Deep sense of foreboding as Hamas feted by ANC

  • Hamas
Terror organisation Hamas was welcomed and given red-carpet treatment by the African National Congress (ANC) this week. It was the guest of the ruling party.
by NICOLA MILTZ | Dec 06, 2018

The visit by Hamas – which has consistently called for the destruction of Israel – left the community unnerved. Only a few weeks ago, Hamas fired close to 500 rockets from Gaza into southern Israel with the intention of endangering the lives of Israelis.

Photographs were splashed on social media showing ANC Parliamentary Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu, cozying up to Mahmoud al-Zahar, the leader of the Palestinian delegation and co-founder of Hamas, in the chief whip’s boardroom in the Old Assembly Building in Parliament.

When the SA Jewish Report contacted ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte for comment, she was quick to brush off questions about the visiting delegation to South Africa. “Hamas was hosted by the ANC caucus in Parliament, we did not meet them,” she said.

The ANC this week signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Hamas which states how the two parties seek “an end to the unjust Israeli blockade and occupation imposed on the Palestinian territory of Gaza more than 11 years ago, and to encourage and support all popular movements working towards that objective”.

The MOU states that it aims to enhance co-operation between the ANC caucus and Hamas in matters of “common interest”. These include fully supporting the decision of the South African government to boycott products from Israeli settlements; working towards the full boycott of all Israeli products; supporting the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel; and ensuring that “ANC leaders and government officials do not visit Israel”.

It also states that the ANC will use the oversight powers of Parliament to ensure that the resolution of the ANC congress in December 2017, which called for the downgrading of the South African embassy in Tel Aviv to a liaison office, is implemented by the government.

Mthembu said on Twitter on 4 December, “Last night, @ANCParliament Caucus signed a memorandum of understanding with the #Hamas Change and Reform Bloc in the Parliament of Palestine. The #MOU seeks to introduce practical steps in mobilizing the world community in ending of #Israel’s occupation of Palestine.”

In another tweet, he wrote, “The #MOU signed by hon #MahmoudAlzahaar on behalf of #CRPB and myself for @ANCParliament Caucus also seeks to mobilize for an immediate end to #Israel’s aggression, killings, torture and human abuses in the occupied territory of Palestine.”

No surprises, then, that BDS SA welcomed the MOU, hailing it as a success for Palestinian solidarity.

The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) described the arrival of yet another Hamas delegation to South Africa as well as other recent incidents as “illiberal, bewildering, and worrying”.

“Hamas has been here a number of times, feted by the ANC, and now has an office in Cape Town. Hamas’s fundamental principle is the destruction of Israel and the creation of a single, Muslim, state in its place.

“In view of this, the ANC must explain how it squares its supposed support for a two-state solution to the Israel/Palestine crisis with its support for Hamas. Why does Hamas have an office in South Africa? And what does it do from here?” Sara Gon of the IRR asked this week.

But in a surprising spirit of generosity, communal leader Zev Krengel, the National Vice-President of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), said he was encouraged that the ANC was starting the process of engaging with all sides.

“Let’s see what happens in a few months’ time – whether South Africa shows genuine willingness to play a meaningful role, and if it is going to do something with Israel. At this stage, we cannot overreact, everything is in line.”

Krengel said he saw the move by the ANC as “a positive”. “I don’t see this as a negative, I’m not upset with this,” he told the SA Jewish Report this week.

He said what the ANC was doing “speaks to our narrative”.

“We preach to South Africa that the only way we can play an effective role in the Middle East is to engage with everyone on all sides. We want the ANC to talk to everyone, that’s what it has always done. It is trying to do it as respectfully as possible in a bid to play a meaningful role in the peace process,” he said.

“I see it as showing commitment to the cause. It is showing that the ANC wants to get involved,” Krengel said, while pointing out, “We can’t expect the ANC to have relationships with one side and not the other side.”

He said it was no secret that the ANC sympathised with the Palestinians and that Hamas was a terrorist organisation, but in order to move forward, it was vital to engage with all sides.

Krengel said that today, Israel is working directly with Hamas, as seen by the recent ceasefire which was arranged with Hamas, not the Palestinian Authority. “Even Israel is talking to Hamas. Whether you like it or not – and we know what Hamas is about – even Israel is negotiating with Hamas. Geopolitically things are changing.”

Krengel strongly believes the ANC is being “sensitive” towards the community by holding meetings with the party’s chief whip, Mthembu, and not with the president or government.

“I think this fits in with what President Cyril Ramaphosa told us about engaging with all stakeholders in the troubled region,” he said.

Ramaphosa demonstrated friendship with the Jewish community recently by attending the biannual Gauteng congress of the SAJBD on 25 November. In a frank and candid discussion with business leader Stephen Koseff, he assured the community that his government wanted to play a constructive role “that will bring all parties together so that we can find a solution to the problem that seems intractable in the Middle East”.

It remains to be seen whether the ANC will roll out any red carpets for visiting Israeli delegations in the future. Not so long ago, they were rudely snubbed.

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