Salaamedia | Cartoon: Carlos Latuf | 17 May 2017
The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation has lambasted the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF), a pro-Israeli lobby group, that criticised the Foundation’s 24-hour solidarity hunger strike in support of Palestinian prisoners.
Supported by SA Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and several cabinet ministers, South Africans were called on to stand by the #DignityStrikeSA campaign on the 15 May 2017.
The Kathrada Foundation’s Executive Director, Neeshan Balton, said that the SAZF correctly noted that the Israeli Prison Services must uphold international law. “We would hope that the SAZF maintains consistency in this regard. It must continue to raise the issue of violation of international law against Palestinians within Israeli prisons on an ongoing basis.”
The New Age newspaper quoted the SAZF chairperson, Ben Swarts, as saying that, “There is a fundamental difference between the hunger strikers in the South African apartheid era to this hunger strike initiated by Marwan Barghouti. In South Africa and under the oppressive aparthied regime, legitimate freedom fighters had been imprisoned due to their political statements, beliefs and convictions.”
Balton slammed the SAZF for having no historical credibility in the fight against apartheid South Africa. He rather fingered the SAZF for being complicit in the apartheid regime’s oppression.
“I’m not surprised that the Israeli lobby thinks that drawing similarities between South African anti-apartheid hunger strikers and Palestinian hunger strikers may ‘diminish the stature’ of our own liberation struggle – it does not! The SAZF was never amongst organisations fighting for freedom and democracy in South Africa. The SAZF was silent and complicit in the apartheid regime’s oppression. Today, it is ironic that this very organisation wants to lecture those who were in forefront of the struggle, like Robben Island anti-apartheid prisoners Laloo Chiba and Ebrahim Ebrahim, about what it thinks diminishes struggle history. It’s an absolute shame.
“There are currently 6500 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails. Of those, human rights group Addameer puts the figure of Palestinian child prisoners at 300. There are 500 people serving administrative detention (the equivalent of detention without trial). We would certainly want to hear the SAZF raise concerns over these violations as well. We would also want them to question Israel’s use of solitary confinement, as well as its apartheid style tactics of using arbitrary arrests and imprisonment to crush the will of the Palestinian people.”
Balton noted that Barghouthi was tried in a military court, the legitimacy of which was not recognised by the Palestinians themselves, nor the Inter-Parliamentary Union. “The Israeli lobby is quick to term Barghouthi a murderer, but fails to mention how this member of the Palestinian parliament was abducted by Israeli forces in 2002 before being tried through a military court with sham legal proceedings.”