Kasrils, Lekota lock horns on Israel trip
But Lekota, not one to ever pull any punches, gave as good as he got in reply to Kasrils’ “open letter” to him
In his letter, viewed by the Saturday Star, Kasrils expressed his displeasure with Lekota.
“I am deeply disappointed that after my attempts to dissuade you from going to Israel at the invitation of the Israeli government and Zionist supporters, you (nevertheless) undertook the trip,” Kasrils wrote.
Lekota was among five opposition parliamentarians including the IFP’s Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the UDM’s Bantu Holomisa, Pieter Mulder of the Freedom Front Plus and the African Christian Democratic Party’s Kenneth Meshoe, who went on a weeklong study tour to Israel earlier this month.
“You accepted the free flight and accommodation from a racist and apartheid-style state that has dispossessed the Palestinians of their land and their rights and carries out merciless and continuous aggression against them in violation of international law, human rights and innumerable UN resolutions,” Kasrils wrote.
He likened Lekota’s trip to an overseas delegation visiting South Africa during the apartheid era when the United Democratic Front, which Lekota led, was calling for a boycott and isolation.
He asked Lekota to consult with the Palestinian civil society and solidarity groups instead of claiming that the Palestinian Ambassador to South Africa supported the visit.
“I warned you the Palestinian Authority (PA) was increasingly being regarded as on a par with South Africa’s Bantustan collaborators and that you should not merely accept the Ambassador’s views without wider consultation,” Kasrils posited.
“To have accepted an all-expenses paid invite from Zionist Israeli sources places your visit in the disgraceful category of strike-breakers and sweethearts of a regime that Dr (Hendrik) Verwoerd, of all people, had stated in 1961 was ‘like South Africa… an apartheid state’.”
Kasrils called Lekota’s visit “an insult to those striving for freedom and justice for Palestine.
“I urge you to think again and engage in a discourse with those who can put you straight on this issue,” he wrote.
“It is not a question of being even-handed in consideration of two equal sides, but standing with a colonially oppressed people who have been robbed of their land and rights and are savagely repressed.”
Lekota responded to “Dear Comrade Ronnie”, with guns blazing.
The visit, he said, had been at the invitation of South African Friends of Israel.
“It was their view that I and others did NOT have fully ‘informed understanding of the dynamics of the Middle East question’.
“In their view, an exposure of the nature in which we could visit both ‘Israel and Palestine’ and talk and listen to whoever we chose (to) and who agreed to engage with us, would help us understand deeper the intricacies of the problem of that region.
“Quite independent of this interaction I had understood that since democratisation, South Africa (has) maintained diplomatic relations with both Israel and Palestine in order to encourage a peaceful resolution of the region’s conflict.
“Indeed, no one can promote peace between belligerents if they take sides. We went there guided by our nation’s orientation!
“We visited Tel Aviv (Israel) and Ramallah (Palestine). In both we touched base with South African missions.
“Now, is it the view of BDS et al that that the government is selling out by maintaining these diplomatic relations? How many South Africans have voted against the RSA promoting a peaceful resolution of the Middle East problem?
“South Africa has NOT resolved to be anti- or pro- either one or the other parties in that conflict!
“That is the reason one can explain why government recently appointed former Minister (Zola) Skweyiya and former Deputy Minister (Azis) Pahad as envoys to intervene and help calm down tensions in that region!
“South Africa is pro-peace in the Middle East conflict.
“South Africans who choose to fight on one or the other side of the conflict assume that that is their conflict. Those of us who understand that we are outsiders will refrain from such presumptions. We shall always offer with humility suggestions of lessons our own experience taught us!
“Comrade Ronnie, I took to heart every word of advice you offered me, but in the end the decision what to do was always going to be mine. History would have condemned me if I tried to hide behind you!”