“Israeli imperialists are planning to take our land,” says Jessie Duarte
“They [Israel] have to wake up. Now!” shouted African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Jessie Duarte at an ANC picket at the Israeli embassy in Pretoria on Tuesday morning, 25 May.
“If we don’t stop this imperialism in Israel, one day they will move into Africa and start dispossessing our land. They will become the next imperialists of the world. They are getting ready for this,” she told the 100 odd people around her sporting ANC t-shirts or flying the ruling party’s flag.
Duarte, speaking to a crowd of supporters from the ANC and its alliance partners, called for the Israeli embassy in Pretoria to pack up and leave the country following Israel’s 11-day defensive campaign against Gaza.
In an off-the-cuff tirade, she mentioned three times that neither she nor the ANC was antisemitic, saying, “And I want to make it clear that we aren’t against people of the Jewish religion.”
A bit later, she said, “Our movement isn’t against and I want to repeat it because Israel has already said that I am antisemitic. I can just say that that is the most stupid thing to say.”
And just in case no one heard, she repeated it again, “Tomorrow, they’ll have in the newspaper how antisemitic we are. We aren’t antisemitic.”
Describing what was happening in Israel as “genocide”, Duarte called for a complete break in all diplomatic ties with Israel and supported the boycott of Israeli goods.
Duarte said South Africans who sent their children to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces were “part of the problem” in the conflict between Israel and Palestine, and “should stop”.
She was quoted saying, “We cannot be friendly with people who are genocidal.”
In a tweet by journalist Govan Whittles, Duarte was quoted as saying, “Our defence industry must stop importing bits of defence technology from the state of Israel”.
On behalf of the party, she called on Israel to “stop its campaign of murder and atrocities against the Palestinian people”. She accused Israel of not being a “democratic society”, describing it as a “military junta”. The party called on the United Nations to put “relentless pressure on Israel”.
Reading from a memorandum with a set of demands, Duarte said Israel must recognise the rights of the people of Palestine to their land and freedom.
She said it wasn’t enough to downgrade the embassy in Pretoria, it should close. “Go home, go talk about what you are doing wrong, invite us, we will come and talk to you and help you to bring about peace in both Israel and [for] the Palestinians. But please go home.”
After listing the ANC’s demands, she gave the Israeli embassy 14 days to respond saying, “Wishful thinking. These arrogant people will not even accept this memorandum.”
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies described Duarte’s attack on Israel as inflammatory.
It said for someone who holds the highest executive office in the ruling party, Duarte “should know better than to use inflammatory and irresponsible language at such a volatile time”.
“Duarte threatened to storm the Israeli embassy, which would be in clear violation of all international diplomatic regulations. Furthermore, her bizarre claims that Israel is becoming a global imperialist are ludicrous. This delusional and paranoid statement is embarrassing for a woman in such a key position. Her numerous references to genocide are scandalously false, and make a mockery of victims of real genocide,” the Board said.
In reference to Duarte’s insistence that neither she nor the ANC were antisemitic, the Board quoted Hamlet, saying “The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” summing up Duarte’s rant outside the embassy.
“One wonders why Duarte needs to keep stating this? For all her protestations, the theme of manipulative Jewish power, particularly in the financial sphere, comes through all too clearly, however much disguised by code words like ‘Zionist’ and ‘Israeli’,” it said.
South African Communist Party official Solly Mapaila called for protests by workers to continue until the Israeli embassy was closed down and trade ties with Israel completely severed.
ANC Gauteng Chairperson David Makhura said the Palestinians were a stateless people, a nation in search of nationhood experiencing apartheid aggression every day. He told reporters, “We aren’t picketing against the Jews. There are many Jews who understand that this is a question of justice.”
Former Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Arthur Link, tweeted, “Can you imagine what a great place South Africa could be if @MTANC ‘leaders’ like Jessie Duarte cared half as much about vaccines, fighting corruption, job creation, and education as they do about gathering a few dozen people to toyi toyi against Israel.”