Israel: The time for talking is over

2014-07-13 15:00

It has been a week of blood and fire in Palestine as Israeli forces responded to escalating rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip with intense air strikes.

As the week ended, the death toll in Palestine was climbing towards 100; in Israel, air raid sirens sounded nonstop, particularly across the country’s south. War seems inevitable.

As ever, the world watches, condemns, but seems otherwise immobilised, with the UN using its increasingly useless language of diplomacy – it “calls” for a ceasefire, it “urges” Israel to “exercise restraint”.

But the time for talk is over.

Both Israel and Palestine have the right to exist. Its citizens, the overwhelming majority on each side just ordinary, law-abiding men, women and children who want to live peacefully side by side, have the right to live outside the shadow of bombs and air raid sirens.

South Africa has a moral obligation to step beyond the language of diplomacy and into the realm of action. It is time to request that Israel’s ambassador leave our country until his nation can prove it is committed to peace and real change.

It is time to boycott Israeli products; for the world to craft the same sort of sanctions that ultimately brought apartheid South Africa to its knees.

But there are two important caveats to this: the first is that South Africa needs to commit itself to speaking up against all human rights abuses worldwide – whether that’s in Ukraine or on the continent, like dangerously homophobic Uganda.

If we are to be a respected moral voice, we must be so even-handed.

The second is that we cannot countenance the anti-Semitic sentiment that’s growing in South Africa as the conflict deepens.

We cannot claim to be a moral force if we spew hate against our Jewish community – many of whom are as appalled by the blood bath in Gaza as any other right-thinking South African.

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