Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Just Say No!

A vital message from South African youth:


South African Youth & Student Groups Slam Israeli Propaganda Holiday Trips, 11/6/15

"A meeting was convened earlier today by the leadership of the Progressive Youth alliance (PYA), which is composed of the African National Congress Youth league (ANC Youth League), the youth wing of South Africa's ruling ANC, the South African Students Congress (SASCO), representing university students at institutions of higher learning, the Congress of South African Students (COSAS), representing school learners across the country, and the Young Communist League of South Africa (YCLSA), the youth wing of the South African Communist Party (SACP).

"The Israel lobby in South Africa is increasingly turning to old Apartheid-Day tricks to entice young South Africans and distract us from our solidarity with the Palestinian people and their progressive Israeli comrades. The Israel lobby is throwing free holiday propaganda trips and other gifts at young South Africans, trying to undermine solidarity with the Palestinian people...

"We view these holiday propaganda trips to Israel, organised by pro-Israel lobby groups such as the SA Israel Forum, the SA Friends of Israel and the racist Zionist Federation as nothing more than sanctions-busting propaganda trips similar to the 1980s junkets to Apartheid South Africa organised then, for example, by the South Africa Foundation (then operated in the USA) and the Strategy Network International (that operated in the UK).

"We would in particular single out the SA Israel Forum (SAIF)... The SAIF... was exposed a few years back by the media for being funded by the notorious Cape Gate company, which supplies fencing for the construction of Israel's Apartheid Wall. The SAIF was previously stopped from taking local mayors and municipal members on holiday propaganda trips to Israel in 2012. They now seem to be targeting students after having failed at government level.

"South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation came out very clearly in 2012, saying that: 'Because of the treatment and policies of Israel towards the Palestinian people, we strongly discourage South Africans from going there.' In addition, Minister Miate Nkoana-Mashabane said in 2013 that: 'The Palestinians had asked us in formal meetings to not engage with the [Israeli] regime. Ministers of South Africa do not visit Israel currently... We have agreed to slow down and curtail senior leadership contact with that regime until things begin to look better... the struggle of the Palestinian people is our struggle.'

"In November 2014, one of the highest decision-making bodies of the ANC (the leader of our Mass Democratic Movement to which we as organisations all belong) took a decision to: 'Join the call for a cultural, academic and education boycott of Israel, including travel bans for members and leaders of the ANC, the Alliance, Members of Cabinet, Members of Parliament and Government Officials.'

"Participation in these holiday propaganda trips is a violation of the policies and positions of our organisations, but in addition is a violation of the Palestinian civil society call (supported by a growing number of progressive Israelis) for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Participation in these holiday propaganda trips to Israel, like participation in holiday propaganda trips to Apartheid South Africa, will be viewed as the crossing of a picket line, and will be met with disciplinary action.

"We are of the opinion that these holiday propaganda trips to Israel are a direct response to the long-standing support of South African students, school-learners and young people to the Palestinian struggle as well as our active endorsement of, and participation in, the non-violent BDS campaign against Israel. It is no secret that our campuses and schools are heavily biased towards supporting progressive international struggles, like the just struggle of the Palestinian people. In fact, SASCO, the oldest and largest student movement on the African continent, was one of the first national student organisations to back the BDS campaign. Subsequently, the South African Union of Students, representing all SRCs in the country supported the BDS campaign... The holiday propaganda trips to Israel are an attempt to reverse the gains of young people on this issue.

"We stress that we are against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. In fact, in preparation for today's meeting and press conference, we reached out to our Israeli comrades from Boycott From Within who provided us with much guidance and information. They made it clear that... they did not agree with these white-washing holiday propaganda trips and are discouraging young South Africans from going...

"The organisers of the holiday propaganda trips to Israel try, just like Apartheid South Africa apologists used to in the 1980s, to suggest that the issue of Palestine-Israel is complicated. We maintain that the issue is simple: Israel must end its violations of international law and oppression of the Palestinian people. During the struggle against Apartheid we didn't ask as South Africans for members of the international community to travel to South Africa (as guests of pro-Apartheid organisations). Instead, we were very clear: support, from your countries, the boycott and isolation of Apartheid South Africa. The millions who supported our boycott did not have to come here to see first, then act. They trusted our guidance. Likewise today we trust the guidance of the Palestinian people. Almost the entire Palestinian civil and political society have called for BDS and we must heed this call...

"We hereby:

-Warn all students, school learners, young entrepreneurs and young people that there will be invitations, bursaries, and other 'gifts' from the Israel lobby that will target students and young people. Just say 'no' to these or risk being complicit in the bloodshed of our Palestinian counterparts!

-Declare that while we understand that some may be misled by the Israel lobby, we condemn any leader or member that participates in these Israeli holiday propaganda trips.

-Declare that we will be taking serious disciplinary action against any member or leader that participates in any of these... trips.

-Remind all members of our organisations that any contravention of an organisation's policies and positions, for example, its support for BDS and travel ban to Israel, is to be guilty of ill-discipline.

-Undertake to ensure that the position of not going on Israeli propaganda holiday trips be reinforced at upcoming conferences and congresses of our various organisations including the upcoming ANC NGC.

-Undertake that we will be, in our ongoing interaction at our campuse, schools, and communities, making all members aware of our positions on these reactionary Israel propaganda holiday trips. We will be starting, in fact, to morrow in Soweto at Naledi High School at a COSAS-organised program titled 'Commemorating Youth Month, Celebrating Learner Internationalism.'

"We are painfully aware that the number of Palestinian children killed by Israel in 2014 was the third highest number of children killed in a country. We know that approximately 1,000 Palestinian children have been left permanently disabled by Israel in 2014 alone. We know that more than 260 schools were damaged by Israeli airstrikes last year, including three public schools that were destroyed entirely, and 23 that were 'severely damaged.' We also know that 274 Palestinian kindergartens were damaged by Israel in 2014. We painfully recall last year's horrific Israeli killing on a Gaza beach of four young Palestinian boys who were playing soccer.

"As we are in Youth Month and will be commemorating Youth Day, we wish to extend our revolutionary solidarity to all Palestinian youth, students and school learners. You will overcome, just as we did. The time for Israeli Apartheid is coming to an end. Young people of the world unite!"

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