South Africa FM: “We will not rest until Palestine’s freedom is realised.”

South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor’s speech to the Global Anti-Apartheid Conference on Palestine
Dr GNM Pandor, Minister for International Relations and Cooperation's Address to the Global Anti-Apartheid Conference on Palestine at Sandton Convention Centre, Friday 10 May 2024

Programme Director, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is an honour to address you here today at the inaugural Global Anti-Apartheid Conference on Palestine. This is a watershed moment as it is the start of the global anti-apartheid movements on Palestine from around the globe coming together and joining forces in the struggle for justice for the Palestinian people. We would like to express our deep appreciation to Reverend Frank Chikane for spearheading the efforts to make this conference a reality at a pivotal moment for Palestinians who are fighting for their survival amidst mass starvation, military onslaught, and unspeakable war crimes and atrocities. 

It has never been so urgent for the progressive forces around the globe to come together in a collective effort to exert maximum pressure to end the genocidal campaign underway in Gaza, and to end the apartheid system in Israel and the Occupied Territories which is worse than what we experienced in our own country. The ongoing genocidal atrocities being committed by Israel in the Occupied Territories has put renewed focus on the urgent need for the wider international community to demand decolonisation and an end to Israel’s settler colonialism. Progressive forces need to push for the fulfilment of the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, which has been systematically denied since the British mandate, as well as the right of refugees in the diaspora to return.

South Africa is of the view that the international community has an obligation to find a comprehensive and just resolution to the Palestinian issue. So far, the traditional approach to conflict resolution has failed to achieve peace in the Israel–Palestine conflict. It is possible that a different approach, one that uses a human rights perspective on conflict resolution, could produce what the old approach could not.

A human rights approach asserts that the principles and practices enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including equality and non-discrimination, participation, inclusion, and accountability, and the importance of the rule of law should guide all the stages of the peace process.

South Africa calls for international solidarity and increased pressure to support the just cause of the Palestinian people to achieve their legitimate demand for a viable independent state alongside the state of Israel. South Africa stands ready to work more closely with Palestine and believes that the only way to bring about a lasting peace in the Middle East is to have a comprehensive and negotiated settlement, without preconditions, to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and Israel’s continued blockade and siege of Gaza.

South Africa recognises the connection between the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and the wider global movement for liberation from both colonialism and other associated forms of structural and institutionalised racism. South Africa has consistently shown its commitment to the Palestinian cause over the past 30 years of democracy, and we are also intent on supporting efforts to bring the Palestinian factions closer together so that they speak with one voice and have a common vision on the way forward. 

The people of South Africa and Palestine share an indivisible bond of solidarity, forged by the crucible of the two nations’ respective liberation struggles. South Africa has, since the dawn of democracy in 1994, always been an ally of Palestine and has constantly highlighted the struggles of the Palestinian people, supported them in international bodies, and offered material assistance within its means. 

The Palestinian experience evokes memories of South Africa’s own history of racial segregation and oppression. As oppressed South Africans, we experienced first-hand the effects of racial inequality and discrimination, and we identify fully with the struggle for freedom and self-determination in Palestine.

For many decades, South Africa’s struggle for freedom benefited greatly from        international solidarity. The steps to our own freedom during the liberation struggle in the period between 1960-1994, was premised on four pillars that marked an important watershed in the struggle against apartheid namely: mass mobilization; armed operations; underground organization; international solidarity work. These pillars amplified the plight of oppressed South Africans worldwide, thereby putting a spotlight on the then government, and widening the clarion call for action in various multilateral bodies. These actions put pressure on the government to hold talks, which ensued. 

Thus, we believe the inaugural meeting of the Global Anti-Apartheid Movement on Palestine is rightly hosted in South Africa as a launch pad to consolidate international efforts to bring down “Apartheid” Israel. At a governmental and political level, we suggest that the conference as a collective should, as a matter of priority, consider a role for “front line states” as the liberation movements in South Africa had done in our struggle for freedom and democracy.

The pivotal role played by the United Nations and civil society in supporting our respective liberation struggles and the impact this had in us achieving our self-determination must encourage the UN and its Member States, the international community and civil society to strengthen international action and coordination to uphold international norms and standards in seeking justice for the Palestinians. 

The UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council are obliged to heed the compelling evidence presented by Amnesty International, other human rights organizations, as well as the evidence presented in our case at the ICJ and hold Israel accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people. The reports shine a spotlight on Israeli laws and practices that warrant scrutiny and appropriate action. The national law promulgated by the Israeli Government is evidence that the government is set on maintaining Israel as an apartheid state. 

Since 1948, Palestinians have endured ethnic cleansing, the Nakba (catastrophe) of forced displacement and exile; the denial of their right to return to Palestine; and an ongoing process of domination, foreign occupation, annexation, population transfer, and settler colonialism.

We gather here today just prior to May 15th, the date when we commemorate Nakba Day, which in history marked the beginning of the never-ending struggle for independence for the Palestinian people and the denial of their inalienable rights as laid down by international covenants like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Nakba involved a combination of mass murder, and the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of native Palestinians by Zionist militias, to replace them with Jewish immigrants and create what is known today as “The State of Israel.” Now we are witnessing “Nakba Two” in Gaza.

This conference provides us with an opportunity to demonstrate solidarity with the people of Palestine and to collectively acknowledge the fact that Palestinians are still deprived of many inalienable rights including the right to self-determination as well as the right to independence. 

Since Israel was established in 1948, its policies and legislation have been shaped by an overarching objective: to maintain a Jewish demographic majority and maximise Jewish Israeli control over the land to the detriment of Palestinians. In order to achieve this, successive Israeli governments have deliberately imposed a system of oppression and domination over Palestinians. The key components of this system are territorial fragmentation; segregation and control; dispossession of land and property; and denial of economic and social rights.

