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As part of the 14th Annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), Equal Education (EE) reaffirms solidarity with the people of Palestine in their struggle for self-determination, and our commitment to forwarding the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in South Africa.

We recognise the militarised occupation of Palestine as one of the starkest and most vicious manifestations of the violence of colonial power and ethnic cleansing. The ideological basis of the occupation is to create a community of separateness, alongside the incremental extermination of an indigenous population. We therefore lend our full support to the Palestine solidarity movement worldwide, which has proven beyond any doubt that Israel has imposed a system of apartheid on the people of Palestine.

We further identify with the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, and recognise it as a just struggle which is necessarily linked to the Black condition. Resistance aimed against an apartheid system and a colonial occupation is a legitimate resistance.

We recognise Zionism as an inherently racist political project that systematically oppresses and dehumanises Palestinians in the same way as any other colonial ideology. Additionally, we want to make clear that Zionism is not the same as Judaism. The former is a racist political movement, and the latter is an identity and religious tradition that deserves respect like any other. We reaffirm that anti-Semitism will always be incompatible with the commitment to equality and justice.

As a working-class movement engaged in a global struggle against inequality, oppression, and exploitation, EE is deeply committed to the principle of international solidarity, particularly with Palestine. Since our 2nd National Congress in 2015, EE has consistently reaffirmed this commitment through concrete action – with a particular focus on the struggle to end apartheid education in Palestine, and the call to free Palestinian child prisoners.

Apartheid education in Palestine

EE’s statement of solidarity for IAW in 2016 highlighted the effects of apartheid education in Palestine. We illustrated the impact of Israel’s racist policies and its consistent use of state terror on education for young Palestinians. These include, but are not limited to:

We join organisations and activists around the world in condemning in the strongest possible terms, Israel’s utter disregard for, and cruel attacks against, the right to education for Palestinians.

Palestinian child prisoners

Last year, EE activists hosted young Palestinian activists to learn about the experiences of living under occupation, and to build EE’s solidarity with the cause. One of those activists was 17-year-old Ahed Tamimi who, on 19 December 2017, was arrested by Israeli authorities without charge and now faces up to 10 years in Israel’s military prison. Tamimi was arrested for resisting Israel’s occupation and frequent military raids, and will face a court that has a 99.74% conviction rate for Palestinians.

Tamimi’s case is not unique; she is one of more than 330 Palestinian children currently in Israeli military jails. Israel prosecutes an estimated 500 to 700 children each year in military courts. Most of these children are arrested for stone-throwing during protest action – for which they can be imprisoned for 10 to 20 years.

Israel systematically prosecutes Palestinian children in military courts without the guarantee of a fair trials. Palestinian children are subjected to various forms of torture and are routinely subjected to prolonged interrogation with no access to lawyers or guardians while they are in solitary confinement.

We, further, note that between the years 2000 and 2017 Israeli forces killed 3 000 Palestinian children and injured 13 000 children through militarised suppression.

These statistics are symptomatic of Israel’s broader project of apartheid and ethnic cleansing – where children are particularly vulnerable. EE is built on youth protest and struggle, principally concerned about the right to protest for children, as a special interest group with particular needs. In South Africa, EE continues to struggle for the protection of children’s right to protest.

We recognise that the situation for Palestinian children is vastly different, and call for an end to Palestinian children being detained and prosecuted in unjust military courts, an end to the torture of Palestinian children, and for all Palestinian child prisoners to be freed.

Support for BDS, and calls to ANC and SA government

EE reaffirms the call we have made in previous years: we must all build the international campaign for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. In this spirit, we wish to express our support and admiration for the ongoing work done by independent student movements to win BDS campaigns on campuses across South Africa.

At this particular moment we want to lend our voice to support the University of Cape Town (UCT) Palestine Solidarity Forum’s campaign for the university to adopt an academic boycott of Israel; we call on UCT’s Senate and Council to adopt the students’ proposal as is, without any of the delay tactics and liberal hand-wringing that characterised Vice Chancellor Max Price’s pitiful response to the UCT PSF’s proposed boycott of the criminal security company, G4S. We wish the students strength in their struggle to drag the UCT establishment toward the right path, and urge progressive academics and workers to put their weight behind the academic boycott campaign. We look forward to celebrating an important victory that builds on the historic achievement of the academic boycott adopted by the University of Johannesburg in 2011.

We also wish to reiterate our demand that the ANC-led government must act much more decisively in support of the struggle for Palestinian self-determination. While we welcome the ANC’s resolution to direct its deployees in government to downgrade the South African embassy in Israel to a liaison office, we remain concerned that certain government agencies maintain business relationships with Israeli companies and ties with the Israeli state, particularly in relation to military and policing equipment. Such arrangements reinforce Israel’s multi-billion dollar arms industry, which supplies arms to repressive regimes worldwide, having tested them on the Palestinian population.

The South African government should terminate these shameful deals and expel the Israeli ambassador with immediate effect, cutting all diplomatic ties with what we understand as a terrorist state that needs to be isolated from the international community until the people of Palestine are free. Until the military occupation of Gaza ends, and illegal settlements in  the West Bank are dismantled, and a just peace, including the right of return for Palestinian refugees, is negotiated and implemented, South Africa cannot maintain normal relations with Israel.

EE’s plans for IAW 2018

In the Western Cape, Equal Education will be hosting a workshop led by Ali Abunimah, founder of The Electronic Intifada, for 200 of our elected branch representatives and leading activists in the province. The workshop will take place from 11am on Saturday 17 March at the Isivivana Centre in Khayelitsha. The workshop will allow EE activists to discuss the way forward for the solidarity movement in South Africa, and what strategies EE can use to build the movement for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against apartheid Israel.

In Gauteng, EE members in Soweto will be attending a solidarity march and rally on Human Rights Day, 21 March. The march will begin at 9am with a 3km walk from Mofolo Park to the Hector Pieterson Memorial, followed by a rally at 11am. The event is co-hosted by the Palestine Solidarity Alliance Soweto and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.