With Lema Nazeeh, Sawsan Zaher and Seán Mac Raghnaill.

On the Role of Third Parties in Combatting Racial Discrimination: NGOs and other actors
Delivered at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)
Symposium on “Half a Century of Occupation and Discrimination: Towards Accountability and Justice”
Held at the Palais Des Nations-Geneva on Tuesday 9th July 2019

Programme Moderator Ambassador Ali Goutali
Ambassador Nassima Baghli
Dr John Reynolds
Ms Sawsan Zaher
Ambassador Dr Ibrahim Khraishi
Honoured Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen;

Assalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu
May the Peace, blessings and mercy of Allah be upon you all.

At the outset allow me to thank the leadership of the OIC and the organizers of this symposium for inviting me and for the opportunity to address you in this august forum and on a theme so close to our hearts as South Africans and the Muslim world at large.

Let me at the outset unequivocally state that Apartheid Israel is a racist state and perpetuates racial discrimination at the level of state and our collective duty as governments and civil society formations is to work tirelessly to end the occupation, demand the right of return and fight for justice and equality. It is significant that the OIC itself was set up following the bigotist and racist arson attack on the Holy Mosque of Al Aqsa on the 21st August 1969 and for advancing the cause of Palestine and Al Quds AsSharif.

We meet at the most critical time since the founding of Apartheid Israel in 1948 when both these issues have come into sharp focus more than ever before because through passing the Nation Law, Palestinians have been rendered foreigners or at best second class citizens in the land of their birth and Apartheid Israel has passed into law the annexation of all of Jerusalem as capital of the Zionist Apartheid State.

Ladies and Gentlemen; This is the most manifest expression of racial discrimination and the role of third parties, civil society formations and NGOs is not a theoretical consideration nor an academic exercise. This is the reality we face. At the UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related intolerance held in Durban in September 2001 there was a clarion call from the Non-Governmental Organizations echoing the sentiments of many speakers urging governments to drop their denial and equivocation and turn wholeheartedly to remedying racism and all forms of intolerance. The third parties, civil society formations and NGOs were very clear in their articulation that hope, rhetoric and apology were not enough: There is no substitute for action.

So, the question that emerges is what is to be done at this critical juncture? In Occupied Palestine the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has shown us what need to be done and has emerged as a third party or civil society formation that demonstrates the power of collective action. BDS has become the most painful thorn in the side of Apartheid Israel. It is the best demonstration to have emerged since 1948 of the power of civil society formations in advancing the struggle for Palestine and of the Palestinian people. Today, we have BDS affiliated civil society formations on every continent in the world. The OIC if it is true to its founding principles must embrace BDS and provide institutional support in pursuit of its goals.

In our own struggle in South Africa we recognized mass mobilization as the second pillar of the ANCs Pillars of struggle. In the 1980s and 1990s the emergence of the Mass Democratic Movement and the United Democratic Front (UDF) played a pivotal role in making Apartheid South Africa ungovernable, conscientising and raising awareness, advocating against racial discrimination, calling for the release of political prisoners and fighting the system of racial discrimination. Today, the remnants of that show of strength can still be seen when civil society formations, inter-faith bodies, sport, cultural and labour formations all respond in their thousands whenever the call is made to march in support of the Palestinian struggle. Increasingly that is also manifesting in protests related to land reform as we come to grips with the legacy of Apartheid spatial planning.

In 1996 President Mandela said and I quote: “Non-Governmental Organizations played a pivotal role in the darkest days of our struggle against racial discrimination and Apartheid.” It is our moral duty therefore to support the BDS and other civil society formations in fighting Apartheid Israel and isolating it in the international arena. This is especially critical in the context of attempts to criminalize such support for BDS or targeting individuals or NGOs that support or are affiliated with BDS. Just in the last month we have had many incidents that demonstrate the desperation of Apartheid Israel, its Imperialist sponsors and its lackeys. At the Open Source Festival in Dusseldorf, Germany one of my favorite African American artist Talib Kweli was forced to withdraw because he would not denounce the BDS. Last week UK Lawyers for Israel attempted to intimidate Friends of Al Aqsa into not featuring any support for the BDS at the Palestine Expo, the largest expo on Palestine in Europe featuring culture, technology, cuisine and art alongside healthy political discourse on Palestine.

Ladies and Gentlemen; I would be failing in my duty if I did not address the Elephant in the room. I want to say to you that the OIC cannot fail in its duty to rally all formations in government, business and civil society to condemn the imposition of the Deal of the Century which in fact is the Hoax of the Century. I appeal to all organs of civil society, NGOs, Inter-faith bodies and third parties to never allow the total liquidation of Palestine and we must never accept the nefarious plan to annex all of Jerusalem and the West Bank. Palestine is not for sale and freedom, justice, equality and peace is non-negotiable.

Perhaps the most fundamental role that third parties, NGOs and other civil society formations have played and continues to play is to raise the level of awareness and conscientising the world about the racial discrimination that takes place on a daily basis in occupied Palestine. We must through our social media networks build an international solidarity network that exposes the atrocities, human rights violations and crimes against humanity.

We must define the belligerent refusal for someone to return to his home and land of birth just because he is a Palestinian as nothing short of racial discrimination and a violation of the human rights of six million of refugees. The global campaign for the right of return has already received immense support from global civil society movements, and and we will continue to add our voice until this goal is realized.

We must add our voices to the internal resistance who bravely and defiantly advocate for the release of political prisoners and fighting the system of racial discrimination. We cannot remain silent in the face of such atrocities and when Palestinian children some as young as seven or eight year old are arrested. We must support campaigns for their immediate release.

Finally, third parties, civil society formations and NGOs must continue to lobby forums such as the OIC, the international criminal court and other structures of global governance to never acquiesce or compromise the just and principled struggle of the Palestinian people. Allow me to conclude with an extract from Samah Sabawi’s poem “Defying the Universe” where she asks:

Are your loved ones trapped behind the wall
Do they need the army’s permission
For their prayers to reach the sky
Must they always comfort you
Even when the bombs are falling
Do you ever wander who is walled in
Is it you…or is it them
And when it finally dawns upon you
That their dignity sets them free
Do you feel ashamed of your liberty

I thank you!

Nkosi Zwelivelile
Royal House of Mandela (RHoM)

Image: With Lema Nazeeh, Sawsan Zaher and Seán Mac Raghnaill.

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