The guiding principles of the current Israeli government, formed in December 2022, explicitly declare that "the Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right to all areas of the Land of Israel' and pledges to "promote and develop  settlements in all parts of the Land of Israel – in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria (occupied West Bank); and the transfer of the administrative powers of the occupation to the Israeli government and the extension of direct civil legal authority over the settlements, which amounts to de jure annexation. By doing so, Israel institutes its annexation of the OPT. In recent months, Israeli officials and settler movements have been calling for resettling northern Gaza and places that the Israeli army destroyed during its ongoing genocide in the Gaza Strip.

We need to stress that there can be no solution to the situation for as long as the international community continues to ignore Israel’s systematic human rights transgressions and settler colonial apartheid project and through it, sustain the illegal Israeli colonial settler project at the cost of Palestinian liberation. 

On 21 August 2022 South Africa and Palestine launched a Strategic Dialogue with the intention of mobilising African countries to support Palestine and to enhance bilateral relations with Palestine on the continent. The other objective was to exchange views based on the South African experience that will assist to end Israeli domination in Palestinian territories, and raise international awareness on the plight of Palestinians, especially the expansion of illegal settlements by Israel. 

South Africa has actively lobbied for the withdrawal of Israel as an observer member of the African Union and will continue efforts towards support for the two-state solution and the right to self-determination. We will continue to support Palestinian efforts for membership of the United Nations and the creation of positive, credible, and lasting international mechanisms to address the Palestinian cause based on international law. We would like to see the formulation of practical strategies regarding taking up the Palestinian cause at the ICC and ICJ to declare Israel as an apartheid state, and to mobilise civil society both in Palestine and internationally to support the Palestinian cause.

South Africa supports calls for the international community, the United Nations, and civil society to act against Israel’s settler colonial apartheid regime through a series of recommendations, including for Third States to take steps towards completely decolonising Palestine. This must involve the dismantlement of all structures of domination, exploitation, and oppression, and the realisation of the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights, including to self-determination and to return to their homes, lands, and properties. 

Third States need to recognise and condemn, including through regional and international organisations, Israel’s discriminatory laws, policies, and practices which have cumulatively established, and continue to maintain, an apartheid regime of systemic racial oppression and domination, over the Palestinian people. Member States of the UN General Assembly should adopt a resolution to reconstitute the UN Special Committee against Apartheid and the UN Centre against Apartheid to address Israeli authorities’ commission of the crime against humanity of apartheid against the Palestinian people and empower these bodies to proactively pursue the dismantlement of Israel’s settler colonial apartheid regime.

We would like to see the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court expedite the current investigation into the Situation in Palestine without undue delay, including into war crimes and crimes against humanity, comprising, inter alia, the crimes of apartheid, population transfer, appropriation and destruction of property, pillage, persecution, wilful killing, murder, and torture carried out on the Palestinian territory.

South Africa remains committed to ending impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and it is hoped that the situation in Palestine will be prioritised by the ICC in order to deliver justice to the victims of these grave crimes.

South Africa is amongst the countries that made presentations from 19 to 26 February this year at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) public hearings, having requested an advisory opinion in respect of the Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. The hearings were held against the backdrop of the deadly military onslaught on Gaza which has seen the killing of over 33,000 Palestinians since October 7th.

South Africa made a presentation to the ICJ on 20 February this year, and told the Court that Israel is responsible for apartheid against the Palestinians, and its occupation is inherently and fundamentally illegal, and by implication in violation of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.

It is encouraging to note that the majority of countries that are supporting the Palestinian cause hold a position that by transferring parts of its civilian population into the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israel violated Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits occupying powers from deporting or transferring parts of their civilian population into the territory they occupy. It also prohibits the ‘individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory.’ This reaffirms the ICJ’s advisory opinion on the West Bank wall.

Now that the hearings have concluded, the Judges will undergo a process of reviewing all the arguments, including 57 written submissions, and provide an advisory opinion. The judges are expected to take about six months to deliver an opinion in the case.

South Africa calls on civil society and governments around the world to recognise and condemn the ongoing discrimination, dispossession of land, repression of non-violent resistance, suppression of civil society organizations and indiscriminate killings, and pressure the State of Israel to end its occupation and apartheid system.

There must be concerted international efforts to bring about a just solution to the question of Palestine. This will not only provide the Palestinian people their inalienable right to self-determination and independent statehood but will also  ultimately contribute to the establishment of peace in the region. 

In this regard, it is imperative to revitalise international action and seek avenues for justice. We must intensify the call for international action with the UN playing a leading role to find a solution which is premised on a just settlement with just laws that are rights-based. We must, as the international community, seek a solution which facilitates equality and equity for all who have the right to live in the territories of Israel and Palestine. In the absence of these, security, dignity, and prosperity will not be achieved.

Lastly, the South African Government will continue to act within the institutions of global governance to protect the rights, including the fundamental right to life, of Palestinians in Gaza, which continue to remain at urgent risk including from Israeli military assault, starvation, and disease, and to obtain the fair and equal application of international law to all, in the interest of our collective humanity. 

We will continue to do everything within our power to preserve the existence of the Palestinian people as a group, to end all acts of apartheid and genocide against the Palestinian people, and to walk with them towards the realisation of their collective right to self-determination. We continue to do so following in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela and will not rest until the freedom of the peoples of Palestine is realised.

I thank you.

Available in
Dr GNM Pandor
Privacy PolicyManage CookiesContribution Settings
Site and identity: Common Knowledge & Robbie Blundell