The Palestinian embassy to South Africa has come out in support of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The embassy’s position on the movement was released over a week after Mahmoud Abbas made headlines by coming out against boycotting Israel.
In a statement (read it in full below) that pushes back against Israel’s attempts to use Mahmoud Abbas against the BDS movement, the South African Palestine embassy said that the “State of Palestine is not opposed to the Palestinian civil society-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.” The embassy added that “Palestinian officials and leaders respect and uphold the right of Palestinian civil society to initiate and lead local and global BDS campaigns against Israel.” And the embassy notes that on December 14th, 2012, Fatah officials “wrote an official letter to the South African President, Jacob Zuma, and members of the ANC communicating that ‘Fatah stands fully behind the BDS movement.'”
The embassy, which jointly released the missive with the group BDS South Africa, is careful to frame the statement not as a harsh rebuke to their leader. Instead, the embassy said that the journalists and Israel lobbyists claiming that Abbas is opposed to BDS have simply misinterpreted his claims. The statement may also reflect a desire to make Abbas look good in the face of activist condemnation of his remarks.
Abbas made the headline-grabbing remarks while in South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s funeral, and it was quickly seized upon by figures ranging from journalist Jeffrey Goldberg to former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren. “We don’t ask anyone to boycott Israel itself. We have relations with Israel, we have mutual recognition of Israel,” Abbas told reporters in South Africa.
The remarkable embassy statement was released on the same day that Haaretz’s Amira Hass reported that an ex-Palestinian negotiator also differed from Abbas on the BDS movement. Speaking to reporters in the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, Muhammad Shtayyeh reportedly said that he “differs with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who endorses a boycott solely of products from settlements in the West Bank,” as Hass wrote in a paraphrase of his remarks. “According to Shtayyeh, one cannot separate or distinguish the settlements from those who have formulated the policies for their establishment.”
This post has been modified to more accurately reflect the South African embassy statement.
Here’s the full statement from the South African Palestine embassy on BDS:
JOINT STATEMENT FROM “THE EMBASSY OF THE STATE OF PALESTINE TO THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA” AND “BDS SOUTH AFRICA”
– Clarification regarding comments made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas whilst in South Africa on boycott of Israeli settlements and products
Recent comments made in South Africa by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (and Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation), regarding the boycott of Israeli settlements and products, seem to have been taken out of context and misconstrued by some members of the media and members of the Israeli lobby. Some journalists and Israeli lobbyists have reported that President Abbas, at a South African press conference, said that he is opposed to the international boycott. This is untrue. The Embassy of the State of Palestine to South Africa and BDS South Africa would like to confirm the following positions:
1. We, together with international bodies including the United Nations, consider the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 illegal and all activities with those settlements in violation of international law;
2. Israel’s settler colonies violate several UN resolutions and are continue to be the main obstacle to the peace processes;
3. With the view that the Israeli settlements are illegitimate and an obstruction to a just peace, the Palestinian Authority has accordingly initiated an official boycott of all Israeli settlement products in the occupied Palestinian territory;
4. In 2010 the Palestinian Authority issued a law, signed by President Mahmoud Abbas, banning Israel’s illegal settlement products, companies, relations and other activities with such illegal entities built in the occupied Palestinian territories occupied in 1967;
5. The Palestine Liberation Organisation and the State of Palestine is not opposed to the Palestinian civil society-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Palestinian officials and leaders respect and uphold the right of Palestinian civil society to initiate and lead local and global BDS campaigns against Israel as a means to achieve the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, paramount among which the right to self determination. Furthermore, the Palestinian leadership has always deeply appreciated the efforts of international solidarity groups and activists in South Africa and elsewhere, including those involved in the global BDS movement, to uphold international law and universal principles of human rights in supporting the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and self determination. We are keenly cognisant that international solidarity , particularly boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) was one of the four pillars of the struggle against apartheid here in South Africa.
6. Last year in December 2012, a representative member of the PLO in his speech at the African National Congress (ANC) said: “The [international arm of the] South African struggle began with the boycott campaign of South African grapes and wine, likewise, the illegal Israeli settlements can be defeated by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)”. On the 14th of December Fatah (the organisation leading the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority) wrote an official letter to the South African President, Jacob Zuma, and members of the ANC communicating that “Fatah stands fully behind the BDS movement.”
7. Whilst the BDS movement is concentrated within civil-society, at a government level, the State of Palestine is calling on all countries to fulfill their obligations under international law by immediately, as a first step, ending all trade and relations with companies from or involved in the illegal Israeli settlements.
8. We welcome the recent decision by the European Union to ban financial relations with Israeli entities operating in the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied 1967 Palestinian territories; the UK government’s recent instruction that no business must operate in East Jerusalem and in any actives related to the illegal Israeli settlements; the academic boycott resolution adopted by the American Studies Association; and the decision last week of the Dutch Water Authority, Vitens, to ends its relations with the Israeli state-operated water company, Mekorot, complicit in the illegal Israeli settlements.
The Palestinian people will overcome, if Nelson Mandela and the South African people defeated apartheid, the Palestinians too will defeat the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
Media Officer, Embassy of the State of Palestine to the Republic of South Africa