OPINION | There needs to be more unity among South Africans fighting for a free Palestine

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A protester holds a Palestine flag in front of poliice barricades as they take part in a demonstration in front of the US consulate to protest against the US peace plan in Istanbul. (AFP)
A protester holds a Palestine flag in front of poliice barricades as they take part in a demonstration in front of the US consulate to protest against the US peace plan in Istanbul. (AFP)

Wesley Seale writes that at this historical juncture in world politics it is crucial for activists calling for a free Palestine, here in South Africa, to unite. 

At a dinner hosted for the ambassador of the State of Palestine to South Africa, Her Excellency Hanan Jarrar, when she visited Cape Town recently, an audience member asked her a question about unity among Palestinians.  

The person went on to point out the traditional and historical links between the ANC and Fatah and how in recent years, the ANC was also able to host the leadership of Hamas. 

There's little doubt that the question of unity is a tough one for Palestinians.

But, the diplomat that she is, Jarrar was able to answer honestly and forthrightly. 

However, as the International Day of Solidarity with the people of Palestine approaches on Saturday, the question by the gentleman kept recurring in my mind. Not so much about a quest for unity among Palestinians, but certainly unity among South Africans fighting for Palestine.

No interference  

On an international relations level, we should not be interfering and asking questions of the people of Palestine about what is happening among themselves. 

Fatah, and by extension the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and Hamas are accountable only to the Palestinian people - not to us. 

Even during the fight against apartheid, western leaders would often ask about the "unity of the liberation movements" in South Africa whereas the USSR and China would handle this question much more diplomatically. Of course, the tension between these two, at the time, played a role. 

But questions of unity are usually diversionary. 

They attempt to emphasise division rather than bring about working with any party, irrespective of whether they are talking to each other or not. 

In the words of Oliver Tambo, questions of divisions are often used by the wedge-driver.

Instead, it would have been much more appropriate for the South Africans who gathered to listen to the ambassador, to question themselves and how divided they are on the question of Palestine, for example, in relation to Palestinian activists in South Africa.

Unlike the zionists in South Africa, who are united under one or two organisations, there is a proliferation of organisations supporting Palestine, often working against each other and not supporting each other. 

For sure, a struggle such as the one for the freedom of Palestine must be fought on different fronts, in different corners and must be multifaceted. 

Common cause 

Yet, usually, these fighting in different "sites of struggle" are fighting in unison and for a common cause.

And so, just as Fatah, the rest of the PLO and Hamas could argue that despite their differences, they too are fighting for a common cause. The question of divisions among Palestinians become superfluous. 

Rather, if South Africans are urging that Palestinians find unity among themselves, they themselves will have to find unity among themselves first. 

If not for anything else, but for the sake of Palestine. 

At this current international juncture, another opportunity presents itself to the international community to settle, finally, the question of Palestine. 

As South Africans, especially those of us fighting under banners to free Palestine, we must ensure that we approach this opportunity in united manner.

Dr Wesley Seale has a PhD in international relations from Beiwai, China.

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