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Independent Online (SA) | August 6, 2006

End ties with Israel, say marchers

Intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils has urged South Africans to boycott Israeli products and says we should not wait for the government to impose sanctions.

Kasrils added his voice to that of up to 10 000 people from 45 organisations - and several political parties - who marched on parliament on Saturday to hand over a memorandum demanding comprehensive sanctions against Israel and an end to the renewed war in the Middle East.

Kasrils, who is Jewish, was speaking as a member of Not In My Name, an organisation of about 350 South African Jews who have taken a stand against Israeli aggression. "We should be boycotting Israeli goods", said Kasrils.

Many civilians have been killed
"We dont have to wait for the government."

He shared the stage in front of parliament with leaders from a range of organisations, who have united as the "Sanctions against Israel Coalition" after the past six weeks of renewed Israeli incursions into Lebanon and Palestine, during which up to 900 people, including many civilians, have been killed.

Among the other speakers demanding sanctions and the breaking of diplomatic ties with Israel were Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) president Willie Madisha, activist group Qibla and Pan Africanist Congress Western Cape leader Achmat Cassim, and the Muslim Judicial Councils Sheikh Ihsaan Hendricks.

Also in the march were Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille and several of her MPs, as well as members of the Anti-Eviction Campaign, the Anti-war Coalition and the National Council of Trade Unions.

Expressing his outrage at the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon, Kasrils called on South Africans not to fight the government on the issue but to unite and respond to earlier calls by deputy foreign minister Aziz Pahad to discuss their concerns with the state.

Escalation of violence
Kasrils voice was drowned out by a group of protesters who demanded to know the whereabouts of Khalid Rashid, who was deported by the South African government, apparently to his native Pakistan late last year for being an illegal immigrant, but is still missing.

There are allegations that South Africa collaborated with the United States to have him delivered to allied forces. The government has denied this and Kasrils did not respond to the heckling.

In a telephone interview with Independent Newspapers afterwards, Pahad reiterated the invitation to discuss the coalitions concerns but said South Africa could only impose sanctions once multi-lateral organisations, such as the United Nations, the Arab League and Palestine had called for such a move.

Last month Pahad said SA was not planning to break ties with Israel and that calls to do so would not be taken seriously.

The war has since escalated and last weekend President Thabo Mbeki joined world leaders in expressing outrage and condemnation of the Israeli bombings on the Lebanese town of Qana in which scores of civilians died. The government said there could be no military solution to the Middle East crisis.

On Saturday Pahad said that individual sanctions by South Africa could limit the countrys capacity to interact and influence the resolution of the crisis. Pahad has been active in mediating between the main players in the conflict for many years.

In a memorandum handed to a foreign affairs official Mike Basson, at the gates of parliament, the protesters also demanded inter alia that South African workers should "refuse to work with Israeli products".

Speakers alleged that most South African diamonds were cut in Israel and demanded that workers march on De Beers to protest against this. Pamphlets with brand-names of Israeli products were distributed by one group of protesters. Most of the Muslim speakers called for an end to the Israeli state and Zionism and spoke out against South African Jews who maintained close ties with Israel.

Madisha, however, called on all workers, "Jews, Christians and Muslims" to unite and pledged further protest action by unions.

"This is a demand for freedom and the illegal occupation of Lebanon and Palestine and against immoral actions by Israel supported by Bush and Blair, a demand against imperialism and the very slow genocide where innocent people are being killed", Madisha said.

The South Africans joined protesters worldwide, including a mass march in London on Saturday demanding a ceasefire.

The march came as the UN Security Council was continuing efforts to find "wording acceptable to all" to call for a halt in the violence with France and the US at loggerheads.

The march was peaceful, with the organisations brandishing their flags and placards demanding the end of diplomatic relations with Israel and the "axis of evil" made up of Israel, the US and Britain.

Posted on 06-08-2006

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