(Photo Credit: GCIS/Flickr)
In the wake of increased violence against Palestinians by Israeli police and settlers, the South African national parliament voted on 7 March to downgrade the South African embassy in Tel Aviv in solidarity with the people of Palestine.
The National Freedom Party (NFP), a center-left party that holds two seats within the South African parliament, introduced the draft resolution for the proposal to downgrade relations with Israel, saying in a statement that anti-apartheid leader and former South African President Nelson Mandela would have supported this bill.
The NFP statement read: “This is a moment [Mandela] would be proud of. He always said our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of Palestinians,” adding that this bill would demonstrate South Africa’s commitment to justice and human rights and will “refuse to stand by while apartheid is being perpetrated again.”
In recent years, relations between Cape Town and Tel Aviv have been strained over the South African government’s constant criticism of Israel’s human rights violations against the Palestinians. Last year, South Africa called on the international community to declare Israel an “apartheid state” in response to the expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank.
During last month’s 36th ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Assembly, the regional bloc affirmed its “complete support” for the State of Palestine.
In 2018, following Israel’s harsh response to Palestinian rioters on the border with Gaza, South Africa recalled its Israeli ambassador in protest.
A year later, it downgraded its diplomatic ties with Israel and the embassy to the status of a liaison office.
The AU condemned ongoing Israeli crimes against Palestinians, including forced evictions, extrajudicial detentions, illegal settlement expansion, and apartheid.
This statement came just one day after an Israeli delegation was unceremoniously booted from the summit’s opening ceremony. The AU commission chief, Moussa Faki Mahamat, confirmed that Israel’s observer status had been suspended since last year and that no Israeli officials were invited to the summit this year.
In 2021, Mahamat granted Israel observer status to the AU, causing an uproar across the pan-African bloc and sparking protests, particularly from Algeria and South Africa.
Tel Aviv blamed Iran and what it called a “handful of extremist states like Algeria and South Africa” for the removal of the Israeli delegation from the recent AU session.