The following was published on 8 October on the website of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).
COSATU fully supports the report by UN-appointed South African jurist Richard Goldstone on the crimes committed by Israel in Operation Cast Lead, which was an expansionist incursion into Gaza towards the end of last year and early this year, in which about 1,400 Palestinians were killed, most of them civilians.
The 575-page report, released on 15 September 2009, concludes that Israel has committed war crimes and violated international and humanitarian law. In COSATU’s 10th National Congress declaration, we expressed concerns only about the section of the report which says the situation in Palestine cannot be compared to that of war. We went on to state that in fact, “the people of Palestine have been subjected to unremitting attacks from Israel and their hope for an independent state constantly deferred”.
We note that Justice Goldstone has been subjected to the most vicious attacks by Zionist extremists all over the world for allegedly “betraying the Jews”. His only crime was to agree to lead the UN investigations that have exposed the ruthlessness of the war against the people of Gaza by Israel, after Mary Robinson, the former head of the UN Human Rights Commission declined, for fear of attacks by Israel and the US.
Justice Goldstone has refused to be blackmailed on the basis of his nationality, as a proud South African Jew, but chose the truth and justice above narrow right-wing chauvinism. He owes no one any explanation for his courageous stand except justice for the Palestinian people and his conscience.
We salute Justice Goldstone for his courage and express full support for the broad thrust of the report, which outlines all the war crimes against the people, documenting the use of banned chemicals such as white phosphorus. We welcome the UN Human Rights Council`s decision, following a request from Libya, to bring forward the discussion on the Goldstone report to Wednesday 14 October 2009. The Palestinian people deserve justice now. It is tragic that there were some countries which sought to postpone the discussion, and betray the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, at the behest of the US and Israel. We are also proud that our allies, the British TUC, made up of unions representing 6.5 million workers across the UK, at its Annual Congress on 17th September 2009 in London, unanimously took a very bold decision to “build a mass boycott movement, disinvestment and sanctions on all goods from Israel (specifically from the occupied Palestinian territories) for a negotiated settlement based on justice for Palestinians”.
The motion additionally called for the TUC General Council to put pressure on the British government to end all arms trading with Israel and support moves to suspend the EU-Israel trade agreement. It went on to encourage unions to disinvest from companies which profit from Israel’s illegal 42-year occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.
The motion also condemned the Israeli trade union Histadrut’s statement supporting Israel’s war on Gaza, which killed 1,450 Palestinians in three weeks, and called for a review of the TUC’s relationship with Histadrut.
The British Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC) noted that “Britain’s trade unions join those of South Africa and Ireland, in voting to use a mass boycott campaign as a tool to bring Israel into line with international law, and pressure it to comply with UN resolutions that encourage justice and equality for the Palestinian people”.
The global movement for the isolation of apartheid Israel is growing and we celebrate the TUC vote as a key part of this noble effort for justice.
COSATU stands firmly on the side of all struggles to bring about justice and democracy all over the world and will not bow to any pressure or arm-twisting tactics by the powerful forces of the world.
The UN must lead and champion the cause of the suffering people of Palestine at this hour of great need. We fully support the marches taking place all over the occupied territories, in Ramallah, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, which are an expression of fury and disgust at the attempts of the US and their collaborators to delay the discussion on this important report.
COSATU has met with Huwaida Arraf, a leader and founder member of the Free Gaza Movement. Huwaida is a first generation Palestinian-American born and raised in Detroit in the US. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan with majors in Political Science, Arabic and Hebrew & Judaic Studies.
In August 2008, Huwaida was on the Free Gaza boats that sailed from Cyprus to Gaza, the first boats to challenge Israel`s closure of the Strip and the dock in Gaza Port in over 40 years. She has since lead four other successful solidarity missions to Gaza with the Free Gaza Movement. In February 2009 Huwaida was part of a National Lawyers Guild delegation that travelled to Gaza to document possible Israeli violations of international law and war crimes that may have been committed during Operation Cast Lead.
In our meeting with her, she requested that we mobilise a South African contingent to join the thousands of people and solidarity activists all over the world who are constantly travelling on boats to Gaza, in which case we made a pledge to do our part.
Further notes on Huwaida Arraf:
In April, 2001 with other Palestinian and international activists, she co-founded the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a Palestinian-led movement of Palestinian and international individual activists and grassroots community organizations working to raise awareness of the Palestinian struggle for freedom and an end to Israeli occupation. In April 2002, as Israeli forces continued their siege on the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Huwaida led a group of international activists to the Church to deliver food and water to the people trapped inside the Church. Since August 2001, over 3500 volunteers from over 30 different countries have joined the ISM in Palestine. The Movement was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize – in 2003 and 2004.
In July 2006 Huwaida and her husband Adam Shapiro, a fellow human rights activist, supported the call from over 200 Lebanese civil society organizations for local and international community participation in a campaign of civil resistance to Israel`s war against the Lebanese people. The two travelled to Lebanon and helped coordinate civilian relief efforts and accompaniment for returning refugees to South Lebanon.
Bongani Masuku (International Relations Secretary)
Congress of South African Trade Unions