This suggests that these rocket attacks could be the build-up to another infantry move into Gaza like the three-week invasion of 2008-9.

These attacks are clearly linked to encouraging remarks made on a visit to Gaza by the new Egyptian Prime Minister, Hesham Qandil, which indicate a clear change his government’s policy towards the struggles of the people of Palestine.

“The aim of this visit,” he said, “is not only to show political support but to support the Palestinian people on the ground”. He called for a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, as “the only way to achieve stability in the region”. We support his call on the Palestinian people to unite, “because their power and strength is in their unity. That’s the only way to liberate Palestine.”

COSATU reaffirms its total solidarity with the Palestine people’s struggle and its legitimate demand for full national sovereignty and human rights, an end to Israel military attacks, removal of settlements in Palestinian territories and the demolition of the ‘apartheid wall’ to restrict the free movement of the people. In one word, ending the occupation should be the ultimate goal of all our solidarity on a global scale.

The federation once again calls on the South African government to withdraw its ambassador to Israel as an act of solidarity with the people of Palestine in their struggle against a regime which the Russell Tribunal has condemned as guilty of apartheid.

COSATU also applauds the defiant comment of Abu el-Abed, a security official, who was standing outside the ruined Gaza Prime Minister’s offices and replanting a fallen flag: “We will rebuild this place as we have rebuilt others,” he said. “Every structure that is demolished or destroyed is a big loss. But the blood of anybody wounded is more important than any structure. This place will be rebuilt and the [Israeli] occupation will go and we will stay.”

This act of defiance instils confidence in the suffering people of Palestine that the forces of brutal murder and occupation shall never succeed in instilling pain and fear amongst the heroic Palestinian masses.

With the looming elections in Israel, scheduled for 22nd January, 2013, this move is not accidental from the side of Israel, but part of a well designed and calculated move as well illustrated by Eric Draitser, a geopolitical analyst, when he said, “The timing of the attack is not a coincidence.

Even though Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen as the only option, he was also pushing hard for Romney to win, and now this attack could be one of the ways Netanyahu is trying to exercise his own power in the country, showing that Israel is not weak and that the administration will push forward with this imperialistic agenda no matter who won the US election”.

This is further confirmed by the Freelance Journalist Lior Sternfeld in his analysis that draws the parallel between the pre-election November attack on Gaza and the Golan heights, when he said, “He (Netanyahu) knows that the way to ensure his victory in the upcoming elections will be by diverting the public the public discourse from demands of social justice to existential threats imposed on Israel by the bogeyman – Hamas”.

The rights and dignity of the Palestinians cannot be sacrificed on the altar of narrow politicking in the interests of an imperialist agenda and the elitist interests of Israel and its US patron. It is the right and responsibility of all people to fight for their freedom from occupation, colonialism and apartheid of whatever form.

The world body in the form of the UN has dismally failed the peoples of Palestine and the world, by continuously allowing itself to be held hostage by the powerful vested interests of Israel, the US and the EU in this regard. The UN is rightfully being seen as the extension of the US state department, serving only to advance those interests that are convenient to the US and its allies.

The International Criminal Court has been exposed as nothing but a tool to further the narrow interests of the world’s powerful, only targeting their enemies and leaving out real war criminals. Justice must be justice for all and must be applied equally and so must war crimes. Wherever committed they must be exposed and punished, regardless of whoever committed them.

We cannot stand by and make idly comments while the world is held ransom by the forces of occupation and colonialism, whilst the world media continues to collaborate in hiding the real truth in this conflict. The issue is not about terrorists, but about a colonising power and apartheid state, as well narrated by the Russell Tribunal, seeking to expand its colonial ambitions, divert attention from its own internal issues and plunder to their narrow electoral whims.

Equally apportioning blame to both the coloniser and the colonised is a crime against humanity, as is blaming the victim for her suffering and struggle to regain her dignity. We cannot be fooled any longer by the propaganda of the global ruling class that seeks to portray Israel as the victim, thus protecting its colonial and racist interests from global public scrutiny.

We support the working and poor people of Israel for marching to the Ministry of Defence in their own country to demand, “Money for welfare, not for war”. This was a very bold and progressive step in the right direction to expose the lies that every support for Palestine is a support for Terrorism and against Jews. This is a struggle against colonialism, occupation and apartheid, not against any particular group of people, not least the Jewish people. It is a struggle for dignity and humanity of conscience.

We are encouraged by the growing global movement for justice and end to occupation throughout the world, with the peoples marching in full solidarity with the oppressed masses of Palestine, as recently seen in our own country led by our own initiative, with our allies, the Coalition for a Free Palestine (CfP), in Egypt, in the US itself, in various parts of Europe, in Latin America and in the Middle East too, including Israel itself.

The need for more action is amplified by Israel’s amassing of massive arsenal for a new ground offensive against Gaza, by recalling about 75 000 of its Reservists and weaponry to launch an unprecedented ground offensive against the occupied people of Palestine.

COSATU finally calls on the working people of the world and all people of conscience to stand up and be counted, in various ways, amongst others:

  • The intensification of the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement by refusing all and any association with the state of Israel and its agents of whatever form
  • Intensified global marches against the representatives of the apartheid state of Israel all over the world and their US allies to demand withdrawal of all embassies from Israel and ending of all diplomatic and political relations with the apartheid state, as was done in support of our own cause
  • Sit-ins in all Israeli embassies and night vigils in all Foreign Affairs and International relations offices
  • Marches to UN and ICC offices to demand action against war crimes committed by Israel
  • While we welcome the ANC International Solidarity Conference support for the BDS, we still expect more action from our allies, which is a legitimate expectation from the people of the world who did not just sit by and watch apartheid ravage our own country, but stood up and took action, including sanctions, which heralded the new era in our country.
  • We support the Night vigil to be held at DIRCO and pledge our fullest support to all activities aimed at practically demonstrating our unwavering solidarity with the people of Palestine for their right to freedom and end to occupation.

Thank you