United Nations International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People
Your Excellency, Ambassador Halimeh
Your Excellency, Ambassador, Abdallah Alzubedi, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ms Marie-Evelyne Petrus-Barry, Director, United Nations Information Centre, in Pretoria,
Mr Ziyad Abu- Amr, President of the Palestinian Council Foreign Relations,
Distinguished Guests and Comrades,
Ladies and Gentlemen
I have the honour to represent the people and Government of South Africa on this auspicious occasion of the commemoration of the UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
Together we have come a long way with the people of Palestine. We fought side by side in the trenches in exile with our Palestinian brothers and sisters during our own national liberation struggle to bring about our own freedom from oppression.
Our leaders during the struggle, especially Comrade OR Tambo, would always acknowledge the contribution of Palestinians to our struggle and never cease to speak about the urgent need for the emancipation of the people of Palestine.
Speaking thirty years ago on behalf of all liberations movements at the opening session of a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Havana, Cuba, Comrade OR reminded all present that we are not fighting alone and that our victory will be shared. He spoke about the endurance of the Palestinian people who “have stayed in the struggle, have made sacrifices and will continue to fight until the goals which they have set for themselves are achieved.”
Our victory in 1994 as we established a non-racial and non-sexist democracy was also a victory of all freedom-loving people who had contributed selflessly to our efforts. This year we have celebrated fifteen years of our freedom. Despite challenges, we continue to lay the foundation for a better life for all our people and to work hard towards the attainment of full equality and sustained economic and social development.
We have continued consistently to champion the agenda of the South and to promote multilateralism as a principle in our international relations.
Yet we are painfully aware that in all this time the people of Palestine are not free and have not had the right to shape the path towards their own destiny.
Today we note with sadness a year that has seen increased suffering and humiliation resulting from an unprecedented escalation in violence against the civilian population of Palestine, in Gaza, East Jerusalem and in the West Bank.
The South African Government thus calls on all Palestinian leaders to work tirelessly to unite the Palestinian people. A divided Palestine only serves the interests of those forces who not want a peaceful and prosperous Palestine, living in peace with its neighbours inside internationally accepted borders.
South Africa has consistently stated that it is in the common interest of humanity for there to be a just, comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Arab states. In this regard, South Africa has called on all parties to the conflict to demonstrate responsibility in avoiding actions that could add to an already volatile situation.
We urge that the Roadmap should be implemented as soon as possible. There have been too many delays in this regard, and in the time that has passed, too many people continue to suffer and lose their lives. We call for the withdrawal of Israel from the Occupied Territories. We call for peace to return to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Our Government’s clear position of support for the establishment of a viable Palestinian State is based on its firm belief that only a realistic two-state solution can bring lasting peace to the Middle East.
We shall continue to promote support for international peace efforts to stop the deterioration of the situation in the Middle East and salvage the political process in order to realize the vision of a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with Israel, within secure borders.
We remain convinced that negotiations are the only means to end the conflict and to bring peace and security to both Palestine and Israel, as well as to the entire region.
We wish to stress the importance of dialogue. We believe that there is a need to further cultivate a culture of dialogue – that this is the only path that can be taken towards a sustainable future. As South Africa we have seen the success of dialogue in our own attempts to build a new nation. We are witnesses and participants in the success of adopting multilateral approaches to the problems of the world.
The South African Government believes that the United Nations and the Quartet have to act with urgency in putting pressure and influence on both Israelis and Palestinians to cease all acts that will further erode any prospect of hope for peace.
We maintain that Israel’s response to rocket fire from Gaza was disproportionate and in violation of international law, as Israel has specific obligations under international law as an occupying power.
Freedom, we reiterate, is part of the human condition. Palestinians need to be free to live productive lives. Children need to play without fear of the present and the future.
The South African Government has also endorsed the findings and recommendations of the report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict, headed by Judge Richard Goldstone. South Africa calls on both Israel and Hamas to implement the recommendations of the Goldstone Commission in order to get closure on this sad chapter in world history.
We are pleased that South Africa and Palestine are discussing formalizing cultural ties between our two countries with the signing of a Cultural Agreement. A few weeks ago we had the privilege of experiencing Palestinian culture and heritage as part of the Palestine Cultural Week.
This convinced us that Palestinian culture should take its pride of place in the world as a symbol of tolerance and dialogue. It is only through mutual understanding and respect and the willingness to see ourselves as part of a common human effort that humanity can move forward together.
For the sake of the children of Palestine, the children of Israel, and of the Middle East, the children of Africa and the children of the world, let us renew our efforts with a sense of urgency so that we attain the goal that has long eluded us – that of a free and independent Palestine and of a new, humane world.
I thank you.