Tahir Sema of COSATU addresses Parliament about Palestine

Address to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on International Relations
and Co-operation


Honorable Members

 The world is looking upon us as South Africans, to lead the liberation
of the Palestinian people, because of our past and the way in which we fought
Apartheid. It is a known fact that Palestinians are experiencing nothing short
of apartheid. We have sent delegations to Palestine and many Politicians have
also visited Palestine, all of them have reported the same thing to us.
Palestine is under occupation and its people are looking to the world and South
Africa in particular to help liberate it.

 The Problem: The State of Israel is a settler-colonial state,
established in Palestine. It has occupied Palestinian land so that it can house
a settler society. In so doing, the native population has been dispossessed of
their right to self-determination and property rights.

The laws of the State of Israel give preferential treatment to the
settler communities in terms of land ownership, housing, water resources,
freedom of movement, education, job opportunities and health services. These
settlers are defined by law as “Jews”.  “Non-Jews” are discriminated
against. Same as in Apartheid SA .

The states material and welfare resources are denied to the

Arabs living in Israel do not qualify for Israeli citizenship.

 Today: Palestinians are confined and separated by an Apartheid
wall.  Travel in and out of these “Bantustans” are controlled by more than
650 checkpoints and road blocks. $450 is spent per student on Israeli students
but only $128 is spent on Arab-Israeli students.  Is this not Bantu

Honorable Members

The Palestinian statehood bid is indeed a form of diplomatic resistance
in a larger struggle. Parliament must back the Palestinian right to self-determination
and efforts to reach a viable state for, by and of all the people of Palestine
– including the majority who find themselves in the diaspora and refugee camps.

Whether the United Nations (UN) will grant statehood or not, the crucial
question to the COSATU led Coalition for a Free Palestine and the same must be
for Parliament, is whether the Israeli occupation and oppression of
Palestinians will end. A state under occupation and continued Israeli
aggression, amounts to nothing more than a Bantustan, and does not
automatically translate into freedom and self-rule for Palestinians. As our
Palestinian comrades have constantly said, recognition at the UN is only part
of the broader struggle. Until Palestinians are completely free, solidarity with
the Palestinian people and resistance to Israeli oppression must continue.

Honorable Members

We must pledge our support for the following basic principles
articulated by Palestinian political and civil society organisations and
several long standing UN Resolutions:

1. Ending the Israeli occupation and colonisation of all Palestinian
lands and dismantling the Israeli Apartheid Wall;

2. Recognising the fundamental rights of the Palestinian citizens of
Israel to full equality;

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian
refugees to return to their homes and properties;

4. An immediate end to Israel’s illegal settlements, and blockade on
Gaza; and

6. An end to Israel’s discriminatory and racist policies.

7. Parliament must also allow differing views, to filter into
discussions. Each view must be deconstructed and judged based on its merits.
Perhaps Parliament must consider setting up a task team to look through
differing views and to hammer out the details of our support.

In line with this, it is important to also call for the intensification
of the struggle, particularly the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)
campaign against Israel. As our own anti-apartheid struggle has demonstrated,
this is an effective, non-violent form of resistance that can bring an end to
injustice and contribute immensely to liberation.

Honorable Members

What has also been embarrassingly exposed during the Palestinian bid for
statehood is the USA’s hypocrisy and double standards. The USA claims to
support democracy in the Middle East by using its military power purportedly to
enforce UN resolutions. However, this same USA has used its veto power at the
UN Security Council forty-one (41) times in defence of the Apartheid State of Israel
and against Palestinian rights, thus effectively frustrating the enforcement of
UN resolutions.

As the COSATU led Coalition for a Free Palestine, we welcome the strong
South African government stance on the issue. South Africans, and the
democratic South African government, have a moral duty to stand with the
Palestinian people and all other just struggles around the world.


In conclusion, it is not just about the UN state bid but also about; ensuring that
there is justice, peace and land redistribution for the vulnerable Palestinians
that have suffered for too long. We must ensure that these points are not lost
and become part of any deal promoting lasting peace.

Tahir Sema.

Convenor of the COSATU led Coalition for a Free Palestine

National Spokesperson of South African Municipal Workers’ Union


2 responses to this post.

  1. A great articile which i injoyed reading and also passed on. Thankyou !



  2. Posted by Seun John on October 18, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Brilliant address to Parliament by Tahir Sema. An insightful perspective.



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