The keffiyeh scarf has become a symbol of Palestinian nationalism, popularised mostly due to Yasser Arafat’s adoption of it. It was traditionally used by many nations found in arid regions, and was worn by Arab men. This later changed when convicted terrorist Leila Khaled, member of the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, started appearing in the press wearing a keffiyeh. Indeed this caused a stir, given that a woman was wearing it, however it was quickly solidified as a symbol of the Palestinian armed struggle.

South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, donned a keffiyeh scarf on Tuesday as she addressed the Palestinian Heads of Mission in Africa Conference.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation has as its tagline: “We are committed to promoting South Africa’s national interests and values, a better South Africa, a better Africa, a better world for all.” It would be incumbent on the minister to know that donning this symbol does not fit the mandate.

At this conference she stated that South Africa’s view is that “strong action to support Palestine must be taken by the UN and a committee on apartheid should be established under the auspices of the UN General Assembly…”

She began by noting “with dismay” that “the shifting sands in the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East present new challenges, as some countries may be considering new alliances in a changing world”. She stated that “countries we had always relied upon as adherents to the just causes for freedom have now changed their political mantle”.

Is she referring to the Abraham Accords in which nations have come together in the name of peace and bridge-building and advancement? Is she referring to the Arab world growing tired of Palestinian victimhood and rejectionism? It is not quite clear why the minister takes issue with peace. In any event, stating reliance on adherents to freedom is an irony no doubt lost on all involved, as in Israel people are free to live their lives as they see fit. This is not the case in the Palestinian territories.

Perhaps the notion of not having  “a struggle” to fight is problematic as there will be no noisy virtue to signal.

Indeed many governments, political parties and NGOs do benefit from hitching their wagons to perpetual victimhood, signalling their ability to be the people’s saviours from said victimhood. This is particularly beneficial when one gets to denigrate the Jewish State in the process.

Of course, the reason this cause needs to get louder and more aggressive is because it is a lie. There is no apartheid in Israel. Jews, Muslims, Christians, Baha’i and other religious groups of all races and creeds, live and work together, vote, serve in government, have gay pride parades and do whatever they please in whichever way they please. To steal the term ‘apartheid’ and use it in this way is a grave insult to those who suffered through the horrors of apartheid and, dare I say, a South African minister who lived through apartheid should know better than this.

For the Palestinian people, those who live in the Palestinian territories, to have true freedom, education, clean water, healthcare and full human rights, they would need to be free from their corruptabusiveviolence-incitingterror-rewarding leadership.

This is certainly not a sexy stance to have as a South African minister. It would not bring votes and it would certainly not bring the financial gain it does now. If the more lucrative option is to band oneself to a cause, where all one need do is verbally stand upon the backs of the people for whom the cause ostensibly fights, then is it any wonder that ignorant politicians the world over babble into microphones and get patted on the back, while having no idea what’s going on?

It is a tragedy that our ministers do not care at all about the Palestinian people. Why does Minister Pandor imagine that the Palestinians are such ethno-fascists that they cannot possibly live side by side with Jewish people? Why support them to create a state that is Judenfrei? Shame on Minister Pandor for not only insulting the Palestinian people, who are hijacked and used and abused by their leadership and all who support that leadership, but for putting her very own South African Jewish citizens in danger by punting lies.

Only with non-corrupt leaders would the Palestinian people be able to have a Palestinian State. After all, why would anyone getting billions of Euros in support of victimhood, ever want to not be a victim? The Palestinian leadership can say ‘yes’ to having a State at any point.

Perhaps the role South Africa should play, given its history, could be about openness, truth and healing discussions, and certainly not about “dismay” that there is peace brewing.

Article first published here.

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